Thursday, June 14, 2012

In Defensione Papuri


The following article was first written for a Magazine called "Renovare" produced and read by a small group of my friends. The goal of the Renovare was to foster intellectual writing and discussion beyond the classroom. It also afforded us the opportunity to write on subjects beyond the scope of any individual class and draw from all that we had learned instead of just showing what we had learned for a specific subject. This magazine mostly dissolved after I left seminary allow there have been occasional attempts to revive it. 


“In the Beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” John 1: 1

The question has been asked of me if Renovare should be set up like a blog. I answer, No.

Words are very powerful and delicate. In the beginning Adam named the creatures. He gave audio symbols to the objects of the word. Words have become the symbols of people, places, things, ideas and actions. They are used for conveying ideas, specifying, constructing and anything else we think. And the words themselves are combinations of other symbols, either letters or characters, depending on the language.

Words are greater then just symbols. Take the instance of a yellow sign with a black arrow bending to the left. This symbol indicates that the road curves to the left. This sign, while fulfilling its function, does not transcend itself, but rather remains as its own image in one’s mind totally apart from the road and the curve. Words transcend the symbols of which they are constructed. If I were to write, “He came to the point where the road curved left.” Anyone who knew the meaning of those words would have an image of that scene without visualizing in that image any of the symbols used in the sentence. Instead he would pull from his universal ideas of road, curve, and left to create the image.

I have even heard speculation combining Plato’s idea of remembrance (as opposed to learning) and the time before Babel. The argument followed that if two people separately encountered the same unnamed object they would remember it to have the same name. A second theory I find more satisfying and equally improvable is that the first language of man, the language spoken in the Garden, was perfectly fitting between symbol and object, thus achieving a similar naming of objects as the first theory.

There have been people throughout history who have sought similar perfection between symbol and object; in English, Shakespeare and Tolkien; in Spanish, St. John of the Cross; in Italian, Dante Alighieri, in Latin, Virgil; and in Greek, Homer (and this just names a few), and all poets. I will take the example of J.R.R. Tolkien, as I am most familiar with his works. When he wrote, and in particularly when he chose names, he sought names that described the person simply by the sound of the word. The elves for instance all have tall sounding names; Elrond, Galadriel, Celeborn, and Legolas. The ‘el’, ‘ele’, and the ‘le’ all have a tall feeling as the sound seems to move upward off the tongue and slow the pronunciation down to give them an elevated tone in the way they are spoken (note the ‘ele’ of elevated). Even the shorter elf names such as Elrond sound longer and taller then the dwarf names: Gimili, Dwalin, Balin, Kili, Fili, Dori, Nori, Ori, Oin, Gloin,Bifur, Bofur, Bombur and Thorin. There are lots of ‘i’ and ‘or’ and none of the names are longer than two syllables. Notice that the longest name to pronounce is Thorin who is also the dwarf of the most importance in The Hobbit. I would continue with other examples such as Tom Bombadil, Aragon, and Treebeard (Fangorn in Elvish) except I fear none of the readers would continue on with me.

What the reader is probably wondering is what the fantastic symbols conveyed by words and sounds has to do with whether or not this publication should be a blog? The answer is in the symbolism of conveying words. The Jewish people wrote their scriptures without vowels and thus part of the male coming of age was the memorization of the scriptures. They did this because they believed the scripture to belong to the whole people. They were not allowed or able to read scripture correctly alone, but rather only in public where the pronunciation and proper meaning of the words could be corrected by the others. Also, their scriptures, originally and still for liturgical purposes, were written on scrolls. This is done so that no part can be skipped like in a book were one can flip to the last chapter, or an article were he can browse to the concluding paragraph.

