In Spiked, Brendan O'Neill examines identity politics and the death of the individual in The Crisis of Character
The subjectivity of human identity in the 21st century is striking, and alarming. Today, to feel something is to be something....Politics has become an arena for the pitting of personalized identities against one another: a new caste system, in effect...
This desire to treat the world as a mirror, as a thing that must validate our self-esteem, is far more pronounced today than it was in the 1970s. The cult of self-identification, the insistence that grammar, education and institutions reorganize themselves around what individuals feel themselves to be, takes to the extreme the reduction of public life to the level of mere validator for insecure individuals.
Where earlier celebrators of the individual emphasised our capacity for autonomy and for governing our own minds and sense of ourselves, today’s self-identifiers cannot exist without the blessing of new forms of therapeutic authority.....The self-identifiers are enslaved by the 21st-century validation machine, their esteem locked in a danse macabre with the self-esteem industry
What is today referred to as the rise of identity politics is in truth the hollowing out of the institutions, beliefs and freedoms around which life and identity were shaped and cohered for centuries. It is a crisis not merely of politics, or class, or the left; it is a crisis of character, a questioning of what it means to be human, an uncertainty as to how we become fully human. Addressing the emergence of new, weak identities, and the corresponding creation of a therapeutic industry and new forms of moral censure to prop up these identities, will require more than ridiculing the new left or the so-called ‘identitarian movement’. It demands nothing less than the reconstruction of public life, and the rediscovery of our faith in the strong individual who both makes and is made by the world, rather than simply needing to be consoled by it. It requires that we refuse to acquiesce to alienated, subjective identity-making, and instead recreate the conditions in which people can develop their identity through the exercise of moral autonomy, and through creating and engaging in new institutions, new ideas and new societies.
As Bill Clinton said,
"I believe that in ways large and small, peaceful and sometimes violent, that the biggest threat to the future of our children and grandchildren is the poison of identity politics that preaches that our differences are far more important than our common humanity,"
And Christopher Hitchens wrote,
"People who think with their epidermis or their genitalia or their clan are the problem to begin with. One does not banish this specter by invoking it. If I would not vote against someone on the grounds of "race" or "gender" alone, then by the exact same token I would not cast a vote in his or her favor for the identical reason. Yet see how this obvious question makes fairly intelligent people say the most alarmingly stupid things."
“For years, I declined to fill in the form for my Senate press credential that asked me to state my 'race,' unless I was permitted to put 'human.' The form had to be completed under penalty of perjury, so I could not in conscience put 'white,' which is not even a color let alone a 'race,' and I sternly declined to put 'Caucasian,' which is an exploded term from a discredited ethnology. Surely the essential and unarguable core of King's campaign was the insistence that pigmentation was a false measure: a false measure of mankind (yes, mankind) and an inheritance from a time of great ignorance and stupidity and cruelty, when one drop of blood could make you 'black.”
In the New York Times Michel Houellebecq: How France’s Leaders Failed Its People
Who exactly weakened the capacities of the police forces until they were totally on edge and almost incapable of fulfilling their mission? Who exactly drilled into our heads for years the notion that borders were a quaint absurdity, and evidence of a foul and rancid nationalism?
The obvious conclusion is scathing, unfortunately. For 10 (20? 30?) years, our successive governments have pathetically, systematically, deplorably failed in their essential mission: to protect the population under their responsibility.....The discredit that applies to all political parties today isn’t just huge; it is legitimate.
Msgr Charles Pope on the Simple, Objective Definitions of Beauty and Peace by the Ancient Philosophers.
Beauty is the splendor of order. Yes, order is magnificent. Sometimes we speak of symmetry (Greek for “same measure”). Sometimes we speak of proportion (from a Latin word meaning that something is properly divided or shared). Musically, we speak of harmony (from the Greek harmonia, meaning agreement of sound) or of “concerts” (from the Latin concertare, meaning “to bring into agreement”). Yes, order is a beautiful thing that points beyond itself to purpose and design. Things in creation are not just here on earth haphazardly. They are not chaotically strewn about. Rather, things are intricately interrelated in multiple ways and at every level: atomically, molecularly, organically, ecologically, and cosmically. Such order, such beauty! Beauty is truly the splendor of order.
Peace is the rest of order. This definition is even more mysterious. We all know that order brings peace, but why? When our lives are in order we sleep well. When chaos wounds order we are in distress and seek to restore order. The perception of order bestows a kind of satisfaction and fulfillment. For a moment we can stop and say, “It is well; things are as they should be.” This sense of well-being ushers in peace and serenity. Yes, peace is the rest of order.
Awe is not an everyday emotion….Up until about ten years ago, psychology "had surprisingly little to say about awe," wrote Dacher Keltner and Jonathan Haidt in a 2003 paper.
The psychologists laid out a research agenda intended to tease out "the similarities and differences between awe and gratitude, admiration, elevation, surprise, fear and perhaps even love." In the years since, they and other researchers have been testing awe—what is it? How does it work? What seems awesome, and why? For the first time, they're starting to understand both what awe does to us and what it might do for us.
Grand Canyon by Dan Ransom
What do we look like when we're feeling it?…When they asked people to perform awe, they found that people indeed often raised their eyebrows and widened their eyes. They also opened their mouths and dropped their jaws and, sometimes, breathed in. And, the researchers noticed, few people smiled.
Awe was a serious emotion. "Clues suggest that awe’s function may lie in how it makes you think,"….In subsequent experiments looking at "the nature of awe," the researchers found that it often occurred when a person had an opportunity to expand their knowledge of the world. When it happened, it turned a person's attention outwards, instead of towards the self.
It might be big or small, natural or man-made, but it stops you cold—while other positive emotion arouse the body, people feeling awe are very still—and makes you re-evaluate what you actually know. In other words, awe is kind of mind-bending, and it alters how a person perceives the world in subtle but meaningful ways. It can, for instance, make time seem to slow down.
All this early research indicates that Keltner and Haidt's initial description of awe was accurate: it's a feeling induced by vastness that requires some sort of mental accommodation to overwhelming new information. The next step is understanding why it exists at all.
So far, it seems, the purpose of awe might have something to do with drawing people together….Rudd's research shows, for instance, that when awe-struck people feel like they have more time, they're more willing to use it to help others. ….even more than other positive emotions, awe promoted generosity. It also improved participants' ethical decision making. A paper still under review indicates that awe can makes people more humble, too.
And a few quotes on awe.
“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed. Albert Einstein
"Two things awe me most, the starry sky above me and the moral law within me." Immanuel Kant
“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.” Marcus Aurelius
Theodore Dalrymple on The Cure for Hypochondria
There is no doubt that hypochondriacs are boring; you fear to ask them how they are in case they should tell you. But one cannot help but suspect that their excessive concern with the state of their health is a defense against something worse, an existential fear that life has no meaning beyond itself, and that therefore the achievement of health, the avoidance of illness, is the highest goal possible.
Certainly, our obsession with health, safety and security (which have replaced faith, hope and charity as virtues) is not proportional, except possibly inversely, to risk or threat. The hypochondriac is not assuaged by statistics that show that his generation is the healthiest that has ever lived, or that death does not lurk in every food and every product and every situation. In the absence of a transcendent purpose in life, staving off death becomes all-important. Hypochondriasis, then, is in part a religious or philosophical problem.
….it is far more important for people to be able to lose themselves that to find themselves. The ability to distance themselves from their own twinges and morbid thoughts is precisely what hypochondriacs lack.
To observe, but also to observe yourself observing: that is the trick. Once, when being mildly beaten by a Balkan policeman with a truncheon, I managed to think about how I was going to describe it, and I found thinking about it a considerable relief. There comes a point, of course, when such detachment is impossible: but by definition, almost, hypochondriacs have not yet reached that point.
To celebrate Earth Day, I thought some Michael Crichton quotes are in order. From Michael Crichton's official website
One of the most popular writers of all time, Crichton's books have sold more than 200 million copies worldwide. His works have been translated into 38 languages, and made into 13 feature films….Crichton was also prolific as a writer, director and producer of film and television. He was the creator and executive producer of the Emmy Award-winning television drama ER, wrote and directed films including WESTWORLD, THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY and COMA and was the screenwriter of JURASSIC PARK and RISING SUN, among others. …Crichton became the only creative artist in history to have works simultaneously chart at No. 1 in U.S. television, film and books sales.
On Consensus Science
Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you're being had.
Let's be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus. There is no such thing as consensus science. If it's consensus, it isn't science. If it's science, it isn't consensus. Period.
A lecture at the California Institute of Technology (17 January 2003).
On Environmentalism as a Religion
I think that you cannot eliminate religion from the psyche of mankind. If you suppress it in one form, it merely emerges in another form. Even if you don't believe in God, you still have to believe in something that gives meaning to your life, and shapes your sense of the world. Such a belief is religious.
Today, one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is environmentalism. Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists.
We need to get environmentalism out of the sphere of religion. We need to stop the mythic fantasies, and we need to stop the doomsday predictions. We need to start doing hard science instead. Environmentalism needs to be absolutely based in objective and verifiable science, it needs to be rational, and it needs to be flexible. And it needs to be apolitical.
In the end, science offers us the only way out of politics. And if we allow science to become politicized, then we are lost. We will enter the Internet version of the dark ages, an era of shifting fears and wild prejudices, transmitted to people who don't know any better.
The notion that the natural world obeys its own rules and doesn't give a damn about your expectations comes as a massive shock… it will demand that you adapt to it — and if you don't, you die. It is a harsh, powerful, and unforgiving world, that most urban westerners have never experienced.
Speech in San Francisco, California (15 September 2003)
Science is nothing more than a method of inquiry. The method says an assertion is valid — and merits universal acceptance — only if it can be independently verified. The impersonal rigor of the method means it is utterly apolitical. A truth in science is verifiable whether you are black or white, male or female, old or young. It's verifiable whether you like the results of a study, or you don't.
Testimony before the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (28 September 2005).
Social control is best managed through fear.
I am certain there is too much certainty in the world.
State of Fear
Things do not turn out the way you think they will.
They didn't understand what they were doing. I'm afraid that will be on the tombstone of the human race
In a media-saturated world, persistent hype lends unwarranted credulity to the wildest claims.
Life is hard, but it's harder if you're stupid.
“If you don't know [your family's] history, then you don't know anything. You are a leaf that doesn't know it is part of a tree”
In the NYT, The Cost of Paying Attention by Matthew Crawford
Attention is a resource; a person has only so much of it. And yet we’ve auctioned off more and more of our public space to private commercial interests, with their constant demands on us to look at the products on display or simply absorb some bit of corporate messaging. Lately, our self-appointed disrupters have opened up a new frontier of capitalism, complete with its own frontier ethic: to boldly dig up and monetize every bit of private head space by appropriating our collective attention. In the process, we’ve sacrificed silence — the condition of not being addressed. And just as clean air makes it possible to breathe, silence makes it possible to think.
Silence is now offered as a luxury good. In the business-class lounge at Charles de Gaulle Airport, I heard only the occasional tinkling of a spoon against china. I saw no advertisements on the walls. This silence, more than any other feature, is what makes it feel genuinely luxurious. When you step inside and the automatic doors whoosh shut behind you, the difference is nearly tactile, like slipping out of haircloth into satin. Your brow unfurrows, your neck muscles relax; after 20 minutes you no longer feel exhausted.
Outside, in the peon section, is the usual airport cacophony. Because we have allowed our attention to be monetized, if you want yours back you’re going to have to pay for it.
I think we need to sharpen the conceptually murky right to privacy by supplementing it with a right not to be addressed. This would apply not, of course, to those who address me face to face as individuals, but to those who never show their faces, and treat my mind as a resource to be harvested.
"We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls," Mother Theresa
In the New York Times, A Manners Manifesto and a recipe for egg drop soup.
For 4,000 years, humans have implored one another to mind their manners. I am personally invested in the crusade for two reasons. First, my brother and I were raised by a man who, as a child, was sent from the table hungry if he so much as slouched. At my own table growing up, when we small savages a) failed to put our napkins in our laps; b) ate before everyone was served; c) served ourselves first; d) opened our mouths while chewing; e) moved our forks from the left to the right hand; f) ate with our hands; g) failed to say please, thank you or excuse me; h) put our elbows on the table; i) did not ask permission to stand; or j) failed to eat soup properly (a nearly impossible task, requiring always spooning away, sipping noiselessly while sitting bolt upright, obtaining any final spoonfuls by a discreet tip of the bowl), we were ordered to push back from the table and contemplate our philistinism for several monstrous minutes before we could return, rehabilitated, to try again.
In the democratic present, perhaps the way to distinguish useful etiquette from frippery is to discern which rules help us be good rather than seem good. Serving others first is plainly charitable. Filling companions’ glasses, waiting to eat, giving another the last of the stew, chewing with a closed mouth — each is a basic acknowledgment of togetherness. Perhaps the consequential lesson in the matter of holding your fork, etc., is that customs differ at different tables in different lands, and that there is a certain intelligence in doing as is done. In other words, whatever unites merits keeping, and what divides can be folded and stored away with the linen too old and ornamental to use.
True courtesy will instinctively check faddish manners at the door in the interest of kindness — which is the root from which the entire family tree of courteous behavior, from the noble Egyptian’s papyrus on, has sprung.
A few quotes from Miss Manners
"The dinner table is the center for the teaching and practicing not just of table manners but of conversation, consideration, tolerance, family feeling, and just about all the other accomplishments of polite society except the minuet."
"The lack of agreement about manners results in an anger-ridden, chaotic society, where each trivial act is interpreted as a revelation of the moral philosophy of the individual actor…"
"Ideological differences are no excuse for rudeness."
In a 1995 interview by Virginia Shea, Miss Manners said,
“You can deny all you want that there is etiquette, and a lot of people do in everyday life. But if you behave in a way that offends the people you're trying to deal with, they will stop dealing with you…There are plenty of people who say, 'We don't care about etiquette, but we can't stand the way so-and-so behaves, and we don't want him around!' Etiquette doesn't have the great sanctions that the law has. But the main sanction we do have is in not dealing with these people and isolating them because their behavior is unbearable.”
Apple CEO Tim Cook made a bold pitch for his company's commitment to user privacy at a White House summit on Friday, taking implicit shots at Apple's Silicon Valley rivals as well as the federal government. …. Cook described privacy online as a human right and linked it to the struggle for freedom for LGBT people.
“Too many people do not feel free to practice their religion or practice their opinion or love who they choose,” said Cook, who is gay. “In a world where that information can make the difference between life and death,” he continued, “if those of us in positions of responsibility fail to do everything in our power to protect the right of privacy, we risk something far more valuable than money. We risk our way of life.”
"We don't sell advertisers information from your email content or your web browsing history," Cook told the audience at Stanford University. "We don't try to monetize the information you store on your iPhone or in iCloud … We set the industry's highest standards and we are deeply committed to living up to them."
From economist Peter J. Wallison ’s new book “Hidden in Plain Sight: What Really Caused the World’s Worst Financial Crisis and Why It Could Happen Again” (Encounter Books):
In public policy, as in medicine, a prescription is only as good as the diagnosis. The first question policy makers should have asked is how the U.S. mortgage market came to be dominated by loans that failed in such unprecedented numbers as soon as housing prices stopped rising. Instead, the government and those that have an ideological stake in denying its role in the crisis asked no questions; despite the insolvency of both Fannie and Freddie, the government-backed firms that dominated the mortgage market, they simply asserted that the private sector, and particularly “Wall Street,” was responsible. That narrative, later endorsed by the majority report of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC), has not only remained largely unchallenged in the media but has become the principal conceptual underpinning for the restrictive regulatory legislation—the Dodd-Frank Act—that has since been enacted in the United States.
Photo of Roger Angell and Andy in Central Park, January, 2014, by Brigitte LaCombe
Here in my tenth decade, I can testify that the downside of great age is the room it provides for rotten news. Living long means enough already. When Harry died, Carol and I couldn’t stop weeping; we sat in the bathroom with his retrieved body on a mat between us, the light-brown patches on his back and the near-black of his ears still darkened by the rain, and passed a Kleenex box back and forth between us. Not all the tears were for him. Two months earlier, a beautiful daughter of mine, my oldest child, had ended her life, and the oceanic force and mystery of that event had not left full space for tears. Now we could cry without reserve, weep together for Harry and Callie and ourselves. Harry cut us loose.
A few notes about age is my aim here, but a little more about loss is inevitable. “Most of the people my age is dead. You could look it up” was the way Casey Stengel put it. He was seventy-five at the time, and contemporary social scientists might prefer Casey’s line delivered at eighty-five now, for accuracy, but the point remains. We geezers carry about a bulging directory of dead husbands or wives, children, parents, lovers, brothers and sisters, dentists and shrinks, office sidekicks, summer neighbors, classmates, and bosses, all once entirely familiar to us and seen as part of the safe landscape of the day. It’s no wonder we’re a bit bent. The surprise, for me, is that the accruing weight of these departures doesn’t bury us, and that even the pain of an almost unbearable loss gives way quite quickly to something more distant but still stubbornly gleaming. The dead have departed, but gestures and glances and tones of voice of theirs, even scraps of clothing—that pale-yellow Saks scarf—reappear unexpectedly, along with accompanying touches of sweetness or irritation.
Getting old is the second-biggest surprise of my life, but the first, by a mile, is our unceasing need for deep attachment and intimate love. We oldies yearn daily and hourly for conversation and a renewed domesticity, for company at the movies or while visiting a museum, for someone close by in the car when coming home at night. This is why we throng Match.com and OkCupid in such numbers—but not just for this, surely. Rowing in Eden (in Emily Dickinson’s words: “Rowing in Eden— / Ah—the sea”) isn’t reserved for the lithe and young, the dating or the hooked-up or the just lavishly married, or even for couples in the middle-aged mixed-doubles semifinals, thank God. No personal confession or revelation impends here, but these feelings in old folks are widely treated like a raunchy secret. The invisibility factor—you’ve had your turn—is back at it again. But I believe that everyone in the world wants to be with someone else tonight, together in the dark, with the sweet warmth of a hip or a foot or a bare expanse of shoulder within reach. Those of us who have lost that, whatever our age, never lose the longing: just look at our faces. If it returns, we seize upon it avidly, stunned and altered again.
"You do not read good books so that you can scramble up some tricks, so that you can write clever things about them, so that you can do well on a test and secure a prestigious job and then die. You learn about the language and about what writers do, so that you can read good books and learn to love them, because they are companions who will tell you what they have seen of the truth, and they tell you it in a way you will not soon forget."
Anthony Esolen in Read Literature to Learn and Love the Truth
"Writer Rebecca Walker was mesmerized when she saw the Dalai Lama speak on this topic. As Walker relates, His Holiness “was talking about the myth of independence.
If you are so independent, he asked, who grows your food? Who sews your clothes, builds your house, makes sure that water comes out of your showerhead? How were you even born?
The fact is, he said, we have not done one single thing alone, without the help of a small army of others, and yet we walk around talking about the necessity and supremacy of independence. It’s completely irrational.”
Jean M. Twenge from The Narcissism Epidemic
The Suffrage of the Insufferable by Theodore Dalrymple
One of the merits of Christianity at its best is that it reconciles the infinite greatness of man with his infinite littleness. On the one hand man is created in the image of God, and each and every individual is unique as an object of God’s love and concern; on the other, he is as nothing by comparison with his maker.
If you take away the second consideration, what you get is unlimited self-conceit. …if a man has no inner sense of limitation, no mere constitution is going to restrain him.
“I believe that in ways large and small, peaceful and sometimes violent, that the biggest threat to the future of our children and grandchildren is the poison of identity politics that preaches that our differences are far more important than our common humanity,”
Former President Bill Clinton before Human Rights Campaign annual dinner
From Notable and Quotable and philosopher Roger Scruton’s new book “How to Be a Conservative”:
Conservatism starts from a sentiment that all mature people can readily share: the sentiment that good things are easily destroyed, but not easily created. This is especially true of the good things that come to us as collective assets: peace, freedom, law, civility, public spirit, the security of property and family life, in all of which we depend on the cooperation of others while having no means singlehandedly to obtain it. In respect of such things, the work of destruction is quick, easy and exhilarating; the work of creation is slow, laborious and dull. That is one of the lessons of the twentieth century. It is also one reason why conservatives suffer such a disadvantage when it comes to public opinion. Their position is true but boring, that of their opponents exciting but false.
That's web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee on the future of farming, work and computing
“Companies,” says web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee, “are increasingly going to be run by computers. And computers are getting smarter and we are not.” The only solution, he argues, is for people to embrace new technology, and accept that some jobs will simply disappear.
Still, users can gather up their data to derive new insights about themselves and then put them to good use in a way that is currently neglected: “People feel passionately but I think we’re missing a lot of the value of personal data because it’s stored in these different silos,” says Sir Tim. He points out that businesses have long been quick to realise this value for their own interests. “Enterprises do data integration or they die – if you can’t do a query across the company you die. Companies like Mint that integrate across the financial side of your life but that’s the start.”
“There’s a lot of art about keeping the consitency across silos to allow them to integrate, but in the future you’ll be able to hone going through the system – say you’re filing your taxes it won’t ask ‘what’s this expenditure’ it’ll say this is where you were, this is your diary, annotated with photographs.”
He emphasises that the need for software developers and the like, rather than being small as it is today, will be almost infinite in an increasingly technologically dependent future.
people are hanging on to small farms, because they like to have a world in which crops are grown locally by hand, again around Massachusetts for instance. You might start to think of farming more like performance art, where you know the person who has done it.”
From Instapundit's unnamed friend.
Let’s accept, arguendo, that the outgoing DIA chief is right, and that we are now in an era of danger similar to the mid-1930s. How did we get here? It’s worth looking back into the mists of time — an entire year, to Labor Day weekend 2013. What had not happened then? It’s quite a list, actually: the Chinese ADIZ, the Russian annexation of Crimea, the rise of ISIS, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the fall of Mosul, the end of Hungarian liberal democracy, the Central American refugee crisis, the Egyptian-UAE attacks on Libya, the extermination of Iraqi Christians, the Yazidi genocide, the scramble to revise NATO’s eastern-frontier defenses, the Kristallnacht-style pogroms in European cities, the reemergence of mainstream anti-Semitism, the third (or fourth, perhaps) American war in Iraq, racial riots in middle America, et cetera and ad nauseam.
All that was in the future just one year ago.
But the larger point here is not what’s happening, because what’s happening is obvious. Things are falling apart. The point is how fast it’s come. It takes the blood and labor of generations to build a general peace, and that peace is sustained by two pillars: a common moral vision, and force majeure. We spent a quarter-century chipping away at the latter, and finally discarded the former, and now that peace is gone. All this was the work of decades.
Look back, again, to Labor Day weekend 2013, and understand one thing: its undoing was the work of mere months.
It reminds me of this quote from Will and Ariel Durant
"Out of every hundred new ideas ninety-nine or more will probably be inferior to the traditional responses which they propose to replace.
No one man, however brilliant or well-informed, can come in one lifetime to such fullness of understanding as to safely judge and dismiss the customs or institutions of his society, for those are the wisdom of generations after centuries of experiment in the laboratory of history.
For the anointed, traditions are likely to be seen as the dead hand of the past, relics of a less enlightened age, and not as the distilled experience of millions who faced similar human vicissitudes before."
Quote of the day.
Christina Sommers: Author of Who Stole Feminism
The Millennials have been cheated out of a serious education by their Baby Boomer teachers. Call it a generational swindle. Even the best and brightest among the 20-somethings have been shortchanged. Instead of great books, they wasted a lot of time with third-rate political tracts and courses with titles like "Women Writers of the Oklahoma Panhandle." Instead of spending their college years debating and challenging received ideas, they had to cope with speech codes and identity politics. College educated young women in the U.S. are arguably the most fortunate people in history; yet many of them have drunk deeply from the gender feminist Kool-Aid. Girls at Yale, Haverford and Swarthmore see themselves as oppressed. That is madness. And madness can only last so long.
Peggy Noonan on The Crisis on the Border
No one's in charge! No one is taking responsibility. No one who wants to help has authority, and no one with authority is helping.
