Friday, May 30, 2014

R. Kipling

The neighbor and I had been talking over the fence.  As a result, he brought me Rudyard Kiplings "Just So Stories" and I lent the neighbor the original "Winnie The Poo" as a pledge.

I read almost the entire book, this morning, as well as the Wikipedia entry on the author and some other poems by him, such as "If".   My interest was raised chiefly by G. K. Chesterton who described Kipling as talented but "heretical" (in his book "Heretics", which we have been reviewing.) We see also that opinions on him diverged when looking at comments by T.S. Eliot and George Orwell.  Interesting also was that Kipling was a "Germanophobe" and an enthusiastic Freemason.  He also liked to use the Swastika until Hitler adopted it.  He quite freely engaged in this Germanophobia and even wrote propaganda.  I am thinking that this may have had very serious consequences, especially since he also promoted harsh treatment of Germany at Versailles, which, of course, was disastrous.

I must say that he was very "imaginative"--since Imagination seems to have become The buzz word.  One could even say that Kipling epitomizes it.  I must say, too, that I enjoyed the children's literature.  Here imagination is truly of some good use.  We Can see, however, that he is being deliberately "heretical".  (In adults, I find science fiction and over-powering drama not quite so endearing.  Not my taste.)  This active imagination may have been a mistake in his view of other peoples and cultures and his promotion of war.  The imagination and fiction may not be such a good tool in politics.  I wonder how much serious harm he did.

Maybe I can have a nice chat about it all with the neighbours, now that it is getting warmer and we are beginning to be out and about.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Exciting Weekend / Jasper Banff Icefields Parkway

The weekend was exciting.  We drove to Jasper for convention together and then I drove the Icefields Parkway to Banff by myself and the next day back again to Jasper, by myself.  The check engine light came on just beyond the Columbia Icefields, in the middle of nowhere with no cell reception for another hundred kilometers.  The cruise control quit the moment the check engine light came on.  In the end, apparently, all the trouble was due to the gas cap.-- I did arrive in good shape, though a little ruffled,  for the High School graduation of my God-child, Valedictorian, top of the class.  Great time had by all!

Car trip pictures from the Icefields Parkway:

South of the Columbia Icefield  (taken with the I-Pad)

 Columbia Icefield  at the interpretive center.

Bear Lake, still frozen.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Pulling down the gas-lamp / Chesterton

"For these reasons, and for many more, I for one have come to believe in going back to fundamentals.  Such is the general idea of this book.  I wish to deal with my most distinguished contemporaries, not personally or in a merely literary manner, but in relation to the real body of doctrine which they teach.  I am not concerned with Mr. Rudyard Kipling as a vivid artist or a vigorous personality;  I am concerned with him as a Heretic--that is to say, a man whose view of things has the hardihood to differ from mine.  I am not concerned with Mr. Bernard Shaw as one of the most brilliant and one of the most honest men alive;  I am concerned with him as a Heretic--that is to say, a man whose philosophy is quite solid, quite coherent, and quite wrong.  I revert to the doctrinal methods of the thirteenth century, inspired by the general hope of getting something done.

Suppose that a great commotion arises in the street about something, let us say a lamp-post, which many influential persons desire to pull down.  A grey-clad monk, who is the spirit of the Middle Ages, is approached upon the matter, and begins to say, in the arid manner of the Schoolmen, "Let us first of all consider, my brethren, the value of Light.  If Light be in itself good--"  At this point he is somewhat excusably knocked down.  All the people make a rush for the lamp-post, the lamp-post is down in ten minutes, and they go about congratulating each other on their unmediaeval practicality.  But as things go on they do not work out so easily.  Some people have pulled the lamp-post down because they wanted the electric light;  some because they wanted old iron;  some because they wanted darkness, because their deeds were evil.  Some thought it not enough of a lamp-post, some too much;  some acted because they wanted to smash municipal machinery;  some because they wanted to smash something.  And there is war in the night, no man knowing whom he strikes.  So, gradually and inevitably, today, tomorrow or the next day, there comes back the conviction that the monk was right after all, and that all depends on what is the philosophy of Light.  Only what we might have discussed under the gas-lamp, we now must discuss in the dark."

(Chesterton.  "Heretics".  Introductory Remarks, last two paragraphs.)

This would be something like talking about Humpty Dumpty falling of the wall, and how on earth to you put things back together again.  Applebaum talks about this in relation to the post-Soviet era in Eastern Europe.  When you have ruined the institutions, what will you have left and what will you do to rebuild society?  These experiments are very expensive, the damage untold.  Always they begin by isolating people from each other.  Is that the first thing that happens when the light is out?

I am not sure about the doctrinal methods of the thirteenth century.  Luther may have had some problems with those, too.  A Reformation was necessitated quite soon, with the scholastics ready to be thrown outwith their non-sense.  Maybe Chesterton is even engaging in some anti-protestant screed here. The scholastics were not Luther's and the Renaissance's men, nor Anselm, nor Aristotle.  Philosophy is just not the path to freedom in Christ.  We cannot think our way to redemption.  Nevertheless, it makes sense to me to be cautious and not throw out the Light with the lamp-post.  Very simply:  the concepts need to be revealed and Biblical.

(Here, by the way Applebaum writes about the Ukrainian crisis.)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

"Atheist Temples"


Chesterton would say that atheism and amorality don't build things that are deep or truly beautiful and artistic.