In all illiterate cultures stories are told to children. They are stories of heroes and villains, the history of their people. They are the stories more enlightened cultures call fairy tales, myths, and religious legends. The village elders, the priests, the shamans, the medicine men, the Rabbis, the philosophers, the poets, the judges, the bards (who in Ireland held more power then the kings), the prophets, the padrinos and the fathers retell these stories. It is these stories that become the cultural identity of the youth and foster in them their sense of nation, village, tribe, and family. As men became more and more literate they wrote down those stories until our present times. Now the best to be hoped for is a mother or a teacher reading those stories to the child. Frequently the child is simply given the book and left to discover the stories by himself but the book simply goes on the shelf with other books in immaculate condition he has been given and the television is turned on to some Disney soft-core pornography with a story so unlike the tale it is name after that there remains no similarity except some of the characters names (I cite specifically, The Little Mermaid, great story, read it). All the national identity, psychological lessons on what it means to be human, knowledge of the good of the tribe and the family are left unfilled. They are unfilled not because the story is unfamiliar but rather because of the medium in which they encounter the story. A story told by a father has a far greater effect on the mind of the child than even a story read aloud, and is certainly far more profound the a televised complete image. That unfilled space then gets filled as life goes by with pulp fiction, romance novals, technological garble or worse, the gossip of actors and sportstars in Entertainment Weekly and Us magazines.

There are still places where words seek to convey their meaning in the method of telling. Like the Jewish scrolls of the Torah, we Catholics have a special book for the Gospels (although frequently attacked by hideous 70’s minimalist designs). The Priest announces the readings in special way, and in some strange places candles and incense might even accompany the reading. All these symbols are attempting to set apart and herald as important the words and reading of the Gospel.

Most other areas of culture abuse words. Advertisements use profound words such as “awesome”, “best”, and “perfect” to describe rather lame products. The news media uses words to frighten or shock people in an attempt to increase their viewers. The modern anti-poet chooses words to un-rhythm, un-love and un-beautify the universe. On computer and portable device screens men pour through thousands of words a minute, simply searching out the phrase or word desired. Blogs pour out in reaction to the latest news and are read and replaced by other news stories and blogs or lewd pictures.

Of course there are numerous counter examples; Zenit, Life Site News and even Snow White (who says her prayers in the original Disney production). Likewise, illiteracy has many problems of its own, the least of which is an English speaker trying to play a Japanese computer game. Our own times hold many good blogs, movies, books, magazines, and possibly even a good advertisement (the Jamison’s commercial featuring the Latin scholar comes to mind).

Renovare should continue as a publication for several reasons. The first is to give it a sense of permanence as a connection to the Church that it is written for, as that Church shall prevail against the gates of Hell. The second is to give us a chance for contemplation. Any article I’ve read on the computer that I’ve desired to contemplate, I have printed. Third, the discussion we seek to foster is not the discussion in the comments at the bottom of a blog which frequently result in YELLING and calling names, but rather it should be the discussion of intelligent men in a respectful fashion (with perhaps an occasional name being called if it is done in a lighthearted manner between friends). Fourth (and last for the purposes of this article), by using higher quality papers and thoughtful formats it draws the reader to remember that he is an incarnate being who has flesh as well as the mind and that the flesh was important enough for God to take on a body Himself and be put to death to redeem us as incarnate beings of soul and flesh. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Armor of God

St. Paul in the sixth chapter of his letter to the Ephesian counsels us to put on the Armor of God. He then goes on to list each piece of armor. At first it may appear to simply be a list but there is a real order which follows in a very specific way christian life. Their are six parts of the armor; belt, breastplate, footwear, shield, helmet, and sword.

First is the belt, having girded your loins with Truth. The loins represent our bodily appetites, and most literally our sexual appetites. Sexual sins are quite easy to fall into yet they can be very easily hidden. Masturbation, pornography, contraception and most others short of public displays and orgies are private with the effects only directly affecting oneself and one's spouse. Paul doesn't say to eliminatethe loin but simply to gird the loin with truth. I'll come back to this as foundational after I have spoke on the others.

Having put on the Breastplate of Righteousness. The Breastplate relates to our public conduct. This is where the life of virtue is put to the test. It is the righteous man who acts prudently (not prudishly) in the world. He is just in his dealings with his fellow man and conducts his affairs with dignity and honour. Slow to anger, but flashing with a righteous anger in the face of injustice.  

Having shod your feet with the equipment of the Gospel of Peace. It is the gospel than, that moves the feet. Our action and progress through the world is order toward the proclamation of the gospel. It is the furthering of that gospel that compels us to act rightly. The gospel then is the reason for our right action.

Taking the Shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one. When we preach the gospel the devil attacks us to beat us back into silent submission. It is our faith that guards against his flaming darts. We preach Christ and him crucified a stumbling block to the Jews and scandal to the Gentiles. It is faith in him crucified that encourages us to continue on. 