Terry Teachout's remarks on accepting the Bradley prize. Freedom and the Role of the Artist
….But what am I? Not long ago I was introduced to an audience as an "intellectual." To me, an intellectual is a person who is primarily interested in ideas. What I am is an aesthete, a person who is primarily interested in beauty. That's why I write about art. What's more, I think there's much to be said for my preference. All history, and most especially the history of the 20th century, argues against placing ideas in the saddle and allowing them to ride mankind. Too often they end up riding individual men and women into mass graves.
That's one of the reasons why I choose not to call myself an intellectual. …. Aesthetes have it all over intellectuals in one very important respect: You'll rarely catch us hustling anyone off to the nearest guillotine. We're too busy trying to make the world more beautiful. Our hands are stained with ink and paint, not blood.
…. the artist must first of all be able to tell the truth as he sees it about the world he sees around him. That task can only be pursued to the fullest degree under the aspect of freedom. Where there is no freedom, there is no art, save at the risk of the artist's neck. And this freedom includes, among many other things, freedom from the paralyzing obligation to persuade.
The artist whose chief goal is not to make everything more beautiful but to enlist his audience in a cause—no matter what that cause may be—is rarely if ever prepared to tell the whole truth and nothing but. He replaces the true complexity of the world with the false simplicity of the ideologue. He alters reality not to make everything more beautiful, but to stack the deck.
Great art doesn't tell—it shows. And this act of showing is itself a moral act, a commitment to reality.
A man who thought otherwise said, "Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it." But Karl Marx, as usual, got it wrong. The greatest philosophers and the greatest artists seek not to change the world, but to see the world as it is, then show it to the rest of us with the transforming clarity that is beauty. That is a supreme act of freedom. It's what Shakespeare and Mark Twain and Flannery O'Connor did. What Rembrandt and Sargent and Edward Hopper did. What Mozart and Aaron Copland and Louis Armstrong did. They looked, they saw, they showed—and we understood.
Was it only 10 months ago that President Obama capitulated on Syria? And eight months ago that we learned he had no idea the U.S. eavesdropped on Angela Merkel ? And seven months ago that his administration struck its disastrous interim nuclear deal with Tehran? And four months ago that Chuck Hagel announced that the United States Army would be cut to numbers not seen since the 1930s? And three months ago that Russia seized Crimea? And two months ago that John Kerry's Israeli-Palestinian peace effort sputtered into the void? And last month that Mr. Obama announced a timetable for total withdrawal from Afghanistan—a strategy whose predictable effects can now be seen in Iraq?
Even the Bergdahl deal of yesterweek is starting to feel like ancient history. Like geese, Americans are being forced to swallow foreign-policy fiascoes at a rate faster than we can possibly chew, much less digest.
Bret Stephens on The Pace of Obama's Disasters
To me, it feels more like whiplash, over and over again.
But the IRS scandal is different, because if it isn’t stopped—if it isn’t fully uncovered, exposed, and its instigators held accountable—it will suggest an acceptance of the politicization of the IRS, and an expected and assumed partisanship within its future actions. That will be terrible not only for citizens but for the government itself.
The IRS scandal will also have disfigured government in a new and killing way. IRS scandals in the past were about the powerful (Richard Nixon) abusing the powerful (Edward Bennett Williams). This scandal is about the powerful (Lois Lerner, et a.) abusing the not-powerful (normal, on-the-ground Americans such as rural tea-party groups). If it comes to be understood that this kind of thing is how the government now does business, it will be terrible for the spirit and reality of the country.
So many of those who decide what is news cannot, on this issue, see the good faith and honest concern of the many who make this warning. And really, that is tragic.
What are the implications of this claim? It means no one can see any emails Lerner sent to or received from other agencies and individuals, including the White House and members of Congress.
And what is amazing—not surprising, but amazing—is that if my experience of normal human conversation the past few days is any guide, very few people are talking about it and almost no one cares.
The Loneliness of American Society Janice Shaw Crouse writes this modern condition isn't improving. To the contrary.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) reported in its General Social Survey (GSS) that unprecedented numbers of Americans are lonely…More than a quarter of the respondents — one in four — said that they have no one with whom they can talk about their personal troubles or triumphs. If family members are not counted, the number doubles to more than half of Americans who have no one outside their immediate family with whom they can share confidences. Sadly, the researchers noted increases in “social isolation” and “a very significant decrease in social connection to close friends and family.”
Rabbi Daniel Lapin suggests that “we are raising a generation of children who are orphans in time.” He laments that today’s generation of young people is “incapable of integrating their past and their future … [living] instinctively in an almost animal-like fashion only in the present.” He notes that it is virtually impossible, then, to connect time and space in a way that enables them to build their “present.” Thus, they wander aimlessly about without connections — physically, emotionally, or spiritually.
The self-centeredness that results from a culture dominated by the values of radical individualism is not a pretty thing; it does not contribute to the maturing of individuals, the strengthening of family, the growth of friendship, or the development of communities.
This quote from Mother Teresa came to mind.
“The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty -- it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There's a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”
"From the Nazis to the Stalinists, tyrants have always started out supporting free speech, and why is easy to understand. Speech is vital for the realization of their goals of command, control and confiscation. Basic to their agenda are the tools of indoctrination, propagandizing, proselytization. Once they gain power, as leftists have at many universities, free speech becomes a liability and must be suppressed. This is increasingly the case on university campuses.
Western values of liberty are under ruthless attack by the academic elite on college campuses across America. These people want to replace personal liberty with government control; they want to replace equality with entitlement. As such, they pose a far greater threat to our way of life than any terrorist organization or rogue nation. Multiculturalism and diversity are a cancer on our society. Ironically, we not only are timid in response but feed those ideas with our tax dollars and charitable donations."
Michael Barone who has read far more of deTocqueville than I have writes Tocqueville Said This Would Happen
The eminent political scientist Harvey Mansfield has called Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America (1835) “the best book ever written on democracy and the best book ever written on America.” And with good reason. Tocqueville was eerily prescient. He foresaw the possibility of civil war. He mused about the possibility that the world in the twentieth century would be dominated by two great powers, one democratic and one despotic, America and Russia: the Cold War. He also foresaw that a democratic nation could descend into what he called a “soft” despotism. In that respect he anticipated the conservative critique of the growth of the federal government and many of the public policy initiatives of the past hundred years.
Tocqueville’s vivid picture of soft despotism appears almost abruptly, at the end of the second volume of Democracy in America (1840). Up to that point, his depiction of democratic America is mostly (though not entirely) positive.
"I do not fear that in their chiefs [Americans] will find tyrants, but rather schoolmasters. . . . I think therefore that the kind of oppression with which democratic peoples are threatened will resemble nothing that has preceded it in the world; our contemporaries would not find its image in their memories. I myself seek in vain an expression that exactly reproduces the idea that I form of it for myself and that contains it; the old words despotism and tyranny are not suitable. The thing is new, therefore I must try to define it, since I cannot name it.
I want to imagine with what new features despotism could be produced in the world: I see an innumerable crowd of like and equal men who revolve on themselves without repose, procuring the small and vulgar pleasures with which they fill their souls. Each of them, withdrawn and apart, is like a stranger to the destiny of all the others: his children and his particular friends form the whole human species for him; as for dwelling with his fellow citizens, he is beside them, but he does not see them; he touches them and does not feel them; he exists only in himself and for himself alone, and if a family still remains for him, one can at least say that he no longer has a native country.
Just as I was never told as a child that Lee Harvey Oswald was a communist stooge who defected to the USSR, the next generation won’t know that the 9/11 hijackers were hot for Jihad unless someone tells them ……… Never did I imagine that it would be controversial to say that Muslims attacked us on 9/11. How did we arrive here?
David Bently Hart in Gods and Gopniks
"We have reached a moment in Western history when, despite all appearances, no meaningful public debate over belief and unbelief is possible. Not only do convinced secularists no longer understand what the issue is; they are incapable of even suspecting that they do not understand, or of caring whether they do. The logical and imaginative grammars of belief, which still informed the thinking of earlier generations of atheists and skeptics, are no longer there. In their place, there is now—where questions of the divine, the supernatural, or the religious are concerned—only a kind of habitual intellectual listlessness.
We live in an age of idle chatter. Lay the blame where you will: the internet, 940 television channels, social media, the ubiquity of high-fructose corn syrup, whatever you like. Almost all public discourse is now instantaneous, fluently aimless, deeply uninformed, and immune to logical rigor. What I find so dismal about Gopnik’s article is the thought that it represents not the worst of popular secularist thinking, but the best. Principled unbelief was once a philosophical passion and moral adventure, with which it was worthwhile to contend. Now, perhaps, it is only so much bad intellectual journalism, which is to say, gossip, fashion, theatrics, trifling prejudice. Perhaps this really is the way the argument ends—not with a bang but a whimper.
The post-American world will be many things, but multilateral isn't one of them. There will be no world government and international organizations will be good for little except sucking up the last drops of wealth and prestige of the United States. It will be a chaotic place with everyone out for themselves. …..
The end of the Pax Americana also means the end of international law. Instead of a post-American world ushering in a stable multilateral order, it will revert back to a chaotic Lord of the Flies situation in which no single power will predominate, but in which any country or militia that can seize a piece of land or a natural resource will go ahead and do so. For the first time in generations, the First World may wake up to discover that it is once again living under Third World rules.
Daniel Greenfield in The Shape of a Post-American World
“The combative nature of human beings in relationships with each other and in the understanding of themselves is the essence of the tragic view,” Mamet said before continuing, “The marvelous thing about my discovery of conservative philosophy and economics is that it made sense with my previous experience in the world. It is saying that there are things beyond our understanding, but by observing them we might be able to deal with them. We can never completely do away with the final remainder of discomfort, mutual loathing, and self-doubt, because that is part of the human condition.
It is the well-intentioned, but destructive attempt to assuage the fear of matriculation, and the lack of incentive to prove one’s worth, competence, and skill, that have created a culture of conformity, weakness, and banality. “If one tries to save the young from the rigors and traumas of life, you’re saving them from life,” Mamet said.
The great jazz critic and essayist Stanley Crouch makes the compelling point that the invention of modern music, and the establishment of the blues aesthetic, by illiterate slaves in cotton fields might very well be the “greatest achievement in the history of the species,” but all America hears and sees every February, during black history month, are the slave narratives and pictures of fire hoses.
Mamet pointed out that one of the most tired, and tiresome, tropes of American politics is the piety that “we must have a dialogue on race.” “We’ve been having one continuous dialogue on race for my entire lifetime, and it only worsens and widens the divide,” he said before explaining that American liberalism infantilizes black Americans in a culture of dependency. “Black people”, Mamet pointed out, “are sufficiently smart and strong not to need the paternalism of good willed white liberals to make it.”
In Mamet’s Academy Award winning film, The Verdict, Paul Newman gives one of his finest performances as a hard luck lawyer who, after years of decadence and depression, finds a reason to fight for what is right and redeem himself after years of spiritual poverty. Mamet told me that “Newman’s character was trying, as many Americans are now, to deny the life of the soul.”
“It is hard to come back to life,” Mamet said, “Especially when your country is doing what all great civilizations have done, which is to try to use its wealth to eradicate human nature.”
Jonah Goldberg on Obamacare
Sure, the defenders will admit, more people have lost their insurance than gained insurance because of Obamacare. Yes, yes, the website is the screen-doored submarine of websites. Sure, the president is simply disregarding countless laws and regulations he and his supporters once considered so sacred only racists, psychopaths, and Koch brothers could oppose. But good God, “DON’T YOU WANT PEOPLE TO HAVE INSURANCE, YOU HEARTLESS BASTARD!?!?!”
Deacon Keith Fournier
The Gender Identity Movement insists upon recognition in the civil law of the State a new found, manufactured right to choose one's gender, and then to change one's mind, at any time. The proponents insist upon civil laws which accommodate, fund, and enforce this new right. Those involved in the activist wing of the movement want to compel the rest of society to recognize their vision of a brave new world or face the Police Power of the State. This is cultural insanity.
When I was a small boy in grade school, we had no cartoons of naked men and women, boys and girls, strutting and slouching across the pages of “health” books. We had no sly suggestive come-ons into the world of porn and trivial sex. We were not encouraged to abuse ourselves, or given hints as to how many ways we could do it, or with whom. We did not know that our bodies were tools for mutual and meaningless seizing and consumption.
We were not, in other words, the objects of massive, publicly sponsored, selfish, soul-flattening child abuse.
"Guillotine, Gulag, and Gas Chamber. These are the glorious gifts that atheism has bestowed on a world grown tired of God. Such gruesome realities should come to mind whenever we hear the new generation of atheists asking us to imagine that “there’s no heaven; no hell below us; above us only sky”. Where there’s no heaven, there is only hell. And if we won’t have hell below us, we must have it with us and within us, and also above us, in the form of the hell of political atheism that crushes us underfoot in the name of “reason”.
"In 100 years we have gone from teaching Latin and Greek in high school to teaching Remedial English in college" Joseph Sobran
"When people get used to preferential treatment, equal treatment seems like discrimination," Thomas Sowell
"Addiction is a matter of persistence, not fate," Theodore Dalrymple
"Macho television executives are now more afraid of gay guys armed with hairdryers and laptops than they are of men garbed in cameo armed with loaded shotguns" Doug Mainwaring.
"The habit of taking everything for granted, never wondering about anything, is one of the worst fates that can befall a man .. To walk in a world devoid of mystery is to embark on a voyage that is as tedious as it will appear long," Theodore Dalrymple
"According to political correctness, a savage beating a hollow log with a bone is of equal value to Mozart at his most majestic — or rather of lesser value, because Mozart was white and therefore presumably a racist," Dave Blount
"Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe," Albert Einstein
"Twenty-five years ago, President Reagan, paraphrasing Education Secretary William Bennett, said: “If you serve a child a rotten hamburger in America, federal, state and local agencies will investigate you, summon you, close you down, whatever. But if you provide a child with a rotten education, nothing happens, except that you’re liable to be given more money to do it with.” George Will
"One reason for the epidemic of self-destructiveness that has struck British, if not the whole of Western, society, is the avoidance of boredom. For people who have no transcendent purpose to their lives and cannot invent one through contributing to a cultural tradition (for example), in other words who have no religious belief and no intellectual interests to stimulate them, self-destruction and the creation of crises in their life is one way of warding off meaninglessness. I have noticed, for example, that women who frequent bad men - that is to say men who are obviously unreliable, drunken, drug-addicted, criminal, or violent, or all of them together, have often had experience of decent men who treat them well, with respect, and so forth: they are the ones with whom their relationships lasted the shortest time, because they were bored by decency. Without religion or culture (and here I mean high, or high-ish, culture) evil is very attractive. It is not boring," Theodore Dalrymple
A charming story about what Douglas Preston learned in the slush with His Holiness, The Dalai Lama's Ski Trip
“At ski area, you keep eye open always!” he said.
With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.
Second Inaugural Address
Having a religion could be the key to avoiding work stress as a study found those with a faith are less anxious in the work place, healthier and less likely to take sick days.
Religion is the answer to combating work stress because it provides a "buffer against strains" of modern life, research has claimed. Dr Roxane Gervais, a senior psychologist at the Health and Safety Laboratory in Stockport, surveyed employees to find out how content they were with their working lives.
The study concluded that employees who are more actively religious are more likely to report low levels of anxiety, depression and fatigue and also higher presence of meaning in life, that is feeling that their lives have meaning. Workers said that attending religious services connects them to a higher being as well as makes them feel better about themselves.
Dr Gervais said: “As the pace of work and life accelerates, people long for meaning, and the younger generation in particular is looking for more than just a big pay cheque at the end of the month.
“We should hence encourage employers to accommodate, where possible, employees’ religious beliefs while at work, and not shy away from the issue.”
These findings are being presented today (THURS) at the Annual Conference of the British Psychological Society’s Division of Occupational Psychology’s in Brighton. Previous studies have shown that companies who accommodated workers beliefs improved morale, staff retention and loyalty.
The report also found that those who regularly practiced religion were more likely to have healthier lifestyles and so took fewer sick days. Dr Gervais added: “Religiosity seemed to assist individuals in gaining better well-being and using more appropriate coping mechanisms.”
This story reminded me of what Mother Theresa said when she visited the United States, "The spiritual poverty of the West is greater than ours… You, in the West, have millions of people who suffer such terrible loneliness and emptiness…They feel unloved and unwanted. These people are not hungry in the physical sense, but they are in another way. They know they need something more than money, yet they don’t know what it is. What they are missing, really, is a living relationship with God.”
Kathryn J. Lopez interviews Emily Stimpson about her wonderful book, These Beautiful Bones: An Everyday Theology of the Body,
Q. How can we all possibly be called to be saints?
Stimpson. I ask God the same thing every day. Sometimes it seems like if he wanted me to be a saint, he should have given me some better raw material to work with. But the call remains. Understanding how that’s possible becomes easier if you spend time with the saints. The more you read their actual words or the stories of their lives, the more you stop thinking of saints as consumptive 14-year-old virgins and start seeing them as real men and women—men and women who sinned and struggled their way to perfect love of God in their own wild, singular, and often downright quirky way. Besides, all it means to be a saint is to be the person God made you to be. It means to be you, uniquely and perfectly you, free from all the fears and sins and lies that keep you from being the person you’re supposed to be and from loving God as he made you to love him. Becoming that person isn’t easy. But it is simple.
Humans of New York or HONY for short is a blog by Brandon Stanton that is funny, inspiring, beautiful and addictive, attracting over a million followers in just three years.
Here’s how Brandon Stanton spends several hours each day: He walks up to total strangers in New York City, requests permission to take their pictures and then asks questions so personal they might make Oprah Winfrey blush.
Mr. Stanton — a hybrid of interviewer, photographer and eager chronicler of street life — said this week that he was still stunned by the runaway success of his book, which has more than 145,000 copies in print.
“It seemed like a stupid idea, just taking pictures of people on the street,” he said. “But there’s a comfort, an affirmation, a validation in being exposed to people with similar problems.”
Mr. Stanton is a 29-year-old Georgia native with no training as a journalist. He has owned two cameras in his life and admits he has never learned the technically correct way to use them. When he moved to New York in 2010, he was friendless, nearly broke and recently relieved of his job as a bond trader in Chicago.
Yaniv Soha, the acquiring editor,[St Martin's Press] said Mr. Stanton has the rare gift of being able to connect with random people. “It’s about the stories as much as it is about the photos,” Mr. Soha said. “It’s really about his ability to relate to people and convey what makes them individual.”
Humans of New York: A blog, a bestseller, a philosophy, a slideshow from the Washington Post.
In 2010, Brandon Stanton set out to create a photographic census of the biggest U.S. city. A blog of his daily encounters has grown to 1 million readers, and he has a new bestseller, called
Stanton talked with The Post’s David Beard about a few of his images — and what he’s learned on his journey.
Stanton remembers this photograph fondly. It was pouring in Central Park. She let him under her umbrella and told him, in a raspy voice: "When my husband was dying, I said: 'Moe, how am I supposed to live without you?' He told me: 'Take the love you have for me and spread it around.' "
ABC News did a wonderful video of Stanton and his work which you can see here. Photog Gone Viral
Inexplicably, the President who made a big deal of his identification with Lincoln, even using Lincoln's bible to take his oath of office, is not going to Gettysburg today for the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg address.
Rex Murphy describes A perfect miracle of public utterance
Its beginning phrase, "four score and seven years ago," has become so well known that it's almost risen to the level of folklore. These six words are a key to what Lincoln is doing with the remaining 272: He deliberately sets a formal, deliberate tone, while avoiding the obvious or colloquial ("87 years ago"), and choosing to echo a biblical phrasing (Psalms: "The days of our years are threescore years and ten"). The deliberate archaizing of the phrase also amounts to a call to attention.
Lincoln follows this with a brilliant, condensed précis of the American idea: "Conceived in Liberty â€¦ all men are created equal."
The second sentence leaps from the distant founding of America to its then-terrible present moment and place. He declares the Civil War (which was to continue for another year and a half ) as the "test" of whether a nation founded on such ideals "can survive."
The Gettysburg Address is a perfect miracle of public utterance…
But Lincoln goes beyond framing the war as a test of national ideals. The language of the address, and its stately and solemn unfolding, set the Civil War as an interposition of a kind of Fate, or Providence, sent to test America — to settle the question of whether "any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure." It is a brilliant turn of thought.
Then he turns to eulogy proper, and the subtle reversing of the normal eulogic energies: It is not the living who gather to honour the dead; rather, the dead consecrate the living.
It ends on a pledge to the warriors of Gettysburg field, to God himself — that they resolve to save the nation. This part contains one of the plainest passages of the entire address — its whole charge riding on a triplet of prepositions: "by," "of" and "for." The aphorism "of the people, by the people, for the people" captures in nine words the government all of us know (or should know).
Finally, he reverts to the solemn Biblical echoes of his beginning: "perish from the earth." The phrase brings the whole fiercely compressed but irresistibly persuasive address to what Eliot called a "dying close."
The Gettysburg Address is a perfect miracle of public utterance, of great weight and dignity — virtues not as present as we would like in these latter days.
UPDATE. Obama edits the Gettysburg address, leaves out 'under God' in a video shot for Ken Burns for Learn the Address which gathers recordings of Americans reciting the famous speech.
Lincoln made four previous drafts, the fifth and final draft which Lincoln signed and dated included the words "Under God" as did contemporaneous reports from the AP, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Chicago Tribune.
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been reading the last book of Rick Atkinson’s superb Liberation trilogy, Guns at Last Light, which tells the story the western front in WWII (Normandy through the end of the war).
I have felt a deep sense of melancholy as I read about the great sacrifices of normal guys like my father and how America is doing all it can to squander their legacy .
The great father of conservatism, Edmund Burke, said a lot of profound things, but my favorite is his observation about breaking the great continuum between the generations (losing our sense of the past and the future): when “[n]o one generation could link to another,” then “[m]en would become little better than the flies of the summer.”
Many years ago, the Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gasset made the following observation about the mass of men in the twentieth century:
“For example: his propensity to make out of games and sports the central occupation of his life; the cult of the body—hygienic regime and attention to dress; lack of romance in his dealings with woman. . . ; his preference for living under absolute authority rather than under a regime of free expression.”
This is the phenomena that accompanies it:
“The bureaucratization of life brings about its absolute decay in all orders. Wealth diminishes, births are few. Then the State, in order to attend to its own needs, forces on still more bureaucratization of human existence.”
Pablo Picasso who had, however, his moment of honesty when he wrote to Giovanni Papini as long ago as 1952: “In art people no longer seek consolation and exaltation…they seek after whatever is new, odd, original, extravagant or scandalous. And since cubism and what followed, it is masters and critics such as these that I have sought to please with whatever bizarre extravagances entered my head, and the less they understood, the more they admired me. By dint of amusing myself with such fun and games and meaningless head-splitting riddles, I became a celebrity in no time. And fame for a painter means sales, gains, riches, a fortune. Today, as you know, I am both famous and rich.
“But when I am alone, alone with myself, I haven’t the courage to consider myself an artist in the former grand sense of the term. Giotto, Titian, Rembrandt, Goya, these were great painters. I am only a public clown who has understood his period and has exploited as best he could the imbecility, the vanity and the cupidity of his contemporaries.”
An elderly writer on Catholic subjects once told me “Art should elevate us.” In that he would have included the “consolation and exaltation” that Picasso mentioned: the inner journey towards truth, glimpsed through beauty, which is especially significant for those who have not (yet) encountered the God who is beauty himself. What happens to art in a society when belief in God has withered away? Or when you have prodigious gifts of draughtsmanship but no inner vision? I suppose Picasso is the answer. The story of Western art -including the great Gothic cathedrals of Europe – and its magnificent flourishing in the Christian centuries has been told by the late Lord Clark in the celebrated 1960s TV series “Civilization.” Significantly, the series ended with the 20th century – just when Picasso stepped into the circus ring.
Vincent Scully, the architectural historian, not to be confused with Vin Scully, the sports announcer, said that arriving at the old Penn Station was very different from arriving at the new, “One entered the city like a god. One scuttles in now like a rat.”
Via Jay Nordlinger who wrote today in Paris Journal, Part 1,
By rights, the Gare du Nord and the Gare de l’Est should be spaced far apart — the one somewhere near 12 o’clock in Paris, the other somewhere near 3. But no: They’re very close together. Beautiful structures, too.
