I Do Not Believe in Fun

The happy life is thought to be one of excellence; now an excellent life requires exertion, and does not consist in amusement. If Eudaimonia, or happiness, is activity in accordance with excellence, it is reasonable that it should be in accordance with the highest excellence; and this will be that of the best thing in us.
-Aristotle Nichomachean Ethics

What is consumer culture? It is very simple. Once upon a time we had little; and then we discovered machines, and had plenty after. What drove the plenty was determination, ambition and even love. But then, one day, we took the plenty for granted. And what was hard work, and excellence, became amusement. And those who were customers and creators and workers became consumers and victims and users. If the excellent life does not consist of amusement, then we must do as Francis of Assisi remarked: "Do not try to change the world. Change worlds."


And You Love Defeat more than We Love Victory

Although it's tempting to ascribe ruthlessness only to certain ideologies, it is potentially an attr[i]bute of all "winner-take-all" world views. The continued survival of a liberal democracy implies the absence of groups which see politics as a zero-sum game.
-Wretchard, Belmont Club (http://ping.fm/aFfaU) Operation Grand Slam

(Title paraphrased from Chesterton's 'Ballad of the White Horse.')


To Really Move, First you need to really Stand Still

Losing a post is the worst kind of thing. Especially if you're like me, all off the cuff. Backup, what is that?

Anyway, go here (http://ping.fm/WFfbM)

And check this out, right

I would have to say that boredom is the central disease of modern man. I see boredom as a disease of the knowing function of the mind, that function which psychiatry has almost entirely neglected -- as evidenced by its failure to consider the role of ideas in the psychological development of normal human beings.

Then we've got Blaise Pascal with a zinger:
All the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own chamber.

Then my mind goes immediately to Joe Versus the Volcano (JVTV for short):
My father says that almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to. He says that only a few people are awake and they live in a state of constant total amazement.



A Thought About the Cherubic Hymn

Let Us Now Who Mystically Represent The Cherubim
And Who Sing the Thrice-Holy Hymn to the Life-Giving Trinity
Now lay aside all Earthly cares
that we may receive the King of all
who comes invisibly upborne by the Angelic Host
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

I tell unto you a mystery

As we chant these words

"Holy, Holy, Holy, art thou

O Triune God

and Source and Ground of Life,"

We find that we are become

icons of the Cherubim,

subtly and unspeakably!

Therefore, let us forget

every anxiety, even that all

which we have in this world,

so that we may accept

He who comes unto us;

the King and Lord of all things,

who is uplifted upon

the very hosts of heaven;

invisibly and uncontainably!

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

The Cherubic Hymn is strange, since first of all it is self-referential. I'm not sure how common this is among the hymns of the Church, but from my lyrical memory it stands unique. It is as though the song calls out to itself the way the angels do in Isaiah's vision of the temple.

Another (and I could list many) is that the words establish a relationship of being between the heavenly host and the singers of the hymn. It isn't calling us to be like the Cherubim, it does not say anything particularly devotional (other than the three alleluias at the end,) nor does it recall the deeds of God to his people.

Instead, it is a piece of mystic poetry set to music, it tickles the intellect and stuns it in awe so that we may indeed "set aside all Earthly cares." (Or care, depending on your setting.)

Words for our time, for all Times

...shouting out I CANNOT ABIDE CRUNCHY ICE CREAM doesn’t move the line, it just summons the manager.
-James Lileks (http://ping.fm/V97d7)


Deep Calling Out To Deep

Yet if dreams hold an answer, as flowers hold fog,
they must answer with breath, and, if they answer,
must move among stars, and have their own songs
of the body and blood, and must sing them.
Interlude, from American Digest (http://ping.fm/NNP10)


John 1, add Tequila

the weird light shines in the dark, but the dorks don't comprehend it. For truly, the weirdness was spread all through the world, and yet, the world basically kept behaving as if this were just your ordinary, standard-issue cosmos.
-Robert Godwin (http://ping.fm/1zGVJ)


Consider to whom you give tribute...