Take the helmet of salvation. When we resist satan he changes tactics and one of his most powerful attacks is against our intellect. There are many intellectual faults, the one I will suggest here is Intellectual pride. We are tempted to think, "look at this great knowledge I have come to. Look at how well I can articulate the gospel and how many hear and believe what I say." Thus we distance ourself from Christ. But salvation is the guard against such thoughts. I myself have the same need of salvation that every other man has. My thoughts, my insight are all only gifts from God and even my very intellect is a gift resulting from how God knit me together in my mothers womb. 

The Sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Et verbum caro factum est, St. John tells us in the prologue to his gospel. The Sword that we wield is quiet literally Jesus himself. Jesus is the word of God whom we call on to fight against the powers, the principalities, the world rulers of this present darkness, and the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 

Let's return the loins girded with truth. We have seen how fundamental and foundational this first garment is with the recent priest scandals relating to child abuse. These priests had the other five parts of armor. They celebrated Mass, making the sword of the spirit present in the Eucharist. They had on the helmet of salvation to defend against intellectual pride. They had faith to defend them against the spiritual snares of the devil. They were moved to preach the gospel. They had a breastplate of good works and virtues in the public eye. All this they had but they did not first gird themselves with truth and even though this was a private sin, when sin of sexual abuse came into the light, it showed that they had failed to protect the first and most intimate manhood. Without truth protecting their manhood all satan had to do to make all their other works infertile was to attack their manhood. And we see that all those things that should have been good works for the building of the kingdom, because of this infertility actually harmed the kingdom they claimed to be helping.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Chicken or the Egg

I heard a news headline on the radio yesterday which ran much to this effect, "New study finds that storytelling is therapeutic." My first reaction was something like, "huh, they finally figured that out." but with a more negative bent. It frustrated me because I frequently see this inversion of facts to make it sound as if they newer institution has the strength over the older. This article ought to have read something to the effect that therapy has finally realized that storytelling is actually a more human and natural activity than therapy.  

But why do I care about this little phrase? It is that subtle twisting. Storytelling isn't therapeutic, it is simply human. My two year old son knows that storytelling is human. He knows that it is enjoyable, regardless of whether it is about mom and dad or the scary ogre. He even finds it enjoyable when he himself is the both the storyteller and the audience. My son would not not find therapy enjoyable because it is not human. 

We see this twisted logic all through out society. Take for instance the food and health regulations for public establishments. They include rules like there must be less than such and such % of rat feces in the food being sold by this or that company. That is a great rule but this is where the problem lies. There are schools now that don't allow their students to bring in homemade treats to share with the class because the home kitchen has been approved by a health and safety inspector, forgetting that a mother is not going to allow any rat feces in her food. The entire reason there are food and health regulations isn't because they are the bottom line but because home is bottom line and business are not actually involved in making food but rather in making profits and therefore must be held to a standard that their food cannot go below. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Cosmic Mystery Vs. Cosmic Horror

Throughout the last year I have found myself drawn into the writings of some of the masters of horror, particularly those from the 19th century and early 20th Century. These authors include Robert E. Howard, Arthur Machen, Ambrose Bierce, Saki and of course H.P. Lovecraft. The stories told intrigue me greatly. One of the greatest intrigues was that the really didn't horrify me. Now to be fair their are some stories that make my flesh crawl but horror, such as I remember as a child, I have not encountered in their work. 

Just recently I finished an essay by H.P. Lovecraft, Supernatural Horror in Literature. In this essay is outlined much of the developement of horror especially from the 18th century through Lovecraft's own time. But there is a line in it that particularly struck me, "It may well be remarked here that occult believers are probably  less effective than materialists in delineating the spectral and the fantastic, since to them the phantom world is so commonplace a reality that they tend to refer to it with less awe, remoteness, and impressiveness than do those who see in it an absolute and stupendous violation of the natural order." I would not consider myself an occultist and admit that my dealing with those subjects have been primarily through religious authors who warn against such practices. I believe then that the failure of much of this horror  to make an impression on me is a result of being religious. 

I knew the story of Adam and Eve and of the temptation by satan before I was five. St. Michael the Archangel has been a friend and intercessor to me from time before my remembrance. That there are cosmic forces around us that defy our definitions is no real surprise to me but rather an exploration in that deep mystery which I have played in since my youth. The horror that strikes me in these writings is that many of the authors refuse to allow any good cosmic powers. Lovecraft's characters mostly end up in a madhouse shocked by the horror that they have seen. The catholic saints ponder in their hearts the mystery they have witnessed.

