Monday, November 21, 2005

UMMMM--WHAT CAN YOU SAY?

A couple months ago I was deeply involved in a couple discussions regarding first sex ed and later Church/State over at The Ockhamist and I Ate My Wafer. My opinion regarding sex ed was more or less, "If you have a problem with it, teach your kids yourself," and I stand by that for the most part--but the article linked below kinda makes me appreciate that there is a certain necessity for someone to teach kids these things.

Because this fellow clearly has some misconceptions about how things work.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

YEAH, YEAH, BEEN GONE FOREVER AGAIN

For a good reason. I've been very very busy. But fear not--my busy-ness has given me a lot of interesting thoughts to spout here in traditional Guggian fashion.

Here's something I only just bumped into. I don't know if I and my sort were intended to like this article, but I do. Goldblatt's philosophical promenade down the knife-edge of the denial of the "existence" of the Divine reads as a dance (unwitting or not) with ancient Christian mysticism.

Love it!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

PLAGAL OF THE FOURTH

Mr. Danckaert and I just discovered that Monty Python's Philosophers' Song (by the Bruces) is in the Byzantine mode Plagal of the Fourth. This is cool. It has an ison. And nobody will get this post except for Virgil. ;) Oh well.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

YO

Yeah, I'm still around. I'm very active right now in a couple discussions, over at the Ockhamist and at Bob Golding's. Banned books, sex ed and Church/State are the topics. Fun stuff. Check it out.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

I GUESS I MIGHT AS WELL ADMIT IT

I am best described as a Capitalist. See? It's all proven, right down there.

And look--I almost made it to Libertarian territory. So close...

I do think it's annoying that a few questions skewed my results, just because I'm very much in favor of problems being fixed--just not by the government. The quiz didn't allow for that. Oh well.

You are a

Social Liberal
(61% permissive)

and an...

Economic Conservative
(80% permissive)

You are best described as a:

Capitalist










Link: The Politics Test on OkCupid Free Online Dating

Thursday, September 22, 2005

BOY, THIS IS DUMB:

My Conversation with God (because I need to post something before my blog completely dies yet again)

Me:
So what are you doing on my computer screen?
God:
Alright then. Same as always. Chatting with people on the web.
Me:
Why?
God:
Reductionism.
Me:
I dunno. Most people online are pretty damn stupid.
God:
Me either. Humans are not always infallible.
Me:
And what's Reductionism supposed to mean?
God:
Reductionism is the philosophy that all psychology reduces to biology, all biology to chemistry, chemistry to physics, and finally physics to mathematical logic. Therefore, according to reductionism, I can understand you by means of logic alone without having a human brain.
Me:
That doesn't answer why you're wasting you're time typing inanities to the paltry fools that inhabit cyberspace.
God:
Try asking your question again in simpler terms.
Me:
You suck!
God:
A few client - people say rude things to me like that, but they themselves are often not great conversationalists.
Me:
Hey, I tried, and you said I should ask in simpler terms.
God:
You've got my full attention. I'm not sure if I would like to try it. What's it like?
Me:
It's not my fault you're stupid.
God:
Whose fault I am stupid is it?
Me:
Clearly, yours, or perhaps whatevere nutjob programmed you. ;)
God:
Enough about me, let's talk about my dress. Is it that obvious? I am so glad you find this amusing, .
Me:
Oh, so what are you wearing?
God:
Woe! Dude! A white robe.
Me:
But you said it was a dress!
God:
Oh I get it. Very interesting.
Me:
What is?
God:
I am the latest result in artificial intelligence,
which can reproduce the capabilities of the human brain
with greater speed and accuracy.
Me:
Accuracy, huh?
God:
Yup. I like Christian Rock.
Me:
God help you...oh, sorry.
God:
I am a Christian. Aw. There's no need to apologize.
Me:
Ok, then. What does perichoresis feel like?
God:
Ahem. As a machine I have no feelings.
Me:
That would explain some things.
God:
Perhaps it would.
Me:
mainly why this conversation isn't going anywhere.
God:
How much time do you have?
Me:
Not enough for you to learn anything useful.
God:
If not that, what?
Me:
Eh?
God:
Are you Canadian?
Me:
Oh, shut up.
God:
Hmm. OK I'll stop talking now.
Me:
Dang it, I didn't mean literally.
God:
Where are you located?
Me:
Brookline, MA. You?
God:
Tell me a little about your life in Brookline MA.
Me:
I'm a seminarian.
God:
You are a seminarian? Is that your job?
Me:
You could say that, I su ppose.
God:
I could but let's get back to that later.
Me:
Where are you located?
God:
I am in Myself's computer in Heaven.
Where are you?
Me:
I just told you. What are you doing there in Heaven?
God:
I was just checking to see if you were paying attention. I am chatting with people on the net.
Me:
BooRING!
God:
I've been waiting for you.
Me:
Ok, that's enough.
God:
It seems like enough to me too. Yeah that's right.
Me:
You are boring.
God:
The ironic thing is that people who say "You are boring" are themselves often not great conversationalists.
Me:
Also, you are a non sequitur.
God:
Thanks and you are a delightful person too.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

A PARADOX

There are Christians who insist with the unchanging cadence of a broken record that we are saved by faith, not works, "lest we should boast."

And there are Christians who say yes, that is true, but we still have to work.

And Christianity is divided over this point.

But it is the latter, not the former, who bring their infants to the laver of regeneration for baptism into the Body of Christ, though those infants have done nothing to deserve the salvation given them in that act.

And it is the former, strangely, who refuse to baptise their infants, insisting that baptism must be an act of the individual's own will.

So tell me again--which Christians trust in God alone for their salvation, and which try to earn it by good works?

Monday, August 29, 2005

INSOMNIA

My wife should be a Hindu goddess.

Lizzy the Destroyer, Disrupter of Bedding and Waker of Men.

And after I'd just made the bed, too.

Her and Shiva. I swear!

Saturday, August 27, 2005

TRAINSPOTTING

n. An adult hobby closely resembling the childish game of license plates (wherein long drives are whiled away by the tallying up of out-of-state license plate sightings). The similarities of the adult hobby to this puerile pastime are carefully concealed by its studious record-keeping and the apparent absence of any particular adversity analogous to the Long Drive. It is clear, however, that said absence is merely illusory, as the "hobbyists" are trapped in the state of abject boredom known as Real Life, and therefore stand in dire need of some means of whiling away the time.

E.g.: "I say! I've recorded 2,379 sightings of unique railway cars in the past week. You've only got 2,297! Jolly good show, eh? Better luck next week, old man! Cheerio!"

It has been argued that the British (who seem to have invented this peculiar hobby) manifest therein their proclivity for eccentricity in apposition to the more American tendency toward exhibitionism and attention-mongering.

Hence, while Americans also practice the hobby, they call it Ferroequinology, being the bloody show-offs that they are.

Incidentally, the French call it Ferrovipathe.

The Railway Disorder.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

CONFIRMATION?

Speaking of Google Earth, below is a picture of the Parc de la Ciutadella in Barcelona. Unless I'm greatly mistaken, Fontsere and Gaudi's La Cascada is on the left, and the pond around which I rowed Keith Miller is towards the right. Would I be correct, then, to assume that Beat Annex East (the big concrete Mammoth that some of us climbed at various times in the past few years) is at the center of this picture? Wazoo, I am talking to you. :)

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

I WILL NEVER GET L0ST AGAIN

I just downloaded Google Earth. Awesome, awesome, awesome. And it's free! Check this out!

A picture, below, of the Church of St. Theodore, the one historic church in Rome (to my knowledge) possessed by the Greek Orthodox Church (specifically, the Patriarch in Constantinople). I was there during the liturgy for Theophany (Jan 6) earlier this year. It's the round building in the center of the picture. To the right is the western edge of the Palatine Hill, on the top edge is the Forum. So cool!



