fragments of an attempted writing.
This video captures something of the life of South Memphis.  My shop is on the train tracks that literally divide Orange Mound (South Memphis hood) from Midtown, and a lot of my coworkers live in Orange Mound.   The narrator is now attending Lane College, which is the HBCU in Jackson, TN where both of my parents worked (dad as a career counselor, mom as librarian) for a couple of years before they moved to Memphis.

Memphis has, to paint with a broad brush, two large swaths of "bad" ghetto (there are pockets of such across Memphis, and there are not so "bad" areas within each, so this isn't really accurate, but for the sake of simplification...) Orange Mound in the south, and Frayser in the north.  My brother was a cop in the South Memphis police precinct (Raines Road Precinct) for a good while, so I've heard stories both from the perspective of a cop and from the perspective of my coworkers who live there.  I live on the Raleigh/Bartlett border in the north, and have taken classes at the community college extension campus and spent a lot of time with coworkers in Frayser, so I know the North side better.  Plus my mom was librarian at the "worst" public elementary school in Frayser (and in the whole city, so it was said, they have since shut it down) for years.  Both Orange Mound and Frayser can be quite beautiful, especially in the spring when the flowers are in bloom, and later in the summer when the crape myrtles bloom.  Memphis is an interesting city in that there is flora everywhere, and as seen in the video there are pockets of "woods" throughout the city.  It's not all concrete.  There is something about the rolling hills in Frayser, and the large number of pine trees there, that I find quite peaceful.  The food (especially soul food and BBQ) in both north and south sides of the city is often sublime.  I'm attending a community BBQ some friends of mine in Frayser are putting on in a couple of weeks at a COGIC church there, and my mouth is already watering at the thought of it.

There is a heaviness in the aesthetic of Memphis that is hard to describe (and by "Memphis" I mean real Memphis, not East Memphis, which is Disneyland Memphis for rich white people).  Part of it is the anatomy of summer here, the visible weight of the humidity - that great oppressor.  Part of it is the goddamn brokenness of everything here- govt, roads, schools, neighborhoods, businesses, churches - anything you need to work for you doesn't here.  There is that hauntedness and a woundedness seen in many of the souls who grow up in or next to the sorts of hells noted in the video.  There is that completely disarming mix of hopelessness and mirth seen.  There is the always lingering possibility of violence (that is everywhere in this city - I never, a dozen years ago, would have thought if possible that I, former Catholic Worker, would become someone who didn't leave home without gun and knife).   But, despite and because of that heaviness, there is the singing shown at the end of the video, there is a palpable joy to be found in South and North Memphis that you notice if you stick around long enough, longer than the ghetto tourism of white Christians from East Memphis (or its satellites in trendy Midtown neighborhoods and Mud Island) or eastern suburbs churches doing pat-themselves-on-the-back projects on the occasional afternoon.  It is a joy that makes no sense, and it certainly isn't a joy that makes everything OK or worth it.  It is a completely useless, gratuitous joy, the existence of which makes one wonder at the absurdity and beauty of human beings.  
This resonates.

I think the article may somewhat overemphasize the change in locale (though my old ethnography prof would tell me never to underestimate that) and de-emphasize the easily dangerous effects of breathing and meditation techniques.

I especially noted this part:

These meditation techniques are "designed to completely psychologically rearrange you," says Paul Hackett, a lecturer in classical Tibetan at Columbia University. In a foreign setting, that kind of experience can be even more traumatizing, especially when you take into account the way some Westerners in India tend to snack at the country's spiritual smorgasbord—a little Ashtanga yoga here, some Vipassana meditation there. "People are mixing and matching religious systems like Legos," Hackett says. "It is no surprise that people go insane."
Indeed.  I think this strikes at what I was trying to get at years ago when talking about the WASP girl with the last name Smith who just got home from the latest Sex and the City movie, having listened to K-LOVE on the drive home, with prayer rope on her wrist, and books by some Athonite elder and Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Kahlil Gibran next to her bed.  Not that some absolutist hegemony of interests and entertainments is desirable (or healthy), but that the spiritual smorgasbord you can get in America is also (grant it to a lesser degree than what we read of in the linked to article) going to pull a person in a number of different directions, and this can really, to put it in the language of kids these days, fuck you up.  But of course the real analogy is with those spiritual addicts we've all met who, with furious urgency, go from one spiritual experience to another, spiritually high as a kite initially at each one.  I've seen more than a few monkabees with the same look in their eyes as seen in that photo of Jonathan Spollen "3 months ago."  It strikes me that one indicator of "sanity" in a religious institution is not having many gurus who lead these poor souls on, and trying to make impotent the gurus that they inevitably have.  [Where you have clergy in any number, you will have people who think and/or intuit themselves to be gurus.]