St. Anthony of the Desert (circa A.D. 300) and St. John Vianney (A.D. 1786-1859) both battled with demons who physically manifested themselves. Exorcism of demons has had a place throughout the bible and even Jesus and the Apostles exorcised demons. There are still cases of exorcism throughout the world today. But these are just the showy examples of man's interaction with the supernatural.

Far more important to me is the reality of Divine Providence. I have visited New York City once. I was there for three days. On Monday morning we went to see the World Trade Center site which is a tourist area. As we turned the corner to arrive at the site we walked into a friend of mine from seminary and his family. When you start considering the odds of that encounter it boggles the mind. If they had been heading toward a coffee shop in the other direction or if we had missed the subway train and had taken the next train, that encounter would have never happened.

Authors cannot get away from Divine Providence. In every story I have read the author acts as a maker of providence. Only some chance encounter or a specific meeting sets in motion the entire set of events and without which the entire story would not exist. Some authors act as an antagonistic worker of providence but the thread of providence is still there.

Mystery is how the Christian explains it, but when someone, who has no idea of a good God, encounters these same themes, they encounter horror. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The End of Marriage

Marriage is a duel to the death which no man of honor should decline.
~G.K. Chesterton


The controversy around the HHS Mandate is raging and as one result all the conservative social issues are being discussed about on the talk radio circuit. I was listening to the Dennis Miller show. Mr. Miller and I do not agree on several issues, particularly; abortion, contraception and "gay marriage". On this particular morning he was taking presidential candidate Rick Santorum to task for a comment he made comparing civil unions with bestiality. Then several minutes later a caller posited that presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, with his string of marriages, is the best argument for civil unions. It was these comments and the over all conversation of the show that lead me to a sort of epiphany, as a culture we have already redefined marriage. 

When the Catholic Church speaks of marriage she is speaking of a covenant that is Permanent, Exclusive and Open to Life. These are so essential that if one of the parties entering into the covenant of marriage discloses to the priest that they intend to be married either only temporarily, or with an open sexual life or with no intention of allowing for the possibility that children can be conceived, the priest may withhold the sacrament. 

Our culture has abandoned those three aspects of marriage and has replaced them with the privileges that are commonly associated with marriage; Personal happiness, sexual availability, and tax and legal benefits. This has given rise to many different practices such as prenuptial agreements and open marriages. The problem with this definition is that it has no End (goal). 

Let us consider what the traditional End of marriage in a country has been. It is simply to provide the next generation of healthy stable citizens in the least expensive manner. To aid in the accomplishment of that goal society has given various benefits to married couples to help them reach that goal, specifically tax and legal benefits. 

Our society, using laws and other legislation has undermined that very End of marriage. The permanent aspect of marriage was to protect the woman and children from being abandoned by the husband, but now divorce laws have destroyed any sort of idea of permanency. Indeed there are prenuptial agreements that anticipate that the marriage will not be the slightest bit permanent. 

Contraception undermines both openness to life and exclusivity. It's greatest damage is to exclusivity. It turns the sexual act from being exclusive with the other spouse to simply exclusive with oneself. Once the act is primarily focused on oneself what does it matter if it is with the spouse or with another woman or man. It has already ceased to be a sexual act of mutual life creating love and is relegated to mutual masturbation. 

Abortion is a direct or more complete assault on the Openness to Life. This is not a surprising result of introducing contraception, because if you have already transformed the sexual act into something that is not life creating mutual love, but rather self enjoyment, than those participating in that act are already turned against one another, whither it is the spouse or the child. Thus when the contraceptives fail, as they all will,  there must be  some other mechanism to destroy the result. 

When the three aspects of permanency, exclusivity and openness to life are lived out. The first result is children. The permanency teaches children that to disagree does not have to sever love and relationships, and that to build loving relationships, mutual self-giving is required (this leads to good future relationships). Exclusivity teaches children to live with and learn from life's chooses and to take personal responsibility for each action (this leads to true patriotism).