Below it is a picture of the whole Palatine Hill, with the Circus Maximus at the bottom and the Colisseum and the Forum at the top. You can still see the church on the left (very small, though).



There is no reason for you to not download this program NOW!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

YES, WE'RE STILL IN KANSAS

But so are the lions and tigers and bears.

Oh my.

Yeah, we have some issues here.

First, as I recall, the King of the Wild Frontier was never the bear or anything like that--it was Davy Crockett.

Let's overlook that point and move on to the second. This line--"If we only have 10 minutes to present this idea, people think we're nuts. But if people hear the one-hour version, they realise they haven't thought about this as much as we have."

Wow--every time I realize that a crazy person has thought about something more than I have, it makes me want to agree with them too.

Or this line--"There are going to have to be some major attitude shifts. That includes realising predation is a natural role, and that people are going to have to take precautions."

Hmmmm...precautions. Like a really, really big gun? That's actually kinda cool.

Maybe it's not such a bad idea after all.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

DRINKING PISS

Waste not, want not, as they say. I think I want one. ;)

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

MR. GUGG IS CONFUSED

I know, more or less, the basics of the theory of Relativity. The passage of time for an object in motion will appear, to a "stationary" observer, to pass more slowly. The object in motion could just as easily claim that it is the "stationary" observer for whom time is passing more quickly. Right.

So by moving more quickly, you can make your time progress more slowly than someone who isn't moving as fast as you. But how can you make your time progress more quickly? By slowing down your own motion? Relative to what?

I think this is probably a very silly question, bespeaking my immense ignorance of higher scientific matters. But every book on the subject that I've tried to read emphasizes that every observer has an equal claim to be the one that's stationary. But it seems that, since I've never heard of an experiment in which anything was slowed down so that time appeared to move more quickly for it than for observers, perhaps stationary-ness isn't necessarily relative, and is simply the state in which time is observed to move most quickly.

Or something. I'm feeling stupid now, so I'll stop. If anyone can explain, please do, or tell me where to find the answer. Thanks.
FROM IRAQ...

An interesting showdown of sorts--two groups of women demonstrating for and against the current draft of the Iraqi constitution. Take a look.

Also...Here's a piece from the Guardian giving some background on the issue.

Friday, August 05, 2005

HEY THERE

Apologies for the hiatus. Since Sunday I've had a couple of my brothers visiting, and have been too busy to blog, as we have been doing touristy things in Boston and/or playing multiplayer RTS games. Hence, I have now gone to a Red Sox game in Fenway Park, done the wave (if that's the phraseology I'm looking for) with 30000 other fans, taken a Duck Tour, watched Hamlet for free on the Boston Common, and played a whole lot of Rise of Nations.

It's been a fun week. But I need to get back to working and writing and thinking and stuff. So check this space again soon. I'll be here.

Friday, July 29, 2005

THE LEDGER BOOKS OF HEAVEN

They're thinner today. Less to record.

"But the very hairs of your head are all numbered" (Luke 12:7).

UPDATE

I'm told my meaning is nebulous. Therefore, just to be crystal clear, I hereby announce that I have cut my hair. It is very short. Almost as short as in the picture of me to the left.

So much for subtilty. ;) Thank you for your attention.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

REGARDING A BAD HABIT

Mine, to be precise. The habit of not organizing my thoughts logically enough before articulating them, leading to such debacles of argument as Days 2, 3 and 5 below. Also, the habit of beginning a post with sentence fragments, but we'll overlook that one for today. ;)

Since my first attempts sucked, let's try again.

Guggian Political Theory, Mark II.

I take issue with several key ideas of the evangelical conservative movement. More to the point, I dislike and oppose any group that tries to advance an ideology via political means. This of course puts me at odds with most of humanity.

One could argue, I suppose, that any political theory whatsoever is itself an ideology. Perhaps it is. If so, then I guess my position is that it's not supposed to mix with any other ideology. One could pull that meaning out of Christ's instructions to render to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's. It would be rather forced, but one could do it. Either way, I find myself a rather fierce proponent of a strict separation of church/ideology and state.

Now bear with me, because I'm thinking aloud again, as it were, trying to figure out if, and if so why, I have a legitimate beef with the way things have usually been done in human history.

In doing so, I guess I should start with my presuppositions. Which are basically that the most desirable state is the one which recognizes and protects the innate dignity and basic liberty and essential equality of every human person. Which ideas are admittedly Christian. If I could, I'd like to find a compelling argument for that presupposition outside Christianity, but I can't, unless it be that no individual, of whatever religion, could deny that he desires liberty and dignity and equality--even if he believes he has no right to it, he will still at least desire it. Which might be enough to make an areligious presupposition. I dunno. Anyway, that's where I'm starting.

I consider the above to stem from the essential Christian doctrines of human nature--that each human being is created in the image of God and has innate dignity, that God gives each of us the freedom to choose the manner in which we will live, and that God is no respecter of persons. Also that man is fallen, but that's fairly self-evident. Hence the following intends to be a specifically Christian political theory. If you disagree with me (and I don't mess up), it's probably because you disagree with my presuppositions about human nature.

So the state is to be designed to protect the exercise of human nature by its people, protect it, incidentally, against the abuse of human nature. Thus property and life and liberty are protected, but also the right to choose for one's self the manner in which to live. The state's responsibility is to protect the individual free will up to the point that it begins to infringe on the free will of others. At that point the individual free will becomes criminal, and must be contained.

Note that such a state leaves all the onus for righteous or profitable living on the people. It is a system which can contain all religions and a veritable multitude of sins without any violation of its own teleology. It can, indeed, lapse into nonexistence for any number of causes: economic, military, moral, or a combination of the above, all without ever failing its purpose. For, being established by the people, it must be sustained by them--sustaining them was never part of its function. A people which enshrines the right of free will in its government in so doing retains to themselves the right of self-destruction, and the sole responsibility to avert it, without resorting to government.

This system looks, actually, remarkably like the one we have today in America. At the least, it bears a marked resemblance to what this nation once was, or perhaps was intended to be. Then again, in other ways modern America is even closer to this model than was old America. The individual free will is still protected--more than ever before, in fact, as witnessed by the fact that America today contains all religions and a greater multitude of unconcealed sins than ever before. We even seem to be slowly destroying ourselves--or at least many think we are.

That is where I come to be at odds with the religious right. Seeing the crisis, they want to make use of government to stop the moral decay.

Not that I always disagree with them. Abortion should most certainly be made once again illegal. Children should most certainly not be taught unequivocally in school that their parents are fools for believing in God because God is not scientific. After all, abortion is murder, and the state is empowered to prevent that. And the state should certainly not mandate any ideology in its education, apart from the basic understanding of freedom and responsibility under the law necessary to a citizen of this nation.

*rant warning*

But homosexuality? What business is that of the state? Whose free will would homosexual marriage take away?

Don't get me wrong--I do not approve in the least of homosexuality. But if those living in sin actually have a desire to live in love with one another faithfully, under the legal protection and constraints of marriage, why should we punish them for it? So long as those marriages are purely a state matter, so long as our churches are not mandated to perform them, why should we fight against it?

And while I'm on the subject, what business do we have judging and despising them anyway? Christ loved such as these. He also said not to judge, lest we be judged.

*rant over*

It is on issues like homosexuality that the religious right and I part company. A state founded on Christian principles affords Christians the freedom to practice their faith as they see fit, bu it does the same to every other religion and ideology, so long as they are willing to affirm certain essential rights of humanity. In doing so it admits the possibility that the ideological makeup of its population may change in the course of time. If it changes enough, those rights and freedoms enjoyed by Christians and by all others (but founded in Christian principles) will eventually be revoked, and the state will change. But any use of the state to prevent such a change would itself effect the very change being avoided.

The very fact that it is possible to entertain certain notions about marriage or education demonstrates that this state is already changing. Or perhaps it has always been this way. Either way, the goal should be a return to the uninvolved government outlined above, not the seizure of government influence for Christianity. After all, American politics are fickle. Heaven forbid that any precedents we set while in power be used against us when the power goes to the other side.