I've hung around some atheistic people.  It can start out nice but it tends to degenerate into insult or debauchery. Even what goes as rational dialogue soon goes south into ad hominems and other fallacies--or straight lies.  They manage to rationalize the rudeness as being necessary to the "process".  "Process" being the holy grail.  But they are the "rational" people--with many books;  so they say.

If there is some beautiful atheist temple somewhere, we'd like to see it.

"Miłosz's 1953 book, The Captive Mind, is a study about how intellectuals behave under a repressive regime. Miłosz observed that those who became dissidents were not necessarily those with the strongest minds, but rather those with the weakest stomachs; the mind can rationalize anything, he said, but the stomach can take only so much."

Ambiguity / Definitions / Chesterton

"And having discovered that opportunism does fail, I have been induced to look at it more largely, and in consequence to see that it must fail.  I perceive that it is far more practical to begin at the beginning and discuss theories.  I see that the men who killed each other about the orthodoxy of the Homoousion were far more sensible than the people who are quarreling about the Education Act.  For the Christian dogmatists were trying to establish a reign of holiness, and trying to get defined, first of all, what was really holy.  But our modern educationists are trying to bring about a religious liberty without attempting to settle what is religion or what is liberty.  If the old priests forced a statement on mankind, at least they previously took some trouble to make it lucid.  It has been left for the modern mobs of Anglicans and Noncoformists to persecute for a doctrine without even stating it."

(Chesterton.  "Hertics".  Introductory Remarks.)

We see that Chesterton is still laboring with the concept and need for definitions.  It would be the theme of the introductory remarks.

Purchased and inscribed 48 children's Bibles from CPH / May long weekend in these parts

Bible story books from here.
Concordia Publishing House kindly did not charge for shipping at this volume purchase.

I-tunes purchase: hymns of Paul Gerhardt

Last night I downloaded this recording from I-tunes.  It cost $9.99.

Paul Gerhardt is hymn-writer of international and permanent importance. We memorized his songs for religion and music class in Germany.

It can also be found at where threre are two reviews.  One gives poor marks in a sarcastic vein disparaging it as opium for the people.  Another bemoans  there being only two verses per hymn.  Latter is a decent complaint if you want to really sing the hymn, but for that I also have a hymn book.  I can sing it a capella or accompany myself on piano.

In my opinion, it is very, very lovely, and I am thrilled to have it in my possession.  The voices are great, the arrangements and rhythms are varied and challenging enough for keeping interest.  Sometimes we get magnificent organ playing.

As to Marx, we have seen what Marxists have done with the people.

You can find it in I-tunes store searching for "Paul Gerhardt".

Monday, May 19, 2014

Talking about yourself activates feel good regions/ Neuroscience

Talking and thinking about yourself feels good.  Sharing creates a bond, heightens pleasure and promotes learning and teamwork.  Introspection alone is helpful and pleasurable. -- This must be why we blog and go on social media.. 

1. Let people talk about themselves.
People spend 60% of their conversations talking about themselves.
It feels good: Harvard researchers have found that talking about yourself activates the same brain regions as sex, cocaine, and a good meal.
“Activation of this system when discussing the self suggests that self-disclosure like other more traditionally recognized stimuli, may be inherently pleasurable,” Scientific American reports, “and that people may be motivated to talk about themselves more than other topics.”
Research shows that when people disclose information about themselves, they like each other more. It’s also the primary way to form social bonds, or another way of saying it helps earn their respect.

Observational studies of human conversations in relaxed social settings 
suggest that these consist predominantly of exchanges of social informa- 
tion (mostly concerning personal relationships and experiences). Most of 
these exchanges involve information about the speaker or third parties, 
and very few involve critical comments or the soliciting or giving of 
advice. Although a policing function may still be important (e.g., for 
controlling social cheats), it seems that this does not often involve overt 
criticism of other individuals' behavior. The few significant differences 
between the sexes in the proportion of conversation time devoted to 
particular topics are interpreted as reflecting females' concerns with net- 
working and males' concerns with self-display in what amount to a con- 
ventional mating lek. 

This experiment left at least one question unanswered, however. Although participants were revealing information about themselves, it was unclear whether or not anyone was paying attention; they were essentially talking without knowing who (if anyone) was on the other end of the line. Thus, the reward- and motivation-related neural responses ostensibly produced by self-disclosure could be produced by the act of disclosure—of revealing information about the self to someone else—but they could also be a result of focusing on the self more generally—whether or not anyone was listening.
In order to distinguish between these two possibilities, the researchers conducted a follow-up experiment. In this experiment, participants were asked to bring a friend or relative of their choosing to the lab with them; these companions were asked to wait in an adjoining room while participants answered questions in a fMRI machine. As in the first study, participants responded to questions about either their own opinions and attitudes or the opinions and attitudes of someone else; unlike in the first study, these participants were explicitly told whether their responses would be “shared” or “private”; shared responses were relayed in real time to each participant’s companion and private responses were never seen by anyone, including the researchers.
In this study, answering questions about the self always resulted in greater activation of neural regions associated with motivation and reward (i.e., NAcc, VTA) than answering questions about others, and answering questions publicly always resulted in greater activation of these areas than answering questions privately.  Importantly, these effects were additive; both talking about the self and talking to someone else were associated with reward, and doing both produced greater activation in reward-related neural regions than doing either separately.
These results suggest that self-disclosure—revealing personal information to others—produces the highest level of activation in neural regions associated with motivation and reward, but that introspection—thinking or talking about the self, in the absence of an audience—also produces a noticeable surge of neural activity in these regions. Talking about the self is intrinsically rewarding, even if no one is listening.
Talking about the self is not at odds with the adaptive functions of communication. Disclosing private information to others can increase interpersonal liking and aid in the formation of new social bonds—outcomes that influence everything from physical survival to subjective happiness. Talking about one’s own thoughts and self-perceptions can lead to personal growth via external feedback. And sharing information gained through personal experiences can lead to performance advantages by enabling teamwork and shared responsibility for memory. Self-disclosure can have positive effects on everything from the most basic of needs—physical survival—to personal growth through enhanced self-knowledge; self-disclosure, like other forms of communication, seems to be adaptive.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Plato on his head

