Kenosis is the meaning of life, emptying and filling. This is how you imitate Christ. This is the mystery of the Cross. This is the paradox at the heaKenosis is the meaning of life, emptying and filling. This is how you imitate Christ. This is the mystery of the Cross. This is the paradox at the heart of all existence.
"He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it." There are 7 variations of this saying of Christ in the New Testament. And it is emphatically true: the more we attempt to seize the day and aggrandize ourselves, the more we find that our life has passed us by and disappointed us.
1 Cor 11:1 - "Be imitators of me as I imitate Christ."
Phillippians 2: "He emptied Himself (ekenosen) by taking the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men...He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name."
The heart of the book is thus: ""Strive, My Son, to do another's will rather than thine own. Choose always to have less rather than more. Seek always after the lowest place, and to be subject to all. Wish always and pray that the will of God be fulfilled in thee. Behold, such a man as this entereth into the inheritance of peace and quietness.'
'O my Lord, this Thy short discourse hath in itself much of perfectness. It is short in words but full of meaning, and abundant in fruit. For if it were possible that I should fully keep it, disturbance would not so easily arise within me. For as often as I feel myself disquieted and weighed down, I find myself to have gone back from this teaching. But Thou, Who art Almighty, and always lovest progress in the soul, vouchsafe more grace, that I may be enabled to fulfil Thy exhortation, and work out my salvation.'"
And there are countless Biblical texts we could pull out here, that He became poor so that you might be rich, that you should seek the lowest seat at the table, that He has looked with favor on His lowly servant, etc.
The curious thing is that it's empirically true. This is the hedonism paradox, which I unfortunately discovered on my own, through my own years of misery. Viktor Frankl puts it thusly: "Happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one's personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one's surrender to a person other than oneself. The more a man tries to demonstrate his sexual potency or a woman her ability to experience orgasm, the less they are able to succeed. Pleasure is, and must remain, a side-effect or by-product, and is destroyed and spoiled to the degree to which it is made a goal in itself."
Or, as Peter Kreeft put it, take your temperature when you're sick, but when you're healthy think about other people and about God. I think it is Goethe who says that if a man thinks long enough about himself he will think that he is ill.
And, of course, there is Chesterton's paradox about self-knowledge: "self-consciousness...destroys self-revelation. A man who thinks a great deal about himself will try to be many-sided, attempt a theatrical excellence at all points, will try to be an encyclopaedia of culture, and his own real personality will be lost in that false universalism. Thinking about himself will lead to trying to be the universe; trying to be the universe will lead to ceasing to be anything. If, on the other hand, a man is sensible enough to think only about the universe; he will think about it in his own individual way."
This book collects admonitions to the soul, and then eloquent Psalm-like prayers and conversations with the Lord, which are good enough that I'm willing to believe that they might be actual transcripts. The final quarter of the book consists of sublime paeans to the Eucharist which are of great use before mass....more
**spoiler alert** It requires patience, but it is a masterpiece for the sheer masculine force of Conrad's narration, which is at various points terse**spoiler alert** It requires patience, but it is a masterpiece for the sheer masculine force of Conrad's narration, which is at various points terse and spare, while at others poetic, meditative, expansive. Conrad's marvelous style is owed at least in part to his not speaking English natively. Those who speak in a second language often have to strain to do so, and therefore are not apt to laze into cliche, to casual imprecision. Writing 30,000 words of a language he had learned only a decade or so before would be by its nature stressful, and activate what Daniel Kahnemann calls system 2 (difficult, intentional thinking, which tends to be more clear and rational) rather than system 1 (which is easy, lazy, and more intuitive). Thus we get such clarity, such power, such astringent insistence upon accuracy.
I admit that when I first encountered it, as an undergraduate, I lost patience, despite how short it is, and did not finish it. The first half of the novella is difficult to follow, as one surreal event follows another without clear connections. I could not slog through this bizarre panorama of colonial Congo, of chain gains, of malarial European sailors, of phrenological theories. Moreover, the frame story seems at first absurd, until it seems brilliant. It is so strange as to make difficult the suspension of disbelief: Marlow, a sailor, sitting like a Buddha, just starts talking, narrating, lecturing, pontificating, without prompting, without apparent purpose except maybe to pass the time. But one must disregard realism about how Marlow would actually speak extemporaneously under such circumstances. The frame story begins feeling like a mere excuse for distancing the narrator from the action, which gives the author a figleaf to cover the more outlandish and unexpected details of the story to follow. But in the end, the contrast of the two voyages, the placing of the two alongside each other--one brutal, imperialistic, and the other presumably just as horrific as the one just narrated by Marlow--puts Marlow's story in stark relief. All of Europe is implicated in the unreal, phantasmagorical cruelties, the greed, the condescension.