These are the reasons why marriage must be permanent, exclusive and open to life, and why marriage is the necessary bedrock for society. This is how Rick Santorum ought to have replied to the question about civil unions. This leads to an economic reason for upholding Marriage laws between one man and one woman. That topic specifically I will try to write about soon. 

Pax Tecum.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

From the Cave

I just finished creating my first Etsy treasury list, From the Cave. It is a list of primitive or at least primitive looking objects. My favorite author in his book The Everlasting Man speaks of what we actually know about primitive man. We have not found piles of cracked wives skulls, but we have found drawings and sculptures. Right from our earliest origins humanity has had a desire to express itself in non-practical ways. The knife is a practical tool, a shiny stone wove into the pummel leather is not practical. A mug is practical, designs and images on the outside do nothing to increase it's ability to hold beer, but they are desired to be part of it just the same. 

This is one of the greatest things that separates us from animals. A monkey may pick up a stick and use it as a tool to pick bugs out of bark, but when he is full he will never then take that stick, wrap it in copper and set stones in it. 

And so right from our beginnings in the cave we desired to surround ourselves with things of beauty. This became true of every object we used. Fire was put into fireplaces and into pipes, protection and clothing soon had designs in it, food and drink were stored in ornate jars, at least until mass production came along and realized how much cheaper and easier it is to make drab items. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Encounter with the Enemy


The large wet snowflakes fell on the path leading through the smaller hills that stand between the Austrian towns of Hainfeld and Grill. The path was quite plain as the frequent use had churned it into a muddy rut in the midst of the pure white snow that had fallen all around it. Despite it’s well traveled look, only a solitary figure could be found on that path just now.

He was a tall man, just over six feet, with a dynamic muscular build that was well hidden in the folds of his winter coat. His face was cold and hard where it was visible between the top of the black coat, and the grey brim of his fedora. Small curls of jet black hair poked from under the hat contrasting with the dead grey of his eyes that marked him as one who had undergone the surgical augmentations to become an agent for the Office of Government and Religion.

He was out on official business and as he drudged through the snow he mused on the scenery around him. These hills in the midst of the mighty Alps were not very different in look to the Carpathian Mountains he had left to come here. He had spent his last five years in those mountains suppressing a blood religion that claimed it be started by Vlad the impaler. Vlad was and old Hungarian count who they claimed had sold his soul to the devil to gain immortatillity on the battlefield. They claimed that his life was replenished by drinking the blood of his Turkish enemies, and then later on any man who dared cross him.

These religions of the blood sickened and outraged him. His parents had held to some ancient brutish god as well, Crom, the god of war. They had named him after that god. Crom though was no blood God, but a god of honour and strength, he was a god to inspire the man on the battlefield was he faced down his enemies and sent them to Sheol. The religion of Crom was a religion without rites, at least none that his parents had ever shared with him. When Crom had first discovered the black rites of the great black gods he had blanched at their brutality. It was that very thing that lead him to join the Office and undergo the process for becoming an agent.

He had been called from his hunting in the state of Hungary to help a fellow agent here in Austria who had tracked down several different Christian communities and wanted to hit them all at once. Crom had never hunted Christians before nor had he seen their rites. His only knowledge of Christians was limited to his training where they were spoken of it as a once dominate religion of blood. Apparently these Christians got together to eat the flesh and drink the blood of their God. Just how they got that flesh and blood was unclear, but Crom was fairly certain that they like the other black religions used a human, probably in some sort of religious trance of mania, to represent the flesh of the God.

These thoughts brought him quickly over the hill to the bottom of a shear rock face. He followed the grey stone for nearly one hundred yards before he found the place were some of the footprints left off from the path and disappeared into the stoney cliff.

Crom had been informed about this secret door After a few moments of feeling the stone he had found the locking mechinism and released it, allowing the small boulder to swivel silently at his touch. The movement of the the rock recealed a small hole for him to enter. Once inside he allowed the boulder to resume it’s original position.

The passage was dimly lit and let downward for thirty of forty feet be fore it came to a simple wooden door in a simple wooden wall. The hallway itself was hewn from the stone and unadorned except for the various electric lamps hanging on the stonewall.

Crom approached the door and knocked once. There was an echoing knock and he responded with an another single knock. A small window opened through which all he could see was lips. The lips spoke, “Jesu mortes est.”

The rehearsed response sprang at once to Crom’s lips, “Sed resurrectio fuit iterum.” The knock and password worked just as he had been briefed. The door swung open to admit him into a large, well lit chamber.