There are some things that need to be said. 

One reads things about Plato here and there.  But I've read some Plato for myself.  I have been trained to go to primary source material whenever possible and I am not scared of it. A secondary source can turn everything on its head, and we don't even know it because we are trusting the interpretation.  I usually trust my own mind and have generally found it pretty good.  Wherever I have gone I have received academic awards; and  I like to read and I can read fast.  (So much for bragging.) The more obtuse the stuff, the more easily it is digested in my head.  However, if we try him for ourselves, Plato is not obtuse whatsoever.  He is very easy to read.  Actually, he is a fantastic writer and, for that reason most likely, we still read him.  There is some good wit and as Chesterton would say Plato has broken out with "innovative lectures", though he has also said "many silly things".

Indeed, Plato said some very silly things, such as the advocating of men keeping women and children in common.  (We talked about that a while back.)  You do wonder what he was inhaling, or how loose his own morals were in this regard.  Plato turned his very own fine ethics on the head, there, we must observe. 

Alright, Plato, in my reading was about ethics and justice:  most unhappy are those who are tyrants, gluttons and selfish, indulging themselves and their friends, hoarding up wealth and women.  He tries to show this rationally and by arguing with people.  It does seem somewhat circuitous, and belabored;  Jesus would have been able to clarify the thing with a sermon and several parables. Luther, too:   he straightened out things with several sermons, and the uprising stopped.  Moses would have had a tablet written by the hand of God only a few sentences long.  BUT, Plato being a Greek, and living in a heathen land, and suffering under the vagaries and caprices of the Greek Pantheon,  the gods behaving not much differently from the politicians, really suffered a great handicap. We must give him very much credit for trying to transcend both the messy Greek politics and the messy Greek gods' shenanigans.  He really, really, really does try.  He does it by looking beyond, looking into what is higher both than the politics, the favoritism and the gods' quarreling. He quite strongly advocates censorship to get a grip on the problems in the culture and the myths. (I hardly think our modern so-called Platonists would concur with this call for censorship and government control.)

Nowadays, however, you find that academics want to promote a Plato who is completely beyond the realm of the physical and what's "real".  Their Plato is all words, poetry and rational arguing, nothing but mind and world soul.  He is practically disembodied.  It is as if Plato's concern was not to improve the conditions in the State.  It was.  Christ, of course, is Word incarnate and dwelt among us.  His ethics deal fairly with all things physical as well as spiritual, the spiritual being more important and primary. Everything flows from the fear and love of God as most important. 

My hypothesis is that Plato (or perhaps rather Socrates), through the travels and the wars they were involved with, had contact with the Jewish religion.  There is NO way that important Greeks had heard nothing about it.  NO WAY.  There were only a few more years before they went down and conquered the whole land. In  333 B.C. Alexander fought at Issus.   Plato died in 347 B.C.  That is just 14 years prior!  (Modern education does not deal with dates, though, only patterns and process.  So this is not immediately obvious to those who have not studies this.  I happened to have learned this in grade 7, as we had a history class that actually started in antiquity and worked itself up the centuries in chronological succession.  Thankfully, Wikipedia comes to the culture's rescue.  We have facts at hand, after all.)  I venture to say that Plato got his idea of the higher life from the Jewish faith:  ethics is something other than sycophantism;  the gods can't be these selfish and sexual monsters.  In fact, they are rather ridiculous.  Surely the Divine is something else!  It MUST be.  To be good, to be just, is something other than what we see in the world and what we see in the myths about the gods.  The Greek gods are not just.  The heathen world was becoming ripe for the Christian message.  Plato's call for a King also echoes the stories about King David and the Messiah, in my mind. 

When I first came from Germany, I had a Social Studies teacher in grade 11, who fancied himself something of a Socratic dialectitian.  He also was imbued with a particular interpretation of Socrates, now that I think about it.  He tried to tell us, and we hear this still, that Christ is some sort of poster boy for the Greek ideal.  That the Greeks had the right idea much before the time--as if there had not been thousands of years of Judaism, scripture, temple worship, awaiting of the Messiah, the King, son of David.  The priority of Socrates over Christ is surely utter nonsense.  If there was an ethical ideal, and a message about God and his nature, it was there first in the Jews.  