Gurus are always a bad idea, worse is the desire to become one.  Or, if I might borrow the language of Arturo and Delegado Cero, there is no spiritual vanguard either.

Just learned that Eugene Genovese died.  I met him once (and his wife on another occasion).  And I spoke with the man a number of times when I was at Loome's and once thereafter, and found both he and his wife to be interesting people, if a bit too well bred for my blood (yes, Eugene had been raised working class Italian-American, but he married well, and conveyed an appreciation for having arrived).  His Marxism has always been something of an enigma to me - clear as day in most of the texts (until the early 90s or so anyway), but in personal relationships he began distancing himself from other Marxists fairly early on.  There is an uncanny simultaneity in Eugene Genovese of speaking clearly (and I think accurately) about pathologies within the master classes of the antebellum South and admiring them, sometimes for reasons quite related to those pathologies.  I haven't made it through all of the later Genovese work yet (I own and have read most of but haven't completely finished Mind of the Master Class), and I still don't quite know what to make of the man.  As some of you may recall my long post years ago on the Southern Agrarians, my studies of those men led to a perplexity as to why so many traditional conservatives find so much promise and substance in them, and Genovese's later devotion to them strikes me as not just odd, but downright bizarre given much of his analysis of the American South.  I can generically appreciate lifelong Genovese's anticapitalism (he never dropped that, and in certain respects seems to have made his anticapitalism a more personal matter after embracing a Catholic anticapitalism) and disdain for liberalism, but it has never been clear to me where he thinks his turn to a Southern inspired traditionalist conservatism got him (in terms of a workable political philosophy and a useful lens via which to "deal with" late modern America).  That said, his work on slavery and, in particular, white intellectuals in the American South, is required reading and has been formative in my own coming to (generally acrimonious, at least when it comes to whites with money) terms with the South.  I just can't find the sympathy for paternalism that Genovese did.  In any event, the man was a class act, could be remarkable funny with his dry wit, and spoke to a 20 year old nobody at quirky old bookstore in Minnesota as if that nobody's opinions mattered.  Requiem æternam dona ei, Domine.  Et lux perpetua luceat ei. Requiescat in pace. Amen. [Sorry, per the thread below I learned that Genovese worked with Doug Wilson and plugged Wilson's work later in Genovese's life.  No prayers for Genovese then, as he is obviously in hell.]

There are some interesting articles on Genovese's legacy in radical thought here.

I also enjoyed reading this reflection by Paul Gottfried that remembers Genovese and Christopher Lasch and is well worth reading.

Kirkian thematics, probably part I.

For various reasons I haven't been able to get back to my current series on my old bookselling haunts.  That sort of writing (not that it is of great quality, but that it is very personal) requires more of me than other word scatterings.  Perhaps later in the week.

I have been tempted to write something on Kirk's 6 Canons of Conservatism, elsewhere called his 10 Principles of Conservatism, which came up in a recent discussion, maybe later on that.

For now Dreher on Brooks.

Kirkian conservatism is a political thematic, if you will.  I'm not sure that it is an actual political philosophy.  In any event, whatever it is, I can't find where Kirkian conservatism comes down on actual policy matters, and let me let you in on a little secret, most discerning reader, politics ultimately comes down to policy, and law, and, you know, concrete stuff.  Get it?  [Modestinus points at some of these realities in this post, which every distributist should read - and which Moddy should turn into a book.]

So Kirk sometimes espoused support for environmental regulations.  But as a commenter on the Dreher thread accurately notes, Kirk also "spoke frequently about voluntary community vs. coerced community." And as you know Kirk was very much on the side of voluntary community.

So what does a Kirkian conservatism do with actual environmental policy?  Let's get more specific - what does it do with Monsanto and its GMOs and intellectual property claims?  Lay it out for me.  As I know more than a fair share of conservatives who refer to themselves as being inspired by Kirk or even as Kirkian and/or Burkean (via Kirk) conservatives, I can tell you than Kirkian conservatism seems to have little to no bearing on the actual policy positions of those who like to bear his name.  And let's be forthright - it's actual policy that makes the difference between whether or not our great grandchildren are all sterile because of GMO corn (if that fevered fear of certain leftists I know turns out to be true), and not our rhetorical preferences or our sentiments.