You have to believe in it, you have to give it a chance, and finish it, if you are to appreciate it and enjoy it.
The narrator sits on the Nelly, waiting for the winds to change, the tides to cease their ebb (symbol much?), and Marlow, one of the sailors, just begins blathering in the manner of sailor stories--grandiose, exaggerated, using truth the same way a novelist does--which are closer to the folk tale genre than that of journalism. Marlow talks about how he first became captain of steamboat in the ivory trade after 6 years in the Far East. He had been fascinated with the blank Terra Incognita of Congo as a map-loving child, and had always desired to go there, one of the last unexplored vastnesses on earth. That is "the glamor" -- that something is unknown, uncertain, and therefore completely his, rather than someone else's exploration and discovery. His aunt helps him get the captain's job with a mysterious London company ("the sepulchral city" he calls it repeatedly), with dark offices down a deserted dead-end street (even in civilization, everything is dark, suspicious, and unknowable). He is made to sign a non-disclosure agreement (which it would seem he is violating by his narrating this story.) "There was something ominous in the atmosphere. It was just as though I had been let into some conspiracy—I don't know—something not quite right."
The job opened up because his predecessor, a Dutchman, was killed by some natives in a dispute with their chief over a trade for some hens. But this only stokes Marlow's desire; he is not afraid.
Thus begins his journey down the Congo, and the parade of bizarre images I mentioned above. He arrives just as his ship sinks. He hears from the company's accountant about Kurtz, who runs the most successful of their outposts, bringing in more ivory than all the others combined. The accountant emphatically praises him, and predicts that he will rise within the company, piquing Marlow's interest in him.
Marlow then has to travel by land to get to another steamship which he will captain. ...more
The play has many features from Our Town, but it is in an altogether different mood. Whereas Our Town is aSurreal, and difficult to follow, but funny.
The play has many features from Our Town, but it is in an altogether different mood. Whereas Our Town is a sincerely nostalgic, melancholy look at the splendor of some ordinary lives, The Skin of Our Teeth is a madcap, relentless comedy almost to the point of silliness.
Wilder presents us with a cyclical view of history. Much like Our Town, we are given 3 separate Acts of 3 different days/critical events, with nothing in between. Thousands of years pass by in a page, or a curtain.
The Skin of Our Teeth is structured around 3 cataclysms from which the human race escapes "by the skin of our teeth." Mankind continues on, starting over in an endless cycle. 1. Ice Age 2. Noah's Flood 3. Napoleonic Era
Adam and Eve live 5,000 years and move to New Jersey. Adam changes his name to George Antrobus (Anthropos = human). Lilith is their maid (Lily Sabina), and a symbol of the femme fatale: she is both Lilith and the Sabine Women. (George carried her off from the Sabine Hills). Cain bears his mark on his forehead, a massive C. His name was changed to Henry. Abel has been replaced by an earnest girl named Gladys.
In the Ice Age, Antrobus invents the wheel, the lever, the alphabet, and the multiplication table, all in one long day at the office in New York City. They have copies of Shakespeare on the wall and dinosaurs living in their front yard. They drink woolly mammoth milk. The roads are clogged with refugees trying to survive the increasing cold, including Moses, Homer, and the 9 Muses. Antrobus takes them in and they entertain the family as they warm themselves by his fire. Civilization depends upon industry. Law and art cannot exist without fire and sandwiches and coffee. Cain threatens the boy next door with stones.
By the time of Noah's Flood, Adam has been elected President of Humanity and Sabina is named Miss Atlantic City 1942. She seduces him and convinces him to leave Eve. Cain attacks an innocent black man on the AC boardwalk out of pure malevolence. Adam shepherds 2 animals of every species (delegates to the convention in AC) into the ark, and humanity narrowly survives another culling.
We end with the characters in Napoleonic military dress, with "the war" having just ended. Newark is still on fire. Cain rose to the rank of admiral, and returns home to slay his father at last. Cain hates because he is proud: notwithstanding his rise in the military, he disdains authority. As Antrobus puts it, his concept of liberty is license and entitlement combined (he is presumably a Democrat).
