Monday, April 30, 2007

Exam in eight hours; kind of busy

Last of my undergrad. Wish me luck - or, for novelty's sake, pray for me - if you'd be so kind.

Thank you also for being understanding about this laxity of late. When I get to kick back for the summer with plenty of GKC (and Belloc and Borges and Beerbohm besides), there will be much more to talk about. For the time being, though, my roost is ruled by Shakespeare and his plays, though, regrettably, not all of them. I think it an odd sort of choice in a survey course of Shakespeare to neglect King Lear and Macbeth in favor of Two Noble Kinsmen and Pericles, but I'm not the one in charge so I can't speak with authority.

And Kinsmen was delightful anyway. You should read it, if you haven't already.

But enough! Away with me.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Subcontinental clerihews

My middle school students have been studying India. I was inspired to scribble the following:

Mohandas K. Gandhi
Was so fond of candy
That while eating and sex for his soul’s sake he sometimes would stop
He’d quake at the sight of a cherry gumdrop.

Mohammad Ali Jinnah
When invited to dinner
Would sit smoking under the gable
Then ask for a separate table.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Chesterton on . . . England

Blogger Matthew Archbold invokes GKC (and Churchill) to see whether England is in trouble. His conclusion: Yes. Excerpt:

2- The English government is considering forcing all adoptive agencies to place children with homosexual couples including Catholic adoption agencies.

"Religious liberty might be supposed to mean that everybody is free to discuss religion. In practice it means that hardly anybody is allowed to mention it." – Chesterton’s Autobiography, 1937

"There are those who hate Christianity and call their hatred an all-embracing love for all religions." - ILN, 1/13/06 (Chesterton)

"Once abolish the God, and the government becomes the God." - Christendom in Dublin, 1933(Chesterton)

Monday, April 23, 2007

May as well face facts

I'm not going to be able to get that stuff scanned any time soon. The school's computer labs - or, at least, those with scanners - are in use for exams right now, and are unavailable for the casual student. I'll have to get it done back home, where I will be heading for the summer in a week or so.

That said, regrettably, my own exams have proven highly time-consuming, and such reading as I've been doing has been limited to things that would help me thereupon. A rare exception: I read Cormac McCarthy's The Road today in the space of a few hours, in a spirit of idleness, but it is a book so wholly divorced from (even "opposed to") anything this blog is concerned with that I won't even bother going into it at any length. It was only sort of good, even then; I don't recommend it highly, though I don't warn against it, either. I'm told Mr. McCarthy has done better work, even if The Road did just win him a Pulitzer, and it was certainly well-enough done to make me want to see more before forming an opinion of him either way.

In any event, the final paper of my undergraduate career, submitted in a course on magic realism, surrealism and the fantastic, concerned Chesterton's impact on the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges. I have something of a bee in my bonnet about both of them, as I may have mentioned before, and as such this was a project to which I had been looking forward for a good long while. I was not wholly satisfied with the thing, but the instructor pronounced it excellent and gave it a good grade. I'd be happy to post it here, of course, if I could figure out how to get the footnotes and whatnot to carry over properly. Further experimentation is required.

Apart from that, I have little else to report. I finally got around to ordering some volumes of the complete GKC from Ignatius Press. It will be a large collection to build, but I have plenty of time.

I'm sorry I can't be more interesting right now. Three exams in the next seven days. I'll get back to you.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Blame Game

“I was feeling like a field the day after the circus leaves, to late for the fun and too early for the animals to reclaim it. And birds were picking popcorn off my face.” That was the opening line of play I wrote in 1976. It was about what drives a man to climb a tower with a rifle and start shooting people. It was about the first mass shooting on a college campus in 1966 at the University of Texas at Austin where Charles Whitman climbed the clock tower and opened fire with a rifle. He killed 16 people before he was shot to death by police. The difference between that event and Cho’s rampage at Virginia Tech in terms of media coverage is the blame game. Back in 1966 no one was rushing to blame the college administration, professors or other students for not stopping it or seeing this coming. At the time only one person was to blame - Charles Whitman. Today we are assaulted with: poor Cho was picked on by other students, his teachers did not force him into therapy and he was just a poor mixed up lonely kid. Why is it that in every case of this type we hear – a loner?

As Pope John Paul II told us, we have lost our sense of sin.

Many of the media’s talking heads (experts) have difficulty placing blame where it belongs. They say it’s because of teasing, taunting, exclusion… leading to anger or depression or both. And Cho blamed everyone but himself. He had become blind through sin, a slave. Charles did blame himself in a note he left and he asked for an autopsy to see if there was something physically wrong with him. There was a tumor in his head but he blamed no one for it.