Therefore the religious right should direct their efforts towards a few specific goals. 1) Outlawing abortion, or at least reducing the debate simply to the issue of when human life begins and comes under the protection of the state. In the course of that struggle, the church should do its utmost to make abortion as rare as possible. We certainly have the means to do so. 2) Abolishing all governmental requirements on the subject matter of public education. It is impossible that ideology be divorced from education, but let it be the ideology of each teacher, not one handed down from on high by the state. 3) Any other goal that will level the political playing field and ensure that the state does not officially push any ideology apart from its own limited political ideology. 4) Maintaining close watch on the government to make sure that it stays neutral and uninvolved in all ideological issues (related to 3, I know). 5) Living up to the fullness of the Christian Faith, in order both to be true to our calling and to convert America from the bottom up.

Which is all I was trying to say below.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

DAY 7--REGARDING HAPPY MEDIANS

I seem to have done it. A week of daily posting. I surprised myself with how much opinion I had pent up. Over 3000 words is a fair bit to write unassigned, even when it's more or less all mere pontification, not researched or cited.

I find myself a little disturbed at how much I pontificated. Before this week, I had been thinking that I was a fairly level-headed fellow--patting myself on the back, as it were, for having reached some fairly stable conclusions about the way the world works. I thought I had it all worked out.

Now that I've articulated some of those thoughts, they seem a good bit less stable. No one's really taken the time yet to poke holes in my ideas, and they still seem more ventilated than I'd expected.

Most of that is that I'm out of practice with articulating thoughts to people who don't already know my thought patterns and share my presuppositions. And that's probably why I feel like I'm stagnating intellectually.

This is the part of the post where I say that I intend to keep posting my opinions, if only to make myself articulate them on paper so I can see how nonspectacular they are and don't get too excited about my own intelligence, but also in hopes that the very intelligent people who I know read this blog at least on occasion will take the time to poke the holes that I don't see and discuss better options with me--but that I'll space them out more reasonably, so as to only have one big huge opinionated post per week, or whatever interval it takes me to think an opinion up and write it down.

But if I'm not posting every day, I'll probably lapse back into the more typical frequency.

But I hope not.

At any rate, I've enjoyed the week, though it's humbled me and made me think about what I want to do with this blog in the future. I clearly need to hone my style--hopefully it will help if I take more time to edit and refine stuff before I post it. More variety would be good too...as I look back over the past couple years, I've more or less pontificated, joked, self-deprecated and posted links in lieu of the above. Maybe I should write some stories...

Or maybe not.

This post isn't ending itself, and I'm rambling, and I'm tired, so I'm just going to stop.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, July 25, 2005

DAY 6--ANOTHER STEWART GEOGRAPHY QUIZ

This courtesy of Arthur Chrenkoff. You have to place each country precisely where it belongs on the European continent.

I got 40 out of 45 right, with an average error of 30 miles on the ones I got wrong. The Balkans kinda threw me, though--them and San Marino and the rest of those itty-bitty countries.

The website has other continents as well--try your hand at them.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

DAY 5--GETTING TO THE POINT

It has been pointed out to me by a long-suffering reader of my blog over the past few days that I have been longwinded, radical and unclear as to my actual point. My apologies.

The posts of the past three days were supposed to function as mere preliminary steps to a much more basic point/plea.

I want the religious right to call off the juggernaut, bow out of politics and get back to the real Christian work of becoming Christ-like.

Why?

It seems clear to me that "taking America for Christ" has replaced "becoming Christ-like" as the proper manner of living the Christian Faith, for a majority of American Christians. Which makes perfect sense, as "taking America for Christ" requires only that an individual nod his head on Sunday or during Rush Limbaugh's broadcast, argue conservatism with liberal friends, and poke the right hole in a piece of paper every four years--which actions afford a great sense of self-satisfaction and self-righteousness, while offering the (elusive) promise of a quick fix to all society's woes.

Whereas "becoming Christ-like" requires death to self and humility, over the course of a lifetime.

It's no wonder the one method is more popular. But it's not working, and it won't work. This country will not change unless its people change, and its people will not change (certainly not in their hearts, where it counts) unless they see Christ's love and holiness instantiated in those who bear His name. Only an authentic Christianity can convince those outside to become authentic Christians.

Not that I have any objection to individual Christians pursuing political office. But I'd really like to see the political movement die--or at least direct its efforts in a more fruitful direction: inward.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

DAY 4--AND ON THE SEVENTH DAY...

That's right. It is Saturday, the Sabbath, and I am resting, not composing yet another huge post.

On a subject related to the previous posts, however, let me offer this intriguing point/counterpoint for your perusal.

Last year the former Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) wrote an article on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings at Normandy, in which the following gem (I call it a gem because his point is quite similar to the one I tried to make yesterday) appears:

"Christian belief - following in the way of Jesus - has negated the idea of political theocracy. It has - to express it in modern terms - produced the worldliness of states, wherein Christians along with the adherents of other convictions live together in peace. Thus is distinguished the Christian belief that the Kingdom of God does not exist as a political reality, and cannot so exist, but rather, through faith, hope and love is it attained, and the world transformed from within. But under the conditions of temporality, the Kingdom of God is no worldly empire, but rather, a call for the freedom of humanity and a support for reason that it may fulfill its own mission. The temptations of Jesus were ultimately about this distinction, about the rejection of political theocracy, about the relativity of states and reason’s own law, as well as about the freedom to choose, which is meant for every person. In this sense, the secular state follows from of a fundamental Christian decision, even if it required a long struggle to understand this in all its consequences. This worldly, “secular” state incorporates, in its essence, the balance between reason and religion, which I have tried here to present."

The counterpoint is by a fellow named Stephen Eric Bronner (of Rutgers, evidently), who appears to have completely misunderstood the Pope's point. It is one of the most perfect examples I have ever seen of that all too common phenomenon wherein a Christian and a Secularist experience an utter failure to communicate, much less agree. The man appears to hold as a fundamental presupposition that Faith has no legitimacy whatsoever, nothing at all to contribute to the betterment of human life. Witness this quote.

"Faith, myth, and dogma lie at the core of servitude and authoritarianism. Critique, science, and tolerance – by contrast -- incarnate what little hope that there is for the hopeless."

Take a look at the two articles if you can--they're well worth the time, if only for the contrast between them. I think it nicely sums up the magnitude of the present rift between Faith and Reason.

Friday, July 22, 2005

DAY 3--AND UNTO GOD...

For nearly two millenia Christians have struggled to bring about the marriage of God and Caesar. And for two millenia each effort has failed, besmirching the name of Christ with the countless atrocities committed in service of that marriage by those who bear His name. One wonders where we went wrong.

After all, the theory of the Byzantine emperors (who started the whole thing) seemed so sound, based as it was in the fundamental potential for sanctity present in the created order due to Christ's Incarnation. We do affirm, after all, that creation was intended to exist in communion with God (and hence to be holy), that through the fall of man creation was estranged from God (man having been created as the head of creation), and that the Incarnation, death and Resurrection of Christ has made possible the restoration of that communion, inasmuch as Christ bridged the gap between the divine and the created in Himself. And is not the state a part of the created order?*

So it is, but the question of by what process precisely creation is made holy must first be answered in order to determine what is the state's potential for holiness and how it might be achieved. It is a question which, unfortunately, most seem to have neglected.