The play breaks the fourth wall in each Act, and it ends, just like Our Town, in this way, with a character saying "good night" to the audience. Act I starts off right away with Sabina breaking character and expressing her bewilderment with the strangeness of this play to the Stage Manager (a character prominent in Our Town too). Act II has Sabina break character again just as things get highly sexual with Antrobus, because she has a friend in the audience whose husband cheated on her and left her, and, well, it just wouldn't be nice to continue this play with her there. Act III ends with the Stage Manager making the solemn and philosophical declaration that the play is unfinished, and that it is up to the audience to finish it, as it is up to us to survive!
One can see why, in 1942, an American playwright would write such a play, but it is strange in most other contexts. Most of us don't consciously hold a cyclical view of time, even those who claim to. The play has the same preachy feeling at the end as Our Town (for obvious reasons), but at least it blows off some steam with its over-the-top humor. ...more
I have struggled in the past with the Church's social teaching, but this latest encyclical, despite the media hype both laudatory and condemnatory, brI have struggled in the past with the Church's social teaching, but this latest encyclical, despite the media hype both laudatory and condemnatory, breaks no new ground. The Holy Father seems to have gone out of his way not to propose anything new, nor to lay any new burdens upon the laity, as he is constantly citing or referring back to his immediate predecessors B16, JPII, Paul VI, and St. John 23. The few objectionable paragraphs--just as in Evangelii Gaudium--are closer to asides than central themes. In fact, the most alarming points are all heavily cited, such as B16 and J23's support for global government (we can quibble about what that means, but it is undeniable).
His citations of scientific consensus regarding anthropogenic global warming are made more as an instance, or a minor premise. The encyclical is concerned primarily rather with modernity, and how it has shaped man ethically. Environmental damage is just one symptom of individualism, worldliness, and selfishness, which is the main concern of the encyclical.
Pope Francis continually states that "everything is connected." This is the encyclical's theme and its justification. Environmental neglect and neglect of the poor, the unborn, etc. have the same causes. Some have posited that the Holy Father is trying to become, as it were, an Apostle to the Leftists, by connecting their concerns (inequality, the environment, food, feelings) to Truth. He charitably connects the homosexual movement, the transgender/transracial/therian movement, abortion, and stem cell research to harmony with nature. Most of the crunchy granola people are perfectly fine with (mandatory and taxpayer funded) hormonal contraception (and, paradoxically, in vitro fertilization), and sodomitical practices, which are plainly paraphysein (against nature). By legitimating their environmental concerns, he can gain their ear for making the rest of their lives natural. Pope Francis, for all of his reputed leftism, even calls into question welfare handouts as only temporary bandaids.
Much of it reads like a bureaucratic document from an NGO, which the Pope has feared the Church has/could become. There are many pages without reference to the divine. Again, one can't help but wonder if this is addressed to "people of good will" more than people of faith.
At most, he proposes "dialogue" about solutions to environmental damage, political, social, and individual. He praises those who live simply, who recycle, who avoid waste (a word that comes up again and again). The Culture of Death is also the Throwaway Culture, which turns a beautiful world into an object to be used and discarded.
Another theme is integration, which is a theme of orthodox theology in general. The Pope, one by one, rejects monomaniacal solutions that would posit only political action, only social action, only individual action, etc. He equally condemns activity that is only economic, only selfish, etc. Catholics dislike the word only (sola). Ours is a theology of affirmation, willfully accepting tension.
The Church's social teaching authority comes from her moral teaching authority. These are hard sayings, but let us heed them.
I picked this up because some conservative activist friends of mine insisted that we conservatives needed to have the enemy playbook, and that this waI picked this up because some conservative activist friends of mine insisted that we conservatives needed to have the enemy playbook, and that this was it. Their rave reviews led me to the same curiosity with which I began Rules for Radicals.
I was even more curious because the author is a linguist, and supposedly specializes in cognitive science. I was certain that I would learn a great deal not only about the enemy's propaganda machine, but also about how I can help ours.
I ended up with the same disappointment. As I discovered in Bob Woodward's The Price of Politics, there is no sneaky liberal cabal to destroy the Constitution/economy with sophistry; rather, they really do believe this stuff. Obama really does prattle about fairness and the middle class and blahblahblah even when he's off camera.