As I see it, a self-proclaimed Kirkian conservatism is usually, but certainly not always, akin to Crunchy Conservatism, which means that we want a conservative rhetoric which makes us feel like we are not the assholes that Dubya/Rove/Cheney/McCain/and-in-a-pinch-Romney diehard supporters are, but we're still going to vote for movement conservatives Huckabee and then Santorum when given the chance and we're going to actually, when pressed, support movement conservative positions (especially domestic ones) well more than half of the time.   We want a kinder, gentler version Paul Ryan, if you will, though one deemed just as sexy.

But neither life nor politics works that way.

Dreher wants to return to a "traditionalist conservatism."  He uses the turn your TV off trope in his call to intellectual and traditional conservative arms.  But what does he really want more than a changed rhetoric?  What does he really want more than a slight dressing down of some of the more pushing-the-envelope elements of movement conservative domestic fiscal policy and military policy?  What does he want to do with Social Security?  What does he want to do with Medicare?  How does he want them funded and budgeted?  How does he want them administratively organized?  What does he want to do with environmental regulation?  What, exactly, is he going to do about the Koch Bros plant not all that far from me or him in Crossett, Arkansas, and how, exactly, is his policy decision informed by a Kirkian conservatism?  Wouldn't it be great if the Kochs voluntarily cleaned up that plant?  My daughters would like pink worker fairies (we don't do princess fairies in our household) with magical powers to clean up their rooms.  Some shit doesn't happen.

I don't mean to suggest there there should be a policy opinion hegemony among those toting around Kirk, Nisbet, and Weaver.  As you probably know, I belong to a couple of radical leftist groups, and have friends in many others, and I can assure you that those who tote the name of Marx around have varied opinions on policy.  But they all are (often enough) able to argue why a given policy position is in line with a Marxist political/economic orientation.  And most of the time their defenses of their policy positions along Marxist lines are plausible, or plausible enough anyway.  It is hard for me to imagine a Kirkian approach to the Koch plant in Crossett that is such that I read/hear it and think "yeah, that is definitely Kirkian."  Hence my position that Kirkian conservatism is thematic, and doesn't really orient one to specific ways of handling policy decision making or even general trajectories of approaching policy position making.

This isn't to say Kirk is bad for this reason or that his words are useless. Far from it.  I much prefer Kirk to most other American conservative thinkers.  Themes can be helpful.  Then again, we live in the age of 
überlifestylization, in which we hold to very little that goes deeper than the thematic, so perhaps turning to the thematic too often approaches the danger of offering an easy catharsis to commodity fetished souls.  I don't know.  But I do think that if you are going to call for a return to a traditionalist, Kirkian conservatism, and you can't tell me with some precision what this means in terms of policy positions and how those policy position decisions are integrally related to Kirk's thought, you are posturing, and intellectually masturbating.  Not that I would ever accuse Dreher of that though, of course.....  

By David Popiashvili.  See more here.  My kids love his paintings.  HT: Teena.

Summer storm at harvest time in Strohgaeu Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany, 

Image Credit : Franz Schumacher

spatiamentum, and other fragments, in slight payment of an old debt. Part II.

 There were maybe 6 or 7 employees at Loome's when I started.  Tom Loome was the owner.  I had never met a man like him, and haven't since, but more on him later.  Mary was made a consecrated virgin by the local RCC bishop shortly after I arrived.  Henry and Chris were decent chaps with families, they were the managers and the only bookbuyers there other than Tom when I arrived.  Danny was just a couple years older than me and was, more than any other person, the man who taught me to drink and smoke properly.  Chris, Henry, Danny and I would all become close friends.