Which makes me think of the train stations back home in New York. I was just discussing this with someone, the other day. Grand Central is just what it should be — glorious. But Penn Station? Quite possibly the ugliest train station in all the world. And many people’s introduction to New York — a shame.
“In disputes upon moral or scientific points, ever let your aim be to come at truth, not to conquer your opponent. So you never shall be at a loss in losing the argument, and gaining a new discovery.”
in a culture where we regularly do online what we’d never do in person and behave offline in ways our grandparents wouldn’t have dared dream of even in their most defiant fantasies, there’s something to be said for the lost art of, if not “manners,” politeness and simple respect in communication.
Though originally published in 1866, Martine’s Hand-book of Etiquette, and Guide to True Politeness (public library; public domain; free Kindle download) by Arthur Martine contains a treasure trove of timeless — and increasingly timely — pointers on the necessary art of living up to our social-animal destiny.
The great charm of conversation consists less in the display of one’s own wit and intelligence, than in the power to draw forth the resources of others; he who leaves you after a long conversation, pleased with himself and the part he has taken in the discourse, will be your warmest admirer. Men do not care to admire you, they wish you to be pleased with them; they do not seek for instruction or even amusement from your discourse, but they do wish you to be made acquainted with their talents and powers of conversation; and the true man of genius will delicately make all who come in contact with him feel the exquisite satisfaction of knowing that they have appeared to advantage.
That's the consolation of reading the classics writes Victor Davis Hanson
Classics are more than books of virtues. Homer and Sophocles certainly remind us of the value of courage, without which Aristotle lectures us there can be no other great qualities. Instead, the Greeks and Romans might better remind this generation of the ironic truths, the paradoxes of human behavior and groupthink. Let me give but three examples of old and ironic wisdom.
1. The Race Goes Not to the Swift
In the tragic world, thousands of personal agendas, governed by predictable human nature, ensure that things do not always quite work the way they should. We can learn from classics that most of us are more likely to resent superiority than to reward it, to distrust talent than to develop it. With classical training, our impatient youth might at least gain some perspective that the world is one where the better man is often passed over — precisely because he is the better man
2. Becoming Affluent and Breaking Bad. Material progress often comes moral regress.
3. Societies of Chaos - Most classical literature, let us admit it, is anti-democratic, moralistic in a reactionary sense, and deeply pessimistic — and therefore if not a corrective, at least a balance to today’s trajectory. Would you not wish to see in advance where zero-sum interest, $1 trillion deficits, 50 million on food stamps, $17 trillion in debt, and the quality of today’s BA degree all end up?
The world of fourth-century Athens is one of constant squabbling over a shrinking pie: “Don’t dare raid the free theater fund to build a warship. Pay me to vote. Give me a pension for my bad leg. The rich should pay their fair share. You didn’t build that. That’s my inheritance, not yours. Exile, confiscate, even kill those who have too much power of influence.” It is not that the Athenians cannot grow their economy as in the past, but that they despise those among them who think they still can.
The message reminds us that the health of the commonwealth hinges not on material resources, but always on the status of the collective mind. Usually the man who sees this — a Socrates in 399 BC, a Demosthenes in the shadow of Philip, even a shrill Isocrates — is branded a nut, ignored, or done away with.
Great literature and a knowledge of history serve as friends that reassure us that we are neither crazy nor alone. We can anticipate disasters rather than always having to learn through them. We expect paradoxes, given human nature, and so we do not need to weep over what happens to us, as if it is unique and unprecedented.
The problem created by the welfare state is thus not best understood as a problem of dependence but as the illusion of an impossible independence—an individualism so radical it renders all human relationships, including our relationships to the weakest and most needy of those around us, into non-binding optional arrangements, ignoring the realities of human life that make it necessary to guard human beings in their most vulnerable moments through an array of unchosen—or at the very least non-optional—obligations, especially in the family. The Left’s statist radical individualism that masquerades as a kind of communitarian collectivism pretends to offer a way for people to act together, but in practice it offers an escape from all mutual dependence and from the neediness of people who are not well positioned to pretend to be utterly autonomous.
Yuval Levin in More Than Dependency
How often have you heard the excuse, But his intentions were good?
Dennis Prager points out that "good intentions cause much of the world's great evils."
Take communism, for example. The greatest mass-murdering ideology in history, the greatest destroyer of elementary human rights, was an ideology supported by many people who believed in moral progress and human equality. It took Stalin's peace pact with Hitler to awaken many Western leftists to how evil communism was. And still, vast numbers of Westerners went on to support Stalin, Mao, Ho, Castro, Guevara or all of them. Were all these Westerners bad people, i.e., people who reveled in the suffering of others? Of course not.
In order to do good personally and in order to support social policies that do good, what humans need even more than a good heart (as beneficial as that can be) is wisdom.
This explains why we are in the morally confused world that I and other columnists document almost every week (and daily in my other life as a radio talk show host). There has been a war on wisdom.
Western universities have an abundance of people of intellect, people with a vast repository of knowledge and people who mean well. Yet, the Western university is a moral wasteland. Why? Because it lacks wisdom. The university relies on the good intentions of its professors, not on the accumulated wisdom of the past, for answers to society's problems. Thus, the Founding Fathers have little to teach us (they were rich, white men and often slaveholders); the Constitution is what we today say it is (which means it is anything a person with good intentions wants it to be); and the Bible is superstitious nonsense at best, pernicious nonsense at worst.
Instead of wrestling with the great ideas of those who lived before them, the university is dominated by people who are convinced that all one needs to know achieve good is to love equality and social justice, and to regard reliance on the Bible, Judeo-Christian values and the American Founders' values as an indication of moral and intellectual weakness.
The wise -- as opposed to most of the highly educated -- know, among many other things, that when you give people something for nothing, you produce ungrateful people; that when you obscure the differences between men and women, you end up with many aimless men and angry women; that when you give children "self-esteem" without their earning it, you produce narcissists who enter adulthood incapable of handling life; that if you do not destroy evil, it will proliferate; and that if you are kind to the cruel, you will cruel to the kind.
If you really want good to prevail, the key is wisdom, not the heart.
Global warming is not so much a scientific theory subject to empirical falsification as it is a political ideology that must be fiercely defended in defiance of every fact to the contrary. In the past few years we have been told that not only hot weather but cold weather is caused by global warming. The blizzards that struck the east coast of the US in 2010 were attributed to global warming. Every weather event–hot, cold, wet or dry–is said to be caused by global warming. The theory that explains everything explains nothing.
David Deming, Professor of Arts & Sciences at the University of Oklahoma via Bookworm
Remembering Michael Kelly A columnist who hated phonies, stood for truth, and died for his beliefs.
Take his view of Frank Sinatra. Everyone loved Old Blue Eyes and mourned him when he died in 1998. Everyone except Michael Kelly.
Kelly hated Frank because Frank had invented Cool, and Cool had replaced Smart. What was Smart? It was Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca: "He possesses an outward cynicism, but at his core he is a square. . . . He is willing to die for his beliefs, and his beliefs are, although he takes pains to hide it, old-fashioned. He believes in truth, justice, the American way, and love. . . . When there is a war, he goes to it. . . . He may be world weary, but he is not ironic."
Cool was something else. "Cool said the old values were for suckers. . . . Cool didn't go to war; Saps went to war, and anyway, cool had no beliefs he was willing to die for. Cool never, ever, got in a fight it might lose; cool had friends who could take care of that sort of thing."
It never, ever would have occurred to me to make the distinction until I read Kelly's column. And then I understood Sinatra. And then I understood Kelly, too.
I still miss him. He was a real journalist and a good man
Jerry Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy via Ace
In any bureaucracy, the people devoted to the benefit of the bureaucracy itself always get in control and those dedicated to the goals the bureaucracy is supposed to accomplish have less and less influence, and sometimes are eliminated entirely.
Sultan Knish, Who Needs the Family
Socialism has left behind a terrible bill and there is no one left to pay it. The population is crashing in every Western country. The elderly are losing their generous benefits, the men and women of middle age worry for the future and the youth no longer believe in the future at all. The streets are full of angry foreign teenagers, grinning and glaring, cutting and smashing, and the veiled women shop for goat in small dirty butcher shops. The old native men and women, of the stock that once made world empires, dream of leaving it all behind for Greece or Spain where they hope for a familiar foreignness, rather than the foreign foreignness that has overwhelmed their countries and made their cities no longer their own.
The state replaced the family. It told men and women that they no longer needed to make permanent commitments to each or to their parents and children. So long as they paid their taxes, the state would bear the burden of their commitments. And so men and women gave up on each other, parents gave up on their children and children gave up on their parents, the family fell apart and now the state that took its place is also falling apart.
When I heard of Pope Benedict's resignation, one thing that came to mind is . what King George III said about George Washington.
When King George III of England heard that Washington had willingly relinquished power after the war, he said, “If true, then he is the greatest man in the world.”\
When I googled to find out the exact quote, I came across this article about Washington by the historian Peter Lilliback
In these politically correct times, George Washington isn’t the hero he once was.
Children don’t read about him in school as much as their parents did. They’re much more likely to learn about African-American, Native American or female heroes.
New Jersey, in fact, issued new history standards a few years ago that omitted any mention of Washington.
Washington’s stature has diminished so much that a recent Washington College Poll found that Americans had a higher respect for Bill Clinton’s job performance as president than they did for George Washington’s.
What Maj. Gen. Henry Lee said at Washington’s funeral
First in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen, he was second to none in the humble and endearing scenes of private life. Pious, just, humane, temperate and sincere; uniform, dignified and commanding, his example was edifying to all around him, as were the effects of that example lasting.”
He may have been, in today's terms the most politically incorrect president we've ever had. Is that why the greatness of the man is no longer taught?
The Backside of Mt Rushmore from Miss Cellania
Freedom of Speech
If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.
The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil interference - they deserve a place of honor with all that's good.
Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth.
The marvel of all history is the patience with which men and women submit to burdens unnecessarily laid upon them by their governments.
Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.
It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible.
Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness.
To contract new debts is not the way to pay old ones.
As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is, to use it as sparingly as possible; avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but remembering also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it; avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertions in time of peace to discharge the debts, which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burthen, which we ourselves ought to bear.
Happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected.
It is the peculiar boast of our country, that her happiness is alone dependent on the collective wisdom and virtue of her citizens, and rests not on the exertions of any individual
The foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing is a vice so mean and low that every person of sense and character detests and despises it.
To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.
I can only say that there is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do to see a plan adopted for the abolition of slavery.
My observation is that whenever one person is found adequate to the discharge of a duty… it is worse executed by two persons, and scarcely done at all if three or more are employed therein.
Labour to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire, called conscience.
The Constitution is the guide which I never will abandon.
I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.
I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is the best policy.
My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her.
We all ponder death, our own and those of our friends and relatives. For people like Barnes it is something to be frightened of because it means final extinction, an often undignified departure from the only life there is – a life that is thus clung to desperately until the moment one decides to knock off or to be knocked off; when it’s no longer worth the candle. For Christians, as I have written in other blogs, death is not about discarding “a terrifyingly unsound body” for an abyss of nothingness; it is the gateway to eternity, a sacred transition that is accompanied by consoling, ancient, hallowed rites of passage.
The last years of our lives are meant to mellow the soul and most everything inside our biology conspires together to ensure this happens. The soul must be properly aged before it leaves. It’s a huge mistake to read the signs of aging as indications of dying rather than as initiations into another way of life. Each physical diminishment is designed to mature the soul.”
James Hillman, The Force of Character and Lasting Life
"Aid is just a stop-gap. Commerce [and] entrepreneurial capitalism takes more people out of poverty than aid." said U2's Bono in a speech at Georgetown.
I hope he makes a mint. Pet owner invents a doggie doorbell after his pooch kept scratching door to be let outside
It seemed like nobody in New York had gasoline during Sandy, but all the union men in Brooklyn mysteriously had three full cans in their garage. If you want tickets to a sold-out show or you want to see a closed exhibit at the Met, it’s not a problem. They drink for free, eat for free, and renovate their homes with supplies stolen from a building site. In a multicultural metropolis revolving around money, this strange sect has maintained a century-old monoculture that exists under the radar and thrives on the barter system. It seems archaic when you first encounter it, but a quick glance at where America is headed makes it clear the Brooklyn way is our future. So instead of putting them on some nostalgic pedestal, go meet them. You could learn a lot from dese fuggin’ idiots.
In 2010 I posted what Theodore Dalyrmple wrote about Political Correctness and I post again because it bears repeating
Political correctness is communist propaganda writ small. In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, nor to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to co-operate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.
Another astonishing medical breakthrough Turning urine into brain cells.
A new method for generating brain cells from urine samples could be useful for research into neurodegenerative diseases and for screening for new drugs.
Noah's Ark Great Flood may have happened, says Robert Ballard, the underwater archaeologist who found the Titanic.
In an interview with ABC News's Christiane Amanpour, Mr Ballard explains that he investigated a theory proposed by two scientists from Columbia University that there was a massive flood in the Black Sea region. They believe that the Black Sea was once an isolated freshwater lake surrounded by farmland until it was flooded by a torrent of water.
"We went in there to look for the flood," he told ABC News. "Not just a slow moving, advancing rise of sea level, but a really big flood that then stayed … The land that went under stayed under."
Although they did not find the Ark, they found an ancient shoreline which Mr Ballard believes is proof such an event did take place. He believes that, by using carbon dating shells found along the shoreline, it took place around 5,000 BC.
"It probably was a bad day," he said. "At some magic moment, it broke through and flooded this place violently, and a lot of real estate, 150,000 square kilometers of land, went under."
Daniel Greenfield We Are Those Who Stand for the Day
We are ordinary people and our mission is a simple one. We are the preservers of the present. Our task is to stand against the destroyers, the dislocated in mind and body, drawing up their plans for mutant civilizations, their distorted visions of the past and future set in ideological dogmas, for the plain and simple things of the present. While they seek to take away our nations, our beliefs and our children away from us, we fight to preserve them and to keep our world with us.
We have no grand schemes or manifestos, no glorious visions of caliphates and socialist republics, our vision is of our homes and our stores, our families and our friends, the communities that we have built and the small things that we have done every day of our lives for the sake of all these things. These small things, the little uncounted freedoms and the self-chosen responsibilities are our manifestos, they are our battle cries and they are what we fight for. They are our world and we hold them now in the light of day against the destroyers who would bring against us the fall of night.
It would seem that if despotism were to be established among the democratic nations of our days, it might assume a different character; it would be more extensive and more mild; it would degrade men without tormenting them. I do not question that, in an age of instruction and equality like our own, sovereigns might more easily succeed in collecting all political power into their own hands and might interfere more habitually and decidedly with the circle of private interests than any sovereign of antiquity could ever do.
I think, then, that the species of oppression by which democratic nations are menaced is unlike anything that ever before existed in the world….the thing itself is new, and since I cannot name, I must attempt to define it.
Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances: what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?
Thus it every day renders the exercise of the free agency of man less useful and less frequent; it circumscribes the will within a narrower range and gradually robs a man of all the uses of himself. The principle of equality has prepared men for these things;it has predisposed men to endure them and often to look on them as benefits.
After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.
Inspired by Mitt de Tocqueville by Samuel Gregg
We are passing through an eerie phase of history in which the things that everyone really knows are treated as unheard-of doctrines, a time in which the elements of common decency are themselves attacked as indecent. Nothing quite like this has ever happened before. Although our civilization has passed through quite a few troughs of immorality, never before has vice held the high moral ground. Our time considers it dirty-minded to treat sexual purity as a virtue; unfeeling to insist too firmly that the sick should not be encouraged to seek death; a sign of impious pride to profess humble faith in God. The moral law has become the very emblem of immorality. We call affirming it “being judgmental” and “being intolerant,” which is our way of saying it has been judged and will not be tolerated.
From the Booklist review at Amazon:
According to the natural law, a concept Christianity adopted and modified from Greek and Roman philosophy, knowledge of God's existence and of fundamental moral principles constitutes humanity's universal common sense. It isn't innate, however, but must be inculcated through traditional moral systems, such as the Tao, the dharma, and the Ten Commandments. Budziszewski invokes the last as best known to most of his potential readers and cites Judaic and Christian scripture, yet this is no religious tract but a philosophical exposition and a disputation on current moral attitudes and issues, especially abortion. Framing the entire presentation in terms of a lost world of moral consensus, Budziszewski says the natural law grounds a rational worldview that has been discredited by sin and guilt, and displaced by world views grounded in sensation (he is particularly cogent on the varieties of modern atheistic or agnostic feelings). But the natural law weltanschauung could be reestablished, and Budziszewski concludes his superb "guide" with broad advice on how to do so
Hands down, procrastination is our favorite form of self-sabotage. How often do we say to ourselves i'll do it tomorrow. Tomorrow is the busiest day of the week. Or we say, I'll do it someday, but someday is not a day of the week. One of these days is none of these days. Or as some wag put it, "Only Robinson Crusoe had everything done by Friday."
For those of you who procrastinate, you may find the links below interesting, inspiring or all too familiar.
So procrastination is a mood-management technique, albeit (like eating or taking drugs) a shortsighted one. But we’re most prone to it when we think it will actually help.
Leaving things undone makes you feel stupid The unfinished task continues to weigh upon the mind impairing your ability to accomplish other tasks requiring logic. William James put it more poetically, "Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task."
I am certain that Hamlet has long remained the most celebrated play in the English language because so many of us - students, or not - have experienced the horror of crippling indecision and compulsive delaying tactics.
Prof Piers Steel of the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary, author of The Procrastination Equation, has conducted extensive research into the topic. He found that 95% of us procrastinate at some point.
Prof Joseph Ferrari of DePaul University Chicago, the author of Still Procrastinating? The No Regrets Guide to Getting It Done, has found that 20% of the population of the world are chronic procrastinators, complicating their lives, and probably shortening them, with their incessant delaying and task avoidance.
I am, as you will have guessed, a fully paid-up member of the hardcore procrastinators' gang. I never open bank statements, I flee from urgent emails, I haven't filed a tax return for four years and I cannot write anything (although journalism is my living) until the deadline's savaging my ankles.
When we first got married, my wife brought home a whiteboard on which we could list the jobs that needed to be done. About a year later it disappeared. Just before our silver wedding anniversary, I found the whiteboard in our garage. There were about 20 jobs on it. None of them had been done - and most of them still needed to be done. Steve Swift.
In 1970 I moved house, dismantling my well-organised workbench. I then spent the next 30 years putting off reassembling it. I was forever hunting for a tool, screw, fuse… looking in a variety of boxes and shelves. I would spend 10 to 20 minutes on each search. Finally, 30 years later, I got to grips and put everything back in its place. I was astonished it only took me 45 minutes. At two 10 minutes searches a month that makes an incredible 120 hours solid work, or three 40-hour weeks. I cannot believe this except that figures don't lie. Leon Laporte
II started up the Stirling University Procrastination Society in 1980. It was a resounding success. Not one person bothered to return their registration form on time and we never got round to holding any meetings. Well done us. Yay! JohnB
Sometimes though, procrastination works as Penelope Trunk discovered in an unexpected lesson about procrastination
Sometimes procrastination is the best tool we have for taking care of ourselves.
From the Art of Worldly Wisdom by Baltasar Gracian, the 17th century Spanish philosopher and writer comes my favorite procrastination quotes
The wise does at once what the fool does at last.
He who puts off nothing till tomorrow has done a great deal.
Update: I was going through my Evernote account when I came across notes from a post at Zenhabits about a Simple Way to Get Work Done
The system breaks down to just three rules:
1. At the end of each week, make a new to-do list entitled, “Weekly Goals”. Write everything you want to accomplish in the next seven days.
2. Every night, make a new to-do list entitled, “Daily Goals”. Pull from your weekly list and routine every task you want to finish tomorrow.
3. During your workday, focus only on completing the daily list.Pretend your other work doesn’t exist. When you’ve finished the daily list, you’re done for the day and you’re not allowed to add more work.
Good advice from Surabhi Surendra . 5 Truths that will transform your life
We all prefer to live by our own rules. These are often trial and error methods. We make mistakes, learn a lesson from them and avoid them in future. A wise way to live life is by learning from others’ mistakes. With eons of wisdom and experience, there are some golden rules that hold good for every one.
I'm summarized them here, but read the whole thing to get the full impact.
1. No decision is good or bad, it is the end result that matters.
2. 90% of us have the same level of talent. It is the attitude that determines our altitude.
3. Never think of problems, think of solutions.
4. Honesty is always the best policy.
5. Only keep the essentials, cut the unnecessary and you will achieve more.
Or as one commenter said, "If you do not cheat life, it won't cheat you."
Today, there's a general numbing of the audience. There's too much murder and killing. You make people insensitive by showing it all the time. The body count in pictures is huge. It numbs the audience into thinking it's not so terrible. Back in the '70s, I asked Orson Welles what he thought was happening to pictures, and he said, "We're brutalizing the audience. We're going to end up like the Roman circus, live at the Coliseum." The respect for human life seems to be eroding.
Director Peter Bogdanovich says Movies are part of the problem
The American Elm tree is also the state tree of Massachusetts
“Concerning trees and leaves… there's a real power here. It is amazing that trees can turn gravel and bitter salts into these soft-lipped lobes, as if I were to bite down on a granite slab and start to swell, bud and flower. Every year a given tree creates absolutely from scratch ninety-nine percent of its living parts. Water lifting up tree trunks can climb one hundred and fifty feet an hour; in full summer a tree can, and does, heave a ton of water every day. A big elm in a single season might make as many as six million leaves, wholly intricate, without budging an inch; I couldn't make one. A tree stands there, accumulating deadwood, mute and rigid as an obelisk, but secretly it seethes, it splits, sucks and stretches; it heaves up tons and hurls them out in a green, fringed fling. No person taps this free power; the dynamo in the tulip tree pumps out even more tulip tree, and it runs on rain and air.”
Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
Fall in New England
Pascal Bruckner: The Ideology of Catastrophe
Over the last half-century, leftist intellectuals have identified two great scapegoats for the world's woes. First, Marxism designated capitalism as responsible for human misery. Second, "Third World" ideology, disappointed by the bourgeois indulgences of the working class, targeted the West, supposedly the inventor of slavery, colonialism and imperialism.
The guilty party that environmentalism now accuses—mankind itself, in its will to dominate the planet—is essentially a composite of the previous two, a capitalism invented by a West that oppresses peoples and destroys the Earth.
The fear that these intellectuals spread is like a gluttonous enzyme that swallows up an anxiety, feeds on it, and then leaves it behind for new ones…..We are inoculated against anxiety by the repetition of the same themes, which become a narcotic we can't do without.
Another result of the doomsayers' certainty is that their preaching, by inoculating us against the poison of terror, brings about petrification. The trembling that they want to inculcate falls flat. Anxiety has the last word. We were supposed to be alerted; instead, we are disarmed. This may even be the goal of the noisy panic: to dazzle us in order to make us docile. Instead of encouraging resistance, it propagates discouragement and despair. The ideology of catastrophe becomes an instrument of political and philosophical resignation.
"Life is stronger than death. Good is stronger than evil. Love is stronger than hate. Truth is stronger than lies," Benedict, wearing white robes in a symbol of new life, told the faithful in a packed St. Peter's Basilica.
Still, Benedict worried in his homily: "The darkness that poses a real threat to mankind, after all, is the fact that he can see and investigate tangible material things, but cannot see where the world is going or whence it comes, where our own life is going, what is good and what is evil."
"The darkness enshrouding God and obscuring values is the real threat to our existence and to the world in general," the pope said.
"If God and moral values, the difference between good and evil, remain in darkness, then all other 'lights,' that put such incredible technical feats within our reach, are not only progress but also dangers that put us and the world at risk," Benedict added.
Benedict, who has made protection of the environment a theme of his papacy, made a reference to urban pollution in his homily. "Today we can illuminate our cities so brightly that the stars in the sky are no longer visible," he said. "Is this not an image of the problems caused by our version of enlightenment?"
"With regard to material things, our knowledge and our technical accomplishments are legion, but what reaches beyond, the things of God and the question of good, we can no longer identify," Benedict added, saying that faith was the "true enlightenment."
"The West has nationalised families over the last 60 years. Old age, ill health, single motherhood — everything is the responsibility of the state."
Professor R. Vaidyanathan, Indian Institute of Management, as quoted by Mark Steyn.