Only it's not something for nothing. 'Free' health-care costs us something precious, and no less precious for being invisible. Because there’s a word for someone who has their food, housing and care provided for them… for people who owe their existence to someone else.

And that word is 'slaves.'
-Bill Whittle (http://ping.fm/VCQbr)


An Echo From Antiquity, 3

Surely then, if someone is moved according to the Logos, he will come to be in God, in whom the logos of his being preexists as his beginning and cause.
-St. Maximus the Confessor, Ambiguum 7


Threading the Needle, or So to Speak

Postmodern philosophies use the spirit to deny the spirit, leaving us with a wholly horizontal wasteland of matter and instinct.
-Robert Godwin (http://ping.fm/JxCmh)


Once and Again Adam

One of the central divides in the culture war is the question of whether or not mankind is “fallen.” Actually that’s not quite right, because for at least half the country, the whole idea of mankind being “fallen” is precisely nonsense. To the extent that they give a moment’s thought to the question, it is only to mock and dismiss it. Modern secularists are way too sophisticated to ever believe in such crude mythology. What they forget is that mythology is not about events of the past that never occurred, but archetypal structures of the present from which man can only pretend to escape -- or to ignore at the expense of his humanness, precisely.
-Robert Godwin (http://ping.fm/H7eJ9)


What Incarnation Means

We have seen that the shortcomings of the Laplacean ideal of science must be remedied by acknowledging our personal knowing--our indwelling--as as integral part of all knowledge. This amendment, we can now see, bridges the gap between the natural sciences and the study of man[, h]aving recognized personal participation as the universal principle of knowing...
-Michael Polanyi, Meaning (http://ping.fm/xBzgG)

Editor's note: The Laplacean Ideal refers to the idea that given enough computing power you could determine the positions of all atoms in the universal at once; then using physics you could predict their future positions, and also figure out where they were. The idea is that in this way you would come to all knowledge.


Something I can actually contribute for once

Usually when we feel pain, we take it to mean we're doing the wrong thing. And this is basically correct. But there are times and places where feeling pain means we're doing the right thing. What else could possibly be meant by 'Take up your cross'? I submit that when a wound is cauterized by fire, the first response is searing, blinding pain.


Click, click - did someone turn back on the light?

And, to be honest, I don’t have a specific agenda for what I want to do all that differently, apart from what I’m already trying to do every day:

* identify and destroy small-return bull****;
* shut off anything that’s noisier than it is useful;
* make brutally fast decisions about what I don’t need to be doing;
* avoid anything that feels like fake sincerity (esp. where it may touch money);
* demand personal focus on making good things;
* put a handful of real people near the center of everything.

All I know right now is that I want to do all of it better. Everything better. Better, better.
-kung fu grippe (http://ping.fm/xZHjj) h/t American Digest

Maximus Explains the Point of Individuality

Do not be disturbed by what I have said. I have no intention of denying free will. Rather I am speaking of a firm and steadfast disposition, a willing surrender, so that from the one from whom we have received being we long to receive eing moved as well. It is like the relation between an image and its archetype. A seal conforms to the stamp against which it was pressed and has neither desire not capability to receive an impression from something else, or to put it forthrightly, it does not want to. Since it lays hold of God's power or rather becomes God by divinization and delights more in the displacement of those things perceived to be naturally its own. Through the abunant grace of the Spirit it will be shown that God alone is at work, and in all things there will be only one activity, that of God and of those worthy of kinship with God. God will be all in all wholly permeating all who are his in a way that is appropriate to each.
-St. Maximus the Confessor, Ambiguum 7


The Continued Foibles of What is Sometimes Called (For Some Reason) Energy Policy

The combination of these problems also means we cannot, practically speaking, aggregate lots of very small flows of electricity into one big one. It’s not just total volume of energy production that matters, but the energy density available to high-volume consumers at a given place at and at a given time. This may sound like a dry technical point, but it has huge and nasty implications.
-Eric Raymond @ Armed and Dangerous (http://ping.fm/JSmgi)


An Exposition on Evolution and Creation

I don't want to speak long about this, but Tim Milligan recently posted an interesting link to NOVA, about Intelligent Design versus Evolution. A characteristic quote is this:

What it does is to falsely cast evolution in light of an inherently atheistic idea. This is the goal of the intelligent-design movement, indirectly to tell students that either you turn your back on the faith that you've been brought up with in order to embrace the scientific mainstream, or to be true to your faith you have to reject modern science. That's a false choice. It does disservice to religion, and it does disservice to science, and I think it is a terrible way to proceed with scientific education.


