Saturday, June 23, 2012

Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey is Dark Shadows or As The World Turns with better sets, better costumes, better writing, better acting and a British accent. All dressed up, but still just a soap opera, a manipulative romance. It does very well what it sets out to do, but I'm having no more of it, now that everyone, it seems is prepared to violate their principles for a moment of pleasure.

Friday, June 22, 2012

7 Quick Takes, Friday #3

1. My parish started the Fortnight for Freedom last night at Mass, with a prayer we will recite each day for the intention. On the two Fridays, Mass will be followed with a Holy Hour for the intention. Something special is happening for July 4 as well.

2. It's funny, our Pastor and many others act so surprised that the government (the President) can act so contrary to the liberty, especially Religious Liberty, that our nation believes in, yet, this is just how it was in the beginning. Catholics could not hold public office or vote in some of the original colonies. I think this may even have been true even after the nation was established.

3. General Washington even had to warn his troops to avoid prejudice against Catholics.

4. So, an animus toward Catholics is nothing new in America. In fact, only with Kennedy did this animus fade enough that a Catholic could be elected president. It has often been assumed that a Catholic would not be a good citizen, when in fact, the contrary is true. A good Catholic makes the best citizen!

5. On another note, you should also go over to my wife's Blog, Branford Girl. I believe she is connecting a give-away contest with her Quick Takes!

6. Another HOT day here in New England, though nothing like the heat in Texas where Jennifer F. writes her blog. And we don't have scorpions, but we do have those ticks (oddly named Lone Star Ticks, but not because they came from Texas!) that can cause an allergy to meat. We also do have rattlesnakes, though I have never actually seen one. And I think we have poisonous spiders. It's not all roses here. But get this, I discovered that there is actually an online database for poisonous spiders state-by-state, and here is Massachusetts poisonous citizen...

7. Speaking of roses, they are blooming in our garden, and I have to say, the rose is the most lovely, in appearance and in scent, of all the flowers.

Be sure to check out Conversion Diary's Quick Takes.

Have a great weekend!

Google & My Mom

Just for the heck of it, I brought up my home town on Google maps, and easily found a satellite photo of my childhood home, which is at the foot of the hill where my mother's current home is situated, which is nearby a strange little house I built, oh, 15 years or so ago, which my mother is now using for storage.

My mother does not use the internet, and I don't think she would be thrilled to know that one can see her back yard on Google.

Just the other day, I glanced at an article about some company that collects information on people, I think it is called Acxiom or something like that. The theme of the article was that we've never heard of them, but they have heard of us. They have probably even heard of my mother, even though she has never had a credit card in her life. I'm sure she has an ATM card, she writes checks, and once she had a mortgage, though it may have been in my father's name alone. So, they may not know a whole lot about her. I'm sure she'd prefer they knew nothing about her.

Now, the little shed. It is what they call a steel arch building. It looks sort of like a quonset hut, but it is made of steel arches, with deep, deep corrogations and they bolt together, so that they are self-supporting. They can be put on a regular foundation, but are normally mounted to a concrete pad. I opted for the foundation so that I could have things like a water pump hidden away beneath it. I built the thing by myself, literally. You're supposed to have about 4 guys build one, though I think 2 could do it. But I did it myself. I was proud of that. Hundreds of bolts to tighten, hundreds of holes to match up, hundreds of potential leaks. It has two of those spinning ventilators on the roof, and they still spin. I lived in it for about 3 or 4 years. I kind of miss the place. As I said, my mother uses it for storage now.

Looking around at pictures on Google Image and at the Google map made me kind of sad... I'm not sure why, perhaps just because of how much water has gone under the bridge by now. A lot has happened since I was a kid in my home town. A lot has happened since I lived in my steel hut.