The nationalized family is the key to understanding why the West's economic "downturn" is not merely cyclical. Like any other nationalized industry, the nationalized family prioritizes more and more perks for its beneficiaries, is unresponsive to market pressure, and revels in declining productivity. Literally: The biggest structural defect in the Western world is its deathbed demography, the upside-down family tree. When 100 grandparents have 42 grandchildren (as in Greece), it is a societal challenge under any circumstances. When 42 grandchildren have to pay off the massive debts run up by 100 grandparents, that's pretty much a guarantee of disaster
In the Guardian, Alain de Botton: a life in writing. An atheist who appreciates religion.
Religions, he thinks, have the buttons and know how to use them. His book considers the Catholic mass, early Christianitiy's ritual of agape or love feasts, and Jewish Passover rituals to explore how religions encouraged us to overcome fear of strangers and create communities.
He then tentatively imagines a so-called "agape restaurant" where, instead of dining with like-minded friends, you would be invited to eat with strangers. It would be the antithesis of Facebook. "Social media has lots of benefits but compared to Christianity it tends to group people by interests. Religion puts you with people who have nothing in common except that you're human." It might be a welcome challenge, he suggests. "I think that's what we need at a societal level – hosts who are able to produce the benevolence, charity, curiosity and goodwill that are in all of us but we can't let out."
He thus suggests he and Oprah, unlike our philosophy departments, have a surer grasp on society's anxieties. "I once very politely raised the thought that one reason philosophy departments have been cut is the fault of philosophers. The answer always comes back: 'The point of philosophy is to ask questions, not to give answers.' I can't help but think 'No. It can't be!' Imagine if you applied that question to other areas – is the purpose of rocket science to ask questions about rockets?"
We need, he insists, answers to Oprah-like questions now more than ever. "We're quite adrift. Civilisation should be about the transmission of the best ideas and we don't seem to believe in transmission. We've no effective mechanism."
In short, the incontinent spending of many European governments, which awarded whole populations unearned benefits at the expense of generations to come, has—along with a megalomaniacal currency union—produced a crisis not merely economic but social, political, and even civilizational. The European Union that was supposed to put an end to war on the continent has resuscitated antagonisms that might end in bellicosity, if not in outright war. And the European Project stands revealed as what any sensible person could have seen it always was: something akin to the construction of a massive, post-Tito Yugoslavia.
Theodore Dalrymple, The European Crack-Up
Pico Iyer on The Joy of Quiet
In barely one generation we’ve moved from exulting in the time-saving devices that have so expanded our lives to trying to get away from them — often in order to make more time. The more ways we have to connect, the more many of us seem desperate to unplug. Like teenagers, we appear to have gone from knowing nothing about the world to knowing too much all but overnight.
We have more and more ways to communicate, as Thoreau noted, but less and less to say. Partly because we’re so busy communicating. And — as he might also have said — we’re rushing to meet so many deadlines that we hardly register that what we need most are lifelines.
The urgency of slowing down — to find the time and space to think — is nothing new, of course, and wiser souls have always reminded us that the more attention we pay to the moment, the less time and energy we have to place it in some larger context. “Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries,” the French philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote in the 17th century, “and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries.
The central paradox of the machines that have made our lives so much brighter, quicker, longer and healthier is that they cannot teach us how to make best use of them; the information revolution came without an instruction manual. All the data in the world cannot teach us how to sift through data; images don’t show us how to process images. The only way to do justice to our onscreen lives is by summoning exactly the emotional and moral clarity that can’t be found on any screen.
The new Archbishop of Philadelphia is certainly getting out and about
In The Public Discourse, Archbishop Chaput speaks about human dignity.
We remember Bonhoeffer, Solzhenitsyn, and other men and women like them because of their moral witness. But the whole idea of “moral witness” comes from the assumption that good and evil are real, and that certain basic truths about humanity don’t change. These truths are knowable and worth defending. One of these truths is the notion of man’s special dignity as a creature of reason and will. Man is part of nature, but also distinct from it.
Something elevated and sacred in men and women demands our special respect. When we violate that human dignity, we do evil. When we serve it, we do good. And therein lies one of many ironies. We live in a society that speaks persuasively about protecting the environment and rescuing species on the brink of extinction. But then it tolerates the killing of unborn children and the abuse of human fetal tissue as lab material.
In First Things, Chaput writes about Catholics and the American Future an essay based on a talk he gave at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts, yesterday.
Without the restraints of a common moral consensus animated and defended by a living religious community, the freedom of the individual easily becomes a license for selfishness. The meaning of right and wrong becomes privatized. And ultimately, society ends up as a collection of disconnected individuals whose appetites and needs are regulated by the only project they share in common: the state.
The genius of Catholic higher education is the schooling it gives in the mutual dependency of faith and reason. At its best, it refuses to separate intellectual and moral formation because they are inextricably linked. It gives primacy to the disciplines that guide the formation of a holistic view of reality—philosophy and theology. It aids in the creation of a Christian culture and explains what this means for human thriving. It offers a coherent anthropology that treats the human being as a whole, and actually gives meaning to the words "human dignity" instead of turning them into a catch-phrase for the latest version of individualism. It offers an immersion in the virtues, and an appreciation of humanity’s material and spiritual realities—the visible and invisible world—all of which get their life from belief in Jesus Christ.
To put it another way, Catholic higher education is heir to the greatest intellectual, moral and cultural patrimony in human history. It has a deeply satisfying answer to who and why man is. It’s beautiful because it’s true. It has nothing to be embarrassed about and every reason to be on fire with confidence and apostolic zeal. We only defeat ourselves—and we certainly don’t serve God—if we allow ourselves to ever think otherwise.
The vocation of a Catholic college is to feed the soul as well as the mind; to offer a vision of men and women made whole by the love of God, the knowledge of creation and the reality of things unseen; to see the beauty of the world in the light of eternity; to recapture the nobility of the human story and the dignity of the human person.
This is the work that sets fire to a young person’s heart. It starts the only kind of revolution that really changes anything: a revolution of love. Jesus said, I came to cast fire upon the earth, and would that it were already kindled.
Our task is to start that blaze and then help it grow.
American Optimism by Elizabeth Scalia
Last week Mark Steyn wrote, “America is seizing up before our eyes,” and that is a spot-on image. She is like a brilliantly conceived machine that, poorly maintained for more years than any of us cares to admit, has gone too long untuned; the oil of her invention has thinned out and broken down and now bit-by-bit, gear-by-gear—economically, socially, spiritually—she is making an ungodly noise and grinding to a halt.
There are probably ten thousand articles to be found on the Internet all fleshing out their theories of what is behind America’s swift collapse. Curiously, most of them will touch—all without realizing it—on the seven deadly sins; Capitalist Greed; Spiritual Sloth; Physical Lust; Nationalist/Military Pride; Consumer Gluttony; Partisan Wrath; Class Envy. Good arguments can be made blaming some are all of these sins for our current dire straits and for the sense that we are standing upon a precipice.
Here is the article Elizabeth referenced: Mark Steyn, Occupiers part of grand alliance against the productive
At first glance, an alliance of anarchists and government might appear to be somewhat paradoxical. But the formal convergence in Oakland makes explicit the movement's aims: They're anarchists for statism, wild free-spirited youth demanding more and more total government control of every aspect of life – just so long as it respects the fundamental human right to sloth. What's happening in Oakland is a logical exercise in class solidarity: the government class enthusiastically backing the breakdown of civil order is making common cause with the leisured varsity class, the thuggish union class and the criminal class in order to stick it to what's left of the beleaguered productive class. It's a grand alliance of all those societal interests that wish to enjoy in perpetuity a lifestyle they are not willing to earn. Only the criminal class is reasonably upfront about this. The rest – the lifetime legislators, the unions defending lavish and unsustainable benefits, the "scholars" whiling away a somnolent half-decade at Complacency U – are obliged to dress it up a little with some hooey about "social justice" and whatnot.
America is seizing up before our eyes: The decrepit airports, the underwater property market, the education racket, the hyper-regulated business environment. Yet, curiously, the best example of this sclerosis is the alleged "revolutionary" movement itself. It's the voice of youth, yet everything about it is cobwebbed
The wise man Walter Russell Mead writes The Crisis of Young Men is a Crisis For Us All
Joblessness is only one aspect of a growing social crisis. America is increasingly failing at the most basic task of socializing any group of people faces: helping its young males make the difficult transition from boyhood and adolescent to mature manhood. Raised right and appropriately mentored, young men channel their energy and idealism into building families and making a better world. Hard work, ambition, the desire to serve and protect: young men at their best make indispensable contributions to social health and well being.
It is perilously easy for young men to lose their way and our society does very little to help. Between widespread divorce and illegitimacy, many young men are growing up with only tenuous connections with suitable adult role models. Movies, television and popular music offer the most distorted and destructive images of men: either superhuman macho killing and loving machines or ineffectual workadaddy wimps and figures of fun.
If our boys don’t negotiate that complex transition and become men, American society will fail. It is really that simple. In some urban communities the transmission of the values and behaviors that help boys become men has broken down altogether; that crisis is spreading out of the inner cities and into the mainstream. Churches, community groups and individual men need to think hard about how to reach and help this vulnerable and vital demographic. Without new generations of upright, God fearing, disciplined, hard working and community minded men, American society will be a poor and violent place. We are already well on the way.
The Anchoress on Madison Avenue's Vision of Love
If the recent barrage of ham-handed television commercials peopled with foolish men, churlish women and hectoring, know-it-all children are any indication, Madison Avenue has no idea what love has to do with relationships or families, or natural desire. Even worse, it believes the rest of us don’t, either, and that things—lots and lots of things—can suffice, can provide reasonable facsimiles of love. We will love our new shoes or our new iSomething, we are told; we will love, love, love this new air freshener. These things will make us happy. As long as we are not looking to be loved back.
An astonishing percentage of our economy is dependent upon our willingness to substitute things for love, and to just keep buying. Is it any wonder, then, that our culture is consumed with loneliness and broken dreams, or that all of our empty bubbles—technology, housing, tuition for “good” colleges that will keep the love coming—are bursting one after another?
Listen to Walter Russell Mead
The usual grumblings attend the day on which we commemorate the most famous illegal immigrant in the history of the Americas, an undocumented wanderer from Spain who brought plagues, fire and the sword from the Old World to the New.
Columbus Day is our most confused holiday celebration, one in which the public understanding of the day has shifted the farthest from the intent of those who instituted the observance. Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the New World on October 12, 1492 only became a federal holiday in the US in 1934
The day was made a holiday after years of lobbying as a way of recognizing the contribution of Roman Catholics and immigrants generally to American life. It is a holiday to celebrate diversity....
Columbus Day is not an imperialistic holiday. It is a celebration of American diversity, a long overdue recognition of the importance of Catholics and immigrants in American life. It is a celebration we share with our Hispanic neighbors in the New World and it is a day that testifies to our growing understanding that religious and ethnic pluralism aren’t problems for our American heritage; pluralism is central to our identity as a people.
That American Indian activists want to use the day to make a point is OK with me; they have a point to make. But Columbus Day is a holiday that was created to celebrate the dignity and equality of Americans regardless of origin or creed, and that in my view is an excellent reason for the country to take the day off.
Before Pope Benedict traveled to Scotland and England last year, the conventional wisdom was that it was going to a disaster. It turned out to be a resounding success. 'He routed his enemies and brought joy to the faithful' and 'Benedict Wows Britain' were two headlines.
Human nature abhors a vacuum, and now into this vacuum of moral leadership strode Pope Benedict, proclaiming truths that might not be welcomed by a secularized audience, but must be recognized as consistent and compelling, worthy at least of some consideration—enough to make people “sit up and think.”
Something very similar is happening in Germany.
In a speech before the German parliament, the Bundestag, the Pope gave a powerful defense of the natural-law tradition and an equally powerful critique of moral relativism and warned of 'cultureless' Europe.
In his September 22 speech to the Bundestag, the Holy Father said that the Nazi regime illustrated how a government that does not recognize objective standards of justice can become a nightmare regime.
"Without justice, what else is the state but a great band of robbers?" the Pope asked, citing the words of St. Augustine. He continued:
We Germans know from our own experience that these words are no empty specter. We have seen how power became divorced from right, how power opposed right and crushed it, so that the state became an instrument for destroying right--a highly organized band of robbers, capable of threatening the whole world and driving it to the edge of the abyss.
The tradition of government based on the fundamental principles of natural law has been the basic foundation for the legal system of Germany and other European nations, the Pope said. However, that tradition is now imperiled:
The idea of natural law is today viewed as a specifically Catholic doctrine, not worth bringing into the discussion in a non-Catholic environment, so that one feels almost ashamed even to mention the term.
In the absence of natural-law reasoning, the Pope observed, politicians find it impossible to discern clear and objective standards of justice.
On concluding his speech, the parliamentarians gave him a two-minute standing ovation.
Rainer Bruederle, head of the ruling coalition’s Free Democratic Party, welcomed the speech as “an important support” for politics, which “strengthened the basis for responsible action, based on the inner foundations of democracy and the rule of law.” The Pope, Bruederle said, “brilliantly” put this across in “clear, simple lines, making it clear and understandable for everyone.”
It has been billed as Pope Benedict XVI's most difficult trip abroad to date. But so far in Germany, the pope has not sought to shy away from controversy. His bluntness has surprised many -- and could transform the visit into a rousing success.
He did not mince words. He spoke about nature and reason and demanded from the parliamentarians an increased sense of moral responsibility for ecology and equality. It was a very political speech. It was courageous. And it was unique.
A politician's "fundamental criterion and the motivation for his work as a politician must not be success, and certainly not material gain," the pope said. "Politics must be a striving for justice, and hence it has to establish the fundamental preconditions for peace." A politician's success, he continued, should be "subordinated to the criterion of justice, to the will to do what is right, and to the understanding of what is right."
Jerry Pournelle opines that Obama declares war on liberty and property
There is a way out of this Depression. Our lands do not lie in ruins. Our fields are not cratered from bombs and filled with mines. Many of our idle factories still exist. Wonderful machine tools and laboratory instruments are sold at scrap value on eBay and at public auction. There is lots of unused productivity in this land, and we know the formula for prosperity. It is liberty. That has always been the secret of American exceptionalism. We had founders whose goal was to insure the blessings of liberty for themselves and their posterity.
Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free. We have always known this. We know it still.
Bret Stephens on 9/11 and the Struggles for Meaning.
September 11 was nothing if not a day of loss, and this memorial cannot avoid expressing something of that loss. The problem is that it's exclusively about loss, while 9/11 was also a day of extraordinary giving: of the first responders, the passengers on Flight 93, the people in the towers who helped each other out, the emergency crews, the volunteers. A better 9/11 tribute would reflect those deeds, not sound an echo to the nihilism that was at the core of al Qaeda's designs.
So 9/11 remains a date and an event unto itself, somehow disconnected from everything that still flows from it. No doubt that helps draw a line between our feelings about it and the controversies over Iraq, Guantanamo, waterboarding, drone strikes, the freedom agenda and all the rest of it. But it also strips the day of any context, intelligibility or a sense of the greater purposes that might flow from it. This is how an act of evil and of war has been reduced, in our debased correct parlance, to a "tragedy."
We'll Never Get Over It, Nor Should We Peggy Noonan
But New York will never get over what they did. They live in a lot of hearts.
They tell us to get over it, they say to move on, and they mean it well: We can't bring an air of tragedy into the future. But I will never get over it. To get over it is to get over the guy who stayed behind on a high floor with his friend who was in a wheelchair. To get over it is to get over the woman by herself with the sign in the darkness: "America You Are Not Alone." To get over it is to get over the guys who ran into the fire and not away from the fire.
You've got to be loyal to pain sometimes to be loyal to the glory that came out of it.
Rich Lowry sees A Decade of Heroes
On a morning of horrors on Sept. 11, 2001, we witnessed acts of sacrifice that will live forever in American memory.
As people fled the World Trade Center, amid falling bodies and debris, firefighters ran into them. As people ran down the stairs, the firefighters marched up them. They carried 100 pounds of gear, moving slowly toward a fire hot enough to melt steel raging 1,000 feet above them.
After a flaccid decade of (somewhat illusory) prosperity and peace in the 1990s, the savagery of September 11 brought home the timeless relevance of the virtue of courage. Not “moral courage,” but old-fashioned physical courage of the sort celebrated since the days of Homer.
And with their brave decision, they launched the first counteroffensive of the war on terror. The most likely target of the hijacked plane was the United States Capitol. We will never know how many innocent people might have been lost. But we do know this: Americans are alive today because the passengers and crew of Flight 93 chose to act, and this Nation will be forever grateful.
The 40 souls who perished with the plane left a great deal behind. They left spouses, children, and grandchildren who miss them dearly. They left successful businesses, promising careers, and a lifetime of dreams that they will never have the chance to fulfill. And they left something else: a legacy of bravery and selflessness that will always inspire America. For generations, people will study the story of Flight 93. They will learn that individual choices make a difference, that love and sacrifice can triumph over evil and hate, and that what happened above this Pennsylvania field ranks among the most courageous acts in American history.
Ten Years Without an Attack, John Yoo
Looking back over the decade, the first clear lesson is the critical importance of Mr. Bush's decision to consider the struggle with al Qaeda a war....The 9/11 attacks constituted an act of war—they were a decapitation strike, an effort to eliminate our nation's leadership in a single blow. If the Soviet Union had carried out the same attacks, no one would have doubted that the United States was at war. Al Qaeda's independence from any nation state would not shield it from the American military and leave it solely to the more tender mercies of the FBI and the courts.
9/11 and the successful war, George Friedman
Ultimately, there are three lessons of the last decade that I think are important. The first is the tremendous success the United States has had in achieving its primary goal — blocking attacks on the homeland. The second is that campaigns of dubious worth are inevitable in war, and particularly in one as ambiguous as this war has been. Finally, all wars end, and the idea of an interminable war dominating American foreign policy and pushing all other considerations to the side is not what is going to happen. The United States must have a sense of proportion, of what can be done, what is worth doing and what is too dangerous to do. An unlimited strategic commitment is the definitive opposite of strategy.
Iran gave the hijackers and Al Qaeda a lot more help than is generally supposed. Iran's Dirty 9/11 Secrets
It has taken nearly ten years, but the real story of Iran’s direct, material involvement in the 9/11 conspiracy is finally coming to light. And it’s being revealed not by the U.S. government or by Congressional investigators but by private attorneys representing families of the 9/11 victims in U.S. District Court.
Next state over from me, little Rhode Island is showing all of us what happens when its pension system begins to fail under the weight of its promises.
From Walter Russell Mead, Rhode Island Pension System Collapsing
Rhode Island is one of the bluest states in the country, and one where public sector unions have long worked with sympathetic politicians to create a true blue system of well paid public employees retiring comfortably on generous pensions with cost of living raises automatically thrown in.
The only problem is that the state could never afford the beautiful utopia it was crafting, and so politicians and union leaders chose the path of systemic deceit. Taxpayers weren’t told what the bill for the system would be; public service workers weren’t told that the pension guarantees they’d been sold were worthless because taxpayers would not and could not foot the bill.
An economic crisis is nature’s revenge on those who make and those who accept false promises; it is a holocaust of lies when the dross is burned away and only what is real and true remains.
A lot of people who believed Rhode Island’s lies will now be looking for part time work in what they were told would be a secure retirement. As far as I can tell the union leaders and politicians who concocted this disaster between them have no plans to suffer any cuts in their own pay or pension plans — and intend to go on “serving the public” without any accountability at all.
Mead includes this great quote from Thomas Carlyle, Bankruptcy rules
Great is Bankruptcy: the great bottomless gulf into which all Falsehoods, public and private, do sink, disappearing; whither, from the first origin of them, they were all doomed. For Nature is true and not a lie. No lie you can speak or act but it will come, after longer or shorter circulation, like a Bill drawn on Nature’s Reality, and be presented there for payment, — with the answer, No effects. Pity only that it often had so long a circulation: that the original forger were so seldom he who bore the final smart of it! Lies, and the burden of evil they bring, are passed on; shifted from back to back, and from rank to rank; and so land ultimately on the dumb lowest rank, who with spade and mattock, with sore heart and empty wallet, daily come in contact with reality, and can pass the cheat no further.
MARKET FAILURE VS. GOVERNMENT FAILURE: We’ve certainly seen a lot of the latter, lately. If “market failure” is an excuse for taking power away from markets, shouldn’t “government failure” be a reason to take power away from government?
Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit
The Government Failure link leads to op ed today by Gary Becker in The Wall Street Journal. The Great Recession and Government
The origins of the financial crisis and the Great Recession are widely attributed to "market failure." This refers primarily to the bad loans and excessive risks taken on by banks in the quest to expand their profits.
Although many banks did perform poorly, government behavior also contributed to and prolonged the crisis. The Federal Reserve kept interest rates artificially low in the years leading up to the crisis. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two quasi-government institutions, used strong backing from influential members of Congress to encourage irresponsible mortgages that required little down payment, as well as low interest rates for households with poor credit and low and erratic incomes. Regulators who could have reined in banks instead became cheerleaders for the banks.
The widespread demand after the financial crisis for radical modifications to capitalism typically paid little attention to whether in fact proposed government substitutes would do better, rather than worse, than markets.
Government regulations and laws are obviously essential to any well-functioning economy. Still, when the performance of markets is compared systematically to government alternatives, markets usually come out looking pretty darn good.
Market failure AND Government failure - We had both.
Walter Russell Mead very good Back to School advice to returning students and to their parents.
And so, dear students, welcome back! Your generation is going to have dig its own way out of the hole my generation has dug for you (thanks for the Medicare, kids, and sorry about the deficit!), but here are a few tips that may help you get the best out of your college years.
1. The real world does not work like school.
2. Most of your elders know very little about the world into which you are headed.
3. You are going to have to work much, much harder than you probably expect.
4. Choosing the right courses is more important than choosing the right college.
5. Get a traditional liberal education; it is the only thing that will do you any good.
6. Character counts; so do good habits.
‘The only ethical principle which has made science possible is that the truth shall be told all the time. If we do not penalize false statements made in error, we open up the way for false statements by intention. And a false statement of fact, made deliberately, is the most serious crime a scientist can commit.’
Dorothy L Sayers in her murder mystery Gaudy night
via Bookworm in Global warmists - garbage in, garbage out
Jim Lacey explains clearly the problem with global warming science: it’s so hopelessly corrupt that it’s no longer possible to tell what the truth is any more.
David Warren on The Pact
Here is the father of Anders Breivik speaking, to a television interviewer, who asked if he thought his son was insane: "He must be, he must be, there is no other way to explain it!"
Alas, there is another way to explain it, that contemporary man does not like to think about,...
Yet the alternative explanation is itself no simple thing. It contains enigma; it must be struggled with, intellectually and spiritually, all one's life.
"By their fruits ye shall know them." Acts which are unquestionably evil, proceed from minds possessed by evil.
Yet evil persists, whether or not it is recognized; and it continues to lie at the bottom of any possible explanation. Breivik's acts were demonic, in an irreducible way. And the ability to know that, immediately on sight, is written into every human heart - because there is a natural moral order. There was no possible "excuse" for Breivik's behaviour, and the excuses he provided himself, through 1,500 pages of rambling but coherent manifesto, were themselves manifestations of evil. That much is comprehensible.
To my mind, Breivik and bin Laden, regardless of claimed religious affiliations, did things immortally evil in a similar way. They felt themselves competent to decide what is lawful, by the power of their own reasoning. This is the distinctively post-modern pact with the devil.
That is not the way we think, today - in terms of "a pact with the devil." For we are ourselves postmodern people, who think we have been emancipated from such "antiquated" beliefs. As Baudelaire put it: "No one believes in the devil any more. Yet his smell is everywhere."
The old, "mythological" account, of Genesis, Faustus, Paradise Lost, explains just what we are at a loss to explain today. In the Gospels, Christ himself must decline the pact, of worldly power. Nietzsche articulated it again, for our times: this promise of absolute human power, to be grasped in the moment we abandon "conventional morality," and become guilt-free.
"Anything but silence seems to cheapen the suffering"
Walter Russell Mead, From Norway to Hell
The ghastly, shocking news from Norway has stunned the whole world. Empathy for the young victims and their families, horror at the cold blooded and deliberate evil behind this act, and fearful wonder at the depths of madness it reveals are all joined together. We Godbotherers will be bothering God about this, asking for his compassionate and merciful presence in the lives of those who must now begin a lifetime’s journey in the presence of unspeakable grief.