A word on the business:  Tom Loome left teaching theology at Catholic institutions in the early 80s after having bought and sold enough books (barely) to start a bookstore.  He was not keen on academic Catholic theology in Catholic colleges in America in the early 80s, despite having written the book on Catholic modernism.  In the 70s and 80s Catholic institutions were throwing away old books left and right, and Tom began the habit of getting his hands on them (and all sorts of other religious ephemera).  He bought books, he   took books that were going to be thrown away, he even dumpster dived from time to time pulling gorgeous leather Leonine editions of the Summa out of the rubbish.  I don't mean to suggest that Tom only bought old Catholic books, his interests were ubiquarian, but because so many Catholic institutions were hell bent on ditching their intellectual patrimony during that time (often with newer librarians having no idea what they were throwing away or selling), Tom was able to rather quickly and easily amass the largest collection of Catholic secondhand and antiquarian books in North America.  By the time I came along in the '90s, his was the game in the continent.

But it wasn't just Catholic stuff.  When I first became of customer of Loome's I was there buying up Schleiermacher, and Feuerbach, and Bultmann, and Tillich, and Barth and such, of which they had more primary and secondary materials in all European languages than I had ever seen before, or even imagined possible in one place.  And it wasn't just theology.  There was shelf after shelf of books just by and about Kant.  I would bet at that time they carried, for example, at least 100 separate titles in various languages on Roman architecture, and another 100 on Armenian history, not Arminian, there would have been even more titles related to that, Armenian.

I knew that Loome's was special as a customer, but after I began working there I learned just how special.  That Christoph Schönborn turned to Tom when building the largest Catholic library in Vienna.  That the Vatican library, and Bodleian, and archivists at just about every major North American collection dealing with theology, or Christian history, or medieval studies, did regular business with Loome's.  In the book searching world just before the internet changed everything, scholars from all over the world would call asking for this or that hard to find text - many of them bearing names I knew from my own studies.   

As the only Protestant who worked there, it wasn't long before I was out of the mailing room and was given the obvious task of taking care of the biblical studies and Protestant Americana sections.  

The bibilical studies section started up in the balcony at the top of the staircase and went along the shelves on the wall as you went down the staircase, and then took up a rather incoherent arrangement of shelves below a portion of the large balcony.  The main area of "the church" (which is what we called the church turned bookshop), where perhaps 2/3rds of the store's books were located, wasn't heated, and this is in Minnesota.  So attending to books in that area for many hours a day meant coping with the cold.  This was done via appropriate attire, taking breaks in the warm area in the back of the store, and keeping a flask handy.

My wife has often commented about my uncanny knack for finding employment in places wherein drinking on the job is the norm.  Loome's was something of ChesterBelloc meets Mad Men, at least from a conviviality perspective.  On a typical day we would really get things going after my coworker Danny and I had finished our breakfast, which might be somewhere around 9:30/9:45 or so, even though work officially started at 9.  Then usually Danny or I would go to "downtown" Stillwater (four blocks down the hill) to get (more) coffee for everyone. We would work a little bit whilst drinking coffee, which was often enough fortified with spirits, and then, of course, we would need a smoke break.
Smoking was done in our little spot outside and to the back of the church, which was accessed via a door from the medieval studies section in the back of the store.  There was a small concrete bit of space there, and a statue of St. Joseph blessing us from a slightly raised tiny garden.  After the first smoke of the day we would work until lunch, which often enough involved beer.   After lunch we would work until 5, when the drinking really began.  But that was a typical day.  On a special occasion, which there seemed to be a lot of, Chris, one of the managers, would give me $40 and send me to the liquor store (when it opened at 10, or not long thereafter) to get a decent bottle of scotch or Irish or bourbon, and we'd milk that throughout the day.  In my first couple of years there every month or so all of this drinking would culminate into an evening trip to the venerable 
Gasthaus Bavarian Hunter, where we would drink German beer, in liter mugs, until finishing the night off with the shots of Jägermeister brought out on a wooden paddle by the always appropriately figured barmaid whose plump bosoms were pouring out of her dirndl's bodice.  I am quite sure that if I were to try to relive one of those days today that it would kill me.