While it's fun to be able to look this stuff up on the internet, it's also a little strange and discomfiting. You used to have to travel to a library or the hall of records to see such things, and maybe not see this much. But now, without leaving your home or office, you have access to pictures, records, maps, you name it, and for a price, you can have access to almost anything that can be recorded in some fashion.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Thought Exercise

All righty then, I read about a tick, the Lone Star Tick (so named because of the white spot on it's back)

Turns out, this tick can cause an allergy (which can be severe) to meat. You get bit by the tick, and if you're one of the unlucky ones, you get seriously ill when you eat meat.

Now, if you ask me, this is a manifestly weird thing.

So, imagine this - think of your favorite thing: food, drink, activity - how about - going to the movies? You love going to the movies. You love the whole experience, the sights, the sounds, the smells, the press of the people in the concession lines, the whole searching in the dark for a good seat, the sound of crunching popcorn and the stepping on sticky gum, the sound of the seats flopping forward when someone gets up, all of that.

And then, one fateful day, you go on a hike with your best movie buddy and your dog, and you get bitten by the (cue ominous music) Lone Star Tick!

Two weeks later, having no symptoms, you head off to the theater, and as soon as you get in line, as soon as you smell the popcorn, you get violently sick. Next thing you know, you're lying on the dried-gum-spotted carpet, vomiting blood. An ambulance arrives, you're taken to the hospital, and within minutes, and after a cup of purified water, you're fully recovered. But you are told that you've developed a life-threatening allergy to Movie Theaters due to the bite of the Lone Star Tick.

You will never be able to enter a movie theater for the rest of your life.

And next weekend begins an Arnold Schwarzenegger marathon.

Think about it.

(In place of movie theater, insert any favorite thing.)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Trusting God

For a while there, the readings at daily Mass frequently referred to the various forms of Jesus' promise, "Whatever you ask for in prayer, you will receive."

I listened carefully, and I did not hear the limiting qualifiers that we moderns so often put on the promise, except in one sense: living in the will of God.

It is not so much about what we ask for, but in our overall purpose and direction in life. When we seek first God's kingdom, when we are motivated by love for God, when his commandments are our joy, when our goal, above all, is like Jesus': obedience to the Father, then...

Whatever we ask for in prayer will be granted to us. Whatever we need will be given to us.

You see, we have to so trust the Lord, and so love the Lord, that no matter how much it seems like walking a tightrope over Niagra falls, we desire to do nothing but his will, having a certainty that He will give us all that we need.

Morality & God

Looking more closely at the comments on Leah's conversion announcement post, I find people arguing about whether or not we can have objective morality without a god.

I have to say, I don't think we can really know the answer to this quandary clearly because we either have a God or we don't. And we can only speculate what the world would be like, what morality would be like, if we were in the opposite situation: either without a god in a world with a god, or with a god in a world without a god. Hence, faith enters the picture.

In my mind, it comes down to love. Morality is about love. God who is love, has given to us a sense of morality because he loves us and wishes for us to have joy, and without a moral sense, we cannot really have joy, especially when immorality ultimately separates us from Love.

Atheists & Judgement

OK, famous atheist blogger, Leah Libresco, has announced her conversion to Catholicism. I knew of her vaguely, but never read much of her stuff, but sort of wondered why this Atheist was posting comments on Catholic women's blogs? I have a better idea now.

Here's the thing. A lot of people, especially (it seems) Catholics, are expecting Leah to receive an onslaught of hate comments and ridicule from Atheists on her blog. (Like Catholics are immune to doing that sort of thing. I wish we were. If we Catholics actually did love our enemies all the time, we'd probably have none.) Anyway, maybe she will get a lot of hate or negative comments, but I find it very disturbing that this is what we expect of Atheists, as if, being an atheist means being automatically predisposed to unkindness and hatred and that sort of thing.

This is a human problem, not an Atheist problem. Like I said, if Catholics were immune to the problem of hatred and unkindness, the world would be a far better place.

Looking at her blog, briefly, I get the impression she has not gotten too many nasty comments. Catholics and Christians out there, let us stop judging, and let us set the example by loving everyone. We are more neighbors than ever with the world so interconnected with instant communication. We have no excuse.

Are We Voyeurs?