Cho nursed at least two of the deadly sins, Envy and Wrath. These were his sins, the lives and life styles around him were not. He gave into those sins, fed them, until they became him.

CCC: 2539 Envy is a capital sin. It refers to the sadness at the sight of another's goods and the immoderate desire to acquire them for oneself, even unjustly. When it wishes grave harm to a neighbor it is a mortal sin:
St. Augustine saw envy as "the diabolical sin." "From envy are born hatred, detraction, calumny, joy caused by the misfortune of a neighbor, and displeasure caused by his prosperity."
Dante groups Envy with Anger and Pride as the sins of "Perverted Love." The other two groups are "Insufficient Love" and "Excessive Love of Earthly Goods." Envy is perverted because it "loves" what other people possess, rather than what is Good, Beautiful and True. It is often portrayed as "eating away" the heart of the envious person. Dante shows the envious as among those farthest away from Paradise, with their eyes sewn shut, but weeping over their sins. Again, a common metaphor for Envy is "wearing out the eyes."
CCC: 2302 By recalling the commandment, "You shall not kill,"[93] our Lord asked for peace of heart and denounced murderous anger and hatred as immoral. Anger is a desire for revenge…[94] If anger reaches the point of a deliberate desire to kill or seriously wound a neighbor, it is gravely against charity; it is a mortal sin. The Lord says, "Everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment."[95]
2303 Deliberate hatred is contrary to charity. Hatred of the neighbor is a sin when one deliberately wishes him evil. Hatred of the neighbor is a grave sin when one deliberately desires him grave harm. "But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven."[96]

I was picked on in High School because I was small and an artsy fartsy type. More than one jock pushed me into a locker. My kids often came home crying from school because they were picked on in a cruel way. None of us have taken up arms to stamp out the lives of our classmates for the greater good of mankind. My parents told me and I told my kids, “You can not control the events in your life, but you can control how you deal with them.” Revenge was and is never the answer.

It is still part of the media template to make excuses for criminal behavior. This comes from thirty to forty years of a few popular sayings (lies) becoming part of every day out look. He made me do it. I had no choice. He’s a victim of circumstances. Mother always like you best. I’m okay you’re okay. If it feels good do it.

Mother Teresa said, “Words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness.”

The beginning of our new Dark Age and the loss of our sence of sin began about the time (1963) when the Supreme Court said we were no longer allowed to say a prayer in school, but it was okay to kill preborn children (1973). If you can perform the required mental gymnastics to agree with abortion because that child is inconvenient or unwanted it is not that big of a leap to start killing those walking around because they are inconvenient or unwanted. And way too many of our youth have made that leap.

Cho was not the first and he will not be the last.
for why that is let Peggy tell you here

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Virginia Tech

The horror of the Virginia Tech slayings is still dominating the headlines.

(Or should I say, the media is milking it?)

But I’ve heard so many people say that this is a sign things are getting worse in the world.

I don’t think it is – we’ve had many massacres over the centuries. We just have better communication so we see it more.

The killings are truly tragic.

At the same time, I am not overwhelmed by pessimism.

I was reminded of a brief bit of verse by Chesterton.

In “The Hollow Men,” T. S. Eliot had written:

"This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper."

Chesterton, not subject to the pessimism that infected so many of his age, responded to that verse –

Forgive me if I say in my old world fashion, that I’m damned if I ever felt like that … I knew that the world was perishable and would end, but I did not think it would end with a whimper, but, if anything, with a trump of doom … I will even so indecently frivolous as to burst into song, and say to the young pessimists:

Some sneer; some snigger; some snipe;
In the youth where we laughed and sang.
And they may end with a whimper
But we will end with a bang.

So instead I will celebrate that professor who blocked the door and gave his life to buy time for his students to escape.

No whimper there.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Divine Mercy

My thoughts on the Virginia Tech shootings have yet to form into coherent language except for this: Never underestimate man’s capacity for doing evil. We often do and that is why the headline in our local paper asked, in big bold letters: HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN?
Chesterton speaks several times on the difference between pessimists and optimists here I would like to quote my Dad, “A pessimist knows what an awful place this world can be. An Optimist is forever finding out.”

I first heard of this tragedy coming off my weekend high where I got to watch my son receive the Sacrament of Confirmation and it was Divine Mercy Sunday. ("throughout the world the Second Sunday of Easter will receive the name Divine Mercy Sunday, a perennial invitation to the Christian world to face, with confidence in divine benevolence, the difficulties and trials that mankind will experience in the years to come.")