The environment was very heady.  Academics and other intellectuals were often in the store, and discussions broke out frequently.  People in the "theology world" who came to the Twin Cities to give a lecture often ended up at Loome's, so you never knew when an N.T. Wright or a Stanley Hauerwas or a Richard John Neuhaus or
Rosemary Radford Ruether or a Fr. Ian Ker or a Charles Kannengiesser or a Russel Kirk (Kirk had died before I started at Loome's, but his visit to the shop was still often talked about when I was there) was going to walk into the store.  Further, Herr Loome made a point of bringing a lot of intellectuals into Stillwater to give talks, and he had his old European connections, so that brought more opportunities to meet and interact with prominent thinkers.  Tom had been the first Catholic layperson to be granted a doctorate from the Catholic faculty at Tübingen, and he lived in Germany and then in the UK for quite a few years.  Alexander Dru (translator of Kierkegaard, expert on Peguy, etc.), one of Europe's last great aristocratic non-professional wandering scholars, had been Tom's mentor.  Tom drove a very elderly Emil Brunner around during Brunner's last years. He took courses from Ratzinger.  Among Tom's closest friends were some of the children of G.E.M. Anscombe and Peter Geach; two of Geach's grandaughters from the UK worked at the store during the time I was there.  Plus the faculty from the Catholic Studies Department at St. Thomas would come over fairly frequently, as did faculty and students from every seminary and theology department in the upper midwest, of which there are many.  

So this gives a kid in his 20s a chance to ask Robert Louis Wilken why his buddy Jaroslav Pelikan converted to Orthodoxy and not Catholicism, and to ask frequent customer Avery Cardinal Dulles about a book recommendation, and to ask Robert Jensen about a passage in Barth that wasn't understood.   Or you could ask then bishop of La Crosse (WI) Raymond Burke which his favorite La Crosse brewery was.  

In addition, Herr Loome took me under his wing.  He started giving me his read copies of the TLS marking in red ink the essays that I ought to "give special attention."  I would ask him questions and often enough be given a pile of books with instructions of what order they should be read in and what I should be looking for from each.  For years this often involved discussions in the mornings about the previous night's reading assignments.  Theology certainly wasn't the only arena worked over.  Tom's area of academic specialty was Catholic modernism, but he had an encyclopedic knowledge of modernism across the boards.  He tutored me from Modigliani to Albin Moroder to Max Scheler to Montaigne.  On more popular fronts he loves Graham Greene and John LaCarre novels.  He would describe Handel's Chandros Anthems ("unequivocally the best psalm settings of the period") to me as if they somehow held the key to the meaning of life -- in that manner of fervent analysis via which Tom's mind operates when he loves something.  He was once so distressed (and embarrassed, I think, of the lack in one of his bookmen) that I did not know who Heinrich Biber was that he at first, upon learning of my ignorance, walked away from me, then came back and sent me to his house immediately with the task of sitting down to listen to his Biber vinyl recording of the Rosary Sonatas, shaking his head and muttering to himself as I departed on his order, "Bach gets all the glory."  

After a year or so of being there it became apparent that I was on the track of becoming a book buyer.  Loome's book buyers traveled around North America, and occasionally Europe, on week long book buying trips to a given locale - at my peak I would eventually travel one week out of every 6 to 8.  The job of the book buyer is, in essence, to know everything.  There are the business aspects of the trade, there is the requisite bibliographic knowledge, but then there is that gnosis which can only come from being one of those generalists-on-steroids who is interested in everything and has a passable knowledge of most areas of academic and scholarly inquiry.  One of the benefits of a job which requires knowing everything is that no one is much bothered, if, when tidying up a section of books, you spend a fair amount of time reading books in the stacks.  There were "hard" aspects to the job.  When we bought libraries and archival collections and the like we would have to unload semis with hundred of boxes of books that had to be carried and then gone through.  We underwent a move from our "downtown" Stillwater store which involved a hell of a lot of carrying boxes of books, but for the most part I was paid to read, to drink, to smoke, to be able to speak with intelligent customers who had very particular requests, and to buy books.  Not a bad gig.  On top of it I was paid well and had excellent benefits.  

All of this may sound like it was an academic theology love fest, but the reality was much more complex.  Being around academic theologians and students (particularly in joke programs like M.A.T.S. students) of academic theology wasn't really conducive to developing a love of academic theology or its professionals and aspirants.  Within a year or two of working at Loomes, I came to the point where I despised 99% of theology students, and the discipline as a whole.  Loome's had a "secular" bookstore down the hill in addition to the church, and I met any number of academics and students at both venues.  But there is something about theology students in bookstores which is reminiscent of a politician doing a stump speech - they feel the need to constantly remind you that they have something of value in their craniums.  I found that with no other discipline did the student feel the need to come up and tell you that they were getting a master's degree in x.  But theology students, 99% of them anyway, do this upon entering a bookstore.  Then they tell you who they studied with, whatever "big gun" their program had at the moment.  Of course I had taken phone calls from 4 guys of equal or greater scholarly caliber that morning, and 3 of the 4 were assholes, so I wasn't impressed.  Sometimes, when the moment was right and I couldn't take it anymore, the scenario would work out like this:
Customer (upon handing me books to purchase): I'm a theology grad student.  I study with Ben Witherington.