To respond to events of this kind is a challenge. The tragedy is so great that anything but silence seems to cheapen the suffering, but it also demand some kind of response.
There are some trying to draw some political conclusion about left and right from the massacre; I would like to go deeper. This tragedy doesn’t just speak to the state of cultural politics in our time, or remind us (as it surely does) that evil has a home in every human culture and human heart; it challenges some of our deepest beliefs about where the world is headed.
The Norwegian horror says less about any shortcomings in Norwegian life and culture than about modern life generally. It reminds us of the profoundly unsettling truth that modernization may lead to more violence and more death than ever before. Modernization is not just more golden arches and more bloggers. It is also about accelerating social change. Capitalism drives technological change and technological change feeds on itself the more of it we have, the more we get.
This accelerating, unpredictable and destabilizing change can cause individuals and social groups to become unhinged: to lose their way in the confusion and mystery of modern life. Blue collar factory workers lose their jobs by the millions; some adapt, some endure, a few go postal. The upper middle class feels the earth shake beneath its feet as old certainties are challenged and old ways of making a living cease to work. Most go about their business; some, like Ted Kaczynski, flip out to the Dark Side.
The only conclusion that makes sense to me is that human beings are stuck in a condition of radical uncertainty. Something big and earth shaking is going on around us, but the information we have does not allow us to predict where it all goes.
In my view, this is one of the reasons that belief in a transcendent power beyond the human mind is intellectually necessary to grapple successfully with the realities of our time. When the determinist progressives threw God under the bus, they threw away the possibility of an integrated world view that has room both for scientific and rational analysis on the one hand and a honest, unsparing appraisal of the radical uncertainty around us on the other.
Today is the 100th anniversary of Marshall McLuhan's birth.
McLuhan is known for coining the expressions "the medium is the message" and "the global village" and predicted the World Wide Web almost thirty years before it was invented.
From Nicholas Carr's blog, Rough Type
Even as he came to be worshipped as a techno-utopian seer in the mid-sixties, he had already, writes Coupland, lost all hope “that the world might become a better place with new technology.” He heralded the global village, and was genuinely excited by its imminence and its possibilities, but he also saw its arrival as the death knell for the literary culture he revered. The electronically connected society would be the setting not for the further flourishing of civilization but for the return of tribalism, if on a vast new scale. "And as our senses [go] outside us," he wrote, "Big Brother goes inside."
McLuhan also saw, with biting clarity, how all mass media are fated to become tools of commercialism and consumerism — and hence instruments of control. The more intimately we weave media into our lives, the more tightly we become locked in a corporate embrace: “Once we have surrendered our senses and nervous systems to the private manipulation of those who would try to benefit by taking a lease on our eyes and ears and nerves, we don’t really have any rights left.” Has a darker vision of modern media ever been expressed?
From the Anchoress
Grandpa Garfinkle was a master in healthy teaching. When we children next encountered him, he noted our discomfort and did not try to excuse us. The juice had been meant for others, and we had been thoughtless and selfish. But the old man knew how to reinforce a lesson with kindness.
“Now, listen all of you, because your priest is going to tell you this too: there is one very best way to live your life. First, you love and serve God, and you keep the commandments. Then, you look around at everyone else and see where you can love and serve them. Then, if you have any energy left over, you can think about yourself. This,” he said, raising his finger to emphasize the point, “is the way you walk on a road made with diamonds, by forgetting yourself, and what you want. It is the diamond path.”
Remarkable. I've sung America the Beautiful countless times and never pondered "Confirm they soul in self-control"
Paul Kengor did, This Fourth of July: Confirm Thy Soul in Self-Control
As noted by John Howard—the outstanding senior fellow at the Howard Center for Family, Religion, & Society—Montesquieu noted that each citizen in a self-governing state must voluntarily abide by certain essential standards of conduct: lawfulness, truthfulness, honesty, fairness, respect for the rights and well-being of others, obligation to one’s spouse and children, to name a few.
“Each new generation must be trained to be responsible citizens … to be virtuous and conscientious,” writes Howard in The St. Croix Review. “Once the free society is well-established, the daily life of the family and the society is such that becoming virtuous is not a monstrous chore for the young people.”
Sadly, becoming virtuous has indeed become a monstrous chore in a society not only lacking virtue but eschewing virtue—fleeing virtue like a vampire fleeing a cross. Living life in a good way—what Benedict Groeschel calls The Virtue Driven Life—becomes so alien that the people prefer darkness over light. When virtues are not taught—whether at home, at school, or by America’s educator-in-chief, the TV set—they become unknown and ignored and unfulfilled, desiccated and dead upon the national landscape.
And perhaps saddest of all, as John Howard notes, virtue is something that can be acquired, like learning to speak a culture’s language. Once inculcated, however, it needs to be continuously reinforced by the cultural elements of the society. Virtue needs nourished, like fruitful plants need water and sunlight. Says Howard emphatically: “I want to repeat…. Virtue must be continuously reinforced by the culture.”
We Americans might not think about this much, but we actually sing it fairly often, even if the words don’t sink in. Consider this line from one of our sacred political hymns, America, the Beautiful:
God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.
That’s the ticket: Confirm thy soul in self-control...
In truth, a genuine freedom requires responsibility. As the song says—and as Washington and Montesquieu intimated—we must successfully govern ourselves in order to successfully govern our nation.
It’s a timeless concept worth remembering this Fourth of July and every day going forward.
The environment is much too important to be left to environmentalists. They'll just make an even bigger mess of everything, like they have on climate change.
I don't want a religion that accepts me for who I am. I know who I am and am unimpressed. I want a religion that calls me to be better than I am even as I resist it.
The first is, never put anything into cyberspace that you wouldn’t want your mother to see. The second is, never put anything into cyberspace that you wouldn’t want your mother to see, and the third is like the other two.
This is perennially the work of the barbarian, to undermine rational standards of judgment, to corrupt the inherited intuitive wisdom by which the people have always lived and to do this not by spreading new beliefs but by creating a climate of doubt and bewilderment in which clarity about the larger aims of life is dimmed and the self-confidence of the people is destroyed so that finally what you have is an impotent nihilism.
John Courtney Murray via William Gavin
"One German organic farm has killed twice as many people as the Fukushima nuclear disaster and the Gulf Oil spill combined."
“The nuns taught us there were two ways through life. The way of nature and the way of grace. Nature is willful; it only wants to please itself, to have its own way. … It finds reasons to be unhappy when all the world is shining around it. Grace doesn’t try to please itself; it accepts being slighted, accepts insults and injuries. … No one who follows the way of grace ever comes to a bad end.”
Jack's mother in the Tree of Life in Steven Greydanus's review
In The New Criterion, Mark Steyn decries the erosion of personal liberty, the loss of cultural inheritance and the debauching of human capital in Dependence Day.
What happens when, as a matter of state policy, you debauch your human capital? The United Kingdom has the highest drug use in Europe, the highest incidence of sexually transmitted disease, the highest number of single mothers; marriage is all but defunct, except for toffs, upscale gays, and Muslims. For Americans, the quickest way to understand modern Britain is to look at what lbj’s Great Society did to the black family and imagine it applied to the general population. One-fifth of British children are raised in homes in which no adult works. Just under 900,000 people have been off sick for over a decade, claiming “sick benefits,” week in, week out, for ten years and counting. “Indolence,” as Machiavelli understood, is the greatest enemy of a free society, but rarely has any state embraced this oldest temptation as literally as Britain. There is almost nothing you can’t get the government to pay for.
After Big Government, after global retreat, after the loss of liberty, there is only remorseless civic disintegration.
-- Permanence is the illusion of every age. But you cannot wage a sustained ideological assault on your own civilization without profound consequence.
In our time, to be born a citizen of the United States is to win first prize in the lottery of life, and, as Britons did, too many Americans assume it will always be so. Do you think the laws of God will be suspended in favor of America because you were born in it? Great convulsions lie ahead, and at the end of it we may be in a post-Anglosphere world.
I hardly know anyone under 40 (and few enough over 40) who isn’t on one antidepressant or another; what we considered an existential and deeply individuating ordeal, they conceptualize as a chemical imbalance. What they don’t seem to realize is that “my serotonin” or “my dopamine” is every bit as much a subjective fantasy as “my libido” or “my anima.” We have no direct, sensory experience of our neurotransmitters! They are concepts without any emotional color or content, without any associations except for the prestige of science, an authority that derives from the very fact that it speaks a language we cannot relate to. This is an alienating fantasy of one’s self, not as a cosmos of experience, but as a chemical robot in need of a tune-up by an expert. This robot has no inner space; it is solid-state.
With so many people self-medicating to deal with their feelings and pain, I was not at all surprised that Drugs were found in 33% of killed drivers.
According to a National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) report released Tuesday, one-third of all drug tests on drivers killed in motor vehicle accidents came back positive for drugs ranging from hallucinogens to prescription painkillers last year.
One of the most important lessons I have learned as a historian is that, until something earth-shaking happens, even informed and intelligent people find it hard to imagine that their comfortable daily lives could suddenly be wrenched out of true, familiar landmarks swept aside. Human beings are creatures of habit: we assume that what was yesterday, and is today, will still be so tomorrow.
The world will probably come out the other side of its current troubles — but only probably. We are living in more dangerous times than the world has known since at least the Fifties. Even the most enlightened seers do not dare to prophesy how the story will end.
If we tried to start The Home Depot today, it's a stone cold certainty that it would never have gotten off the ground.
Ken Langone in Stop Bashing Business, Mr.President
"We have no more right to consume happiness without producing it than to consume wealth without producing it."
-George Bernard Shaw
The two towers were not all that fell on that awful day. If only for a moment, all that was trivial about everyday American life fell away, too. The culture of celebrity. Partisan politics. Irony. All were unmasked as the cheap, shallow, frivolous imposters that they were.
Rising out of the ruins, all that remained standing were the Important Things: Faith. Family. Friends. Freedom. Essential and enduring, they offered meaning and hope to a nation and people suffering incalculable heartache and loss.
Now, I thought, is the time to say, “I love you.” Now is the time to say, “I’m sorry.” Now is the time to say, “Thank you.” Now is the time to make peace with God. Now is the time. Tomorrow may be too late.
On September 11, 2001, it was all so clear.
Kathryn Slattery on Important Things.
Richard Fernandez in Children of a Lesser God
At the last we are left exactly where we were: on the shores of a great ocean whose extent we do not know, condemned to live out our lives partly on the basis of things we can only guess.
Some will decide that for purely arbitrary reasons we have been granted a glimpse into a mighty, soulless and uncaring mechanism and leave it at that.
Some will strike out on another path. They will not watch, but live on the shores of this great sea. There they will build their homes, care for their children and sacrifice their lives for things that have meaning, yet which others will regard as not only meaningless but as incapable of meaning.
The argument is probably unsettleable and the two tribes are doomed to live side by side for whatever amounts to forever. Blaise Pascal believed that you could never know which of these points of view was correct. He advised everyone to make his wager and live life accordingly. Being the gambler, Pascal decided that if he wagered, he would bet to win.
If you really want good to prevail, the key is wisdom, not the heart. That's why we have a minimum voting age. And that's why we have a minimum age for running for public office. We once understood that as good as a young person may be, goodness was not enough to be able to choose society's leaders or to be one.
So, why do good people do bad things? Because they lack wisdom. Without wisdom, you can be nice and kind, but you will not do nearly as much good as your good heart would like you to do.
And you may even do harm.
Dennis Prager, When Good People Do Bad Things
When I Was Young:
The first question I would ask: Does this make sense?
- If it didn't, I would stop right there. No need to go further.
- If it did, I would go on to ask: Is it true?
Now that I'm older:
The first question I ask: Is it true?
- If it isn't, I stop right there. No need to go further.
- If it is, I go on to ask: Does it make sense?
From the Associated Press, the thought for today:
"The great business of life is to be, to do, to do without, and to depart."
— John, Viscount Morley of Blackburn, ...
Native intelligence may indeed not vary by neighborhood but actual performance-- whether in schools, on the job or elsewhere-- involves far more than native intelligence. Wasted intelligence does nothing for an individual or society.
Thomas Sowell in Cheering Immaturity
One of the many disservices done to young people by our schools and colleges is giving them the puffed up notion that they are in a position to pass sweeping judgments on a world that they have barely begun to experience. A standing ovation for childish remarks may produce "self-esteem" but promoting presumptuousness is unlikely to benefit either this student or society.
One of the most common question successful revolutionaries ask themselves afterward is ‘what have I done?’ During their retirement John Adams and Thomas Jefferson grappled with the question of what actually happened during the Revolution. Jefferson’s answer was that no one could ever describe it. “Nobody; except merely it’s external facts. All it’s councils … which are the life and soul of history must be forever unknown.”
Adam’s memorable response was to question whether the Revolution happened when people thought it did. Their exchange frames the great debates of today in the most striking form. Where is this crisis leading? And when is it happening? To some extent the crisis is unfolding in the change in attitudes that are taking place today. It is entirely possible that today is the revolution.
“The Revolution was in the Minds of the People, and this was effected, from 1760 to 1775, in the course of fifteen Years before a drop of blood was drawn at Lexington.” Here, nearly 250 years ago, was Adams talking about memes and cognitive warfare, and the possibility that changes in attitudes and modes of thinking were in fact where America was born. Today the world is by increasingly perceived as being in the throes of a huge change. Who can write the history of it? And where and when are these events taking place?
Richard Fernandez on The Secret History of the World
Jonathan Haidt speaks on The New Science of Morality at Edge.
I think taste offers the closest, the richest, source domain for understanding morality. First, the links between taste, affect, and behavior are as clear as could be. Tastes are either good or bad. The good tastes, sweet and savory, and salt to some extent, these make us feel "I want more." They make us want to approach. They say, "this is good." Whereas, sour and bitter tell us, "whoa, pull back, stop."
Second, the taste metaphor fits with our intuitive morality so well that we often use it in our everyday moral language. We refer to acts as "tasteless," as "leaving a bad taste" in our mouths. We make disgust faces in response to certain violations.
Third, every culture constructs its own particular cuisine, its own way of pleasing those taste receptors. The taste analogy gets at what's universal—that is, the taste receptors of the moral mind—while it leaves plenty of room for cultural variation. Each culture comes up with its own particular way of pleasing these receptors, using local ingredients, drawing on historical traditions.
That the five most important taste receptors of the moral mind are the following…care/harm, fairness/cheating, group loyalty and betrayal, authority and subversion, sanctity and degradation. And that moral systems are like cuisines that are constructed from local elements to please these receptors.
Tony Judt on Words
In “Politics and the English Language,” Orwell castigated contemporaries for using language to mystify rather than inform. His critique was directed at bad faith: people wrote poorly because they were trying to say something unclear or else deliberately prevaricating. Our problem, it seems to me, is different. Shoddy prose today bespeaks intellectual insecurity: we speak and write badly because we don’t feel confident in what we think and are reluctant to assert it unambiguously (“It’s only my opinion…”). Rather than suffering from the onset of “newspeak,” we risk the rise of “nospeak.”
I am more conscious of these considerations now than at any time in the past. In the grip of a neurological disorder, I am fast losing control of words even as my relationship with the world has been reduced to them. They still form with impeccable discipline and unreduced range in the silence of my thoughts—the view from inside is as rich as ever—but I can no longer convey them with ease. Vowel sounds and sibilant consonants slide out of my mouth, shapeless and inchoate even to my close collaborator. The vocal muscle, for sixty years my reliable alter ego, is failing. Communication, performance, assertion: these are now my weakest assets. Translating being into thought, thought into words, and words into communication will soon be beyond me and I shall be confined to the rhetorical landscape of my interior reflections.
Though I am now more sympathetic to those constrained to silence I remain contemptuous of garbled language. No longer free to exercise it myself, I appreciate more than ever how vital communication is to the republic: not just the means by which we live together but part of what living together means. The wealth of words in which I was raised were a public space in their own right—and properly preserved public spaces are what we so lack today. If words fall into disrepair, what will substitute? They are all we have.
The sky has fallen down many times in your daughter's short life, the sky with all the stars in it, and you have picked up the pieces more times than you can remember, and you have climbed the ladder and put them back in place, where you think they should go, and you get things in backwards and out of sequence, but you do the best you can, and you climb down off the ladder, and you're at peace with your work. You wish it could be better, but there's only one of you, and the sky is so vast, it takes a while to put it back together again, and you did the best you could.
She’s accustomed to your moods, so she nods, and she turns on the radio. “It’s your favorite song!” she says. “Isn’t that lucky?”
And you hug her hard, but she’s used to that, too, and she lets you, and even lets you sing along without complaining (“this time only, mom!”), and you are lucky, probably the luckiest woman living, and happier than you have ever been, but not in any way an academic would understand, or even conceive. Your joy is bigger than the universe and contains all the sorrow of a lifetime, and has nothing whatsoever to do with feeling sufficiently rewarded for your work.
P.D. James, a 90-year-old woman to marvel at.
PD James interview: 'I have lived a very happy and fulfilled life'
She’s a life peer, a best-selling crime novelist, and last year, the BBC’s scariest interrogator. As she approaches 90, PD James reflects on death, family − and the husband she couldn’t save.
James will be 90 on August 3 and, as she sits like a small attentive bird in her sage green drawing room in Holland Park, surrounded by her bookcases, rubber plants and photographs of family and friends, you would not guess that she was approaching this grand old age. She never hesitates or has to search her memory for a word. Though she does have an elegantly handled walking stick by her side, she doesn’t appear to need it. And, as I discovered when I tried to find a free July morning in her diary, she is still an active member of the House of Lords, still writes books and still gives lectures, her next one being on a cruise to New York in the Queen Mary 2.
Her family – she has two daughters, five grandchildren and seven great grandchildren – keep telling her she should slow down. ‘But it’s not easy to slow down. There’s more than one house to run and there are the finances to think about, and an awful lot of people want an awful lot of things. They have to be replied to. But I have no cause for complaint. I have lived a very happy and fulfilled life.
It was often a very difficult one
James suggested that their provision of certainty in a changing world was part of their appeal.
On the cusp of her 90th birthday, she talked about the fact that her own childhood was one that a Victorian child would have recognised, whereas the speed of change in her lifetime means that the modern world is “entirely different in a fundamental way”. “I think our morality has not caught up with technology yet,” she said. “It’s a world in which it’s difficult to feel entirely at home. That’s why people feel relief in going back to the detective stories of the 1930s, going back to Miss Marple’s St Mary Mead, where there’s a more assured morality, where people knew where they were.”
When I was a child, probably like you, I sometimes would write my return address as Boston, Massachusetts, the United States, North America, the Earth, the Solar System, the Milky Way galaxy, the Universe. I never thought I'd see a photograph of it like this one from Europe's Planck telescope.
It's a spectacular picture; it's a thing of beauty," Dr Jan Tauber, the European Space Agency's (Esa) Planck project scientist, told BBC News.
Dominating the foreground are large segments of our Milky Way Galaxy.
The bright horizontal line running the full length of the image is the galaxy's main disc - the plane in which the Sun and the Earth also reside.
Planck telescope reveals ancient cosmic light.
When a state has been chronically mismanaged, how does the comptroller pay the bills when the state owes $5 billion?
This is what the state owes right now to schools, rehabilitation centers, child care, the state university — and it’s getting worse every single day,” he says in his downtown office.
Mr. Hynes shakes his head. “This is not some esoteric budget issue; we are not paying bills for absolutely essential services,” he says. “That is obscene.”
States cannot go bankrupt, technically, but signs of fiscal crackup are easy to see. Legislators left the capital this month without deciding how to pay 26 percent of the state budget. The governor proposes to borrow $3.5 billion to cover a year’s worth of pension payments, a step that would cost about $1 billion in interest. And every major rating agency has downgraded the state; Illinois now pays millions of dollars more to insure its debt than any other state in the nation.
In Illinois, the fiscal pain is radiating downward.
From suburban Elgin to Chicago to Rockford to Peoria, school districts have fired thousands of teachers, curtailed kindergarten and electives, drained pools and cut after-school clubs. Drug, family and mental health counseling centers have slashed their work forces and borrowed money to stave off insolvency.
In Beardstown, a small city deep in the western marshes, Ann Johnson plans to shut her century-old pharmacy. Because of late state payments, she could not afford to keep a 10-day supply of drugs. In Chicago, a funeral home owner wonders whether he can afford to bury the impoverished, as the state has fallen six months behind on its charity payments, $1,103 a funeral.
Few budget analysts are surprised to see Illinois, with a limping economy and broken political culture, edge close to the abyss. Two of the last six governors have served jail terms, and a third is on trial.
“We are a fiscal poster child for what not to do,” said Ralph Martire of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, a liberal-leaning policy group in Illinois. “We make California look as if it’s run by penurious accountants who sit in rooms trying to put together an honest budget all day.”
For 20 years, neuroscientist James Fallon (no relation) studied the brains of psychopaths to understand the biological basis for behavior, then a chance remark by his mother - "there were some cuckoos" among his father's relatives - convinced him to investigate.
What he found rocked his world. There seven alleged murderers, including Lizzie Borden, in his family tree. Then he looked at the PET brain scans he convinced 10 close relatives to undergo for another project and found nothing amiss, except for his own. He had the PET scan of a psychopath. Alone among his family, he discovered he also had the "warrior gene" - the MAO-A gene that regulates serontin.
"You see that? I'm 100 percent. I have the pattern, the risky pattern," he says, then pauses. "In a sense, I'm a born killer."
Scientists who study this area say a third factor, in addition to brain patterns and genetic makeup, are necessary to make anyone a psychopath and that is abuse or violence in one's childhood.
Jim Fallon says he had a terrific childhood; he was doted on by his parents and had loving relationships with his brothers and sisters and entire extended family. Significantly, he says this journey through his brain has changed the way he thinks about nature and nurture. He once believed that genes and brain function could determine everything about us. But now he thinks his childhood may have made all the difference.
I loved the entire HBO Series John Adams which I recommend whole-heartedly as essential watching for every American citizen. One scene in particular moved me to tears and that was watching the young Congress vote on the Declaration of Independence.
What a fortunate nation we are to have had such men and all those who fought and died to preserve this nation. May we, in the difficult years ahead, prove worthy of the legacy they have given us.
Happy Fourth of July.
The most moving story is Reconciled about Rob Spauling who, as a seminarian and as a priest, has experienced the power of forgiveness.
Rob is sentenced to 30 months of intensive probation, 18 months of house arrest and 250 hours of community service. He must pay $5,000 to the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists.
Before Rob is led out of the courtroom for processing, Joan finds him and hugs him. Is this OK? She asks.
That night, staying in a room at Mundelein Seminary, Joan watches a news report on the sentencing. She sees herself and Pam walking out of the courthouse, into the sunlight.
"We walked away happy. Can you believe that?" she says.
"Our sons died, and we had smiles on our faces."
And maybe that’s the good that rises from the broken glass and twisted metal, the life that comes from those cut short. For those who hurt, regret, are living every day with the consequences of their mistakes, Father Rob can listen. He can walk beside them and say that healing and reconciliation are possible. He knows, because both happened to him.
He knows that forgiveness is real.
Considering the attention given to clothes in the press and elsewhere, and that many people list shopping (by which they mean shopping for clothes) as their principal pastime, it is astonishing how few well-dressed people one sees on the streets. On the contrary, most people approximate to the famous and apt description of the professionally bohemian poet Dylan Thomas: an unmade bed.
Having lived among really poor people in Africa and elsewhere, I know that to present a good appearance to others is for them a triumph of the human spirit and not just a manifestation of vanity or superficiality, much less a semi-intellectual pose like that of Marie-Antoinette playing shepherdess. The fact is that, given the laws of thermodynamics, it takes no effort to look like a slob; to be smart calls for care and attention, not only to one's clothes but to how one behaves. It also means that one must try to imagine what one appears in the eyes of others. Slobbery is the sartorial manifestation of solipsistic egotism; smartness is simultaneously self-respect and respect for others.