Here is an idea that keeps getting put on its head all the time, too.  The Hebrew God is actually not nice.  He is really horrible. So much for ethics.  God has no ethics. --  "God was so terrible, how could he..."  How could he ask Abraham to kill is how son?-- griped a friend on FB, this weekend. -- It falls to housewives and teachers of little children, like me, to explain to grown men and professors that they have no clue.  (There is something else put on its head.)  It is so simple if you have a reading of the scriptures and history, but many limit themselves to some quoting mechanism, avoiding primary sources, again.  

Abraham lived in a time of immoral inhumanity.  The surrounding people, cultures, and barbarians of all times have offered sacrifice of their children and behaved in cruel ways.  But the God of Abraham substitutes a Lamb, and Himself in Christ, foreshadowed by the animal.   On the other hand, we see debased behavior in the story about Sodom and Gomorrah;  we see it in accounts where other cultures offer their own children as sacrifices to the gods.  Come to think of it, even the elevated Greeks offered their children to the gods.  Remember the Greek Agamemnon and Iphigeneia.   The mess of Agamemnon's life reminds one of the mess of Herod the Great's life, murdering their own families.  But Iphigeneia was properly sacrificed so Agamemnon could have his wish, i.e. a manipulation of the gods and the affairs of the world.  Do we hear about this?  No.  But Abraham who was not actually required to sacrifice a son, gets the great spot light put on. --  So, the fact is that in Jewish faith, ethics and the law were paramount all in relation to the living God, Creator and King of the universe.  The Greeks served their little tyrannical gods, kings of lightening and woods and whatever little sphere of the created world.  No wonder Plato was not in favor.  Time for these gods to move aside. 

It is preposterous to say that Judeo-Christianity was indebted to Greek thought.  

It is also preposterous to now make Judeo-Christianity ethics something inferior to Platonic higher thinking or thinking out of the cave, or out of the box...   Plato tried to rationally approach an ideal without the benefit of Revelation.  He got some things right and some important things wrong.  In the end he fell into many self-serving edicts according to his own tastes, also, coming up with some good stuff and with many "silly things". 

This supposed aligning oneself with Plato is just a bunch of hogwash.  It is simply a doing away with Christ and calling oneself more elevated and logical, in a self-flattering way and indulgence in pride and arrogance.  I am afraid that God will not leave it unpunished.  They should know better. I am depressed to think about it and how many are led astray.   Would God be immoral if he slew the whole lot of us for our immorality and baby killing? 

On top of this, they try to have a type of muddled thinking stand for Socratic dialectic.  It is an insult to Socrates and Plato.  See this sample of modern thought of university graduates--another turning things up on its head.  

Friday, May 16, 2014

Preschool Unit: Vocations in the Family / Vocation of being a Child

This is a bulletin board I made with the children.  They painted all the flowers, of course.  It was a nice display also for Mother's Day Tea.

We enjoyed the new book on the vocation of being a child by Mary Moerbe and Gene Veith.
I would suggest that every family would profit from owning it.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

What makes a high quality preschool? -- and church?

Copied from this website

Adult-child interactions which are responsive, affectionate and respectful;

Highly qualified and experienced professional educators.

Staff-to-child ratios which allow staff to interact with children.

Effective intentional curriculum that involves active engagement with children.

Space for children to have nurturing and emotionally supportive relationships with early childhood staff;

An integration between care and education;

Promotion of early literacy and math skills;

Responsiveness to cultural diversity;

High standards of safety and child protection;

An atmosphere that fosters social, emotional and regulatory skills.

… but mostly, a high quality preschool is one where families, children and visitors feel welcome and valued.

Some of this, you might say, also applies to churches:  hospitality, intentionality, active engagement, literacy and responsiveness are qualities that need careful attention and cultivating. 

Spring 2014 / "One in Christ" Preschool curriculum endorsement, CPH

Outside, there are some leaves wanting to come out, now--ever so tentatively.  The Mother's Day glory of leafing out trees did not materialize this year due to cool temperatures.  At least the afternoon was warm enough to sit out, soak up a little sun while revving up the BarBQ with the family.  It was nice enough to be very grateful and happy.

(I'm joking.  It wasn't like the picture.)

I can give thanks that I've had a good winter with paid employment, volunteer involvement and trying out new exercises, (though I did complain about the Yoga, the other day).

Leading the Seniors Community Choir has been a very great joy.  Conducting is the most fun I have ever had, in terms of work or music.  I have learned so many songs which are the Seniors' favorites, but brand new to me.  Teaching Preschool is also fun, though busy and sometimes draining.  You are forever knee-deep in beautiful books and stories, in props and sound effects, and craft material, continually gazing into the cute, fresh faces, though regularly some with running noses.  Both activities have been a great excuse to keep buying books and toys.  The downside is that my little house really is now fully stuffed to the rafters.  It looks like it is time for a garage sale of all the items I have not used since we moved here.

While talking about this, I would recommend this one resource, however, for Preschool teaching. It was an excellent purchase.  It is a new series from Concordia Publishing House (2013).  Series A is for younger Preschoolers and Series B is for older Preschoolers.  The books are laid out wonderfully survey-able with color-coding on colored pages, well illustrated and completely current in theory.  If I could have made only one purchase, I would have gone to the Concordia Series.  The information is linked below.