I’ve been saying the Divine Mercy chaplet frequently since yesterday morning.


So what would GKC say about the Virginia Tech shootings? I'm not sure he ever addressed the issue of gun control, though I found this at Roy Moore's Distributist Review:

"[A] disarmed public is one that is easily controlled. Neither Belloc nor Chesterton advocated gun control during their day. And neither do we."

I don't have much time to research GKC's thoughts on societal violence, mass murders, or anything else at this point. The comments are open. If you want to see my initial thoughts about the incident, you can go to The Daily Eudemon.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Sickness and a promise

I'm feeling pretty rough right now, both in body and in mood, so I can't bring myself to do proper justice to our beloved Gilbert. However, I will be more clear now about what I alluded to in the post of last Monday.

While reading some biographical material on Belloc and Chesterton (some separate treatments, some dual) I discovered a number of photographs that have not, as yet, been available for the internet public's general consumption. These photographs are generally of Gilbert, including some truly excellent shots of him in 18th Century-type attire (as a quite creditable Dr. Johnson), likely for the purpose of some pantomime or other, but there are also some shots of people we rarely (if ever) see, like Maurice Baring, Fr. Vincent McNabb, and even Cecil Chesterton (!). There are also pictures of the Junior Debating Club, Msgr. John O'Connor, Gilbert with Andre Maurois (for some reason) and more. I had hoped to have scanned them last week but what with the grant coming in and the term ending I never found the time.

I hope to have that remedied today or tomorrow. My final exams begin on Tuesday, and any prayers you might see fit to wing my way would be greatly appreciated.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Politics gets ugly

"If you attempt an actual argument with a modern paper of opposite politics, you will have no answer except slanging or silence." - What's Wrong With The World

In the last couple of months I’ve talked with a few people who had either run for office in the Town of Gates – where I live - or who considered running for office here.

None of them planned to run this year, or any time soon.

They gave a variety of reasons, but one kept surfacing.

That reason is well illustrated by the recent exchange between Gates Supervisor Ralph Esposito (a republican) and Douglas Ross, treasurer of the Gates Democratic Committee.

The debate began over the issue of property taxes in Gates.

There are many ways to interpret the property tax data. One is to look at the average taxes paid by Gates homeowners. Another is to compare the taxes paid by a homeowner on his house compared to the amount paid on a comparably valued house in another town.

Both ways produce different results. Neither way is inaccurate. Each has its uses. There maybe times when one way is the best way, and others where the other way is better.

What would be great then would be to see discussion of which way is most useful for Gates and under what circumstances.

Unfortunately, two camps have developed, with each one picking an interpretation, and digging in. What we are being treated to is a Gates version of WW I trench warfare, with both side lobbing labels, insults and insinuations at each other. For good measure folks who belong to neither camp, but who make the mistake of saying something that sounds like they belong to one side, get targeted.

Beginning with Supervisor Esposito’s column in the March 7 Gates-Chili Post and continuing through a series of letters and opinion pieces by Ross and Esposito in that newspaper, we have read a lively debate that long ago left reasoned discussion behind.

Instead, we get “”political rants,” “out of touch,” “attack mode,” “talks out of both sides of his mouth,” and more loaded words and phrases scattered about. The police department, public safety and the town car the supervisor uses get dragged in. The other side’s motives and concern for the people of Gates get questioned.

To be fair, for the most part Ross did try to discuss the issues, and Esposito lobbed most of the verbal shells

Still, in the midst of this the issue of property taxes gets lost.

In one of his letters, Esposito uses the word “nasty.”

Nasty indeed.

In fact, that’s one of the words that kept popping up in those conversations I mentioned.

Politics in Gates is repeatedly described as “nasty,” and they want no part of it.

So good, caring, qualified people choose not to get involved in runs for elected offices or even in town committees and boards because of the political climate.

That’s embarrassing.

Chesterton once observed, "All government is an ugly necessity.” (A Short History of England).

Here, it has become very ugly indeed.

Given the political climate here, I find myself thinking of something else GKC said: "It is terrible to contemplate how few politicians are hanged."

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Baby Coup

I’m not sure if Inspector Kemp is a Chestertonian, in the strict sense of the word, but I feel I need to paraphrase the Inspector here: “A coup is an ungly thing... undt, I tink, that it is chust about time ve had vun.”