We are watching the second season of "Downton Abbey" with all the adventures and misadventures, all the in-touchedness and out-of-touchedness of the various folk, all the tragedies and joys, and the sadly amusing thought-to-be-tragedies (because they are out of touch), etc, etc, etc, and at the end of the DVD last night, I found myself wondering if we are voyeurs, and is not our culture today voyeuristic in all of our media consumption? We spend an awful lot of time, today, watching other people's lives. And the really strange part of it is that many of them are not even real!

There are implications here, I'm certain of it.

Just something to think about.

Poignant frog?

From Wikipedia:

The common frog (Rana temporaria) is found throughout much of Europe. Adults have a body length of 6 to 9 cm (2.4 to 3.5 in) and vary in colour, with the ability to lighten and darken their skin to match their surroundings. They will feed on any invertebrate of a suitable size and, apart from the breeding season, live solitary lives.

...apart from the breeding season, live solitary lives... Does anyone else find this inexplicably poignant?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Anticipating death

We are reading Little Women together, my family, and we are at the point where Beth seems to be dying. Jo sees it, and following a visit to the seaside, their parents see it too.

I have often thought, in these kinds of situations, that the dying person has become too convinced of their demise, even attached to it, and therefore they begin to give up, even to will their death. I'm not sure that I think it is right.

Of course, only God can judge, but I am not sure that it is right. It troubles me.

Giving up technology

Every now and then, possibly as often as once a week, I consider completely giving up internet and computers. Then I remember that I do a lot of my business (paying bills, purchasing things, preparing my choir) with the internet, and there are other fairly important things that I do with the computer, mostly related to my choir or to music or to writing.

There is a part of me that longs for so-called simpler days, when communication was by telephone, postal mail, or most important, face to face. We still have those, but we have the new ways too, and I think the new ways have become more pervasive than the others.

Sometimes I think we just have too much communication, and that it is more often than not a lower quality of communication.

Be that as it may, for now, because of my bill-paying, and purchasing and other needs, I will stick with technology. But there is still that partially undefined longing within me. I think it is to be free of technology, or something like that.

Something I'm thinking about.

Love defined

Love, or charity, is: a divinely infused habit, inclining the human will to cherish God for his own sake above all things, and man for the sake of God.

Pretty simple, eh? A divinely infused habit, meaning, God makes it possible to practice love, and the working of that habit is manifested in the cherishing of God because he is infinitely worthy of love.

Only God can love God adequately, because only a perfect lover can perfectly love a perfect beloved. We should do our best, loving God with all that we are and have.

And man loves man for God's sake, because of what we see of God in man, because God has commanded us to love each other, because of God's example, because to love God's most cherished creation is to love God himself.

The emotions get involved because we are emotional beings, but the primary element in love is in the will. Which is good, because sometimes we can will something good for a beloved, but be unable to actualize it. As in St Therese's case, wanted to bring God to all men as a missionary, her desire had to take the place of actually going out and proclaiming God's goodness and mercy as a missionary.

Little children, let us love on another.

The failure of Christians to love is the greatest cause of the world being unconverted to Christ. I, of course, am first among these who fail.

The child and the small

There is much in spirituality that refers to becoming "like a little child" or becoming little or small. I think it is more accurate to speak of being a child or being small, rather than becoming.

The fact is, we are small, we are all but nothing. From God's perspective, we are "like ants" seen from a great height. He is all, we are not all. He is, by nature. We are not, by nature. God has no beginning, no origin, no originator. He simply is, and he is all-powerful. He is perfectly simple, being all in all, without parts, without any division, he is perfect unity.

We have an origin, and an originator. Without the sustaining will of God, we could not continue to exist. We are entirely dependant upon God for simply existing.

Everything about us, everything that are, have, hope for, depends entirely on God. So being a child, being little, is simply a matter of being true to what we are, simply acknowledging our relationship with God. It is not a matter of becoming something, but of accepting the truth and not trying to be something that we are not, and that we cannot be. It is a matter of not trying to be more or greater than we are. It is a matter of living the reality of who and what we are, in relationship with God's reality of who and what he is.