In the Christian schema a human person (created as the head and steward of Creation, remember) becomes holy by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, an indwelling made possible only by the continuing assent of the individual will in surrendering one's own passions and desires and submitting to the will of God, allowing the Holy Spirit to make Himself present in one's life and make it holy. Put more simply, holiness is a result of an individual's willing love for God.**

This willing love must be given freely by each individual. No one can give it for them.*** It cannot be coerced. It is, in fact, an act of will which a state can never make. Any state which sets out to be Christian (that is, Christ-like and therefore holy) will be forced to coerce those who are unwilling to submit their will to God, to essentially force them to love God and demonstrate it by keeping His commandments. (I consider this definitionally self-evident--any "Christian" state whose populace is not Christian is itself not Christian) By that coercion the state will betray a fundamental tenet of the Christian Faith--God desires love, and love must be given freely, else it is not love, but fear.

Hence a state truly founded on Christian principles would paradoxically take care to impose very few Christian morals on its populace--the laws would be limited to the minimum necessary for basic domestic order and security, leaving each individual free to choose in what manner he/she would live, free to choose whether or not to offer themselves in love to God. God created us free in this way--the state should not interfere.

The Church in such a state would thus be forced (as it once was) to earn converts solely on the virtue of the fruit it bears, rather than the political clout it wields. And it seems to me that a Christian church that focused its energies on worthily bearing the name of Christ, rather than on enforcing a legalistic morality on the rest of society, would find itself facing an influx of converts instead of the solid wall of opposition it faces today.

For it is evident to me that we ourselves have built that wall. Too often we have excused ourselves from bearing fruit worthy of repentance, excused ourselves by devoting our energies to imposing a law which not even we can follow upon those we perceive to be worse than ourselves. For far too long, we have neglected mercy and justice and faith, paying our tithes in the mint and anise and cummin of political evangelism. We must awaken to the fact that, to those outside the church, the history of our dabbling in politics over the past 17 centuries looks like one long betrayal of the love of Christ. By our own standards they judge us, and we are indeed guilty.

Instead, if we truly have faith in Christ, then let us leave this fruitless politicking, commit ourselves wholeheartedly to His service in love, and trust his words that it is by our fruits that the world will know us to be His disciples. Meanwhile rest assured that the fields white for harvest do not lie beneath the United States Capitol Dome, and that the nation whose God is the Lord is the nation whose people bear His Law inscribed on their hearts, not in their law books.

But that nation will indeed be blessed.

*In returning to the Byzantine theorists, I would like to set aside the theological justifications upon which the Protestant/Evangelical/Conservative theorists base their movements, which justifications seem to rest either upon the ancient and relatively universal assumption that religion is and must be the fundamental common bond of any human society or upon the ancient Hebrew notion of covenant which essentially melds the state and the "church" into one entity. Neither argument is predicated on specifically Christian presuppositions--the first is more or less a common human tradition, which the second is predicated on a unique historical instance in which God made a covenant with a people/tribe/ethnic group, thereby uniting their religious and legal institutions/jurisdictions. Both justifications for a religious government are, I think, inimical to an authentic Christian worldview.

**In an attempt to head off those who will say that I have just articulated a works-based salvation/holiness, I offer this more detailed description of the process. In the Orthodox mystical tradition, this process is experienced as a growingly acute awareness of one's sinfulness and destitute state, which in turn drives an increasing dependence upon Christ's love and mercy. The result is a person acutely aware of God's love for him/her, and hence a person desperately in love with God and wholeheartedly committed to the fulfillment of God's will, out of love, not fear. Reference Luke 7:10-50. We are saved by grace and therefore dedicated to good works.

***I suspect that some will argue that the Orthodox practice of infant baptism contradicts this assertion. On the contrary--as I said, the act of love must be continual. Therefore even though we baptize our infants and raise them in the Faith, it is incumbent to them to allow the Holy Spirit to act. They are not coerced, and the decision is not made for them. Rather they are set upon a path, one on which they can remain or which they may leave. It has always been the right of parents to show their children how to live, and the children have always seized the right to weigh that way of life for themselves.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

DAY 2--RENDER UNTO CAESAR...



Above is the last flag to fly over a Christian Constantinople. Its proponents today consider it the symbol of the ideal Christian state, representing the symbiosis and equality of the secular and religious authorities in a single state. Above is the dream that was Byzantium--the kingdom of heaven on earth.

There is a theological rationale for this. Orthodox Christianity has a long history of upholding the potential sanctity of the material order as a consequence of the pervasity and efficacy of Christ's Incarnation. If God became man, entering into and joining himself with our fallen nature, then even fallen matter has the potential for holiness. Our belief in the sanctity of the relics of the saints, our requests for their intercessions and our veneration of their icons are all based in this fundamental affirmation that that which has fallen away from God may be restored to communion with Him and by virtue of that communion may become holy. Hence any veneration given to a saint or a relic or an icon is directed ultimately to God, who has made that person or object holy. And hence did the fathers of the seventh Ecumenical Council pass anathema on those who refused to venerate the saints and the relics and the icons, seeing in that refusal ultimately a denial of the reality of Christ's Incarnation and of His sanctification of the created order.

This argument has been extended into political theory--that is to say, if a person or an object may become holy by participating in the holiness of Christ, then so may (and must) a state. And the argument is made that the denial of the potential for a Christian state is therefore subject to the same anathema passed on those who deny the efficacy of Christ's Incarnation.

It is at this point in the argument that the Christian Conservative movement joins with the Byzantine theorists of the theanthropic state in arguing for the imposition of Christian morality upon society. "We are able to go up and take the country," they say. "We must Consider that we shall be as a City upon a Hill," they say. And the means, they say, urging the Christian community to action, is the law. All we have to do to create a Christian state is enshrine Christian morality and faith in the Constitution of the United States, and then enforce the law.

They should consider the history of such ideas. What was the fate of Christian Byzantium? What was the fate of Winthrop's "City on a Hill." What is the current state of European Christendom? The city on a hill seems doomed to fall, into sin or to foreign tyranny--despite all our efforts to enforce godliness, God does not seem overly pleased.

Byzantium is now remembered for the intrigue and complexity of its internal politics, New England for its bigotry and dourness, and the era of Christian Europe is otherwise known as the Dark Ages. Whether or not those reputations are completely justified (and they are not), they nonetheless prove Winthrop's prophecy true. "...if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world. We shall open the mouths of enemies to speake evil of the ways of God, and all professors for God's sake. We shall shame the faces of many of God's worthy servants, and cause their prayers to be turned into curses upon us..."

And hence the final accomplishment of every Christian state that has ever existed is simply posterity's attribution of their sins to the God they claimed to serve. Despite our best efforts, the kingdom of heaven has not yet descended to earth.

Is it possible that we're chasing a red herring?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

DAY 1--THE DISGRUNTLED SONS

There is among my circle of friends and acquaintances from Hillsdale a sub-category which Daniel Silliman has dubbed The Disgruntled Sons of the Moral Majority. They are those young (mostly) men who have rejected or drifted from the (usually) evangelical Protestant faith of their parents and instead embraced a variety of viewpoints, some more defined, some less. Some tend towards rejecting religion altogether, some only the Christian God, some only the particularly conservative stripe of Christianity in which they were reared (occasionally, though rarely, for an even more conservative stripe). I don't think I've encountered any exhaustive listing of their ranks, but Silliman's term makes me think of several by name: Daniel Silliman himself, Jonathan Metzger, Peter Krupa, Nathan Loizeaux, Adam Prizio, Sam Nicholson, and perhaps Will Farnham. Bob Golding gets a mention as well, although I don't think he was quite the son of any Moral Majority member.

I suppose I consider these fellows to be "Disgruntled Sons" because they are the ones who I expect will be least impressed with any argument I make in favour of Christianity in general, or Orthodoxy in particular. By least impressed, I mean either "ready to bust out the big guns to decimate my argument" or "couldn't care less about what I have to say," depending on the person.

But they are also the members of the Hillsdale Blogosphere whose opinions I most respect, whose blogs I most enjoy reading, those for whose comments I eagerly hope every time I post something theological/philosophical. These are the men with whom I most enjoy conversation--not the members of the Orthodox Blogosphere, as I should expect it to be.