Tim asked the question:

Is there any way that intelligent design or special creation could explain why we have a chromosome like this? The only way that I can think of is if you're willing to say that the intelligent designer rigged chromosome number 2 to fool us into thinking that we had evolved.

I think I might have a satisfying answer to this, since it has been on my mind for awhile.

If you read my notes you'll discover what I've been up to mostly is to just find a neat quote in what I'm reading (I read too much) and post it with a possibly-illuminating title.

Somewhere along the line, reading a book so graciously lent to me, I ran into this quote:

What is it that has ordered the things of heaven and those of earth, the things which move through the air and those which move in the water--nay, rather, the things which preceded them: heaven and earth (see: Gen 1:1) and the natures of fire and water? What is it that combined them and arranged them? What is it that set them in motion and put them on their unceasing and unhindered courses? Or is it that they had no architet to set a principle in them all by which the whole universe be moved and controlled? [this sounds mechanistic, like a deist would adhere to. But... -ed] But who is the architect of these things? Or did not he who made them also bring them into being? We shall certainly not attribute such power to spontaneity [I think he means that they didn't just randomly pop into existence.] Even grant that they came into being spontaneously; then whence came their arrangement? Let us grant this, also, if you wish [that their arrangement, i.e. relation to one another is also spontaneous or random] Then what maintains and keeps the principles by which they subsisted in the first place? It is most certainly some other thing than mere chance. What else is this, if it is not God?

So here's what I think. This is St. John of Damascus, writing in what is probably the 600's (fifth century.) The theory of evolution as we know it today did not exist. But I think what John says is apropos to our struggle of what Creation means and how we reconcile an Intelligent Designer with Evolution.

While he doubts that such things came into being spontaneously, the spirit of what he is saying, I think, is that he doubts that God did not orchestrate the composition and arrangement of things. But he is willing to grant that it is random (which in his day amounted to spontaneous generation) - but he finds that no matter how random you say it is, the principles by which it is continually maintained despite having come about in a spontaneous and non pre-determined manner, are the work of God.

God is unchanging, and the world is created, as we Christians believe, through the Word, which is to say, Logos, the pattern of all things. If the principles - which themselves are quite constant - by which things are maintained is not this same Logos, pattern, principle, then what is it? What are these things, these constant principles which allow us to experiment, if they are not the Logos himself?

Thus I would assert that no matter how far you trace back the chain of causality God can not be removed unless you want him gone.

If the principles were not constant, but changed randomly, we would not be able to discover anything, since what we were trying to discover would change, that is, like Chesterton notes, our goal would change and thus we would make no progress. (Or would be unable to measure any progress.)

Science then must presuppose God, even if only implicitly, to work.

Intelligent Design as narrowly construed by some of its adherents sets a false dichotomy between creation and evolution: Making the lack of evidence here or there (what Theory is not a Theory because it does not have complete evidence?) evidence for God is improper and frankly impious.

When I say Intelligent Design, I mean simply what I say. There is an intelligence which designed the world. How this was done and 'what it looks like' are things which I do not completely know, and some of which may be unknowable. (Can I know the wordless way in which you came to a particular conclusion or came upon a certain idea?)

There's one last important point I'd like to make. Properly understood, I believe, and I think the Fathers can back me up here, is that Creation means not that God stamped everything into existence like some machinist, animals, plants, etc. But that God creates the universe continually. If he is what maintains the principles by which the universe does what it does, then how can it be otherwise? Creation is a continual act, and we may even say that it is one of love.