It is a matter of living the truth, as simply and as humbly as we can.

More on the worthwhile life

If the idea is to do all for God out of love for God, then impatience becomes a form of rebellion, and a manifestation of disobedience and of lack of love.

In other words, if the only good works God accepts are those that are done for him, out of love for him, then our good works become unacceptable when we are impatient in the midst of performing those works.

It's as if God were our employer, so to speak, and as the one who "pays" us, he's the one we want to please. It's not about pleasing myself, or the person who may immediately benefit from what I do, nor can it be about getting any kind of praise or credit from "the world." It can't even be about getting my salary, or a merit bonus. The motive has to be "I'm doing this for God because I love him, whether I get paid or not, whether I am praised or thanked or not." Everything else is secondary.

But when I get impatient and rail or complain, I am railing or complaining against my "employer." I tell myself, I'm angry about the chicken that flew out while I was trying to work on the coop, or I'm angry at myself because I clumsily spilled the ice cube tray while trying to put it back into the freezer, but since I'm supposedly doing these tasks for God, out of love for him, my anger (with the hardships of the job) goes against him.

You see, the chicken flying out, the nail bending, the ice cubes spilling, they're all part of the job. I cannot say I'm hammering a nail for God, and exclude my impatience from it. I can't say, "All for love of God," but exclude the moment of anger. No, the anger is part of "the offering," and the anger, as the task, goes to God with the rest.

Which makes the whole task pointless. A life is only worthless when we suck all the value out of it by our impatience with any element of our life. Patience, mildness, loving resignation, these are all the elements that say: "I love you, and I offer you what I am doing, what I am accepting, because I love you." There is no room for love in impatience and anger.

The trials that come about as part of a task are the proof, so to speak, of the sincerity of our offering. When we really, wholly love the person for whom we are doing a task, we joyfully and patiently accept all the hardships that come along with the task. It can't be otherwise and still be an offering of love.

So, the bottom line, anyone who is capable of love can live a life that is worth living. The task at hand, simple, or complex, menial or grand, must be love, first and foremost. The life of one who does not love, who gives in to impatience and anger, is leading a life of tragedy, and will end in tragedy if he does not repent of his failure to love.

Monday, June 18, 2012

What is a worthwhile life?

Nowadays, there a lot of judgements about lives worth living, and so abortion and euthanasia and the doling out of medical care are used to cull those deemed less worthwhile. This has probably always been done in one way or another, I think we're a bit less honest with ourselves today about what we're doing. This is a vast topic which could go just about anywhere, so I want to look at one small point.

Sometimes we look at a life, even our own, and think we see a pointless life, a wasted life. We can look over the past and see no accomplishments, no successes, at least none persisting, and we can think: utter wasteland.

Yet there is one who gives life, God alone, and only his judgement matters. His criteria? Love, obedience: Love one another as I have loved you and, if you love me, keep my commandments.

That's why, ultimately, it is so much more important to look at the why, and the for whom of what we do.

Dare I say it, even Jesus' life would have been worth nothing if he had not lived and died out of love for, and in obedience to his Father, God.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Are There Bad Seeds?

There is a movie, based on a long-running play, based on a successful novel, called The Bad Seed (released in 1956, the year I was born) about a sociopathic little girl named Rhoda.

The premise is that Rhoda is the daughter of a serial killer and inherited her mother's evil tendencies. How likely can this be, a genetic predisposition to murder? If that extreme is possible, then less serious predispositions could be possible too, such as to theft, sexual sin, etc.

I don't believe it, myself, and think that example and environment and education are likelier influences. I do believe that children can be at a moral disadvantage due to background, education, example, and thus, good parenting is so essential in the formation of a child's moral foundation.

The thing is, even with good parenting, a child can go in a bad direction, while with bad parenting, children can become very good, even holy.

This a mystery of grace, while being something of a pat answer. It is worth some thought, especially in the context of parenting, and our own moral choices, as they lead from one to another.