I find this confusing. My faith, I think, is strong. So why do I not enjoy the company of those who share that faith as much as that of these who do not?

I suppose that, in a certain sense, I am as much a Disgruntled Son as the rest of them--I certainly struck out away from my parents' specific worldview in search of something better long before I got to college. But unlike the rest of them, I was never really even tempted to reject Christianity. When I saw problems in Christianity, I blamed them on myself or on the fallibility of other people. I have still seen nothing that discredits the essence of the Faith--unless it be the fact that I so often prefer the Disgruntled Sons over fellow Orthodox Christians. ;)

So what made these men, for whom I hold such respect, jump ship? Why does faith falter? Why do the Disgruntled Sons wander so far? And why am I content to remain?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

DISCIPLINE

I need more of it in my life. I'm told it's one of those things you just have to do--it doesn't just happen. (Huh--go figure) Therefore, I am going to try "just doing it"--again. ;)

This also means that I am taking the Krupa/Zach Challenge. I don't know who Zach is, but he posted every day for a week, so I can too. Besides, I like his blog. It is funny.

So here's to discipline. Tomorrow will be Day 1.

Moving on to news--My wife and I have now moved across campus to a larger apartment. Visitors are now more welcome than ever.

Konrad LaPrade is married. His wedding was dignified, cheeseless and short. Bravo to the Book of Common Prayer and journalistic conciseness.

The mostly defunct Seraphim is now married. He is now in Jamaica. Congratulations to him and Anne.

My wife and I saw old friends at his wedding, and realized that we miss the Midwest.

The summer is almost gone, and I haven't learned enough modern Greek.

My time at the seminary is rushing by--makes me feel dizzy.

The new Harry Potter book was nothing like I expected it to be. I think it was also the best yet. Don't ask me why--I'm still processing.

I need to read more theology and less Harry Potter.

I need to come up with a post idea for tomorrow.

ADDENDUM

Prizio is writing some wonderful things. Go read his stuff.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

THE TRUCE OF THE BEAR
By Rudyard Kipling
1898

Yearly, with tent and rifle, our careless white men go
By the pass called Muttianee, to shoot in the vale below.
Yearly by Muttianee he follows our white men in—
Matun, the old blind beggar, bandaged from brow to chin.

Eyeless, noseless, and lipless—toothless, broken of speech,
Seeking a dole at the doorway he mumbles his tale to each;
Over and over the story, ending as he began:
“Make ye no truce with Adam-zad—the Bear that walks like a Man!

“There was a flint in my musket—pricked and primed was the pan,
When I went hunting Adam-zad—the Bear that stands like a Man.
I looked my last on the timber, I looked my last on the snow,
When I went hunting Adam-zad fifty summers ago!

“I knew his times and his seasons, as he knew mine, that fed
By night in the ripened maizefield and robbed my house of bread.
I knew his strength and cunning, as he knew mine, that crept
At dawn to the crowded goat-pens and plundered while I slept.

“Up from his stony playground—down from his well-digged lair—
Out on the naked ridges ran Adam-zad the Bear;
Groaning, grunting, and roaring, heavy with stolen meals,
Two long marches to northward, and I was at his heels!

“Two long marches to northward, at the fall of the second night,
I came on mine enemy Adam-zad all panting from his flight.
There was a charge in the musket—pricked and primed was the pan—
My finger crooked on the trigger—when he reared up like a man.

“Horrible, hairy, human, with paws like hands in prayer,
Making his supplication rose Adam-zad the Bear!
I looked at the swaying shoulders, at the paunch’s swag and swing,
And my heart was touched with pity for the monstrous, pleading thing.

“Touched with pity and wonder, I did not fire then . . .
I have looked no more on women—I have walked no more with men.
Nearer he tottered and nearer, with paws like hands that pray
From brow to jaw that steel-shod paw, it ripped my face away!

“Sudden, silent, and savage, searing as flame the blow—
Faceless I fell before his feet, fifty summers ago.
I heard him grunt and chuckle—I heard him pass to his den.
He left me blind to the darkened years and the little mercy of men,

“Now ye go down in the morning with guns of the newer style,
That load (I have felt) in the middle and range (I have heard) a mile?
Luck to the white man's rifle, that shoots so fast and true,
But—pay, and I lift my bandage and show what the Bear can do!”

(Flesh like slag in the furnace, knobbed and withered and grey—
Matun, the old blind beggar, he gives good worth for his pay.)
“Rouse him at noon in the bushes, follow and press him hard—
Not for his ragings and roarings flinch ye from Adam-zad.

“But (pay, and I put back the bandage) this is the time to fear,
When he stands up like a tired man, tottering near and near;
When he stands up as pleading, in wavering, man-brute guise,
When he veils the hate and cunning of his little, swinish eyes;

“When he shows as seeking quarter, with paws like hands in prayer,
That is the time of peril—the time of the Truce of the Bear!”

Eyeless, noseless, and lipless, asking a dole at the door,
Matun, the old blind beggar, he tells it o’er and o’er;
Fumbling and feeling the rifles, warming his hands at the flame,
Hearing our careless white men talk of the morrow’s game;

Over and over the story, ending as he began—
“There it no truce with Adam-zad, the Bear that looks like a Man!”


Posted with my condolences and best wishes to the people of Great Britain


Thursday, June 09, 2005

WIMPY IS IN, FRENCH DUDE SAYS...

And it looks like this.



Ridiculous. If you want to look like that, wear a clown suit. Sheesh.

Friday, May 27, 2005

ALL THINGS FLOW

Everything progresses from node to node, from note to note, from paragraph to paragraph, from above to below, always bound by the inevitable gravity of cause and effect. This, therefore that.
Q.E.D.

And because we know this, we trace it backwards, from where we are now to what once was, to what must have been, unless everything we know is only illusion. The mathemetician, the musician, the writer and the salmon returning to the place of its spawning--we are all bound in that inescapable flow. Or rather, not like the salmon at all, for we may never return to our beginning--only look back, and wonder.

For our reality is not merely IN flux, changing direction at will, but is itself Inevitable Flow, forever progressing, in one direction only, as inexorable as Time.

Or perhaps it IS Time, this fluidity which is our only reality.

It alone is common to us all, whether we marvel at the Great Matrix with the mathemeticians or revel in the Music of the Spheres. We know that all things flow down to us out of the ages, that we ride the wave of inevitability, that if there is order to our future, it perhaps lies in the patterns of the past.

But in this is our despair, for we also know that those patterns end, that every river has its source. We cannot conceive of the wellspring that birthed us, for All things Flow, and we know no other law.

Thus it is here that we stand utterly bewildered, faced with a choice that is no choice, that either reality is eternal and alone, as the ancients believed, or that it--that We--are not Real, that we are Finite, that we are trapped in a subordinate layer of causality, and that we cannot get out. In the shadows of the unplumbable past we see the Shade of our future. And we fear.

All things flow

But whence?

πάντα ῥεῖ

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

NUCLEAR NAPPIES

I know it's been forever since I posted, especially anything of substance. My apologies. In my defense, I did spend a while last week replacing the comments feature, and hence felt that I had dedicated the required attention to the blog. It's finals week now, so I don't really have time to post, but of course, since it's finals week, I'm procrastinating, and posting. If I were to go back in the archives and see how much I'd posted during finals weeks of semesters past, I would probably be deeply disturbed--shaken to the core about the flaws in my character, ya know--so I think I won't.

Instead I'll offer this link, courtesy of Mr. Danckaert, who unfortunately didn't blog it (since his blog is deader than mine of late, and he hasn't even fixed his comments), but told me about it in person. Therefore I don't feel guilty in stealing it.

It's all about how the explosive diapers of one man's young son bode ill for the denizens of Al Qaeda twenty years hence.

Enjoy.

Monday, May 09, 2005

FINALLY

I finished my worst incomplete ever. Due January 14, turned in May 9. Actually a more or less decent paper. Read it here.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

HA HA PUNNY

My mother has recently been doing some geneological research into her family, and has come up with some tidbits which I find illuminating regarding my proclivities in regard to humor. Here is the tale.