This was, as I understand it, an off-camera or in-the-family discussion among liberals about how best to sell their poison to good-natured Americans. Instead, I just got a bunch of two-page, inch-deep non-explanations of leftist policies, followed by talking points that repeated sometimes verbatim these explanations.
I finished this book out of spite.
As for the actual claims that are made, these too are questionable. Lakoff warns against using conservative language in defending their anti-market, anti-freedom, know-nothing policies, but for every Lakoff I can find you another consultant who says just the opposite.
Further, he argues that moral language is always more powerful than any other, so debates should be framed in moral terms. Rather than leading with facts, lead with ideals.
That's about all that I got out of it.
I found it amusing and even comforting that there is the same kind of Chicken Little gloom among the leftist ranks as among conservatives. To hear Lakoff tell it, America is Portland, Oregon, but it's just being blanketed in constant free market propaganda from Hollywood and the media! Many of the same paranoid conspiracy theories I encounter among my colleagues on the Right are repeated in liberal form within this very slender and very lightweight volume. Such is the only solace you will find in here....more
Either a gorgeous masterpiece or a saccharine exercise in schmaltz. Wilder gives us two narrative arcs: the love story of Emily and George, next doorEither a gorgeous masterpiece or a saccharine exercise in schmaltz. Wilder gives us two narrative arcs: the love story of Emily and George, next door neighbors, and the evolution of the small Southern New Hampshire town they grow up in.
He gives us 4 scenes, and we are to imagine what happens in between them.
1. a summer day in 1901 2. George and Emily's wedding day 3. Emily's funeral in 1914 4. Emily's 12th birthday in 1899.
The play is intentionally, aggressively even, straining after types in Linkin Park fashion. Wilder goes out of his way to make Grovers Corners, NH indistinguishable from 2/3 of the land that currently votes Republican--small, Tocquevillian towns largely rural and closely knit. He goes so far as to forbid any set or props, using simply tables and chairs and some ladders. The Greeks had more spectacle in their theater.
The town changes dramatically, irreparably, over the same time, and thus reinforces the utter, irredeemable lostness of the past. Cars start driving down the streets, people moving in, while old timers reminisce about the Civil War. Wilder plays loose with time, with the Stage Manager acting as narrator and commentator, telling us who was going to die in World War I, whose appendix burst on the way to North Conway, etc.
It all leads up to the Third, climactic Act, in which the audience is able to see the dead watching Emily's funeral, commenting on it, on the swiftness of time's passage, on the unwieldy grip we have on each moment. Emily asks the Stage Manager, who is a kind of deity the way he can manipulate time, if she can relive the day she fell in love with George, but she is warned into reliving a forgettable day-- her 12th birthday. But even recalling this day which she had recalled as mundane is heartbreaking, to see how she took life and everything in it for granted.
Again, I can see how this would be vulnerable to the charge of Norman Rockwell sentimentality, but I consider it a greater achievement to turn a Norman Rockwell into a timeless masterpiece.
The first two acts are fairly unexceptional, themselves as mundane as the life the characters live. It is the third Act that transforms how we read the first two Acts, just as it is the afterlife that transforms how the characters see their own earthly lives. This is a kind of Benjamin Button story: life cannot be comprehended except in retrospect. Beautiful....more
In 2013, it was reported that 4 female Baltimore prison guards were pregnant by the same man--an inmate. Two of these women had his name tattooed on tIn 2013, it was reported that 4 female Baltimore prison guards were pregnant by the same man--an inmate. Two of these women had his name tattooed on them. Thirteen female prison officers allegedly committed racketeering with inmates.
Charles Manson not only was surrounded by beautiful women in the 1960s, but is today married to an attractive woman half a century younger than he.
Jeffrey Dahmer received love letters from women all over the country while he was on trial.
These are just some of the more conspicuous cases. I'm sure that each of us has countless anecdotes that confirm the same phenomenon.
As with many other overwhelmingly depressing facts of life, this too can be turned into comedy. Synge turns a slight, timid country boy into the Playboy of the Western World by simply having him commit parricide. The country bumpkins of the Mayo coast have never seen a real murderer before, and every woman who hears about him falls in love.