The ideas are well grouped under themes and Bible stories and work well.  This saves much time and headache and adds variety to the planning.  Top marks in my books for this One in Christ series. If you do not have much background, you can just purchase this and get going.  Of course, nowadays, we also have the internet, which is a fantastic help.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Grand requires General Theories / Chesterton

The theory of the unmorality of art has established itself firmly in the strictly artistic classes.  They are free to produce anything they like.  They are free to write a "Paradise Lost" in which Satan shall conquer God.  They are free to write a "Divine Comedy" in which heavens shall be under the floor of hell.  And what have they done?  Have they produced in their universality anything grander or more beautiful than the things uttered by the fierce Ghibbeline Catholic, by the rigid Puritan schoolmasters?  We know that they have produced only a few roundels.  Milton does not merely beat them at his piety, he beats them at their own irreverence.  In all their little books of verse you will not find a finer defiance of God than Satan's.  ... Blasphemy is an artistic effect, because blasphemy depends upon a philosophical conviction.  Blasphemy depends upon belief, and is fading with it.  If any one doubts this, let him sit down seriously and try to think blasphemous thoughts about Thor.  I think his family will find him at the end of the day in a state of some exhaustion.  (Chesterton, Heretics.  Introductory Remarks)

I have to admit to not knowing a lot about what he is all aluding to.  But it seems like an excellent paragraph.  I wish I would get around to reading Milton and Dante, etc., but I may not make it.  I don't even have time today to look up "Ghibbeline" and "roundel".

But the part about proper blasphemy needing some sort of belief makes sense. And hence, we know that Chesterton is right about it all.  There is no "unmorality of art".


Apparently, this sort of thing, below, is a "roundel".  Well, lacking art about as much as the abstract above.

Monday, May 12, 2014


"It's possible to listen to non-Christian music and watch non-Christian movies through the eyes of faith and through a Christian sensibility and a Christian imagination."

(Gene Veith in the Canadian Lutheran)

I have been wondering what is "sensibility."  It's not a word I use actively, nor does anyone I know personally.  In the German language, we say about someone that they might be "sensibel", which would mean often that they are touchy, moody, or possibly depressive.  In the best sense of the word it would mean that they have capacity to feel deeply and broadly.  It would be the opposite to being a clod. To me, the most common meaning of "sensibel" would be "touchy".

The Internet gives these definitions for "sensibility":  The ability to appreciate and respond to complex emotional or aesthetic influences;  sensitivity.  Or synonyms:  finer feelings, delicacy, taste, discrimination, discernment.  A Person's delicate sensitivity that makes them readily offended or shocked.

Wikipedia, has this sort of detailed thing:

Sensibility refers to an acute perception of or responsiveness toward something, such as the emotions of another. This concept emerged in eighteenth-century Britain, and was closely associated with studies of sense perception as the means through which knowledge is gathered. It also became associated with sentimental moral philosophy.
One of the first of such texts would be John Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), where he says, "I conceive that Ideas in the Understanding, are coeval with Sensation; which is such an Impression or Motion, made in some part of the Body, as makes it be taken notice of in the Understanding."[1] George Cheyne and other medical writers wrote of "The English Malady," also called "hysteria" in women or "hypochondria" in men, a condition with symptoms that closely resemble the modern diagnosis of clinical depression. Cheyne considered this malady to be the result of over-taxed nerves. At the same time, theorists asserted that individuals who had ultra-sensitive nerves would have keener senses, and thus be more aware of beauty and moral truth. Thus, while it was considered a physical and/or emotional fragility, sensibility was also widely perceived as a virtue.
Originating in philosophical and scientific writings, sensibility became an English-language literary movement, particularly in the then-new genre of the novel. Such works, called sentimental novels, featured individuals who were prone to sensibility, often weeping, fainting, feeling weak, or having fits in reaction to an emotionally moving experience. If one were especially sensible, one might react this way to scenes or objects that appear insignificant to others. This reactivity was considered an indication of a sensible person's ability to perceive something intellectually or emotionally stirring in the world around them. However, the popular sentimental genre soon met with a strong backlash, as anti-sensibility readers and writers contended that such extreme behavior was mere histrionics, and such an emphasis on one's own feelings and reactions a sign of narcissismSamuel Johnson, in his portrait of Miss Gentle, articulated this criticism:
She daily exercises her benevolence by pitying every misfortune that happens to every family within her circle of notice; she is in hourly terrors lest one should catch cold in the rain, and another be frighted by the high wind. Her charity she shews by lamenting that so many poor wretches should languish in the streets, and by wondering what the great can think on that they do so little good with such large estates.[2]
Objections to sensibility emerged on other fronts. For one, some conservative thinkers believed in a priori concepts, that is, knowledge that exists independent of experience, such as innate knowledge believed to be imparted by God. Theorists of the a priori distrusted sensibility because of its over-reliance on experience for knowledge. Also, in the last decades of the eighteenth century, anti-sensibility thinkers often associated the emotional volatility of sensibility with the exuberant violence of the French Revolution, and in response to fears of revolution coming to Britain, sensible figures were coded as anti-patriotic or even politically subversive. Maria Edgeworth's Leonora, for example, depicts the "sensible" Olivia as a villainess who contrives her passions or at least bends them to suit her selfish wants; the text also makes a point to say that Olivia has lived in France and thus adopted "French" manners. In addition, the effusive nature of most sentimental heroes, such as Harley in Henry Mackenzie's The Man of Feeling, was often decried by literary critics as weak effeminacy, helping to discredit sentimental novels, and to a lesser extent, all novels, as unmanly works.