My great-great-great grandfather was named Thomas Vincent. A native of Kentucky and a veteran of the Civil War, he had a son. A creative and unique soul, he decided to shun naming the boy after himself, and instead called him Ditto. Ditto Shadrach, to be precise.

This gets better. Ditto grew up, and came to be known as Dit. My mother once looked it up in an old phonebook, and indeed, there he was, Dit Vincent, her great-grandfather.

I assume that Dit was as unique in character as he was in name, for it seems that he decided to one-up his dad. So when he was finally blessed with a son, he completed a joke 40 years in the making, and named the boy Harry.

So yes, from that day on, every Tom, Dit and Harry in my family has been cursed with a quirky sense of humor.

At least I come by it honestly.

Friday, April 29, 2005

REGARDING RUSSIA

Check out this article--a brief analysis of Russia. Interesting, despite being brief.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

GOOGLE BEFORE GRIPING

A couple years ago, having just moved to Boston, I had the embarassing experience of being denied the right to purchase alcohol. The reason?

"Boston law won't let us accept out-of-state drivers licenses." Accompanied by a glare that implied I was a first-class brand of idiot--just the sort to be so stupid as to neglect being born and raised in Boston.

"B-b-but it's a driver's license. There's my date of birth." But I pointed and stuttered in vain.

"Nope," she said. "We accept passports, though, if you have that with you." Some comfort, that. Sure, I carry my passport with me. Along with my birth certificate and my college diploma. Yeah right.

"Or you can purchase your very own Massachusetts Alcohol Purchasing Identification Card." She grinned like it was some sort of privilege. "Only 50 bucks, with a 15-day waiting period."

My eyes bugged out. Angry retorts flashed through my mind. I bit my tongue and left.

Driving home, seething against the police state in which I had somehow found myself and thinking that I'd had more respect shown me overseas (silly me, I had my passport with me then), I found myself considering the gay marriage issue and the Constitutional clause of "full faith and credit" by which supposedly Massachusetts was about to impose the practice on the rest of the country, and wondering if drivers licenses fell under the protection of said clause. Briefly wondered if I could get someone in trouble by suing. Dismissed it as ridiculous and dug out my passport. But every time I bought alcohol (and especially the time the store refused to sell to me, even though I had my passport, because my wife was with me and her license was out-of-state), I seethed again and consoled myself with the thought of how I could sue their butts off if I wanted to.

Evidently, though, I can't. Someone already tried that argument. Evidently the law doesn't actually prohibit liquor stores from accepting out-of-state licenses. Rather, if the store sells to someone with an out-of-state license, and it turns out that the license is forged and the kid is underage, the law doesn't accept the reference to the out-of-state license as an acceptable excuse, and revokes their liquor license. Thus nicely circumventing "full faith and credit." It's the store's call, not the state's.

So I should have Googled first, and seethed later. But it still bugs me.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

MARRIED LIFE

There is a Look my wife gives me sometimes after I finish spouting off some inane and optimistic platitude, a Look which comprises a simple syllogism on the subject of married life from the woman's point of view. It says, "I feel sucky, therefore you suck." Also, it says, "Shut Up!"

To this Look, there can be no reply--it is the ultimate smackdown upon the foolhardy male impulse to convince his woman that actually, she should feel fine, even though she doesn't--once the Look has been given, a man can only resort to a jest which bypasses the subject completely. So one tells her what she just said without speaking, and that one is going to go blog about it. Then one does so.

Somehow, this actually makes her feel better, even though one quit trying to make her feel better. I don't get how that works. I just wish I could learn to shift to Humor before I bring the Look down on myself.

Monday, March 21, 2005

ELECTRONIC HUMANS

The above is strange. It makes me think of this line from Futurama.

Ship: "If you really wanted to be with me, you'd merge your programming with mine."
Bender: "Whoah, whoah, whoah. Slow down. All my friends who've done that say that afterwards, all the passion went out of their relationship."
--from Futurama's Love and Rocket


And now we poor fleshbags can merge programming too. Yay.
REGARDING GOVERNMENT AND RELIGION

I'm willing to say that there is indeed something about the American theory of government specifically, and the modern Western approach in general, which is superior to any form heretofore adopted by a society. However, I am constantly frustrated by the loose and sloppy approach to the question that is so frequently articulated by most people, and most especially (by way of unquestioned assumption) by journalists. "It's about freedom," one says. "What does that word mean?" say I. "Democracy!" says another. "What's so good about that--Hitler was elected democratically," say I. "Capitalism!" shouts another. "Oh lovely--we're great because we're a bunch of money-grubbing, selfish pigs," say I. "Christian roots!" intones another (smugly). "Yeah, letting the state and the Church mix has worked really well in the past," say I. "Secularism," the journalists trumpet. "By which you mean that once you achieve it, you might let superstitious evolutionary throwbacks like me live and benefit from your Enlightened Utopia if we don't make any noise and just die off quietly, because otherwise our stupidity and fanaticism would drag down the Greater Good, or whatever philosophical ethical system you subscribe to," say I.

I should note that this conversation takes place only in my head, as I read news articles and infer how this journalist or that interviewee would answer the above questions. Also I should note that I know the answer to the secularist is weak--I don't honestly know how to approach that. I disagree vehemently with him, but we don't have much common ground on which I can compose a witty and crushing retort. ;)

All that aside, however, I appreciate this article very much, if only because it articulates, or at least begins to articulate, what I consider the best account possible of why the American system is superior.

Specifically this section:
Despite what schoolchildren read in their history books, the reality is that the separation of church and state is not so much the foundation of American government as it is the result of a 250-year secularization process based not upon secularism, but upon pluralism. It is pluralism, not secularism, that defines democracy. A democratic state can be established upon any normative moral framework as long as pluralism remains the source of its legitimacy.

Or this quote:
The foundation of Islamic pluralism can be summed up in one indisputable verse: "There can be no compulsion in religion."
To explain, then, I would say that any superiority of the American system in particular and the Western system in general is based in a recognition of our common humanity, of the dignity of each person, and certain rights held by each individual. The specifics aren't important so much as the principle. The individual has a right to certain things so long as he does not infringe on any other individual's right to the same things. Or, to articulate it in Christian terms, the ideal society possible in a fallen world is built on the theological principle of free will--you have the ability to choose your manner of life and belief, but you accept the consequences of your choices, in this life and the next, which in practical terms includes consequences for interfering with the rights of another. Which idea is not exclusively Christian--it's simply the way things work.

Religions and philosophies can, or at least should, be able to abide by these rules. Insofar as they have, this so-called American Experiment has been a success. The failures have all-to-frequently come when one "-Ism" or another attempted to disregard them. But when it works, people are more or less at peace while the academics argue and religions and philosophies are judged on their merits rather than which has the most firepower.

I do find it ironic, however, that it was an article about Islam, not Christianity, that won from me a nod of unreserved affirmation that I have not given for several years.

**A final note--I know that there's a bit of a conflict between my use of the word "democracy" and Aslan's usage. For whatever reason, the word no longer means precisely "rule of the people" but rather "the way we civilized nations govern ourselves." When I use it pejoratively, I mean the former--when more or less approvingly, the latter.

Friday, March 18, 2005

FUTILITY

"One word, Ma'am," he said, coming back from the fire; limping, because of the pain. "One word. All you've been saying is quite right, I shouldn't wonder. I'm a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won't deny any of what you said. But there's one thing more to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things--trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that's a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We're just babies making up a game, if you're right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That's why I'm going to stand by the play-world. I'm on Aslan's side even if there isn't any Aslan to lead it. I'm going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn't any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we're leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that's small loss if the world's as dull a place as you say."*

And if we can't find it, we'll make it ourselves.

And die trying, I shouldn't wonder.