I have been deeply moved to see the old men of deeply-depressed towns, who themselves lived very hard lives, and who were the most working of the working class, dress smartly in ties, jackets and highly-polished shoes merely to go to the pub for a pint of beer or to do a bit of shopping. In today's world, I wanted to bow down before them with reverence and respect, amongst other things in recognition of the respect that they showed me (and, of course, everyone else) in dressing in this way, for it could not be easy for them and was the result of considerable effort. How splendid and dignified they looked!
Theodore Dalrymple on Outward and Visible Signs
The failure of human beings to meet their own ideals does not disprove or discredit those ideals. The fact that some are cowards does not make courage a myth. The fact that some are faithless does not make fidelity a joke. All moral standards create the possibility of hypocrisy. But I would rather live among those who recognize standards and fail to meet them than among those who mock all standards as lies. In the end, hypocrisy is preferable to decadence.
Michael Gerson on Sex and Grace
The Catholic idea of saints and martyrs has nothing to do with public policy. Each is, in his or her own nature, the exact opposite of the Pyramids of Egypt -- perhaps the greatest accomplishment of the statist mind.
Each man and woman among the saints is held up as an individual example, different in kind from each of the others. Each has, from a unique point of departure -- the peculiar, given circumstances of a life -- consciously, and in freedom, bought into the wild notion of personal sanctity. Their faith, and not their compulsion, moved our mountains.
But likewise, in all other areas of human enterprise: in the great achievements of business, of literature and music and art, of sciences and education, there was some understanding that we had nothing without manifestations of the individual human will.
David Warren asks the question on Does freedom matter? and gets the answer Yes, but which leads to The Tyranny of But.
For as the old know, and the young cannot, the problems of this world will not be solved with grand schemes. They can be ameliorated; they can be dealt with piecemeal, and prudently, a little at a time.
Sound public policy is chaste and cautious. It requires maturity.
David Warren in Easy Does It
With the beginning of the holy season of Lent, Christians are meant to repent, turn around, and find their way back to God.
Father Stephen says, "Our psychologized culture has lost the language and the instinct of repentance"
Repentance is an inner change of heart. Repentance is not concerned with clearing our legal record but with being changed – ultimately into the likeness of Christ.
Modern man is not predisposed to think about a change of heart. We think of psychological wholeness or well-being, but we do not have a language of conformity to Christ. We do speak of “hardness of heart,” but we know very little about how such a heart is changed.
George Weigel in First Things on The Lessons of Jean Marie Lustiger explores what happens when the instinct of repentance is lost.
Pope John Paul II wrote poignantly of the soul-withering effects of a European guilt that could not be expiated, because the notion of “sin” had been displaced: “One of the roots of the hopelessness that assails many people today is found in their inability to see themselves as sinners and to allow themselves to be forgiven, an inability often resulting from the isolation of those who, by living as if God did not exist, have no one from whom they can seek forgiveness.”
Born to a non-practicing Jewish family in France, Listinger converted to Catholicism as a young teen-ager in 1940. While his family left Paris in 1939, first relocating in Orleans, later to unoccupied Southern France, his mother returned to Paris to run the family business when she was picked up and deported to Auschwitz where she was killed
When he became Archbishop of Paris in 1981, he said, "I was born Jewish and so I remain, even if that is unacceptable for many. For me, the vocation of Israel is bringing light to the goyim. That is my hope and I believe that Christianity is the means for achieving it."
He became a cardinal of the church in 1983 and wrote his own epitaph in 2004, three years before he died.
I was born Jewish.
I received the name
Of my paternal grandfather, Aaron
Having become Christian
By faith and by Baptism,
I have remained Jewish
As did the Apostles.
I have as my patron saints
Aaron the High Priest,
Saint John the Apostle,
Holy Mary full of grace.
Named 139th archbishop of Paris
by His Holiness Pope John Paul II,
I was enthroned in this Cathedral
on 27 February 1981,
And here I exercised my entire ministry.
Passers-by, pray for me.
† Aaron Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger
Archbishop of Paris
I wrote more about this remarkable man on his death. Cardinal Jean Marie Lustiger, R.I.P. for whom Kaddish was read before the doors of Notre Dame in Paris before his funeral.
For many students today, being smart means being critical....That very skill may diminish their capacity to find or create meaning and direction in the books they read and the world in which they live.
our students may become too good at showing how things don't make sense. That very skill may diminish their capacity to find or create meaning and direction in the books they read and the world in which they live
In training our students in the techniques of critical thinking, we may be giving them reasons to remain guarded—which can translate into reasons not to learn. The confident refusal to be affected by those with whom we disagree seems to have infected much of our cultural life: from politics to the press, from siloed academic programs (no matter how multidisciplinary) to warring public intellectuals. As humanities teachers, however, we must find ways for our students to open themselves to the emotional and cognitive power of history and literature that might initially rub them the wrong way, or just seem foreign. Critical thinking is sterile without the capacity for empathy and comprehension that stretches the self.
One of the crucial tasks of the humanities should be to help students cultivate the willingness and ability to learn from material they might otherwise reject or ignore.
via Joe Carter at First Thoughts
Henry Oliner writes in the American Thinker.
Sowell further explains that the most educated among us know only the smallest fraction of what is to be known. That these highly educated people may know so much more than any one of us does not mean that they know a fraction as much as do all of us.
When prices are determined by central planning or anointed experts, shortages and gluts appear. The failed economies of the old Soviet Union and other systems determined by elite central planning evidences the flaw of thinking that elites know more than the combined individuals that comprise a healthy market.
The Wisdom of Crowds beats the elites any day.
How often have you been told 'Don't be so negative' when you've only been realistic in pointing out the probable consequences of a particular course of action?
Positive Thinking is Making Us Miserable says Barbara Ehrenreich and is the true cause of the financial crisis.
She said the belief that everything will turn out all right in the end if we remain optimistic and upbeat is "delusional".
What began as a 19th-century "quack theory" has become the dominant mode of thinking in the United States, she argues, influencing everything from global business decisions to the treatment of cancer patients.
"Many, many people got way over their heads in debt – ordinary people. And in what frame of mind do you assume large amounts of debt? Well, a positive frame of mind. You think that you're not going to get sick, your car's not going to break down, you're not going to lose your job and you're going to be able to pay it off.
"Mostly, though, I blame the top levels of corporate culture which, by the middle of this decade, were completely in a bubble of mandatory optimism and positive thinking."
Ehrenreich referred to the "cult-like atmosphere of high-fives" at Countrywide, the mortgage lender which became one of the biggest casualties of the subprime crisis, and claimed that executives who sounded warnings of impending financial disaster at Lehman Brothers were dismissed as "negative" thinkers.
"Corporate America had gone into this bubble of denial where bad things could never happen," she said.
In the course of her research, Ehrenreich interviewed motivational speakers, a major industry in the US. "They are brought in to corporate meetings and the message is, again and again: you can have whatever you want so long as you focus your thoughts on it. I think that's nuts, frankly."
Nuts is right.
Michael Novak on The First Enlightenment
Those of us who are of Catholic mind do not believe that the Enlightenment began with Kant (“What is Enlightenment?”), or Locke or Newton, or even with Descartes. We cherish Plato, Aristotle, Cicero. But the first Enlightenment began with Christ Our Lord.
It was only with the Christ that EQUALITY meant every human being, barring none. From then on, no one was “barbarian.” Each bore in his own soul the mark of being called to be a dwelling of the Father and the Son — being called beyond all other calls a son of God. Neither mother nor father, neither civil society nor state, can answer to this call for you or me. None has any deeper bond or precedence than the relation of Creator and human creature. It is a bond of Spirit and Truth.
Thus was revealed each human's LIBERTY primordial, and in that liberty, EQUALITY with all. No other but self can say to the the Father “No,” or “Yes.” That choice is for each single one of us inalienable. That choice brings each into the universal brotherhood and sisterhood of all who are equal in the sight of God.
And that is how universal FRATERNITY became a human principle and an object of our striving.
Lord, behold our family here assembled.
We thank Thee for this place in which we dwell;
for the love that unites us;
for the peace accorded us this day;
for the hope with which we expect the morrow;
for the health, the work, the food, and the bright skies,
that make our lives delightful;
and for our friends in all parts of the earth.
Let peace abound in our small company.
Purge out of every heart the lurking grudge.
Give us grace and strength to forbear and to persevere.
Give us the grace to accept and to forgive offenders.
Forgetful ourselves, help us to bear cheerfully
the forgetfulness of others.
Give us courage and gaiety and the quiet mind.
Spare to us our friends, soften to us our enemies.
Bless us, if it may be, in all our innocent endeavors.
If it may not, give us the strength to encounter
that which is to come,
that we be brave in peril, constant in tribulation,
temperate in wrath,
and in all changes of fortune, and, down to the gates of death,
loyal and loving one to another.
Robert Louis Stevenson
"This world in which we live needs beauty in order not to sink into despair. Beauty, like truth, brings joy to the human heart, and is that precious fruit which resists the erosion of time, which unites generations and enables them to be one in admiration. And all this through the work of your hands... Remember that you are the custodians of beauty in the world."
as artists you know well that the experience of beauty, beauty that is authentic, not merely transient or artificial, is by no means a supplementary or secondary factor in our search for meaning and happiness; the experience of beauty does not remove us from reality, on the contrary, it leads to a direct encounter with the daily reality of our lives, liberating it from darkness, transfiguring it, making it radiant and beautiful.
Beauty, whether that of the natural universe or that expressed in art, precisely because it opens up and broadens the horizons of human awareness, pointing us beyond ourselves, bringing us face to face with the abyss of Infinity, can become a path towards the transcendent, towards the ultimate Mystery, towards God.
Richard Fernandez writes one of the best essays of the year that begins with a mother's lament over the BBC's cocaine culture.
Why have we become so indifferent to counterfeits? So willing to accept the clever facsimile for the ostensibly real? In part because perceptions are now such a big part of the economy that for so long as perceptions appear to be OK, then the economy must be ‘OK’. In recent years management literature has talked extensively about the “servitization of the products” The modern economy no longer produces “things”. It produces intangibles called services. Insurance, banking, government, tourism, retail, education, social services, franchising, news media, hospitality, consulting, law, health care, environmental services, real estate and personal services now dominate the activity of the Western world. We produce satisfaction.
Perhaps the key difference between an economy based on things relative to that based on services is that the “truth” of things is self-evident while the value of services is often based on perception. Perception is often the proxy for value in a service economy. Indeed it often comprises the value itself, at least in the entertainment industry and possibly in news. It immediately follows that in a huge market for intangibles where “children’s programs”, sporting events, entertainment, academic degrees, derivatives, mortgages, ‘health care’, news and environmental indulgences are traded for vast sums telling the unflattering truth can be extremely costly. Stay away from the truth unless you absolutely positively have to.
In a market for fantasy the truth has little or no value.
One of problems economists should study is what happens when the overall truth content of a servitized economy declines. Whereas the “truth” of a ton of steel is the steel itself, what is the truth of a bundled subprime mortgage? What is the truth content of a credit default swap? Perhaps we don’t know, and this circumstance has directly led to the current economic crisis. The financial meltdown is from a certain point of view, a pure crisis of information. What we don’t know (or better yet what we do know but ain’t so) is hurting us.
Bad information destroys. We need to be free of bad information. Perhaps the underlying reason for the large and seemingly growing crisis in the Western World is that its truth reserves — the percentage of its information store that actually corresponds to reality — have fallen below a critical level and its institutions are attempting to cover the deficit by frantically printing more lies. Maybe the reason why finance, politics, news, real estate and environmental services are in dire such straits is that they among the service industries have the biggest portfolio of defective information. And it’s killing them. While there may be a tendency in the service economy to increase the amount of spin for short term gain in the long run survival depends on its minimization. We have to know where we are, if we are to avoid getting lost.
The way to the truth is to take the shortest path back to reality.
I've been pondering for a while now why truth matters so little to many people.
I never heard of Jack Rushton who, some 20 years ago while body surfing with his son was picked up by a wave and thrown onto a rock breaking his neck and injuring his spinal cord.
"I learned within days after my accident that any quality of life I would have from that point on would be centered in the mind and the spirit," he said.
Rushton compared it to leaving mortality and entering the spirit world -- having to, in essence, leave his functioning physical body behind.
"Yet my mind was consumed by cherished truths I think maybe I had taken for granted for much of my life," he said. "They brought great peace of mind to me and helped me to deal with a future that looked black and almost impossible to comprehend."
But when I saw his YouTube video, I couldn't believe how funny he was and how inspiring.
He writes the blog Observations to leave behind for his 6 children and 17 grandchildren. Here he writes about the enormous effect of receiving loving kindness from others.
There was an African American nurse that worked the night shift from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. about three nights each week. She radiated a spirit of love and light that penetrated my dark world every time she was with me. Every morning before she would leave to go home, knowing that with the shift change I would probably not see another nurse for at least an hour, she would get a basin full of hot water and with a washcloth she would wash and massage my face in a most loving and caring way. It was not doctor's orders and no other nurse ever thought to do it... but she did, and she did it every morning she was there. No one can know how good that felt, especially when you can't feel anything in your entire body except your face and the top of your head. But as good as it felt physically it even felt better emotionally to have someone, really a stranger, show that kind of love and concern.
Another flash of light that always brought hope and made the worst of times a good time was the care given to me by an African-American nurse's aide. He was a big man, muscular, an Afro hairdo, ear rings, various tattoos, and a loud voice. You wouldn't want to meet him in a dark alley late at night. Poor Jo Anne was afraid to leave the hospital that first night that he was to be a participant in my care. How true it is that looks can be deceiving. I was never treated with such respect, kindness, and tenderness by anyone at Rancho than by him. He couldn't do enough for me. I always rejoiced when I realized he was to be my helper during a 12 hour period. It was obvious to me that what he was doing was not being done out of a sense of duty but out of love and deep concern for me and the other young men in our spinal cord injury unit. He had a great sense of humor and made me feel good in spite of myself and the trauma I was going through.
The power of faith is quite extraordinary.
Kristol argued that this was the great seduction of modern politics — to believe that problems that were essentially moral and civic could be solved by economic means. They can’t. Political problems, even many economic problems, are, at heart, ethical and cultural problems. And improving the attitudes and virtues of a nation is, at best, a slow, halting process.
David Brooks in Three Cheers for Irving.
That Laura Munson is one very wise woman as you will see when you read, "Those Aren't Fighting Words, Dear."
Sure, you have your marital issues, but on the whole you feel so self-satisfied about how things have worked out that you would never, in your wildest nightmares, think you would hear these words from your husband one fine summer day: “I don’t love you anymore. I’m not sure I ever did. I’m moving out. The kids will understand. They’ll want me to be happy.”
But wait. This isn’t the divorce story you think it is. Neither is it a begging-him-to-stay story. It’s a story about hearing your husband say “I don’t love you anymore” and deciding not to believe him. And what can happen as a result.
Running a good shop is a service to one's community, of much greater value, in my view, than the work of two hundred social workers, five hundred psychotherapists, and a thousand second-rate poets -- and more honorable than the efforts of the vast majority of the members of Congress. A nation of shopkeepers, far from being the put-down Napoleon thought, sounds more and more like an ideal to which a healthy country ought to aspire.
Joseph Epstein In Praise of Shopkeepers
When it comes to personal behaviour we have now come to believe that there is no right and wrong. Instead, there are choices.
So writes Jonathan Sacks across the pond in Credo: Without a shared moral code there can be no freedom in our society.
What has been lost is trust — our trust in those we chose to look after our affairs — and trust is the basis of society. If we are to recover it, we must ask some deep questions.
I believe we have lost our traditional sense of morality. I do not mean that we are less moral than our grandparents. We care about things they hardly thought about: world poverty, inequality, global warming and the loss of biodiversity. We are more tolerant than they were.
But note this: the things we care about are vast, distant, global, remote. They are problems that require the co-ordinated action of millions, perhaps billions of people. The difference we as individuals can make to any one of them is minimal. That does not mean they are not important: they are. But they are issues of politics, not of morality in the conventional sense.
When it comes to personal behaviour we have now come to believe that there is no right and wrong. Instead, there are choices. The market facilitates those choices. The State handles the consequences, picking up the pieces when they go wrong.
Without conscience there can be no trust. Without a shared moral code there can be no free society. Either we recover the moral sense or we will find, too late, that in the name of liberty, we have lost our freedom.
Close friendships often have a greater effect on health than a spouse or a family member. They will shape your life, sustain it and make it better.
Researchers are only now starting to pay attention to the importance of friendship and social networks in overall health. A 10-year Australian study found that older people with a large circle of friends were 22 percent less likely to die during the study period than those with fewer friends. A large 2007 study showed an increase of nearly 60 percent in the risk for obesity among people whose friends gained weight. And last year, Harvard researchers reported that strong social ties could promote brain health as we age.
“In general, the role of friendship in our lives isn’t terribly well appreciated,” said Rebecca G. Adams, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. “There is just scads of stuff on families and marriage, but very little on friendship. It baffles me. Friendship has a bigger impact on our psychological well-being than family relationships.”
The only reward of virtue is virtue; the only way to have a friend is to be one.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
If a man does not make new acquaintance as he advances through life, he will soon find himself left alone. A man, Sir, should keep his friendship in constant repair.
- Samuel Johnson (1709 - 1784) British lexiographer.
My friends are my estate.
- Emily Dickinson
Charles Murray in the 2009 Irving Kristol Lecture says important things about The Happiness of the People about the nature of a well-lived life, why the European model stifles human flourishing and American exceptionalism.
And since happiness is a word that gets thrown around too casually, the phrase I'll use from now on is "deep satisfactions." I'm talking about the kinds of things that we look back upon when we reach old age and let us decide that we can be proud of who we have been and what we have done. Or not.
To become a source of deep satisfaction, a human activity has to meet some stringent requirements. It has to have been important (we don't get deep satisfaction from trivial things). You have to have put a lot of effort into it (hence the cliché "nothing worth having comes easily"). And you have to have been responsible for the consequences.
There aren't many activities in life that can satisfy those three requirements. Having been a good parent. That qualifies. A good marriage. That qualifies. Having been a good neighbor and good friend to those whose lives intersected with yours. That qualifies. And having been really good at something--good at something that drew the most from your abilities. That qualifies. Let me put it formally: If we ask what are the institutions through which human beings achieve deep satisfactions in life, the answer is that there are just four: family, community, vocation, and faith. Two clarifications: "Community" can embrace people who are scattered geographically. "Vocation" can include avocations or causes.
The stuff of life--the elemental events surrounding birth, death, raising children, fulfilling one's personal potential, dealing with adversity, intimate relationships--coping with life as it exists around us in all its richness--occurs within those four institutions.
Seen in this light, the goal of social policy is to ensure that those institutions are robust and vital. And that's what's wrong with the European model. It doesn't do that. It enfeebles every single one of them.
I'm not talking about all Europeans, by any means. That mentality goes something like this: Human beings are a collection of chemicals that activate and, after a period of time, deactivate. The purpose of life is to while away the intervening time as pleasantly as possible.
If that's the purpose of life, then work is not a vocation, but something that interferes with the higher good of leisure. If that's the purpose of life, why have a child, when children are so much trouble--and, after all, what good are they, really? If that's the purpose of life, why spend it worrying about neighbors? If that's the purpose of life, what could possibly be the attraction of a religion that says otherwise?
Age-old human wisdom has understood that a life well-lived requires engagement with those around us. That is reality, not idealism. It is appropriate to think that a political Great Awakening among the elites can arise in part from the renewed understanding that it can be pleasant to lead a glossy life, but it is ultimately more fun to lead a textured life, and to be in the midst of others who are leading textured lives. Perhaps events will help us out here--remember what Irving Kristol has been saying for years: "There's nothing wrong with this country that couldn't be cured by a long, hard depression."
The drift toward the European model can be slowed by piecemeal victories on specific items of legislation, but only slowed. It is going to be stopped only when we are all talking again about why America is exceptional, and why it is so important that America remain exceptional. That requires once again seeing the American project for what it is: a different way for people to live together, unique among the nations of the earth, and immeasurably precious.
To the Dairy Queen and Back by John Landretti, in Orion
Sometimes my sons and I stop the Burley Train at this open place and lean it against the goldenrod. We find spotted knapweed to look at, rosehips and blackberries. The boys like to gaze back at the highway. They wonder where it goes, so we talk about the Big Horns and the Greasy Grass, or the Ohio River and the worn hills of Kerouac’s “bushy wilderness” back east. Now and then we get into history, and I might spin an account of the early railroads, perhaps quote a few rousing lines from Gordon Lightfoot’s “Canadian Railroad Trilogy.” When they ask about the Indians, and what has become of their ways, I might recount the Sioux at Wounded Knee, speaking in the plainest terms. The perspectives jar, the language varies, and I let my boys fall into that space between. They fill it with questions.
“Listen,” I say, raising a finger. “Do you hear it?”
They stiffen, and we hear once more: the elusive warble.
“A loon,” I explain. I tell them straightaway we are lucky.
Nights later Mathieu says at bedtime, “We heard a loon on our way to the Dairy Queen—didn’t we, Dad? We’re lucky. Right, Dad?”
I turn out the lamp and touch his hair, my fingers in the radiance of a child forming his world.
via Culture Making
One of the best essays so far this year. Philip Howard in the Wall St. Journal on How Modern Law Makes Us Powerless
Calling for a "new era of responsibility" in his inaugural address, President Barack Obama reminded us that there are no limits to "what free men and women can achieve."
But there's a threshold problem for our new president. Americans don't feel free to reach inside themselves and make a difference. The growth of litigation and regulation has injected a paralyzing uncertainty into everyday choices. All around us are warnings and legal risks. The modern credo is not "Yes We Can" but "No You Can't." Our sense of powerlessness is pervasive.
Those who deal with the public are the most discouraged. Most doctors say they wouldn't advise their children to go into medicine. Government service is seen as a bureaucratic morass, not a noble calling. Make a difference? You can't even show basic human kindness for fear of legal action. Teachers across America are instructed never to put an arm around a crying child.
We have lost the idea, at every level of social life, that people can grab hold of a problem and fix it. Defensiveness has swept across the country like a cold wave. We have become a culture of rule followers, trained to frame every solution in terms of existing law or possible legal risk. The person of responsibility is replaced by the person of caution. When in doubt, don't.
The flaw, and the cure, lie in our conception of freedom. We think of freedom as political freedom. We're certainly free to live and work where we want, and to pull the lever in the ballot box. But freedom should also include the power of personal conviction and the authority to use your common sense.
The overlay of law on daily choices destroys the human instinct needed to get things done. Bureaucracy can't teach. Rules don't make things happen. Accomplishment is personal. Anyone who has felt the pride of a job well done knows this.
Freedom has a formal structure. It has two components:
1) Law sets boundaries that proscribe what we must do or can't do -- you must not steal, you must pay taxes.
2) Those same legal boundaries protect an open field of free choice in all other matters.
The forgotten idea is the second component -- that law must affirmatively define an area free from legal interference. Law must provide "frontiers, not artificially drawn," as philosopher Isaiah Berlin put it, "within which men should be inviolable."
This idea has been lost to our age.
George Will says of Howard's new book "2009’s most needed book on public affairs.”"
Imagine the possibilities.
To regret religion is, in fact, to regret our civilization and its monuments, its achievements, and its legacy. And in my own view, the absence of religious faith, provided that such faith is not murderously intolerant, can have a deleterious effect upon human character and personality. If you empty the world of purpose, make it one of brute fact alone, you empty it (for many people, at any rate) of reasons for gratitude, and a sense of gratitude is necessary for both happiness and decency. For what can soon, and all too easily, replace gratitude is a sense of entitlement. Without gratitude, it is hard to appreciate, or be satisfied with, what you have: and life will become an existential shopping spree that no product satisfies.
Theodore Dalrymple in City Journal on What the New Atheists Don't See
A few years back, the National Gallery held an exhibition of Spanish still-life paintings. One of these paintings had a physical effect on the people who sauntered in, stopping them in their tracks; some even gasped. I have never seen an image have such an impact on people. The painting, by Juan Sánchez Cotán, now hangs in the San Diego Museum of Art. It showed four fruits and vegetables, two suspended by string, forming a parabola in a gray stone window.