The room was nearly full of people probably almost two hundred in all. It only took a glance to kow that he was in the ritual chamber. There in the front was the altar raised up above the floor and near it was surely priest dressed in an off white dress embroidered with images. There were also a number of other attendants up near the alter, presumably assisting the priest.

Above the altar was the statue of a dead man nailed to a cross. Around the room their were other stautes and paintings of different men and women. Some of those images held a child, a flower a tool or a weapon. Some of those images were wounded, indeed one was full of arrows, but others were entirely whole and without any visible imperfection.

Crom had a growing uneasiness. He could not understand it at first, but as he continued to observe the ritual and the room he started to understand his feelings. His first realization was of the white cloth on the altar and the white garment of the priest. In all his previous experience the altars where kept bare and the priest was either naked or almost naked eliminating the need to clean the clothing after it was drenched with the blood of the victim. The ritual too made him uncomfortable as they sang in what must be latin to rather pleasant tunes and responded evenly to the priest. Crom was used to the frenzied worshipers who sang and cried brutish hellish chants while screaming their responses to their priest in long hidden black and evil languages.

Despite of his uneasiness Crom stayed himself with iron nerve. He followed the simple gestures of those around him, standing and then kneeling. This continued for nearly forty minutes with a constant dialogue between the priest and the people. At one point the priest gave a long instruction in the Germanic Austrian dialect, but Crom knew only a smattering of that language and only caught the occasional word, baby, god, born, star, died.

Then Crom watched as the priest mounted the altar steps. It was difficult to see all that was happening as the priest stood mostly with his back to the people, but from was as an attendant brought him a golden cup and bowl adorned with jewels. Then the attendant brought two vials of liquid one red and one clear. Crom strained his eyes, was that blood. It might be but it seemed too translucent and pink. The priest poured them both into the chalice before handing the vials back to the attendant who then washed the priest’s hands.

Crom waited, he still saw no victim. He saw incense and gestures and heard bells and the priest lift above his head a small white circle and then the golden chalice. He saw the priest spread his arms and close them and turn to face the people and then turn back to the altar but still Crom saw no blood. The priest never let blood, either from a victim or from himself.

All at once Crom was aware that the people were going up to the priest who was giving them something from the golden plate while another attendant gave the people the chalice to drink from. Crom followed the example given, moved to the front knelt down and received the object from the priest onto his tongue. It was only Crom’s mastery of his will that kept him from laughing aloud when he recognized it to be cracker of some sort. Then receiving and drinking from the chalice he was amazed to discover only wine.

Crom returned to his place. He knew and understood his orders, it was to confirm and neutrilize the Christian presence in this small region. What he did not understand was this. All these Christians did was eat bread and drink wine. For the first time in his life Crom saw that the religion of the god Crom was also a religion of the blood, for it demanded the blood of his enemies spilled upon the ground. So to was the Office of Government and Relision a religion of blood for all it’s enemies must be bleed for the sake of the government, but here was a rite that had no ritual of blood despite all it’s statues and history. Did the Christ of the Christians not demand the blood of children and virgins. Did that Christ not even demand the blood of his enemies. What sort of God was this that the Christians worshipped?

Crom smoked a cigerette that had been offered him by an old man as the left the cave. It was not treason that caused Crom to descend out of those hills without having shed the blood of a single Christian. He had been trained to destroy those religions who were the enemy the humankind and in that cave the only enemy to humankind he had found was the one he found in himself.


Friday, December 16, 2011

Ode to my former Seminarian Brothers

I just recently came across this poem that I wrote near the beginning of my Spirituality Year at St. John Vianney seminary here in Denver. I believe I originally wrote this to my brothers attending Immaculate Heart of Mary seminary in Winona, Minnesota. When I rediscovered it I first thought I must have written it right before I left seminary, but the date on it was three years previous to that. So with out further ado I dedicate this poem to all those I attended seminary with.