Thus if the unchanging natures of things came into existence at one point and did not change or if they came first as an inkling and then over time were fully expressed, it does not make them, as natures, change. Thus with evolution we are simply answering John's question, "Was it strictly preordered and placed by God, or was it brought into being by him through the principles of ordering of the universe?"

The second one is being affirmed. And isn't that what the scripture says, "All things were created THROUGH him"?

That's as much as I am able to say on this topic, thank you for reading.


I Spoke as a Child, I Thought as a Child

Yet underpinning both attraction and aversion is craving: the childish and utopian thirst for a situation in which I finally possess everything I desire and have repelled everything I dislike. Deep down I insist that a permanent, separate self is entitled to a life removed from the contingencies and uncertainties of existence.
-Stephen Batchelor @ Froth From Walt (http://ping.fm/Q6GhF)


How It Was We Were Enslaved

When the poppy is lanced, it weeps opium, leaving tear stains on the cheeks of the bulb of death. The tears of opium are collected, processed, refined and finally infused into the bloodstreams of millions, whose suffering and human tears finance our enemies.
-Michael Yon, Death In The Corn (http://ping.fm/Aos8d)


Before Other Things, Let Us Consider This

When Christ Himself spoke to Paul and called him, He could have opened his eyes at once and made known to him the way of perfection; instead He sent him to Ananias and told him to learn from him the way of truth saying: "Arise and go into the city, and there you will be told what you must do" (Acts 9:6). In this manner He teaches us to be guided by those who are advanced on the way, so that the vision rightly given to Paul should not be wrongly interpreted; otherwise it might lead later generations presumptuously to suppose that each individual must be initiated into the truth directly by God, as Paul was, and not by the fathers.
-Abba Moses of Sketis (St. John Cassian, 4-5th C.)

Don't Tell Me: This is Why You Got Your Art Degree

So what we see here is a candidate for President showing up at a photo-session for a cover shot for a magazine he knows is not going to give him an Obama-pass, but still making time for it. Waiting for him is the contracted representative of that magazine, Jill Greenberg, who has literally set a trap for him and then lures him into it. She mocks the McCain staff for not being "very sophisticated" about lighting when, in truth, the lighting used for a professional photo session is very complicated. There are umbrella lights, fill spots, and a raft of others being used at any given time.
-Gerard Van Der Leun, Behind McCain's Atlantic Cover Photo (http://ping.fm/ff7J2)


Objective Subjectivity

Take the example of artistic taste, as when we say, "This work of art is beautiful." Very few people have direct taste; nearly everyone has secondhand taste, in which their own sense of value is overlaid with habits, training, opinions that have been picked up, aesthetic principles that govern what one should admire and should not admire. But there is such a thing as pure taste which would enable you, without ever having seen anything of the kind before, to feel the rightness or the departure from rightness of some work of art, even if you have no idea what is the school or tradition to which it belongs, or have any training in the techniques used by the artist.
-Spiritual Psychology @ Froth From Walt (http://ping.fm/U118v)


What it Takes

When Captain Melton learned he would be going to Afghanistan, his family was far more concerned for his safety than he was.

“Do you want me to get you out of there?” his mother recalled offering. “I’ll do anything I can, even calling the commandant if I have to.”

Yesterday, she recalled her son’s response: “He said, ‘Don’t you dare. And if anything happens to me, don’t you dare blame President Bush. Don’t you blame the military. This is my decision. I feel God has led me to stay.’”
-Inside Charm City (http://ping.fm/7A5Cz)

Urge to Freely Conform... Irresistable?

But it is not just the Left which is cloistered. A glance at my social networking list would show precious few voters for Obama. If Obama were to win by a landslide I wouldn’t know anyone who liked him either. But while in the past the privilege of belonging to a circle was the province of the elite, today anyone can join his own ghetto. The Internet has made it easy for anyone to restrict his gaze to only what he wants to see. And from there it is but a single step to living in a self-referential world which could be shattered by exposure to contrary information.
-Belmont Club (http://ping.fm/K565b)

Lileks Returns to Target Rich Environment

Look, Europe is nice but it is not Mecca. Americans are not required to go there as an act of faith. I agree that travel broadens one, and the Grand Tour is a jolly tonic, but it is possible to live a rich, diverse, intellectually satisfying life without ever setting foot in Paris, and you wish the Germans had gotten that message.
-James Lileks (http://ping.fm/OwzSv)


Lileks in Rare Form Today...