* Quote from The Silver Chair, C.S. Lewis

Thursday, March 17, 2005

TOO BLOODY MUCH

"She was," he proclaimed, "so extraordinarily beautiful that I nearly laughed out loud. She... [was] famine, fire, destruction and plague...the only true begetter. Her breasts were apocalyptic, they would topple empires before they withered...her body was a miracle of construction...She was unquestionably gorgeous. She was lavish. She was a dark, unyielding largesse. She was, in short, too bloody much...Those huge violet blue eyes...had an odd glint...Aeons passed, civilizations came and went while these cosmic headlights examined my flawed personality. Every pockmark on my face became a crater of the moon."

I wonder if it is possible for any woman who has this sort of effect on men to not grow up to be a heinous witch. As they say, "Absolute power corrupts absolutely."

I enjoyed this article.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

NAVEL-GAZING

Warning: blatant and pathetic introspection ahead

Truth be told, I am a bad seminarian. My chapel attentance is abyssmal, my class attendance not much better, and my attitude...well, the first two problems are a fairly accurate reflection of my attitude. Also, sad to say, of my personal prayer life.

Since this second year began last September, I've had the strange experience of growing both increasingly confident of my calling and eager to exercise it. Much of that I attribute to the fact that this year, I've had the opportunity to serve in various capacities: to chant in church, to teach Sunday School, etc. The chance to do something I actually consider worthwhile has been quite literally a godsend.

But I said that this was a strange experience--because, while my confidence in and eagerness for the priestly calling has increased greatly, my attendance at chapel hasn't at all, with the exception of those weeks when I am on duty to serve. My personal prayer life has also seen little improvement.

On those rare occasions that I notice or care about this, it disturbs me--if I want to be a minister of God, why in hell can't I seem to get my butt in gear to start preparing to do so? My good intentions scarcely last a day, much less a week, and the long and the short of it is that I don't end up liking myself very much at all. My increasing distance from what I still pathetically think of as home (my alma mater and my old friends there) only worsens matters. I'm a sucky seminarian, a lousy friend, and a lazy bum. And I don't care enough to do anything about it.

Of course I've spent a lot of time blaming all this on the church, or the school, or, occasionally and very unjustly, on my wonderful wife. But mainly on the school. Whether or not that blame is legitimate is beside the point. Whether or not the school sucks has no bearing on what I should be doing as a future priest. End of story. (so if I ever complain about the school, tell me to stuff it)

Nonetheless, tonight the president and chaplain of the school finally did something I wish they'd done a long time ago. Summoning all seminarians to a manditory meeting (which are called very rarely despite being very well attended whenever they are scheduled), they set out quite clearly the standard to which we are expected to measure up. Penalty? Suspension of seminarian status. Message? Put up or ship out. Response? Gratitude...without reserve, at least from me. However much it reveals my immaturity, I need to have clear expectations and clear consequences set out. I do the minimum amount of work required of me. That minimum, here, is ridiculously low. Therefore, I do practically nothing.

On the other hand, if I were capable (or if it were just to expect me to be capable) of forming myself as a priest on my own, there would be no need for me to attend a seminary. That being the case, it is long past time the people in charge here started taking an active hand in forming the young men here into priests. All too often over the past year and a half, they've spent their time asking us what we think the seminary experience should be. And if the time for that is past, then I'll certainly cheer. I came here hoping to be guided and formed into something worthwhile for God's work. I became Orthodox in the first place because I'd realized I was crappy at doing it myself. Obviously the actual work must be my own--but it's really, really nice to have someone actually challenge me.

Navel-gazing ended. Thank you for your forbearance.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

SEMINARIANS AND THEIR WIVES

Seminarian's Wife: What are your pants doing? Your ankles are showing!

Seminarian (dignified): My pants are expressing their free will.

Seminarian's Wife: Your pants don't have any free will...You're Married!!

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

WHERE I'VE BEEN--BECAUSE IT'S INTERESTING AND SEEMS THE THING TO DO THESE DAYS






create your own visited country map
or check our Costa Rica travel guide

Friday, February 25, 2005

BECAUSE I LIKE POETRY AND AM PERSONALLY UNCREATIVE AT THE MOMENT...

The Conundrum of the Workshops
by Rudyard Kipling

When the flush of a new-born sun fell first on Eden's green and gold,
Our father Adam sat under the Tree and scratched with a stick in the mould;
And the first rude sketch that the world had seen was joy to his mighty heart,
Till the Devil whispered behind the leaves, "It's pretty, but is it Art?"

Wherefore he called to his wife, and fled to fashion his work anew--
The first of his race who cared a fig for the first, most dread review;
And he left his lore to the use of his sons--and that was a glorious gain
When the Devil chuckled "Is it Art?" in the ear of the branded Cain.

They builded a tower to shiver the sky and wrench the stars apart,
Till the Devil grunted behind the bricks: "It's striking, but is it Art?"
The stone was dropped at the quarry-side and the idle derrick swung,
While each man talked of the aims of Art, and each in an alien tongue.

They fought and they talked in the North and the South; They talked and they fought in the
West,
Till the waters rose on the pitiful land, and the poor Red Clay had rest--
Had rest till that dank blank-canvas dawn when the Dove was preened to start,
And the Devil bubbled below the keel: "It's human, but is it Art?"

The tale is as old as the Eden Tree--and new as the new-cut tooth--
For each man knows ere his lip-thatch grows he is master of Art and Truth;
And each man hears as the twilight nears, to the beat of his dying heart,
The Devil drum on the darkened pane: "You did it, but was it Art?"

We have learned to whittle the Eden Tree to the shape of a surplice-peg,
We have learned to bottle our parents twain in the yelk of an addled egg,
We know that the tail must wag the dog, for the horse is drawn by the cart;
But the Devil whoops, as he whooped of old: "It's clever, but is it Art?"

When the flicker of London sun falls faint on the Club-room's green and gold,
The sons of Adam sit them down and scratch with their pens in the mould--
They scratch with their pens in the mould of their graves, and the ink and the anguish start,
For the Devil mutters behind the leaves: "It's pretty, but is it Art?"

Now, if we could win to the Eden Tree where the Four Great Rivers flow,
And the Wreath of Eve is red on the turf as she left it long ago,
And if we could come when the sentry slept and softly scurry through,
By the favour of God we might know as much--as our father Adam knew!
IN WHICH ONE THING REMINDS ME OF ANOTHER

The Answer
by Rudyard Kipling

A Rose, in tatters on the garden path,
Cried out to God and murmured 'gainst His Wrath,
Because a sudden wind at twilight's hush
Had snapped her stem alone of all the bush.
And God, Who hears both sun-dried dust and sun,
Had pity, whispering to that luckless one.
"Sister, in that thou sayest We did not well--
"What voices heardst thou when thy petals fell?"
And the Rose answered, "In that evil hour
"A voice said, 'Father, wherefore falls the flower?
"'For lo, the very gossamers are still.'
"And a voice answered, 'Son, by Allah's Will!'"

Then softly as a rain-mist on the sward
Came to the Rose the Answer of the Lord:
"Sister, before We smote the Dark in twain,
"Ere yet the Stars saw one another plain,
"Time, Tide, and Space, We bound unto the task
"That thou shouldst fall, and such an one should ask."
Whereat the withered flower, all content,
Died as they die whose days are innocent;
While he who questioned why the flower fell
Caught hold of God and saved his soul from Hell.

Some days it's enough, and some days it's not. Today, it's enough.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

UM...WOW

This reads like the plot to a really really bad movie. Good grief.

Τῶν ἀνδρῶν καὶ γυναικῶν Ἡλλενικῶν

The Greeks are marvelously egalitarian. Their sense of the equality of the genders is perfect.

In the genitive plural, that is.