Even if you did not know that Sánchez Cotán was a seventeenth-century Spanish priest, you could know that the painter was religious: for this picture is a visual testimony of gratitude for the beauty of those things that sustain us. Once you have seen it, and concentrated your attention on it, you will never take the existence of the humble cabbage—or of anything else—quite so much for granted, but will see its beauty and be thankful for it. The painting is a permanent call to contemplation of the meaning of human life, and as such it arrested people who ordinarily were not, I suspect, much given to quiet contemplation.
Peggy Noonan with some sane words in Who We (Still) Are.
That's the big thing at the heart of the great collapse, a strong sense of absence. Who was in charge? Who was in authority? The biggest swindle in all financial history if the figure of $50 billion is to be believed, and nobody knew about it, supposedly, but the swindler himself. The government didn't notice, just as it didn't notice the prevalence of bad debts that would bring down America's great investment banks.
All this has hastened and added to the real decline in faith—the collapse in faith—the past few years in our institutions. Not only in Wall Street but in our entire economy, and in government. And of course there's Blago. But the disturbing thing there is that it seems to have inspired more mirth than anger. Did any of your friends say they were truly shocked? Mine either.
The reigning ethos seems to be every man for himself.
This is a good time to remember who we are, or rather just a few small facts of who we are. We are the largest and most technologically powerful economy in the world, the leading industrial power of the world, and the wealthiest nation in the world. "There's a lot of ruin in a nation," said Adam Smith. There's a lot of ruin in a great economy, too. We are the oldest continuing democracy in the world, operating, since March 4, 1789, under a vibrant and enduring constitution that was formed by geniuses and is revered, still, coast to coast. We don't make refugees, we admit them. When the rich of the world get sick, they come here to be treated, and when their children come of age, they send them here to our universities. We have a supple political system open to reform, and a wildly diverse culture that has moments of stress but plenty of give.
The point is not to say rah-rah, paint our faces blue and bray "We're No. 1." The point is that while terrible challenges face us—improving a sick public education system, ending the easy-money culture, rebuilding the economy—we are building from an extraordinary, brilliant and enduring base.
Mr. Shultz laid out some particulars of his own optimism. There is "the ingenuity, the flexibility, the strengths of the national economy." The labor force: "We are so blessed with human talent and resources." And the American people themselves. "They have intelligence, integrity and honor."
We should experience "the current crisis" as "a gigantic wake-up call." We've been living beyond our means, both governmentally and personally. "We have to be willing to face up to our problems. But we have a capacity to roll up our sleeves and get down to work together.
Michael Novak on Science and Religion
Of course, many today hold that all this talk about God, Creator, Prime Intelligence, and the Act of Existence is gibberish. Yet even they must admit that it was to their good fortune that, in a small family of cultures, a decisive number of inquirers, scholars, and copyists of ancient manuscripts did learn to expect pervasive intelligibility in the universe because of their faith in an ordering Intelligence. That is why they were willing to invest most of the hours of their humble lives in preparing the way for modern science.
In other words, the belief shared by (at first) a few million of the Earth’s inhabitants that a light emanates from the Creator of the world, and suffuses all things, gave them a strong motivation for devoting their lives to scientific efforts. They wanted to learn more about God by studying the world He made. (The great scientist Johannes Kepler held that two books teach us about God: the Book of Nature and the Book that reveals what we otherwise could not learn about God.)
Today, roughly half of all scientists are atheists. Yet, insofar as they are scientists, they share the same confidence that the sacrificing of one’s whole life to the pursuit of asking questions is a noble and worthy vocation. In this conviction, they act as if they believed in God. Perhaps some of them see this old belief in a Creator as a scaffolding that was necessary for building up the edifice of science, but that we can now safely kick away.
But they would do well to recall that poignant passage in Nietzsche, in which Zarathustra hears that God is dead. Contemplating what the death of God means for the death of reason, Nietzsche writes, “Zarathustra wept.”
Her wedding day began and "everything was poised for perfection".
The £2,000 dress fitted Sophie Clarke just so, her father was sitting next to her in a beautiful horse-drawn carriage, and she was heading for the church to marry the man of her dreams.
'Instead the horse just slammed into the car, throwing me right over. I opened my eyes to see the wheel of the carriage just inches away from my face. I was hanging out of the carriage, but luckily Dad had his hand on me.
'Somehow Dad pulled me back in, but when he saw a bend coming up in the road he knew we wouldn't make it and decided to push me out. I hit the ground and it's a bit of a blur from then.'
Sophie was rushed to hospital on a stretcher after being thrown from her bridal carriage when the horse bolted
She added: 'I had spent three years planning the ceremony and had even made handmade invitations. But none of that seems important any more. I am just so glad to be alive.'
Groom Karl was in shock at the scene of the accident
And there should be a happy-ever-after for Miss Clarke too. The couple have rescheduled their wedding for January, and are planning a smaller, more intimate ceremony.
She explained: 'I had a life-changing experience. It put into perspective for me that all of the fancy things, the posh invites and parties are not important.
'The only important thing is becoming Karl's wife.'
Peter Seewald, a German journalist , who interviewed Cardinal Ratzinger at length before he became Pope calls him a "spiritual master" and "A Revolutionary of the Christian Type".
The man from Bavaria--contrary to all the projections dumped onto his shoulders--is a revolutionary of the Christian type. Seeking out what was lost and saving it is the constant element in his life. An inconvenient man who can seize on the spirit of the times, who warns people against the aberrations of modern life. Anyone who really wants change, he cries out, needs a change in his consciousness and his personal behavior--anything else is insufficient.
But no one ever thought he was an economic prophet as Bloomberg reports
Nov. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Pope Benedict XVI was the first to predict the crisis in the global financial system, a ``prophecy'' dating to a paper he wrote when he was a cardinal, Italian Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti said.
``The prediction that an undisciplined economy would collapse by its own rules can be found'' in an article written by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became pope in April 2005, Tremonti said yesterday at Milan's Cattolica University.
German-born Ratzinger in 1985 presented a paper entitled ``Market Economy and Ethics'' at a Rome event dedicated to the Church and the economy. The future pope said a decline in ethics ``can actually cause the laws of the market to collapse.''
The original article is here
It is becoming an increasingly obvious fact of economic history that the development of economic systems which concentrate on the common good depends on a determinate ethical system, which in turn can be born and sustained only by strong religious convictions. Conversely, it has also become obvious that the decline of such discipline can actually cause the laws of the market to collapse. An economic policy that is ordered not only to the good of the group — indeed, not only to the common good of a determinate state — but to the common good of the family of man demands a maximum of ethical discipline and thus a maximum of religious strength. The political formation of a will that employs the inherent economic laws towards this goal appears, in spite of all humanitarian protestations, almost impossible today. It can only be realized if new ethical powers are completely set free.
If you like Tom Wolfe - and I do a lot - don't miss this interview with him in the National Association of Scholars.
He manages to find something good in political correctness:
But political correctness can take credit for one great achievement. It is not “social justice.” I am talking about the respect that is now shown to what had been, to use Max Weber’s term, “pariah people”: Jews, blacks, homosexuals, and today’s equivalent of lepers, namely, AIDS sufferers. I’m not saying everybody now feels sympathy for them, much less embraces them and sheds tears for them or has the slightest desire to have them over for dinner. I’m talking about respectful treatment in public encounters and in public utterances. This is an enormous change, and it’s of utmost importance. It’s more important than higher wages, professional advancement, bigger houses, or any other worldly improvements. It’s about the most important thing in the life of any human being: his status.
Political correctness is, as I say, a faculty obsession. It rarely changes the political outlook of an undergraduate. It just rolls off his hide, unless he comes from a family that felt that way to begin with. But it has created a certain new social atmosphere. Among educated people throughout the United States it has become a blunder, a gaffe, to show open disrespect toward any group classified under the heading “minority.” It makes one seem ill-bred. That’s all to the good.
What Larry Summers should have said when Nancy Hopkins got the vapors over his speculation that evolutionary differences may account for the reason there are so few women in high-level positions in science and engineering and the Harvard faculty erupted insisting Summers must go.
No question about it. They weren’t attacking him on intellectual grounds but on religious grounds. They were treating him as a heretic, a transgressor. They were assaulting his character. We learned how to deal with that one in our sophomore year at St. Christopher’s. If someone impugns your character, you can’t waste time trying to defend it.
Attack the attacker. Attack his—in this case, their—character. All he had to say was, “I cannot…believe…what I am now witnessing…members of the Harvard faculty taking a grossly anti-intellectual stance, violating their implicit vow to cherish the free exchange of ideas, going mad because a hypothesis that has been openly discussed for almost half a century offends some ideological passion of the moment, acting like the most benighted of Puritans from three centuries ago ransacking all that is decent and rational in search of witches, causing this great university to become the laughingstock of the academic world here and abroad, sacrificing your very integrity in the name of some smelly little orthodoxy, as Orwell called beliefs like the ones you profess. I’m more than disappointed in you. I’m ashamed of you. Is that really how you see your mission here? If so, you should resign…now!...forthwith!...and take to the streets under your own names, not Harvard’s, and forbear being so small-minded and egotistical as to try to drag Harvard down to your level. Ladies, gentlemen…kindly do not display your ignorance…on these hallowed premises…while holding aloft the flags, the standards, of this university. Be honest with yourselves, even if you can’t be honest with Harvard. Look…think…and see…what you have become.” That would have taken care of the whole thing.
His interest in neuroscience comes from his observation that most everyone and everything is connected to status.
Before Weber, the term status had never referred specifically to social position. All at once the scales and motes fell from my eyes—I think that’s the expression—and I felt I could see life clearly for the first time. I soon realized that this concern about social status, about where you rank, absolutely saturates life
to me, ...status, is everything. It’s the key to understanding everything humans do.
On the Academy today
People in academia should start insisting on objective scholarship, insisting on it, relentlessly, driving the point home, ramming it down the gullets of the politically correct, making noise! naming names! citing egregious examples! showing contempt to the brink of brutality! The idea that a discipline should be devoted to “social justice” is ludicrous. The fashionable deconstructionist doctrine that there is no such thing as truth, only the self-serving manipulation of language, is worse than ludicrous. It is casuistry, laziness, and childishness in equal parts.
George Will on who commands the millions of people involved in making a pencil, Pencils and Politics and the idea of spontaneous order.
Producing this simple, mundane device is, Ruth says, "an achievement on the order of a jazz quartet improvising a tune when the band members are in separate cities." An unimpressed student says, "So a lot of people work on a pencil. What's the big deal?" Ruth responds: Who commands the millions of people involved in making a pencil? Who is in charge? Where is the pencil czar?
Her point is that markets allow order to emerge without anyone imposing it. The "poetry of the possible" is that things are organized without an organizer.
Goods and services, like languages, result from innumerable human actions—but not from any human design. "We," says Ruth, "create them with our actions, but not intentionally. They are tapestries we weave unknowingly." They are "emergent phenomena," the results of human action but not of human design.
Update. A most famous essay, I Pencil by Leonard Read with an introduction my Milton Friedman who wrote:
"I, Pencil" is a typical Leonard Read product: imaginative, simple yet subtle, breathing the love of freedom that imbued everything Leonard wrote or did. As in the rest of his work, he was not trying to tell people what to do or how to conduct themselves. He was simply trying to enhance individuals' understanding of themselves and of the system they live in.
"Man's life is like a drop of dew on a leaf." Socrates
More extraordinary photographs at Every Dew Drop has Heaven in It.
“Every dew-drop and rain-drop had a whole heaven within it." - Longfellow
“Earth's liquid jewelry wrought of air.” -Philip James Bailey
The dew-bead - Gem of earth and sky begotten. - George Elliot
Orson Scott Card is The Ornery American and writing about Alexander Solzhenitsyn in Nobody Was Listening.
Let me quote just one passage from Solzhenitsyn's speech: "A decline in courage may be the most striking feature which an outside observer notices in the West in our days. The Western world has lost its civil courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, each government, each political party and of course in the United Nations.
"Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling groups and the intellectual elite, causing an impression of loss of courage by the entire society. Of course there are many courageous individuals but they have no determining influence on public life."
Alexandr Solzhenitsyn died last week. For the last thirty years of his life he was almost unheard-of. He was dismissed by our media elite as a has-been, a grumpy old man who dared to criticize them as scathingly as he criticized the Communists. They declared him No Longer Interesting.
But he is as important as he ever was. He was mostly right about the Soviet Union; he was mostly right about us.
In the Soviet Union, he was seen as dangerous.
In America, he was rendered powerless by sheer inattention.
Ben Stein on Lessons in Love, by Way of Economics
In general, and with rare exceptions, the returns in love situations are roughly proportional to the amount of time and devotion invested. The amount of love you get from an investment in love is correlated, if only roughly, to the amount of yourself you invest in the relationship.
If you invest caring, patience and unselfishness, you get those things back.
High-quality bonds consistently yield more return than junk, and so it is with high-quality love...In love, the data is even clearer. Stay with high-quality human beings. And once you find that you are in a junk relationship, sell immediately. Junk situations can look appealing and seductive, but junk is junk. Be wary of it unless you control the market.
(Or, as I like to tell college students, the absolutely surest way to ruin your life is to have a relationship with someone with many serious problems, and to think that you can change this person.)
In every long-term romantic situation, returns are greater when there is a monopoly. If you have to share your love with others, if you have to compete even after a brief while with others, forget the whole thing. You want to have monopoly bonds with your long-term lover
When I heard that Camille Paglia was going to speak on feminism, I pay attention. I made immediate plans to attend her lecture at Harvard in April on The Legacy and Future of Feminism.
The lecture is now online in Boston University's Arion entitled Feminism Past and Present, Ideology, Action and Reform.
Just a tidbit
we must stop seeing everything in life through the narrow lens of gender. If women expect equal treatment in society, they must stop asking for infantilizing special protections. With freedom comes personal responsibility.
J. K. Rowling was the commencement speaker at Harvard this week and her most important lesson learned in life she could give to the new graduates was the benefits of failure.
So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.
Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above rubies.
The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more to me than any qualification I ever earned.
The death of hell is indeed the death of life itself, for it ensures a world without justice, without consequence, and without restraint. Like the Phoenix, Hell will always arise from its own ashes, bringing new horrors far beyond what our vaunted knowledge can comprehend or conquer. To deny the reality of hell after death is to guarantee its incarnation in life. Hell will not be denied; its horrors will be visited liberally upon those who acknowledge it least.
From The Doctor is In, The Death of Hell.
If hell does not exist, men would be wise to invent it. If it does exist, we are fools to deny it.
Today, the accepted definition of Hell is the absence of God. I can only surmise that with God's absence is the absence everything that reflects His glory, all of nature and all that is human that mirrors truth, goodness and beauty.
Ted Chiang's Hell is the Absence of God won both Hugo and Nebula awards as Best Novelle in 2002. You can read it at the link.
It's the season for commencement speeches, not many of which will be remembered. This one will.
William McGurn, former speechwriter for President Bush delivers the 2008 commencement address at Benedictine College in Kansas.
As a professional speechwriter, I am painfully aware of the forms common for this occasion. The clichés fall into a familiar pattern: Dare to be different … do your own thing … and don’t be afraid to be a “rebel.”
There is something false and cheap about all this. It is well not to be afraid of being different, and it can be a form of courage. But if we aim to be different only for different’s sake, the likelihood is that we end up as the ultimate cliché – rebels without a cause.
That is not why men and women choose Benedictine. Your alumni include highly talented CEOs, military officers, members of the clergy, leaders of great foundations, and even a Nobel Prize winner. These people owe much of their success to the start they were given here. And whatever their field of endeavor, I believe all would agree with me about three propositions that are easily forgotten and only painfully re-learned.
First, who you marry is far more important than what career you choose. Over the course of a life that has taken me across three continents, I have met many accomplished men and women. And I have always been astonished by the number who give more thought to choosing the job they may hold for a couple of years than to choosing the spouse to whom they will pledge – before God and their friends – to remain with until death they do part.
Second, no professional achievement – no matter how extraordinary – can match the thrill of seeing the absolute love and confidence reflected in the trusting eyes of a child who calls you Mom or Dad.
Finally, you will not find lasting happiness by pursuing it. Happiness is the byproduct of a contented life. And the surest path to a contented life is to put the needs of others before your own.
Via Peter Robinson
I rather liked Paul Greenberg's Things I Should Have Learned
Don't worry so much. Heck, don't worry, period. Worrying is an attenuated form of atheism. Do your best and then let Somebody Else handle it.
"Step lightly; do not jar the inner harmonies." -Satchel Paige.
Always show good will. If it is not reciprocated, nothing is lost. If it is, celebrate. Contrary to Machiavelli, it is better to be loved than feared, at least in personal relations. Nations are something else; they have interests, not friends.
"Life is a narrow bridge. The most important thing is not to be afraid." -Reb Nachman of Breslov, who also said: "If you believe you can damage, then believe you can repair."
Instead of contemplating our sins, why not make up for them? It can be done. That's what We the Guilt-Ridden forget. Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" starring E. Scrooge should be read the year 'round.
Here's another gem from Reb Nachman: "Seek for the merit in others, even the tiniest shred. Then do the same in yourself."
A wonderful story about a 18 year-old boy, struck with a terminal cancer, who is wise beyond his years.
After the walk, John addressed the crowd.
"He spoke from his heart," Mr. Wetzel, the coach, said. "He said, 'I've got two options. I know I'm going to die, so I can either sit at home and feel sorry, or I could spread my message to everybody to live life to the fullest and help those in need.' After hearing that, I don't know if there were many people not crying."
Later in an interview he was asked where he gained his wisdom.
"They say it takes a special person to realize this kind of stuff," he said. "I don't know if I'm special, but it wasn't hard for me. It's just my mind-set. A situation is what you make of it. Not what it makes of you."
"I guess I can see why people see me as an inspiration," he said. "But why do people think it's so hard to see things the way I do? All I'm doing is making the best of a situation."
John then raises his voice.
"Why can't people just see the best in things? It gets you so much further in life. It's always negative this and negative that. That's all you see and hear."
Through his own thoughts and through his deep Catholic beliefs, John believes he has "figured it out." He answers questions with maturity, courage and dignity, traits that have become his trademarks.
The wonderful phrase, "Teach us to care and not to care" comes from T.S. Eliot's poem Ash Wednesday that he wrote shortly after he converted to Anglicanism. It's the struggle of a man who had no faith acknowledging his need for faith and hope in a prayer for God.
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.
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
The single Rose
Is now the Garden
Where all loves end
Of love unsatisfied
The greater torment
Of love satisfied
End of the endless
Journey to no end
Conclusion of all that
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.
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.
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,
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
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.
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
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
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated
And let my cry come unto Thee.
From Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning
There is no reason to pity old people. Instead, young people should envy them. It is true that the old have no opportunities, no possibilities in the future. But they have more than that. Instead of possibilities in the future, they have realities in the past -- the potentialities they have actualized, the meanings they have fulfilled, the values they have realized -- and nothing and nobody can ever remove these assets from the past,
In the past, nothing is irretrievably lost, but rather, on the contrary, everything is irrevocably stored and treasured...people..forget the full granaries of the past into which they have brought the harvest of their lives: the deed done, the loves loved, and last but not least, the sufferings they have gone through with courage and dignity.
Michael Yon, embedded with the troops for the past three years posts this photograph and calls it Thanks and Praise as men and women, both Christian and Muslim, place a cross atop St. John's Church in Bagdad, a church that had been bombed and burned in 2004 but has since been restored with the cross, the crowning touch.
The Iraqis asked me to convey a message of thanks to the American people. ” Thank you, thank you,” the people were saying. One man said, “Thank you for peace.” Another man, a Muslim, said “All the people, all the people in Iraq, Muslim and Christian, is brother.” The men and women were holding bells, and for the first time in memory freedom rang over the ravaged land between two rivers.
Iraqpundit welcomes the recent changes in Baghdad and writes.
Frankly, I don't understand why so many mock us for wanting a future for Iraq. Is your hatred for George Bush so great that you prefer to see millions of civilians suffer just to prove him wrong?
It really comes down to this: you are determined to see Iraq become a permanent hellhole because you hate Bush. And we are determined to see Iraq become a success, because we want to live.
Sometimes, it takes a fresh eye to see America as it was and is. French President Nicolas Sarkozy in his speech before a joint session of Congress did just that.
Fathers took their sons to see the vast cemeteries where, under thousands of white crosses so far from home, thousands of young American soldiers lay who had fallen not to defend their own freedom but the freedom of all others, not to defend their own families, their own homeland, but to defend humanity as a whole.
And as they listened to their fathers, watched movies, read history books and the letters of soldiers who died on the beaches of Normandy and Provence, as they visited the cemeteries where the star-spangled banner flies, the children of my generation understood that these young Americans, 20 years old, were true heroes to whom they owed the fact that they were free people and not slaves. France will never forget the sacrifice of your children.
To those 20-year-old heroes who gave us everything, to the families of those who never returned, to the children who mourned fathers they barely got a chance to know, I want to express France's eternal gratitude.
Now and in the years to come, I hope and trust the Iraqis will feel the same way towards the treasure of American blood and money expended there.
In an interview with the Financial Times, the novelist Tom Wolfe makes the following remarkable comment.
Bush is portrayed as a moron. I’ve only conversed with him a couple of times – not for very long – but I found he was more literate on literature than the editor of the New York Review of Books, Bob Silvers. I’ve talked to both of them, and he makes Bob Silvers look like a slug.”
"Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful"
The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle. To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is something that our minds cannot grasp, whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly: this is religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I am a devoutly religious man.
Below is the Albert Einstein Memorial in front of the National Academy of Science in Washington, sculpted by my friend, Bob Berks. Einstein is contemplating the universe spread out before his feet.
Abraham Lincoln is one of my great heroes. Today on his birthday, I pleased to share new things I learned about him this year.
When Albert Kaplan bought this daguerreotype, Portrait of a Young Man in 1977, it reminded him of Lincoln somehow. Years later, he appears to have proved that it is a portrait of a young Lincoln with authentication both scholarly and authoritative available at Lincolnportrait.com
As a young man, Lincoln was not particularly religious. He never joined a church, was never baptized and never made any profession of belief. Yet, something happened to change his mind. In President Lincoln's Secret, Professor Allen Guelzo writes
Lincoln’s election to the presidency, just in time to see the country fall into civil war, presented him with a different set of challenges to his meager stock of religious belief. Lincoln expected a quick and direct restoration of the Union. But in battle after battle, the Union armies were handed humiliating defeats. The president could make no logical sense of this apparent contradiction of progress. After a year-and-a-half of seemingly fruitless bloodshed, he concluded that God had taken a direct hand in events to stymie the war’s progress so long as it was waged for purely political purposes, and to force Lincoln to recognize that the war must be turned in a moral direction that spoke directly to the crime of slavery.
This insight is what eventually drove Lincoln to depart from the policy direction with which he had begun the war, and to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. To the astonishment of his Cabinet, Lincoln explained that his decision to issue the Proclamation was a “vow” he had made “to myself, and...to my Maker.”
Will Durant is not a very familiar name these days, even if he wrote The Story of Philosophy which sold 2 million copies and gave the new publishing house Simon and Schuster, a solid foundation and Will the financial freedom to do what he wanted.
He and his wife Ariel spent the next fifty years writing The Story of Civilization, an integral history or historiography of civilization written for the "common man", selling in the end some 17 million books.
Together, they won the Pulitizer Prize as well as the Presidential medal of Freedom from President Ford.
What if it is for life's sake that we must die? In truth we are not individuals; and it is because we think ourselves such that death seems unforgivable. We are temporary organs of the race, cells in the body of life; we die and drop away that life may remain young and strong. If we were to live forever, growth would be stifled, and youth would find no room on earth. Death, like style, is the removal of rubbish, the circumcision of the superfluous. In the midst of death life renews itself immortally.
All things must die, but love alone eludes mortality. It overleaps the tombs and bridges the chasm of death with generation. How brief it seems in the bitterness of disillusion; and yet how perennial it is in the perspective of mankind -- how in the end it saves a bit of us from decay and enshrines our life anew in the youth and vigor of the child! Our wealth is a weariness, and our wisdom is a little light that chills; but love warms the heart with unspeakable solace, even more when it is given than when it is received.
On The Value Of Love
Youth, if it were wise, would cherish love beyond all things else, keeping body and soul clear for its coming, lengthening its days with months of betrothal, sanctioning it with a marriage of solemn ritual, making all things subordinate to it resolutely. Wisdom, if it were young, would cherish love, nursing it with devotion, deepening it with sacrifice, vitalizing it with parentage. Even though love consumes us in its service and overwhelms us with tragedy, even though it breaks us down with its passing and weighs us down with separations, let it be first.
Ariel was only 15 when she fell in love with her teacher Will and he with her. He resigned his position and married her.
What I most admire is their lifelong love, partnership and commitment that developed such a deep companionship "so that we almost have one breath, one life, one interest."
They lived long fruitful lives and died within days of each other and are buried together.
With so many preparations for Christmas, blogging is spotty, but I can't miss sharing this, one of the funniest stories I've read in a while.
Lick It. Lick It Good with the unforgettable line.
It's not gay if you're cold.
My favorite movie reviewer is Roger Ebert and I particularly missed him this summer when he was hospitalized with salivary cancer and later complications.
Fortunately, his rehabilitation is coming along well and he'll soon be back at the movies. Here's what he said in a letter to his readers.
The good news is that my rehabilitation is a profound education in the realities of the daily lives we lead, and my mind is still capable of being delighted by cinematic greatness.
I have discovered a goodness and decency in people as exhibited in all the letters, e-mails, flowers, gifts and prayers that have been directed my way. I am overwhelmed and humbled. I offer you my most sincere thanks and my deep and abiding gratitude. If I ever write my memoirs, I have some spellbinding material. How does the Joni Mitchell song go? "Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone"? One thing I've discovered is that I love my job more than I thought I did, and I love my wife even more!
"Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life"
Learning to Die is quite a remarkable essay by Brother David Steindl-Rast.
on awareness of death
In the rule of St. Benedict, the momento mori has always been important, because one of what St. Benedict calls “the tools of good works” – meaning the basic approaches to the daily life of the monastery – is to have death at all times before one’s eyes....it is a seeing of every moment of life against the horizon of death, and a challenge to incorporate that awareness of dying into every moment so as to become more fully alive.
on purpose and meaning
With purposes, we must be active and in control. We must, as we say, “take the reins,” “take things in hand,” “keep matters under control,” and utilize circumstances like tools that serve our aims....But matters are different when we deal with meaning. Here it is not a matter of using, but of savoring the world around us. In the idioms we use that relate to meaning, we depict ourselves as more passive than active: “It did something to me”; “it touched me deeply”; “it moved me.”
Life, if it isn’t a give and take, is not life at all. The taking corresponds to the active phase, to our “purpose” when we do something; while the giving of ourselves to whatever it is that we experience is the gesture by which meaning flows into our lives. It must be stressed that this is not an either/or; life is not a give or take, but a give and take; if we only take or only give, we are not alive. If we only take breath in we suffocate, and if we only breathe out we also suffocate. The heart pumps the blood in and pumps it out; and it is in the rhythm of give and take that we live.
Dr. Theodore Dalrymple observed that political correctness engenders evil because of "the violence that it does to people's souls by forcing them to say or imply what they do not believe, but must not question."
Political correctness is communist propaganda writ small. In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, nor to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to co-operate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. One's standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.
The first chapter of Bill Whittle's book is online,
How many guys were watching me on radar, keeping me separated from far, far better men and women who do this in their sleep up there? How many people did it take to make the instruments, to mine the silica for the glass, to tap the rubber for the wires? Who laid the asphalt on the runways, who built the filaments in the approach strobes, and who attached the ceramic tips to my spark plugs? And how many millions of other unseen connections had to be made to allow me to do, routinely, and on a middle-class salary, what billions of dead men and women would have given a lifetime to taste – just once. In those few minutes I just told you of, I stood on the shoulders of millions of my brothers and sisters, not the least of which were two sons of a preacher from Dayton, Ohio – now long dead but with me in spirit every day. I was atop a pyramid of dedication, hard work, ingenuity and progress, following rules written in the blood of the stupid and the brave and the unlucky.
I had tossed myself a mile into the air and landed safe in this Web of Trust.
And it is deeper than even that. It is not just the unseen heroes. It is the unseen, anonymous people that make this whole thing work. Right at this exact instant, there are men and women making sure that you have clean, safe water. That your aspirin is safe, and works as advertised. That you can pick up a can of food in any store in the country and eat whatever is inside it without a second’s worry about its danger. Armies of people, millions of people, get up and go to work every day to make sure that all of the transparent, unnoticed and unsung strands in this Web of Trust function.
And even when you are all alone, in the wild, as far from the Web of Civilization as you can possible be, it is still there with you: in a body free from the parasites and diseases that have killed legions unimaginable, in a body free from pain, from the deformity of unset broken bones, in titanium hips and pacemakers we give not a second thought to. It is there in the mental bridge, the bridge only the designer sees as he looks across a chasm, before the first rivet is driven. Civilization is in our hearts when we stand around a water cooler with people from all across the globe: ancient enemies, perhaps…people our ancestors have fought with for centuries and millennia, and who we now replay Saturday Night Live routines for before heading back to our cubicles to refine a little more order out of the chaos.
So mark these words, for this is not something beyond our control:
Civilizations fall because people bitch and complain when the electricity is off for fifteen minutes, and never give a thought to the fact that it has been on for their entire lives.
Gutzon Borglum was 60 years old when he began to carve Mount Rushmore.
Fourteen years later he died and his son completed the finishing touches on his 'colossal achievement' - four Presidential portraits of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt carved in granite. Another
A lot of people shrink from Mt. Rushmore. They say it's too big, too schmaltzy. It's not politically or environmentally correct.
They don't experience the "little frisson of excitement and uncomplicated patriotism" that Judith Dobryznski did and writes about in A Monumental Achievement (Wall St Journal, subscribers only)
Borglum consented only to do something bigger. He wanted to create a monument to the American philosophy, a celebration of the American spirit. That, he said, could be done only by portraying the nation's greatest presidents, picked by him.
Granite is a blunt medium, not given to nuance. Yet these portraits do seem to capture the essence of each man.
Less than a year before he died, Borglum talked of the pleasure he experienced at Rushmore. "This is the work I love most, this intimate contact with the four men," he told the New York Times in August 1940. "As I became engrossed in the features and personalities of each man, I felt myself growing in stature, just as they did when their characters grew and developed."
Borglum believed in the bigness of America -- in growth, dreams, abilities.
Peter Schramm, an Hungarian immigrant who now teaches American history to Americans at Ashland University, describes something similar to Borglum's intimacy with these men as he encounters the real words and meaning of the founding fathers.
Why had I put all of this effort into studying so much of European history and politics? There was nothing wrong with it, in itself. But these most important questions - What is freedom? What is justice? What is equality? -these were not answered in the history books I had been devouring. These were questions tackled by men like Jefferson, Madison, Washington and Lincoln and contemplated before by men like Plato, Aristotle, Locke, and many others. This is where I could get a true education. So I started anew.
It was here that I began to see what it meant to try to establish a Novus Ordo Seclorum. I began to see that all governments previous to ours had been established on accident and force, and now these American Founders insisted on establishing one on universal principles applicable to all men at all times, one established on reflection and choice. In America, human beings could prove to the world that they had the capacity to govern themselves. The Founders, according to Lincoln, proclaimed equality and freedom to "the whole world of men." It was here that I came to understand what Lincoln meant by the Declaration of Independence being the "electric cord" that linked all of us together, as though we were "blood of the blood, and flesh of the flesh, of the men who wrote that Declaration." This is what it meant to be an American, and it wasn't all that far from being a man.
His piece Born American, but in the Wrong Place is a stellar piece of writing and a view of America you have not heard before.
On the eve of the Fourth of July, an Englishman, William Langley says The American dream has come true.
Almost all of America's important social indicators - the measures of the true health of a nation - are pointing in the right direction.
Welfare cases have fallen by an astounding 60 per cent in the last decade. Marriage is growing in popularity, while divorce rates, having soared in the Sixties and Seventies, are falling - as are the rates of teenage pregnancy, drug use and suicide. Alcohol consumption among the young has fallen by 31 per cent since the mid-Eighties, and smoking by almost 50 per cent.
Young Americans are discovering sex later than their parents, and have fewer partners. A new, virtuous, generation is emerging.
Educational achievement, particularly among minorities, is rising, and the philanthropic instincts of the rich - as witnessed by last week's $31 billion gift to charity by legendary investor Warren Buffet - are resolute.
Crime rates, not only in New York but across the country, continue to decline rapidly. According to the Department of Justice, violent offences overall have dropped by 55 per cent since 1993, while teenage offending is down by 71 per cent.
Property crimes are at their lowest level since Federal statistics began in the early Seventies. Beyond the lawless pockets of a few big cities, America is now one of the least crime-troubled societies on earth.
How has it all happened?
The New York Times commentator David Brooks gives a simple explanation. "People have stopped believing in stupid ideas; that the traditional family is obsolete, that drugs are liberating, that it is every adolescent's social duty to rebel."
This is essentially correct. From the Sixties onwards, America witnessed widespread social decay in the form of family break-up, drug tolerance and attacks, in the name of liberal values, on what had traditionally been viewed as the parameters of decency. A new generation of Americans, having seen and reviewed the results, wants to change things.
"Americans today," says Brooks, "are leading more responsible, organised lives. The result is an improvement in social order."
You feel it everywhere. In the courteousness and generosity of ordinary Americans, and the pride they have in their country. We don't hear much about it, because it doesn't fit our Euro-jaundiced view of what the United States is.
The only person known to have survived a lynching attack died last week in Washington at 92. The rope was pulled so tight, it left marks for the rest of his life.
He symbolized one of the ugliest periods on our nation's history -- a time when fathers and husbands, brothers and sons, friends and neighbors were snatched from their homes and murdered at the end of a rope.
His story to me is a family tale, a family legend. Family shame.
That's why he spent much of his life trying to salve the wound with knowledge, in hopes that one day it would heal.
Official accounts put the number of lynching victims at about 4,700, though there were likely many more. The recorded lynchings were documented by reporters and photographers. Postcards depicting lynchings became popular souvenirs until the same Congress that never outlawed lynching made the postcards illegal.
Cameron and I talked about those postcards once. He told me I needed to see them so that I could understand how it had been. How ugly and hateful.
It's the power of story
American researchers have coined a new term. Middlescents are those workers between 35 and 54 who have burned themselves out.
The middlescent is frustrated, confused and exasperated, finding themselves leaving work feeling "burned out, bottlenecked and bored".
"It is a critical time for people and they have to rethink their whole life. Should they be less ambitious? Should they spend more time with their family?
"The critical time for that used to be well into your 50s, now it's getting younger.
It's what used to be called a mid-life crisis, but it seems to be happening earlier now. I think highly educated people who live in this world of abundance we enjoy today have more opportunities for identity crises throughout their lives. That's a good thing because it's usually a crisis that forces you to assess your life and find new meaning and passion.
I came across this quote today from Peter Drucker and it's such a good question that it's worth asking repeatedly over time.
"What can you and only you do, that if done well, can make a real difference."
Damn. She caught me, so I went ahead and put my hand under my glasses and wiped away the tears. I don’t like people seeing me cry. When I thought I was under control, I talked about Mr. Rogers some more.
I told her how speaking into the camera was his idea. He wanted to talk to children. I said that there were probably a lot of people out there who grew up pretending that Mr. Rogers was their dad. Some kids don’t have any grownups in their lives who will talk to them like that. I told her about the Emmy he won and how the audience grew quiet when he stepped to the microphone
I wonder how many people pretended Mr. Rogers was their dad, how many boys and girls learned important lessons, about being genuine and kind, from him. Always gentle, always courteous, always a role model.
I came across this absolutely wonderful piece by Tom Junod who wrote about Mr.Rogers -- somehow I just can't call him Fred. Can You Say...Hero? was his eulogy to Mr. Rogers, published in Esquire in 1998.
When Mr. Rogers accepted the Emmy for Lifetime Achievement, Junod writes
he went onstage to accept Emmy's Lifetime Achievement Award, and there, in front of all the soap-opera stars and talk-show sinceratrons, in front of all the jutting man-tanned jaws and jutting saltwater bosoms, he made his small bow and said into the microphone, "All of us have special ones who have loved us into being. Would you just take, along with me, ten seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are….Ten seconds of silence." And then he lifted his wrist, and looked at the audience, and looked at his watch, and said softly, "I'll watch the time," and there was, at first, a small whoop from the crowd, a giddy, strangled hiccup of laughter, as people realized that he wasn't kidding, that Mister Rogers was not some convenient eunuch but rather a man, an authority figure who actually expected them to do what he asked…and so they did. One second, two seconds, three seconds…and now the jaws clenched, and the bosoms heaved, and the mascara ran, and the tears fell upon the beglittered gathering like rain leaking down a crystal chandelier, and Mister Rogers finally looked up from his watch and said, "May God be with you" to all his vanquished children.
Another snippet from Tom Junod's Can You Say ...Hero? that had me crying by the end.
ONCE UPON A TIME, Mister Rogers went to New York City and got caught in the rain. He didn't have an umbrella, and he couldn't find a taxi, either, so he ducked with a friend into the subway and got on one of the trains. It was late in the day, and the train was crowded with children who were going home from school. Though of all races, the schoolchildren were mostly black and Latino, and they didn't even approach Mister Rogers and ask him for his autograph. They just sang. They sang, all at once, all together, the song he sings at the start of his program, "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" and turned the clattering train into a single soft, runaway choir.
I am so happy that my friend Bob Berks, has been commissioned to create a sculpture of Mr. Rogers which I saw underway last summer. Bob Berks is the American sculptor whose "Biographies in Bronze" encompass some 300 portraits. You can see some of them at his official website including videos, made by his talented wife Tod, where Bob talks about sculpting the Albert Einstein now on the grounds of the National Academy of Sciences, Frank Sinatra and his quartet of Lincoln sculptures, one of which I gaze on every day on my desk, one of my most treasured possessions. I just know that his sculpture of Mr. Rogers will be treasured by millions who have a special place in their heart for that man who helped love them into being.
He wakes at 3:30 am to pray, he flies business class, his only indulgence is watchstraps, he now lives in half a house because it was too expensive and exhausting to rebuild a whole house after a recent earthquake, and his attitude is to give everyone some of his time.
Even though he says things that take many people aback - he's against homosexuality, abortion and oral sex, thinks George Bush is very straightforward and was astonished by his grasp of Buddhism, everyone respects and listens to the Dalai Lama.
From the Telegraph, U.K. "Westerners are too self-absorbed."
"It is fascinating," he says, speaking in slightly stilted English. "In the West, you have bigger homes, yet smaller families; you have endless conveniences - yet you never seem to have any time. You can travel anywhere in the world, yet you don't bother to cross the road to meet your neighbours; you have more food than you could possibly eat, yet that makes women like Heidi miserable."
The West's big problem, he believes, is that people have become too self-absorbed. "I don't think people have become more selfish, but their lives have become easier and that has spoilt them. They have less resilience, they expect more, they constantly compare themselves to others and they have too much choice - which brings no real freedom.
He laughs when I change the subject and talk about the West's attempts to become more spiritual through yoga, massage and acupuncture. "These are just physical activities," he says. "To be happier, you must spend less time plotting your life and be more accepting."
The West is now quite weak - it can't cope with adversity and it has little compassion for others. People are like plants - they can develop ways of countering negative forces. If people took more responsibility for their own problems, they would become more self-confident."
He does not believe that you have to be religious in order to have a meaningful life. "But you have to have morals, to strive for basic, good human qualities. I don't want to convert people to Buddhism - all major religions, when understood properly, have the same potential for good."
"Buddhists are taught that if there is something you can do about a situation, you must do it immediately. But if there is nothing you can do, you can't worry - that is indulgent."
"But the Tibetans always say: wherever you feel most comfortable, that is your home. Whoever shows you greatest kindness and comfort, they are your family. So I am happy to die in India."
Excerpts frpm the essay by John Barrow, winner of the 2006 Templeton Prize, entitled The Great Basilica of Nature . After a dazzling description of seeing the interior of St. Marks Cathedral in Venice, Barrow writes
But, on reflection, what was more striking to me was the realization that the hundreds of master craftsmen who had worked for centuries to create this fabulous sight had never seen it in its full glory. They worked in the gloomy interior, aided by candlelight and smoky oil lamps to illuminate the small area on which they worked, but not one of them had ever seen the full glory of the golden ceiling. For them, like us, 500 years afterward, appearances were deceptive.
The nucleus of every carbon atom in our bodies has been through a star. We are closer to the stars than we could ever have imagined.
It is to this simple and beautiful world behind the appearances — where the lawfulness of nature is most elegantly and completely revealed — that physicists look to find the hallmark of the universe. Everyone else looks at the outcomes of these laws. The outcomes are often complicated, hard to understand and of great significance – they even include ourselves – but the true simplicity and symmetry of the universe is to be found in the things that are not seen. Most remarkable of all, we find that there are mathematical equations, little squiggles on pieces of paper, that tell us how whole universes behave. There is a logic larger than universes that is more surprising because we can understand a meaningful part of it and, thereby, share in its appreciation.
If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.
If you will call your troubles experiences, and remember that every experience develops some latent force within you, you will grow vigorous and happy, however adverse your circumstances may seem to be.
John Heywood. English Playwright and Poet, 1497-1580
The two words 'information' and 'communication' are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through.
Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.
I get up every morning determined to both change the world and to have one hell of a good time. Sometimes, this makes planning the day difficult.
E. B. White
The future is not something we enter. The future is something we create. Leonard Sweet.
As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.
Max Plank as he accepted the Nobel Prize
What do you do if you've fallen in the habit of defining yourself in terms of who you are to other people and what they expect of you?
Her children grown, Alice Steinbach decided to take a year off from her job as a reporter with the Baltimore Sun, leave her friends and family and head off for Europe Without Reservations. That's the title of her book she ended up writing about her adventures in Paris, Oxford, Milan, Venice and London.
In so doing, she gives the single best travel tip I've ever seen: Write postcards to yourself to remind you not just of what you saw, but what you felt and thought. So much easier than keeping a travel journal. Plus, you have the stamps, the thoughts and the context to propel you back to another time.
I must say she's awakened a new travel lust in me.
She also has some marvelous quotes that will resonate with many women of a certain age.
From Colette, "that lightheartedness that comes to a woman when the peril of men has left her." The peril of men being those times when women needed men more than they needed their own independent identities.
I liked this one too, by Walter Berry in his advice to those about to enter the wilderness.
"Always in the big woods when you leave familiar ground and step off alone into a new place, there will be, along with the feelings of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging of dread. It is the ancient fear of the Unknown, and it is your first bond with the wilderness you are going into."
In preparation for the journey ahead of her, Alice's mother took this quote with her in her handbag to the hospital where she later died.
On being freed from captivity. Jill Carroll says in today's Christian Science Monitor
I finally feel like I am alive again. I feel so good. To be able to step outside anytime, to feel the sun directly on your face - to see the whole sky. These are luxuries that we just don't appreciate every day.
On the earlier video.
"Things that I was forced to say while captive are now being taken by some as an accurate reflection of my personal views. They are not. The people who kidnapped me and murdered Allan Enwiya are criminals, at best. They robbed Allan of his life and devastated his family. They put me, my family and my friends - and all those around the world, who have prayed so fervently for my release - through a horrific experience. I was, and remain, deeply angry with the people who did this."
Now reunited with her parents
"This is the day upon which we are reminded of what we are on the other three hundred and sixty-four."
- Mark Twain
Some quotations from James Truslow Adams, (1878-1949) a Pulitzer Prize winning American historian who coined the term "American Dream"
There are obviously two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other to live.
Seek out that particular mental attribute that makes you feel most deeply and vitally alive, along with which comes the inner voice which says, "This is the real me.' and when you have found that attitude, follow it.
The greatest use of life is to spend it on something that will outlast it.
The greatest discovery of my generation is that man can alter his life simply by altering his attitude of mind.
Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It's not something you learn in school. But if you haven't learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven't learned anything.
If we do not rise to the challenge of our unique capacity to shape our lives, to seek the kinds of growth that we find individually fulfilling, then we can have no security: we will live in a world of sham, in which our selves are determined by the will of others, in which we will be constantly buffeted and increasingly isolated by the changes round us."
Nena O'Neil Author and Anthropologist
Roseanne Cash's new album Black Cadillac "mines the grief" Cash experienced after she lost three parents in two years - her mother, father and stepmother, Johnny and June Carter Cash. She says in a Beliefnet interview "Each song is about a different place on the map of loss."
Do you see this album as a love letter or a farewell to your parents?
No--it's not a tribute record, it's not a farewell, it's not a goodbye note. It's about what I discovered in the mourning process about my relationship to them, which I believe continues, about re-negotiating the terms of those relationships, because they're not over, although I'm the only one talking. And about the emptiness, the silence that comes when you're the only one talking. It's about an attempt to connect and find what survives death—the ancestral thread, and love.
I am the wall protecting my children from their own mortality, so therefore my mortality is acutely present. I have a sense that I'll get past this phase I'm in right now where I feel like it's so present, that death is imminent, because I'm not old yet, and I know that it's all there because so many people died in such rapid succession. I'm trying to figure out how to integrate that sense of mortality into a graceful way to live in the present. It's hard.
I have written above my desk—"When you sing, you pray twice." Somebody told me that they knew this psychic who when he saw musical notes around a person, he knew they prayed a lot. I thought that was so great, like prayers go out as musical notes, and maybe vice versa.
From Pamela Bone, one year after being diagnosed with myeloma, cancer of the bone marrow, and retiring.
The best advice to people suffering a terminal illness I've read was this: 'Yes, you are going to die, but until you do, you are alive.' So that's what I'm doing: being alive.
And goes on to talk about the butter, the Danes and Prince Fredrik.
So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart.
Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and
Demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life,
Beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and
Its purpose in the service of your people.
Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.
Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend,
Even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and
Bow to none. When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the food and
For the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks,
The fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and nothing,
For abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision.
When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts
Are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes
They weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again
In a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home."
The three things I most admire and respect about American Indians are their spirituality, their fearlessness of death and the way they seek to fill their lives with beauty. They cultivate an appreciation of beauty above, below, before, behind, all around and within.
From the Navajo night chant
May it be beautiful before me.
May it be beautiful behind me.
May it be beautiful below me.
May it be beautiful above me.
May it be beautiful all around me.
In beauty it is finished.
To see why, read her latest post Open your hand.
“To receive everything, one must open one's hands and give.” –Taisen Deshimaru
There are people in life who hold their hand open, and there are those whose hands are shut. Which am I, I wonder? Which are you? What does it take to have a generous nature, to hold your hand open, to live a life in which you give when you don’t have, when you give rather than hold? What is a sacrifice and a true gift—when you have the money or time to give, or when you don’t?
With each post, she challenges us to Do it Now
Give the Buddha, where the Buddha is not only what you have, but what you are.
Carve the chop. Extend yourself for someone else. Give what you want to keep.
[Don’t rely too much on words.]
Open your hand.
I've talked in the past about the importance of making life lessons open source. Patricia Digh has done that with the stories from her life, sharing with us what she's learned, what she's thought and challenging us to aim higher and live deeper. in prose that makes me flat out jealous, Patti invites us all to live today as if we only had 37 days left of our "wild and precious life".
UPDATE: Seems to me we spend a good deal of the first part of our lives getting. What makes the second half of our lives successful is how much we give. That, of course, is our legacy
"What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and for the world remains and is immortal"
Albert Pine, English author who died in 1851
Im reading Zadie Smith's On Beauty and came across this passage
He was having an odd parental rush, a blood surge that was also above blood and was presently hunting through Howard's expansive intelligence to find words that would more effectively express something like
don't walk in front of cars take care and be good and don't hurt or be hurt and don't live in a way that make you feel dead and don't betray anybody or yourself and take care of what matters and please don't and please remember and make sure.
Prosperity comes from the Latin root which literally translates: "according to hope" or "to go forward hopefully." Thus it is not so much a condition in life as it is an attitude toward life. The truly prosperous person is what psychologist Rollo May calls "the fully functioning person."
Eric Butterworth in Spiritual Economics
via Brian Johnson at Zaadz who reminds us that affluence means "an abundant flow" and wealth originally meant "well-being."
When we are consciously centered in the universal flow, we experience inner direction and the unfoldment of creative activity. Things come to, but prosperity is not just having things. It is the consciousness that attracts things.