Aha, we see. 
What then is a Christian sensibility or imagination?  How do we choose what we let in or out of our heads and hearts?

Nowadays, it seem that the sensibility of our age expects us to be shocked at nothing, and then call everything "love." Everything seems rendered meaningless.  How is a Christian sensibility counter to this trend?--Love is more defined.  The Bible tells us what kinds of things are loving and which not.  It is an understanding that needs cultivating.  It does not happen entirely on its own.  There may be the innate--as the natural law demands--but that can easily be dulled or manipulated.  Chesterton would say that Orthodoxy helps us find a way while everyone else leaves us stranded at the crossroads.  There is a certain direction in the Christian sensibility;  it is not afloat. 

I find that also life events really change a person's "sensibility", much more so than art.  When we have been through a type of situation, we can understand it, we have certain feelings about it, we have developed a certain sensibility about it.  Novels can let us enter into situations we don't face ourselves, and thus we can learn empathy through this channel.  It still is not at all the same kind of thing as experiencing something yourself.  

The Bible lets us enter into various kinds of situations and trials, exercising our imagination and sensibility.  The trials, foibles and  faith of Israel, the patriarchs, and so on, are also my own.  King David's faithful courage inspires our own.  Plenty of not so inspiring events occur in the Bible, too, but the Christian "sensibility" is able to put these things to use, too.  None of us are any better than another.  We are all dependent on God's grace. He gives and takes away.  We have nothing from ourselves. 

The essence of the Christian sensibility is that things come from the outside, we need not stir the pot on the inside.  It is already boiling over.  Rather we find a way to think and feel and proceed. 

"Without love.  I like it rough.  Because I'd rather feel pain than nothing, at all."


Saturday, May 10, 2014

Gene Veith / Christian Imagination 3

From an interview with Matthew Block.  Something I was missing from my own summary:

God has given us a book that's filled with description, stories, symbols, images, true history, and parables.  We often read Scripture fairly quickly, just to get ideas from it--to extract doctrine from it.  But another way of reading Scripture is to read it in a way that really lets it sink in.  Part of that is reading it not only with the intellect and will, but also with the imagination.  In our forthcoming book, Rev. Ristuccia and I talk about different ways of meditating on the Word of God.  It involves the intellect and thinking about what we're reading, of course, but is also involves picturing what we're reading.  And it also affects the will, so that it ends in prayer and a refocusing of the heart.  I think intentionally reading Scriptures so that it feeds the imagination is a good counter to what we normally feed our imaginations with from the pop-culture around us. 
Finally, Christians can also be careful about what they take into their imaginations.  I think the Christian faith liberates us;  we have great freedom in the Gospel.  So I'm not saying 'Only listen to Christian music' or 'Only watch Christian movies.'  It's possible to listen to non-Christian music and watch non-Christian movies through the eyes of faith and through a Christian sensibility and a Christian imagination.  When we do so, we can find valuable things.  A violent film might make us more compassionate--might make us less violent.  But another film might encourage us to revel in the violence--to enjoy it and fantasize about what it would be like to take revenge and kill someone.  That's harmful.  As Christians, we need to be better stewards and more discerning about what we take into our imaginations. 
A passage from Philippians puts it well:  'Whatever is true, whatever is honest, whatever is of good report... Think on such things' (Philippians 4:8).  That's a great guide that gives us principles of discernment.  It's liberating, not narrow either;  the key part of the text is 'whatever.'  Whatever is excellent.  There are excellent works by non-Christians that have a good report;  they have a great reputation.  And typically, the great works are also honest:  they will not portray reality in a distorted way, as if sin were something good (you won't find many great works teaching 'it is good to reject your family'.  That's not what you find.  The great works are honest.  They're lovely.  And St. Paul tells us to 'think on such things.'  Thinking on such 'excellent and praiseworthy' things, imagining such things, is very helpful for the Christian life.  
(Canadian Lutheran, March/April 2014)

I will clean my house. Ooh, look, a book!

Photo: Cute !

Friday, May 9, 2014

Process / Chesterton

"When everything about a people is for the time growing weak and ineffective, it begins to talk about efficiency.  So it is that when a man's body is a wreck he begins, for the first time, to talk about health.  Vigorous organisms talk not about their processes, but about their aims.  There cannot be any better proof of the physical efficiency of a man than that he talks cheerfully of a journey to the end of the world.  And there cannot be any better proof of the practical efficiency of a nation than that it talks constantly of a journey to the end of the world, a journey to the Judgment Day and the New Jerusalem.  There can be no stronger sign of a coarse material health than the tendency to run after high and wild ideals;  it is in the first exuberance of infancy that we cry for the moon.  None of the strong men in the strong ages would have understood what you meant by working for efficiency.  Hildebrand would have said that he was working not for efficiency, but for the Catholic Church.  Danton would have said that he was working not for efficiency, but for liberty, equality, and fraternity.  Even if the ideal of such men were simply the ideal of kicking a man downstairs, they thought of the end like men, not of the process like paralytics."

(G.K. Chesterton.  Introductory Remarks. "Heretics")

... "not of the process like paralytics."  Haha, funny.  Chesterton gives me belly-laughs.

My feelings about "process" have mostly been something like that, even in relation to science education.  Talk about "process", "efficiency", or even "the journey" seem to take the passion right out of things, or let the air out of the balloon.  When someone is just on a journey, or enjoying the ride, or on the way, one seems to really want to know where they are headed and whether one can take an interest in the goal.