“Cleverist” is a matter of opinion, but I’d suggest that when Mark Steyn gets a haircut, the shorn pieces fall to the floor and form, at random, cleverer observations in the form of Chinese characters.
-James Lileks (http://ping.fm/eGX8k)


Classical Musings

Acquire the reputation for courtesy. This is enough to make you liked. Politeness is the main ingredient of culture -- a kind of witchery that wins the regard of all as surely as discourtesy gains their disfavor and opposition. If this latter springs from pride it is abominable, if from bad breeding it is despicable. Better too much courtesy than too little, provided it is not indiscriminate, which degenerates into injustice. Between opponents it is of special worth as a proof of valor. It costs little and helps much -- everyone is honored who gives honor. Politeness and honor have this advantage, that they remain with him who displays them to others.
-Baltasar Gracian, 16th c.

Stars in our Midst

It seemed to come out of the streets that opened onto the South Street Seaport like some Titan's grime clotted fingers, and roiled across the river as if the distance was a few hundred feet rather than a few thousand yards. You saw what was coming and you turned to flee from this black wind with no storm, but there were thousands of others who had come to watch and they too were turning to run out of the exits from the Promenade that had, moments before seemed broad, but now impossibly narrow.
-Gerard Van Der Leun, The Wind in the Heights (http://americandigest.org/mt-archives/terrorwar/_the_wind_at_gr.php)


American Studies 100

The check had come and I'd paid it. They'd filled the restaurant and turned it once since we'd been there. A popular place. A post-post- modern place, a place that was a sterling example of how we live now -- the real and the regional reduced to a remembrance, the communities gated, the homes "maintenance -free." History in a bottle, cleaned, pressed and with the trans-fats removed. Just the way we like it. Traditional in style but tradition-free in content. The experience without the meaning and not missing it.
-Gerard Van Der Leun (http://americandigest.org/mt-archives/american_studies/in_the_blue_rid.php)

Modern Feminism Threatening, Coercive? No Way!

Wife Leave - www.washingtonpost.com - Learn to Be Nice to Your Wife, or Pay the Price. Read Full Story.
-From my news feed


And They Marched Around Jericho...

In a system where everyone else must submit to checks and balances, who provides the check over your power to ruin lives and reputations, if the media are above the law? You'd better come up with a good answer. And fast.
-Cassandra (http://www.villainouscompany.com/vcblog/archives/2008/09/fred_kaplan_sti.html)

Captain said to big old John Henry,

That old drill keeps a-coming around.

Take that steam drill out and start it on that job

Let it whop, let it whop that steel on down

Let it whop, let it whop that steel on down.

h/t: American Digest

The Wisdom of Men has been made Foolishness

The big ideas are all worthless, because they trample the little ideas. Make something better, right now, offer it to the public, and have it accepted without coercion. Then you've done something.
-Sippican Cottage (http://sippicancottage.blogspot.com/2008/09/something-something-else-happens.html)


An Echo From Antiquity

Now, it seems that of all the names given to God the more proper is that of I AM, as when conversing with Moses on the mountain He says, "Say to the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me." For like some limitless and boundless sea of essence. He contains all being within Himself.
-St. John of Damascus, On The Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book 1, Chapter 9

Words from the Silence of the Desert

Germanos then asked: 'How does it happen that even against our will many wicked ideas and thoughts trouble us, entering by stealth and undetected to steal our attention? Not only are we unable to prevent them from entering, but it is extremely difficult even to recognize them. Is it possible for the mind to be completely free of them and not be troubled by them at all?'