To all you guys who sit in class,
While I go out and play on grass,
In sympathy for tests and exams,
While I sit and ponder the great I AM,
and in the "Caf" where you sit in fright,
I gobble it up in great delight,
Remembering fellowship of times now gone,
When the Bishop bids me come along,
Now know that I will pray for thee,
I just ask that you might pray for me.
And all the times that we have missed
We are together in the Eucharist.
And If we come to meet again,
To find that now we still are friends
Then we must, in all our cheer,
Hold aloft our steins of Beer!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Surviving the End of the Universe

A headline in a magazine caught my eye (although not enough to make me actually read the article; I was in quite the hurry). How to Survive the End of the Universe was the article, and it appeared in some sort of science/technology magazine. Now perhaps I am too small-minded to understand the hidden significance of this headline, but my first thought was, "Who would want to survive the collapse of all existence?"

I can just imagine the moment following the collapse. "Ah well, here I am, old chap. I must have done it after all. I guess I really showed God what's what. I really should contact that magazine and tell them what a bunch of top-notch folk their scientists are and just how useful that information was to me. I dare say that this deserves a bit of a celebration. I'm glad I saved a bottle of that 20-year-old Jamesons from when I created artificial intelligence." 

Looking around for the first time: "Confound it, who turned the lights off? Must have been old Wilkes, likely the chap didn't know I was in here. He's a terrific gentleman's gentleman but he is a bit too caught up with the whole 'conserving energy' thing. Of course, he grew up in a house that had relied on the old coal plants as we started running out of coal. Poor chap, that really affected him."

"Wilkes. Wilkes! I say, Wilkes, old chap! In the study -- just pop in and put the light on, would you?"

Several minutes progress (or hundreds of years; time is tricky without moving atoms to measure).

"Where could he be? Wilkes is usually quite on top of these things. I suppose I must take care of lights myself." 

Feigns rising and walking, "Hmm, I should be to the wall by now? Maybe I got myself turned around."

Turning, "I do declare, I cannot seem to find the wall. I better just go back to my chair and have a sit down until Wilkes comes back this way. He's probably just stepped out to get that new box of cigars I asked him to pick up for me."

"Confound it all. Now I cannot find my chair. Blast this darkness. Where is Wilkes? WILKES!! I need you right now, Wilkes!

Several more minutes, days, years, eons, (the terms are more or less meaningless now) "Wilkes?! Wilkes?" 

Whimpering, "God, where is Wilkes?"

Sunday, September 25, 2011

On the Intellectual Life

The intellectual life is such a beautiful and rewarding aspect of our human lives and yet it is so easy to let it fall to the wayside, especially once we leave the formal classroom setting. I am by no means a great intellectual, but I hope I am at least a reasonable intellectual. I have put much thought to the matter of how too pursue further intellectual studies without paying for classes, neglecting my family or becoming a philosophy professor (which I am not at all qualified to be). I have come up with a few ways that  have been quite rewarding for the time and effort put into them. 

Mark Twain once (or possibly many times) said, "I have never let my schooling interfere with my education."  I held strictly to that rule all through my formal education by frequently immersing myself in studies that interested me as a supplement to what I was required to study. I must confess that sometimes  I even pursued my own interests instead of what I was required to study. One practice I used all throughout college was to move slowly but constantly through the works of the late and esteemed G. K. Chesterton. I have not come close to reading even half of what he has written, but I have a good start on his work. This is a practice I have tried to maintain out here in the world of work. Admittedly I might go several weeks without this reading but I always come back to it and it has provide me much insight into my own life. 

Almost two years ago a good friend of mine, a homeschooling mother, approached my wife and me asking us to lead a discussion group for highschoolers on A Tale of Two Cities by the great Charles Dickens. We accepted and lead a small group of eight or nine students through this great work. I had never read this book when I was asked but read it several times to prepare myself for the seminar. We both enjoyed teaching the group so much that the next year we lead seminar on english poetry and will soon be starting a seminar on Dracula and Frankenstein

My last method was more or less handed to me by my brother in law who lent me a couple of audio books just after I had purchased my iPhone. When I am working with wood I am usually working alone and there is much time spent in repetitive tasks such as sanding or staining during which I can listen with quite a bit of my attention on the audio book. To be fair I listen to quite a bit of fiction, but I also engage regularly with the classics or philosophical works. Most recently I listened to Plato's Dialogue Pheado. I get most of the audiobooks free off of iTunes in the Podcasts section or in the iTunes U section. Many of the books are from librivox, which is also in the iTunes Podcasts section.

I have enjoyed getting to continue my intellectual life and look forward to many more books and discussions.