There must be a time or place for that sort of process thinking or talk, though.  I wonder how one would distinguish.

For example, Applebaum in her book on the history of the Iron Curtain in Eastern Europe (see recent post) is trying to recapitulate the process so we can learn from what we can glean. It seems an important work--perhaps specifically the work of the historian or journalist--supposedly detached, unsentimental and fair. It is meant to be a report.  It is not forward looking, though it aims to rebuild the societies that have seen demolishing by totalitarianism.

"Dies Irae", CBC

"Dies Irae"--short, six minute clip from CBC and the halls of Toronto about the recent history of what he calls the "death song".   Well done.

And the ones that I am familiar with, different tunes:

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

"Iron Curtain" / Applebaum

My spare afternoon was spent skim reading:  "Iron Curtain.  The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-1956" by Anne Applebaum., published in fall of last year.

This is an important book with many high recommendations, as can be gleaned from the cover.  Since I grew up in Germany at the height of the Cold War, I have my own perspective and memories, which I might describe in due course.  My husband and I even have traveled to East Germany before the wall came down.  We have also learned about the Gulag via Solzhenitsyn.  Therefore, at first, I thought I understood much about the Communist Totalitarianism.  But Applbaum's intentions go beyond recounting history.  She is looking at the methods and processes of instituting Soviet style oppression in several countries at the same time.  We learn how old institutions are done away with or harassed into traumatic dilemmas.  Until an isolation and loneliness or fear of violence beats a population into obedience to the police apparatus.  She shows how this is rationalized and propagated.

Things get very interesting in the details of the interviews.  There are many hugely interesting and fascinating bits that provide the insight into the situation and the process, both psychologically, in terms of the individuals, and the system itself.  Applebaum says that the Humpty Dumpty, or the egg omelet, can't just be put back together.  The oppression has been hugely damaging to the societies.  If they are to be rebuilt, she says, it needs to be understood firstly, how they became undone.

I have begun underlining and now I have to buy a book to give a clean one to the owner (since it is a borrowed book;  Gary, I know.)

So much.  We'll get back to this.  I also want to look at Chesterton more, as he was somewhat prescient of all this, with his own observations.

Friday, May 2, 2014

An East West dialogue / Yoga class thoughts

Mother Theresa once counseled a dying woman who had been found on a garbage dump in India, probably in Calcutta, where she worked.  The woman had been put there by her own son; --just imagine the cruelty and loss of dignity.  Her anguish was, understandably, very great.  The dear nun labored to win her by wrestling with the woman's demons.  She strenuously taught her to forgive even this horror.  She told her that she must forgive if she was to die in peace.  I believe they managed it together.

This story has always remained with me, both for the depth of the distress of having been dumped (in the most literal meaning of the word possible) and the rawness of the essential Christian message--forgiveness is costly and hard-won, but Always possible.

I thought about this, of all places, while in Egoscue Yoga class, a small group conducted in near darkness, in a room at the local Multiplex Gymn/ Walkting Track/  Physio place.  The ninety minute class concludes with dedicating exactly half an hour of just stretching your flexor muscles.  This is accomplished with relative physical ease, and no great feat.  You lie on your back with one leg up on a chair at a 90 degree angle and the other leg extended, but held correctly.

Quite frankly, I had never heard of the flexor muscle, nor the need to stretch it this long--15 min. on one side and then 15 min. on the other side.  I am probably supposed to empty my mind, relax and think about my breath, but I am finding it is rather a time for my mind to go all over.   No doubt, I am not into the practice enough.  And then, the whole thing is likely just a ruse to get some sort of positive energy, or chi, or chai, or charka--what do I know--out of it.

Be that as it may, I have never had a problem with the flexor muscle, and in fact, my lower back is quite fine.  But in the quiet womb of that room, things happen.  Once in a while I have sighed.  What happens next is that, when I sigh, the instructor comes over and asks if I am OK.  She may even re-adjust the elevated leg somewhat, if it does not look like an exact 90 degree angle to her.  Really, I have not received so much attention for little things in a long time, and she is very sweet about it, but it is a little embarrassing, since it seems that this does not occur with the other people.  Or else it is so subtle with the others that I miss it.  The instructor's manner is very beautiful--ever so gentle but deliberate, like a mother soothing a child. She seems like someone you could trust yourself to, a guru, one might say.  In fact, her touch is somewhat pleasurable and relaxing.

G.K. Chesterton wrote a piece contrasting Western saints and Eastern saints.  Saints of the West have their eyes open when depicted, focusing outward.  Saints of Eastern religions are shown often with their eyes closed, involved in some meditative technique.--Here I lie, in semi-darkness, supposedly a Western saint, happily trusting in the blood of the lamb of God, thinking about Mother Theresa and Chesterton.  (The latter, Rome is going to make into a Saint sooner or later.)  And also in thinking about my Yoga instructor, she strikes me as saintly, too.  For all I know she could be Buddhist or Catholic, or hey, Lutheran, or even Atheist.

Anyways, regarding my instructor's touch:  it takes me back--back to gentle touches of the past--my mother's, first love, love that was amazed, wide-open-eyed, profound and not goal or climax oriented.  A self-less love and in that sense a thought-less love, featuring pure touch, no desire.  A love that just beamed down on you. A love that is love.  And yet, we can't stay there, in this love, permanently.  It is ever only a moment.  We have to go on, see the tasks at hand and accomplish them.--And desire is not bad, in itself.  Buddhism wants to extinguish all desire.