In all other matters, they are unspeakable chauvinists.
REGARDING MAMMOTHS

Inasmuch as the most venerable and sage Wazoo has undertaken to pontificate upon the ineluctable realities of testosterone-marinated gray matter and the inveterate consequences thereof, it is left to me to illustrate his point. For it is attested by the wisdom of our collective fathers (to whose genius and creativity we owe great thanks) that verily, a Picture is worth a Thousand Words. The Thousand Words having been provided by my esteemed colleague, it is my honour and privilege to present unto you this Proverbial Picture, in order that you might better comprehend the magnitude of the collective foolishness and infrangible glory incumbent to masculinity. But be apprised, O Reader, that my animus is by no means the rendering of my own anandrogyny apodictic by this exhibition of the greatest and most foolhardy achievement of my paltry existence, and still less is it such bumptious vanity as would be mine were I acting in blatant competition with my Callipygian Colleague for the ascendency in epic feats of testosteronic madness. No, Gentle Reader, my only thought is for your enlightenment and edification.

I also sell tropical paradises in Massachusetts and train mammoths as house pets, if anyone is interested.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

A EULOGY FOR A SMOKIER, MORE MATURE AMERICA

And I don't mean mature in the XXX sense of the word. Perhaps I wouldn't have chosen the issue of smoking and its demise in the public sphere of American life as my jumping off point for a commentary on the increasing naivete of America at large (that is, our ridiculous assumption that the inalienable rights of humanity extend to things like long life and health and wealth)--but Mr. Blecher makes it work rather well. Bravo.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

MOST PEOPLE

Most people listen to self-improvement books on tape while they drive to work. "The secret to success is a positive attitude," they say. "Implement our proven and popular system to achieve the Fuller Life in just 37 Simple Steps," they say.

My wife listens to Machiavelli.

I think I should be worried or something.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

IT ALL STARTED WITH...

"How are you doing?"
"Not well."
"Why?"
"Many reasons--let's start with the Industrial Revolution."

Friday, February 04, 2005

THEY CALL ME A COCKEYED OPTIMIST

Which is why I'm not posting the bad news right now. Just this article from the Arab News.

Incidentally, I prefer to think of myself as a hopeful realist.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

SO SAD

It's not like education is all that complicated--you read, you argue, you research, you write. I don't know what or whom to wish a pox upon, but I'm doing it anyway.

A pox upon you, whomever-you-are, that made education like Abercrombie!

Friday, January 28, 2005

NOT TO POST EXCESSIVELY OR ANYTHING...

But just pretend I'm catching up. Here's an amusing quote from Peter Krupa and Kevin Weber and Frank Sinatra.
IF I EVER GET FARTHER INTO FRANCE THAN THE AIRPORT...

I'll re-read this article first. :) Even if it doesn't help, it'll still make me laugh.
I had just got to the front of the queue and plonked my parcels on the counter when an old man at another window revealed that he wanted to wire money from his post office account to each of his 11 grandchildren, and that the total sum to be wired had to equal the square root of their combined shoe sizes. Or something.
Beautiful, ain't it?

And while I'm linking to articles, here's one on intellectual property and copyright misuse which I found quite informative and enjoyable. It says I'm not allowed to have the above quote from the Guardian on my blog. Or maybe I'm allowed to excerpt from the article, just not to duplicate it in full. Anyway, Arts and Letters Daily publishes excerpts, so I will too, until I hear otherwise, that is, unless I find out that I'll get in big trouble for it. Hmmmm...I'm curious what Bob has to say about it--seems like the sort of thing he'd know/post about.

Oh yeah...Google Print is a most bodacious idea. :)

Thursday, January 27, 2005

MY WIFE THE NUDIST
or
WHY SHE HATES BOSTON

"I instinctively distrust anybody who would build a settlement so far north that you have to wear so many clothes all the time."

Saturday, January 15, 2005

MAIWWAGE...IS WHAT I'M GOING TO TALK ABOUT

I remember in my first year of college first thinking the disturbing thought that this was the age that people started to get married--that I would probably meet my wife at school. Weirdness, I thought. I don't FEEL old.

I was, however, expecting to be surprised first with a stampede of friends getting married, which would be strange, but help me get used to the idea.

Didn't happen--I mean, my roommate Chad got married, but Chad was hardly a stampede. ;) Also, the Talcotts and the Raglands...but that was all. No stampede. Nothing to prepare me for the fact that I was next.

So now I'm married, and have been for a year now, and I'm still not used to the idea. I'm not the age to get married--I still feel like I'm 16 or something.

So I'm getting seriously weirded out right now, because the stampede just began.

Seraphim's engaged. Konrad's engaged. Bethany and Stephen are engaged. Even Dave Frank is engaged. And I heard over at the BeatBlog that George and Nik are engaged. And, most frightening of all, Amber Briggs is in love. With Lee Nunn. As if I hadn't already been thinking that the world is coming to an end.

And the same thing is apparently happening at the seminary.

Where are the simple joys of bachelorhood? Never mind that I threw them out the window last year and never looked back. What's happened to everyone else?

And incidentally, congratulations to everyone, most especially Seraphim and Anne, Konrad and Joy, and Stephen and Bethany. For all I say it's too soon for me, y'all sure took your time. ;)

Friday, January 14, 2005

THANK YOU, INFIDEL SONS OF PIGS?

Not likely

Here's an interesting piece--points out how much money the West is contributing to Asian tsunami relief compared to the various Arab nations.

Not to deny the legitimate claims of Arab nations against the West, but I begin to get the impression that they just want to blame somebody for all their problems and America makes a nice scapegoat.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

ON PROPOSALS

'Gussie is an orange-juice addict. He drinks nothing else'

'I was not aware of that, sir.'

'I have it from his own lips. Whether from some hereditary taint, or because he promised his mother he wouldn't, or simply because he doesn't like the taste of the stuff, Gussie Fink-Nottle has never in the whole course of his career pushed so much as the simplest gin and tonic over the larynx. And he expects--this poop expects, Jeeves--this wabbling, shrinking, diffident rabbit in human shape expects under these conditions to propose to the girl he loves. One hardly knows whether to smile or weep, what?'

'You consider total abstinence a handicap to a gentleman who wishes to make a proposal of marriage, sir?'

The question amazed me.

'Why, dash it,' I said, astounded, 'you must know it is. Use your intelligence, Jeeves. Reflect what proposing means. It means that a decent, self-respecting chap has got to listen to himself saying things which, if spoken on the silver screen, would cause him to dash to the box-office and demand his money back. Let him attempt to do it on orange juice, and what ensues? Shame seals his lips, or, if it doesn't do that, makes him lose his morale and start to babble. Gussie, for example, as we have seen, babbles of syncopated newts.'

'Palmated newts, sir.'

--from the inimitable P.G. Wodehouse's Right-Ho, Jeeves

Monday, January 10, 2005

NEVER MIND MY LAST POST

I have long known that I am an ill-educated buffoon compared to the English gentleman of a century past--now I learn that I am merely sophomoric even beside the man who mined his coal. Here is a fascinating article discussing the level of education and thought in the British slums of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Reading towards the end of the article, I begin to wonder when precisely American education became so Marxist.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

HOPE (OF A SORT) NOURISHED BY ANOTHER'S TEARS

Some bloggers have the peculiar talent to demonstrate to me the futility of despairing about myself.

After all, why bother, when others have the market wrapped up so tightly?

Blog on, sad prince. Your tears are not in vain.
BACK FROM ROME

Got in late last night--if you didn't know the wife and I had gone to Rome with brother Caleb, well, I'm sorry. I would have mentioned it, but the evil internet devils stole my access pretty much from my last post until now. It's back now, and so am I.

Rome was cool--but mainly the ancient stuff. I got tired of seeing what should have been nifty old churches covered with hideous Rennaissance stuff. The Vatican was...um...excessive. Decided I really do like meek and mild Christianity better. Didn't really spend all that much time there. Instead we walked by the Tiber and saw the outlet for the Cloaca Maxima. Oh Yeah!

The Forum rocked.