Of course there is the comic reversal of an already incongruous and ridiculous situation, when his father turns out to be alive, and comes searching for him. After the dramatic irony of everyone accusing the old Mahon of insanity for claiming to be the father everyone knows is dead, he beats the bag out of his son in front of everyone, and the lad's rakish plans are foiled. But he has learned his lesson: commit murder. So he hits his father once again with a shovel, and again thinks that he has killed him. It's Ireland under British rule, and so nobody wants to talk to the police, so effectively the little sociopath is in charge. Even Mike, the father of Pegeen, the leading lady, would rather that his son-in-law be a wild man than a timid man. (Before Christy came along, Pegeen was engaged to Sean, a bookish, nervous young man, an apt foil for Christy.) Somehow, the father gets up again and humiliates his son again, and the play ends with Pegeen pining for her lost playboy.
The portrayal of the Irish was offensive back then, and would probably be offensive now if it were some other group than the Irish. They are depicted as overgrown children, who are superstitious, prejudiced, and illiterate rubes. But Synge--to a remarkable degree--is able to make beautiful poetry out of the dialogue, with their vivid country idioms and mannerisms. As Wilde said, the Irish are the best talkers since the Greeks, and, aside from the occasional reference to Catholicism, it is not hard to picture this same play set in rural Laecadaemon 2500 years earlier.
So Synge's achievement is two-fold: deeply, deeply dark comedy, and some of the most colloquial poetry ever pulled off. A century later, these two purposes are attempted by every writer who wants a pay check and an award, but none of them succeed like this....more
Insightful and fair. I am a form hawk, and unsympathetic to the pretentious of free verse. Fussell manages to argue convincingly for form's indispensaInsightful and fair. I am a form hawk, and unsympathetic to the pretentious of free verse. Fussell manages to argue convincingly for form's indispensability without giving in to acrimony. He is able to acknowledge, and even bring out the successes of some free verse (Yeats above all, who "broods over the Twentieth Century"), even while doing so. This little book is everything that contemporary poetry is not: lucid, limpid, meaningful, erudite, civilized....more
An eclectic set of occasional essays for a popular audience. A lot of it is Catholic inside baseball, and may be boring oProf. George is a brave man.
An eclectic set of occasional essays for a popular audience. A lot of it is Catholic inside baseball, and may be boring or off-putting for those outside Christ's Body. Some of the exchanges with leftist academics contain all of those faults for which academia is now so notorious, namely preening and prolixity.
His explications of natural law theory, and his defenses of the Theology of the Body, however, are worth the price of admission by themselves. This is a valuable contribution, then, if it can only make people reconsider these ideas that turn out to be, as proven by the darkness of our age, indispensable truths....more
St. B uses the Alexandrian/allegorical method of reading Scripture, and thus asks what the six wings of aVery dense. I will summarize/dumb-down below:
St. B uses the Alexandrian/allegorical method of reading Scripture, and thus asks what the six wings of a seraph might symbolize. The seraphim are on fire ("the burning ones" in Hebrew), they are the spirits closest to The Lord, and He "sits upon them."
Therefore, St. B concludes that the "wings" are the means by which they reach The Lord. These 6 wings become 6 steps, or 6 means by which the spirit/mind comes to see the Lord directly. They form the itinerarium (itinerary):
1. material creation (bodies) 2. contemplation of one's own mind and mental powers (mind) (nature) 3. contemplation of grace 4. contemplation of angels (pure spirits) 5. the Name of the Lord (Being/metaphysics) 6. the Essence of the Lord (Trinity/The Good)
These are the 6 wings of the seraph, and the 6 steps up to Solomon's Throne. These are two sets of three--two trinities of steps. This leads us to the Sabbath (7) of contemplative repose, which is union with The Lord. This is our ultimate goal and is beyond words.
The graced human naturally progresses up the above ladder, starting first by seeing the superfluous goodness and order of the material world, then looking within the body to the various powers of the intellect (generally reducible to knowledge and free will), and up to spiritual realities from the mental.
Each step is more mind-blowing than the previous, but each step in itself can be good material for prayer. In fact, the good of this text is that it is material for prayer. If you don't know what to say to the Lord, pick a step. Praise Him for the inexhaustible wonder of the Milky Way, which is one of only a billion galaxies. Praise Him for Brother Sun and Sister Moon like St. Francis did. (St. B was Franciscan). Go up the ladder, or pick a step at random. You will never run out of things to discuss with Him. ...more