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

American Review

In Look Homeward, America, Bill Kauffman refers to the American Review as a "Distributist journal." I Googled it and got this Wikipedia entry, which more or less confirms Kauffman's statement. The journal went defunct, but a new one was started in 2005. Here's the link. Anyone know anything about it? I surfed around and couldn't find much. If I had to guess, it's off to a sputtering start.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The Return

Well, I’m back. Lent… Lent worked out much better than I thought it would. At the outset I had worried that blogging would be an easy thing to give up; worried, even, that I was giving it up not because it was a pleasure and an indulgence but rather because it had become a hassle and a chore. What lesson would be learned from that beyond that which is the commonest sense? What spiritual good could be reaped therefrom? I’m happy to report that I very quickly discovered that, while the technical aspects of blogging can indeed be burdensome, being deprived of the power of commentary was most arduous indeed. My hands trembled for the keyboard when the “Tomb of Jesus” story broke; it was all I could do not to break. Any number of other events have happened between then and now that have cried out for analysis, but I had to content myself with just discussing them with friends and neighbours, which was itself a good thing, too.

In any event, I’m back. My idle hours during the last month did indeed see me reading a goodly chunk of GKC, as well as varied outlying works (I found both Michael Coren’s biography of Gilbert and A.N. Wilson’s biography of Belloc in a second-hand shop), but primarily I took the opportunity to expand my horizons beyond even England, wonderful though it is. Flaubert was a good friend to me; so too were the Latin Americans, like Julio Cortazar, Alejo Carpentier and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I continued my quiet love affair with Borges, delved hungrily into more of Solzhenitsyn, considered the delightful wastelands of Lovecraft, chuckled at Harold Bloom’s inadequacies, embraced C.S. Lewis’ Milton criticism, and on the whole enjoyed myself immensely. My creative output increased, seeing the production of several short stories, a few more poems, and a number of well-received essays on various subjects. In this short Lenten span I produced/revised, edited and submitted work to two of my university’s student journals (one academic, one artistic), both of which submissions have subsequently been published. I’ve been accepted to both of my top choice graduate programs, and will be fully funded into the bargain. I’ve gotten out of the house more, made loads of new friends, and on the whole been much improved by the break.

Most importantly, however, it made me realize some things about myself in a spiritual sense, however preposterous that may sound. Such is the point of Lent, but come on, it’s only blogging… right? Well, no, it’s not. It’s an empty void into which I can pour torrents of prose, only the void isn’t really so empty. There are people out there - you! - who read this stuff, and the more reflective and less active I became about my blogging habits, the more I realized that I was doing and saying things that I would never do to someone’s face. There’s been a certain arrogance, which in the course of BEING arrogant I felt was just excessive sass, that taints a lot of what I write. It ends now.

In any event, I’d like to say that I have some exquisite GKC stuff to show you after all this time, but this message is sort of a placeholder, honestly. I’ve been going flat-out on essays for the last couple of days, and it will continue for a couple more yet. Having just finished a treatment of Robert Frost’s “The Black Cottage,” I now have to finish up a comparison of Job and Ecclesiastes, and then move onto a paper concerning Chesterton’s influence on Borges, an essay I’ve been looking forward to for months. I may have some spare time today between handing one in and getting back to work on another, though, so I fully intend (but do not promise, regrettably) to use some school facilities to bring you something that really is pretty neat, and which will be of unspeakable novelty even to some of the Chesterton aficionados we have here.

Until then, though, it’s good to be back. I hope you all had a fulfilling and dolorous Lent, and that we may now stride boldly forward in the jovial, head-busting good humour that has been the mark of men and women of good cheer since time immemorial.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Friday

“To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same
as to be right in doing it"

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Guess who's in Gilbert?

The latest issue of Gilbert Magazine finally arrived, and … I’m in it.

Specifically, one of my clerihews.

Now I know that other folks in the Chestertonian blogosphere are regular contributors to that fine periodical, penning erudite, insightful and lengthy pieces, but now I can say I have contributed my own little bit of fluff:

When talking with Socrates
Just give simple answers please,
Or we’ll all have to slog
Through another dialogue.

I feel as light as a feather. I am as happy as an angel. I am as merry as a schoolboy. I am as giddy as a drunken man.

Why, I feel like dancing.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Short Blogging

Holy Week has turned into time-strapped week. This is the best I have:

On May 14, 1914, Dorothy L. Sayers wrote her parents about hearing G. K. Chesterton lecture at Oxford. Miss Sayers was favorably impressed by GKC and pleased to find him not so "dogmatic" as she had assumed him to be from his writings, and much less "fireworky." [James Brabazon, Dorothy L. Sayers, New York, 1981, p. 51]

Monday, April 02, 2007

Palm Sunday

Hosanna. Hey sonna. Sonna sonna ho. Sonna hey, sonna, hosanna.
Here comes the son of David.
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.
Open the gates before Him.
Lift up your voices!