Abba Moses replied: 'It is impossible for the mind not to be troubled by these thoughts. But if we exert ourselves it is within our power either to accept them and give them our attention, or to expel them. Their coming is not within our power to contro, but their expulsion is. The amending of our mind is also within the power of our choice and effort. When we meditate wisely and continually on the law of God, study psalms and canticles, engage in fasting and vigils, and always bear in mind what is to come - the kingdom of heaven, the Gehenna of fire and all God's works - our wicked thoughts diminish and find no place. But when we devote our time to worldly concerns and to matters of the flesh, to pointless and useless conversation, then these base thoughts multiply in us. Just as it is impossible to stop a watermill from turning, although the miller has power to choose between grinding either wheat or tares, so it is impossible to stop our mind, which is ever-moving, from having thoughts, although it is within our power to feed it either with spiritual meditation or with worldly concerns.'

-St. John Cassian, On the Holy Fathers of Sketis (4th century)


Take It Light On The Philosophy, Chaps

... the lie requires a thinker to think it, whereas the truth does not, for it simply is.
-Robert Godwin, paraphrasing W. R. Bion (http://onecosmos.blogspot.com/2008/09/lie-with-left-wake-up-fleeced.html)

Sometimes it is Necessary to Speak Plainly of These Things

We seem to live in highly individualistic societies, but societies without much individuality.
-Theodore Dalrymple (http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/Read.aspx?GUID=D4900AB9-A320-4206-8A19-1B6AC55E01C3)


Sometimes You Choose the Life, and Other Times it Chooses You

Attacked by a group of robbers in his desert cell, Moses fought back, overpowered the intruders, and dragged them to the chapel where the other monks were at prayer. He told the brothers that he didn't think it Christian to hurt the robbers and asked what he should do with them. The overwhelmed robbers repented, were converted, and themselves joined the community.
- from The Life of St. Moses the Black, here (http://southern-orthodoxy.blogspot.com/2008/08/when-black-becomes-white.html)


To the Void which is a Deprivation

Visualize a man opening up the access panels of his mind and pulling out all the components that have God's image stamped on them. The problem is that they all have God's image stamped on them, so the man can never stop. No matter how much he pulls out, there's still more to pull. I was that man. Because I pulled out more and more, there was less and less that I could think about. But because there was less and less that I could think about, I thought I was becoming more and more focussed. Because I believed things that filled me with dread, I thought I was smarter and braver than the people who didn't believe them. I thought I saw an emptiness at the heart of the universe that was hidden from their foolish eyes. Of course I was the fool.
-Dr. J. Budziszewski

When we tear off the veil of the world, we will find nothing. Firstly, because the bridegroom who cometh has yet to arrive, and secondly because we are the one wearing the veil.


The Slinky of Divine Ascent

And, friend, know that always
Experience teaches one, not words.
A ladder rising wondrously to heaven's vault:
Ten steps that strangely vivify the soul.
Ten steps that herald the soul's life.
A saint inspired by God has said:
Do not deceive yourself with idle hopes
That in the world to come you will find life
If you have not tried to find it in this present world.
Ten steps: a wisdom born of God.
Ten steps: fruit of all the books.
Ten steps that point towards perfection.
Ten steps that lead one up to heaven.
Ten steps through which a man knows God.
The ladder may seem short indeed,
But if your heart can inwardly experience it
You will find a wealth the world cannot contain,
A god-like fountain flowing with unheard-of life.
This ten-graced ladder is the best of masters,
Clearly teaching each to know its stages.
If when you behold it
You think you stand securely on it,
Ask yourself on which step you stand,
So that we, the indolent, may also profit.
-St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent
The nature of acquiring and learning, of transforming data into knowledge, can be illustrated as traversing a spiral. Picture a Slinky set at an angle, with one side higher than the other. If you were climbing along the track of that slinky, you’d find yourself climbing upwards, then down, continually coming around and around to the same ‘position’ upon it, but with each successive circuit, a little bit higher than before… and then downwards again, though never quite as far down as before, and always coming back up just a little bit higher than the previous time.
-Blogodidact (http://ping.fm/k8xQB)