See!  I have thought all that already while about 5 min. into the flexor muscle stretch.  Only 25 min. left to go.

From love, touch and desire, my thoughts move on to marriage, aging, friendship, losses and rejection.  In the midst of my self-pities, I have been finding the indignities and losses of this stage of life a hugely unpleasant surprise.  It all hits me with a ton of bricks right here and now.  I don't even want to go into in writing it down.  There are important relationships I have ceased working on because they feel like rejection after rejection.-- At this point in the Yoga class, I could let out a great big groan, which would surely send the instructor flying over here.  The rejections you receive, or perceive to receive, as you age, require strength to overcome, strength to still try and live graciously.  The effort seems superhuman, at times. Who can bear it all and be happy still? -- By now, I could proceed from a groan to a howl.

Well, I won't howl here. I have this much control over pain.  There is a pain which cannot be reached, or nobody wants to reach, or nobody wants to expose.  Or is it that nobody wants to deal with? Or maybe it just does not even do any good to think about it, or to feel it?

Even Jesus felt it.  And he howled.  In public.  Naked. He let us hear it. He felt rejected.  "Why have you forsaken me?"  The bystanders mocked him, of course. "He trusted in God; let him deliver him."

Did Buddha feel it?  --Well, he is the one who tried to meditate it away.  Extinguish.

What about Mohammed?  And Joseph Smith, and all false prophets?  They would have never said that they felt forsaken by God.  They certainly felt like important martyrs for a cause but still they had God in their back-pocket.  He was always on their side.  They would bludgeon the whole world before they admitted weakness, fear or abandonment.

I am beginning to wonder if I am stretching right.  By now something should start feeling stretched.  Maybe the position is off.  Maybe the instructor is not quite firm enough with me.  Maybe I am wasting my time.  And on top of it, now I feel close to crying and howling.  Actually, I think I am crying.  Ahhh, better wipe away those tears before the instructor comes to see what's wrong now.  She is very attuned to the vibrations around here.  She probably caught me at it, even though she did not come, she, the vigilant watcher over me.

Still, I am thinking about this pain, this dumping of women on trash heaps, dead or alive, infected or dying, abandoned, useless.  I am thinking about over-powering sorrow.  At the bottom of it all is an insatiable hunger for love, a deep, vast desire and longing often described by better writers.

There is a Paul Gerhardt hymn that says about the newborn infant King in the manger: "Oh, that my soul were a huge chasm or a wide ocean, that it may grasp you."  Well, I can say and certify that the soul is, indeed, a very huge chasm and great sea, and in spite of that even more expandable in additional sorrow and joy. We say sometimes that the heart has a Christ-shaped hole in it. Yes, truly, it is Christ-shaped, but it is not a little hole, it is an ocean sized expansive black hole. The reason only Christ can fill it is, first of all, because he is big enough.   And qualitatively, only Christ can fill it because the answer can only be forgiveness and hope, resting in God's hands.

By now, I wonder if it is worth thinking about all these things, if it is worth going to Yoga class, and if it is worth writing down.  Finally, the flexor stretch is done.  The instructor intones a kind of blessing:  "May you be well.  May you be happy."

Ok. Em. Yea.
Time to go.  Cook some dinner.  Or something.

On Sunday mornings, one can see people walking with their yoga mats to the gymn instead of going to church, nowadays.  I am afraid that I have the same sort of self-centered thoughts some Sunday mornings, as my mind wanders, but at least I get to sing and pray and feast on the Lord's forgiveness for my sins, and have coffee with my friends.   And none of it should distract me from getting some aerobics, which is most lacking in a daily routine, since we drive everywhere by car.

Some people might tell me that I should not go to Yoga class, as it may be an anti-Christian activity.  I cannot say at this point that it is, in this time and place.  It may be so, if there are other activities and prayers.  I will watch out for it, the devil being roaring lion ever circling.  I also am not sure that it is helpful to descend so deeply into self-pity, as I generally do, when I just let my mind go like this.  It's a veritable snake-pit, down there.  But then there maybe things to work through...  Some good.  Some bad.  And Christ also serves us through the helping professions.  My Yoga instructor may be a helping professional.  In that sense her simple touch, maybe the touch of Christ.

Thanks be to God.

1. Tim. 4:4
"For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving,"

“There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person, and it can never be filled by any created thing. It can only be filled by God, made known through Jesus Christ.” 
- Blaise Pascal, Pensees

Acts 17:22-27

New Century Version (NCV)

22 Then Paul stood before the meeting of the Areopagus and said, “People of Athens, I can see you are very religious in all things. 23 As I was going through your city, I saw the objects you worship. I found an altar that had these words written on it: to a god who is not known. You worship a god that you don’t know, and this is the God I am telling you about! 24 The God who made the whole world and everything in it is the Lord of the land and the sky. He does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 This God is the One who gives life, breath, and everything else to people. He does not need any help from them; he has everything he needs. 26 God began by making one person, and from him came all the different people who live everywhere in the world. God decided exactly when and where they must live. 27 God wanted them to look for him and perhaps search all around for him and find him, though he is not far from any of us: