Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Two commentaries on free speech, judgment calls and modern culture/media in the National Post today.



I am afraid that I side more with Mark Steyn against Germain Greer type soft-pedaling.

Easter / three

When I walk to the river flats, there is an old fashioned lamp post standing all by itself, quite tall.

To me, it is the lamp post in Narnia, just beyond the Wardrobe.  At this lamp post four footpaths at the edge of suburbia meet, and one leads down steeply to the marsh ("steeply" as defined by prairie relative steepness).  All at once you find yourself in a kind of wilderness.  Above are the houses, below is somewhat untouched nature.  Slightly beyond the marsh flows a mighty and untamed northern Canadian river, one used by the Voyageurs.  

For C.S. Lewis, Narnia signified the reality of the other world.  The boundary was marked by the wardrobe and the lamp post.  I have such a lamp post and I can marvel at the suddenness with which one can enter from one world into another.  It was one of Lewis' main themes.  School is so painful and summer holidays are so wonderful.  But when you are in one mode you can hardly imagine the other to be real. But they are.  They are both very real.  So it is with the resurrection and eternal life.

The snow is all gone now and the geese and ducks are tying to breed just beyond my lamp post.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter Sunday 2

Struck me on Easter:  all the portraits on the mantels.  Of the pre-deceased.

My grandmother had a buffet with all sorts of pictures.  But her Alzheimer's was setting in.  She started talking to me about people on one end, went down the row, and then started over...and did it again.

Here were are having dinner together, feasting, saying long thanksgiving meal time prayers, remembering those who have gone ahead and not sitting with us any longer, the graces we have all received.

Easter is like Christmas.  We remember who and what and were and why...  We talked about the long and dangerous winter we have just come through, the car accidents that were had and nearly had, the cost of damages, the spray painting required.

It is the strangest thing that some of us are still here and some of us are not.  It is as if there were two adjoining rooms, one with us in it, connected by a door to another room, with all the others ones in it.  We can imagine them but we can't see them.

Before my father died he wrote a few silly poems.  They were both serious and gallows humor at the same time.  He talked about the ancestors whom he found himself talking to.   But his faith was wavering.  Did they really still exist?, he asked.  I thought at the time, that there is no way that they don't.  How can a personality just be wiped out?

I was just reading something on the internet, where people are talking about all the space probes that have been sent out, to find some meaning in the in universe, a future for mankind.  What would another culture really do with one of our space-probes?

We have been sent the Son.  Do we believe Him?

Does he have our back?  Has he come and won the victory on our behalf?  Will we pass through that door and find another room?

Will the Son of Man come and find faith upon the earth?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Sunday

The earth is brown.  The snow is mostly gone, even the pile we got a couple of days ago.  Not a green thing in sight.

The church was lovely, with lilies everywhere, the pastor in white with white stole, the table set in white, the silver communion ware gleaming, the many rousing hymns of joy resounding, full organ and I didn't have to play and  could just sing my heart out.

I took communion at the rail where my children took their first communion, and prayed the Lord to look after the one that can't look after any more.  I prayed for strength for the coming tasks.  I looked over the fellow communicants and was moved by their steady coming, receiving and vowing, no matter their life circumstances, and they are varied. As someone said afterward:  a collection of the finest people I know.  Indeed.  I agree.  Farmers mostly, but the very finest.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Bach Passions

For Holy Week and Easter, this weekend, I am going to start singing a Bach passion.  Because I only own a minature, full version of the St. Matthew's Passion, that will have to be the one, even with eyestrain.

I am going to indulge in new large scores.  On my way to Amazon, now.

Here is a nice Youtube version of St. John's with English words.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Chesterton 3/ The most practical and important thing about a man is still his view of the universe.

Examples are scarcely needed of this total levity on the subject of cosmic philosophy...  This was certainly not the idea of those who introduced our freedom.  When the old Liberals removed the gags from all the heresies, their idea was that religious and philosophical discoveries might thus be made.  Their view was that cosmic truth was so important that every one ought to bear independent testimony.  The modern idea is that cosmic truth is so unimportant that it cannot matter what any one says.  The former freed inquiry as men loose a noble hound;  the latter frees inquiry as man fling back into the sea a fish unfit for eating.  Never has there been so little discussion about the nature of men as now, when, for the first time, any one can discuss it.  The old restriction meant that only the orthodox were allowed to discuss religion.  Modern liberty means that nobody is allowed to discuss it.  Good taste, the last and vilest of human superstitions, has succeeded in silencing us where all the rest have failed.  Sixty years ago it was bad taste to be an avowed atheist.  Then came the Bradlughites, the last religious men, the last men who cared about God;  but they could not alter it.  It is still bad taste to be an avowed atheist.  But their agony has achieved just this--that now it is equally bad taste to be an avowed Christian.  Emancipation has only locked the saint in the same tower of silence as the heresiarch.  Then we talk about Lord Anglesey and the weather, and call it the complete liberty of all the creeds.
But there are some people, nevertheless--and I am one of them--who think that the most practical and important thing about a man is still his view of the universe.  We think that for a landlady considering a lodger, it is important to know his income, but still more important to know his philosophy.  We think that for a general about to fight an enemy, it is important to know the enemy's numbers, but still more important to know the enemy's philosophy...  In the fifteenth century men cross-examined and tormented a man because he preached some immoral attitude;  in the nineteenth century we feted and flattered Oscar Wilde because he preached such an attitude, and then broke his heart in penal servitude because he carried it out.  It may be a question which of the two methods was the more cruel;  there can be no kind of question which was the more ludicrous.  The age of the Inquisition has not at least the disgrace of having produced a society which made an idol of the very same man for preaching he very same things which it made him a convict for practicing.   (Heretics.  Introductory Remarks)

We have not got very far into the book, but I find the introductory remarks very powerful.

We have ceased taking interest in a man or woman's general outlook on life.  As a society, Chesterton must mean, because, certainly, many of us still take such things into consideration.  For example, I would have never considered marrying a man without a solid church association.  Or, on the other hand, we have made business deals with individuals of different world views and lived to regret this most bitterly.  It turned out that their philosophy had much more to do with how things would turn out than we would have dreamed.  Or there are some people who love to entertain, do arts and write a poetry.  It starts out fun.  When they are on their first beer or glass of wine everyone is thinking well, and the curses are few and far between;  it looks quite sociable.  But the drinking keeps going on, and the conversation, art and poetry degrades. I do not understand how they consider this a positive development of the get-together.  It starts out enjoyable enough, and then when partying is the sole objective, the fun goes right out of it.  It really does, but they don't seem to perceive it as such.  It seems like a different philosophy of social gathering.

Anyhow, this might connect us to Oscar Wilde.  He supposedly died a Catholic convert on his death bed, as I read in "Literary Converts".  I think he is known for pleasure-seeking (I have not read him, at all) and ended up dying somewhat early and destitute.  They also put him in prison.  Apparently he met a sad but Catholic end.    It would indeed be debatable if he had been better off being censured by the Inquisition earlier on.  I believe Chesterton has his tongue somewhat in cheek, but he raises a question.  What is this liberty for?  What is it we are seeking?  Oscar Wilde can't be the example we are trying to follow.

I meet people who are very much dedicated to being gracious.  They are a true salve to my soul.  You meet them here or there, or you  are able to have them as long term friends, if you are blessed so.  We can have a heart to heart discussion, very honest, and I know that they will still love me and be the kindest they can possibly be under the circumstances.  It makes all the difference.  These are the people you can cry with and let it all hang out.  This is what they mean when they say that we want to have and cultivate the mind of Christ.  Graces is at the very bottom of it.  We can always try over.  Underneath are the everlasting arms. (Thanks be to God.)   Chesterton seems very gracious, too, even while sounding quite boisterous.  It is not a contradiction.  Someone can be boisterously gracious.  We see it displayed, here. I like him.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Chesterton 2 / "The Golden rule is that there is no golden rule"

It is foolish, generally speaking, for a philosopher to set fire to another philosopher in Smithfield market because they do not agree in their theory of the universe.  That was done very frequently in the Middle Ages, and it failed altogether in its object.  But there is one thing that is infinitely more absurd and unpractical than burning a man for his philosophy.  This is the habit of saying that his philosophy does not matter, and this is done universally in the twentieth century, in the decadence of the great revolutionary period.  General theories are everywhere contemned;  the doctrine of the Rights of Man is dismissed with the doctrine of the Fall of Man.  Atheism itself is too theological for us today.  Revolution itself is too much of a system;  liberty itself is too much of a restraint.  We will have no generalizations.  Mr. Bernard Shaw has put the view in a perfect epigram:  "The golden rule is that there is no golden rule."  We are more and more to discuss details in art, politics, literature.  A man's opinion on tramcars matters;  his opinion on Botticelli matters;  his opinion on all things does not matter.  He may turn over and explore a million objects, but he must not find that strange object, the universe;  for if he does he will have a religion, and be lost.  Everything matters--except everything.

(Heretics.  Introductory Remarks.)

What is he doing here, again?  He is contrasting the zeal of the Middle Ages, which resulted in the burning of heretics, with the current refusal to come to any rules, at all.  As silly as the former approach may seem now, we seem to have overcompensated to a point where we will have no generalizations, no doctrines, no golden rules--except that there is no golden rule--no theory of the universe, no religion.

I am not sure if that is the same as existentialism.  Make up your own individual meaning.  Probably.

What do I know.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Luther on Heathenish Reasoning

"By worshiping the sun and the moon--which they considered the true worship of
God--the heathen have committed what is by far the greatest of their sins.  This is why man-made godliness is sheer blasphemy of God and the greatest of all the sins a man commits."

"The heathen recognized that being mighty, invisible, just, immortal, and good are characteristics of divinity or of the Being who is God.  Therefore they recognized God's invisible Being, His eternal power and Godhead.  This major premise of the practical syllogism, this inborn theological sense of what is right (synderesis theologica), cannot be obscured in any people.  But they erred in the minor premise when they said and maintained:  Here, this Jupiter or someone else, represented by this likeness, possesses these characteristics.  Here the error began, and idolatry was committed, everyone wanting to subsume according to his inclination."

"Such monstrous infamies were actually considered religion and righteousness among the heathen;  for there really is nothing so ridiculous,k so foolish, so obscene, so foreign to all decency, that men who lack the Word of God cannot be talked into it (bereden) as religious worship at its best."

"The heathen, who do not have the Word, never correctly understood these matters even though evils engulfed them;  for they held that death is a natural necessity, not a penalty for sin.  so they cannot judge the whole nature of man, since they do not know the spring whence these calamities came upon the human race."

"Therefore whoever wants to learn and become wise in secular government, let him read the heathen books and writings.  They have truly painted it and portrayed it quite beautifully and generously, with both verses and pictures, with teachings and examples;p  and they became the source for the ancient imperial laws.  I am convinced that God gave and preserved such heathen books, as those of the poets and the histories, like Homer, Virgil, Demosthenes, Cicero, Livy, and afterwards the fine old jurists--as He has also given and preserved other temporal goods among the heathen and godless of all times--that the heathen and godless, too, might have their prophets, apostles, and theologians or preachers for the secular government.  In this sense St. Paul also calls the Cretan poet Epimenides "their prophet";  and Matthew calls the three holy kings "Magi" because of the fact that they were the priests, prophets, or teachers of the Arabs.  Thus they had their Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Ulpian, and others, even as they people of God had their Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, and others;  and their emperors, kings, and princes, like Alexander Augustus, etc., where their Davids and Solomons."

"According to their own testimony, whatever the Romans did in the matter of virtue they did from a burning desire for glory.  So also the Greeks, so also the Jews, so also the entire human race.  But though this may be worthy of honor before men, nothing is more dishonorable before God;  nay, it is most godless and the height of sacrilege, because there people did not act for the glory of God or in order to praise God.  On the contrary, robbing God of His glory by the most impious of thefts and taking it to themselves, they were never more dishonorable and base than when they were shining in their most exalted virtues.  But how could they act for the glory of God when they know neither God nor His glory?"

(All from "What Luther Says"  pp. 616-618;  one of my favorite books and a great introduction to Luther.)

Wittenberg -- The German Athens


Ayaan Hirsi Ali denied honorary degree

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is one of the most courageous people of our time.  She has been cast into the cauldron of the most powerful ideas of our time.  Our fates are entwined with hers.  Rex Murphy wrote a good commentary on the latest controversy.