Owen (completely deadpan without a hint of mirth): Really?  Huh. I just spoke to Luke Timothy Johnson this morning and he was telling me that Witherington's christology is utter shit.

Of course that wasn't true, but there is a horror and offense that can be extracted from theology students that is unique among human persons.  And this is the other thing about theo grad students - most grad students are poor, but nobody is cheaper than theo grad students.  First of all, the books that they typically bought were crap, and if they picked out 4 or 5 books worth $35 they acted as if this was somehow the lifeblood of our store, apparently it didn't occur to them that we couldn't maintain the staff of 7 full-time employees with such purchases, and they never bothered to ask and learn that we made millions of dollars buying and selling serious collections.  Second, if I saw somebody drop a book when they thought no one was looking and then come and ask for a cheaper-than-marked price because it was scuffed up, I knew right then that they were a theology grad student.  Well, OK, I probably already knew because they had announced that when they walked in the door, but on the occasion that I had been out getting coffee when that customer entered the store I would have known they were theo grad students upon seeing that game.

I also had plenty of opportunity to see how completely full of shit most academics are, especially theologians.  All academics tend to be inclined to think that every moment is a moment for them to teach a stupid world some facts, but theology profs tend to be the worst.  For instance, on at least three occasions that I can remember I saw academics, with students or in one case a couple of disciples in tow, come up to our ChesterBelloc section and upon seeing copies of Belloc's Path to Rome exclaim "this is Belloc's conversion story."  It isn't.  It is a travelogue of sorts wherein Belloc describes a literal path to Rome - the one he walked on whilst traveling to Rome.  One of the scholars who made this pronouncement was among the most well known English Catholic academics (it wasn't Aidan Nichols).  The first couple of years at Loomes these occasions of pontificating about things given academics knew nothing about surprised me, but as time went on I developed my very accurate cynicism of the academy and its ubiquitous bullshittery.

We had one local priest, Fr. Kolb, who was a regular customer at Loomes, often spending hours in the shop each week, and often overhearing the intra-staff banter regarding customers.  Kolb had studied under Roland Bainton at Yale, and when that got brought up (not by him) in a conversation with several folks one time, I made a cynical coy "ahhh" remark and Kolb, probably picking up on our usual staff tendency to not really be impressed, retorted sharply - "No. No ahhh. He put his pants on one leg at a time just like you, and his shit stunk just as much as anyone else's."  I didn't ask him how he knew that.

There were all sorts of quirky customers.  One of my favorites, a fellow who spent most of his time in our philosophy and history of philosophy sections was a man who had been voted Minnesota teacher of the year at one point, having constructed the talented and gifted / advanced / whathaveyou classes at a St. Paul high school.  He was a Marxist (I never asked what stripe, and now I wish I had).  He quit teaching in order to homeschool his kids (his wife was a doctor, so this could be done) because, as he put it, the public schools there created pawns for corporations.  Once or twice his kids came with him, a boy and a girl in their early and mid teens, both could read academic German, both very personable and polite.  I remember feeling that it was refreshing to have some homeschooling customers that weren't, to borrow Chris' description, Leave it to Beaver Catholics (we had a small homeschooling section in the store and occasionally homeschooling families came in, and they usually fit the caricature quite well).  

I wrote before of my encounter with one polymath while working at Loome's, and I'll repeat that story here:

I don’t remember if I have told this story before (I offer this story as trivia, not as any proof of anything or as having any grand meaning), but shortly after my friend Mark died in the Fall of 2000, I met a colleague of his who walked into the bookstore I worked at in MN (and would soon leave). Mark had been a neuro-robotic engineer and the youngest tenured professor in the UK when he died of an aneurism. His friend who came to the store (not knowing me from Adam) had 3 doctorates – one in psychology, one in chemistry, and one in philosophy (and the guy was in his 40s). So I had noticed what he was picking up over the course of the day and eventually discerned that I was dealing with a fellow who was very bright. After he’d been there a couple of hours he comes up to me and asks about complications with regard to my birth (breech, post due date, etc.). Every birth related question he asked me about was answered in the affirmative. He said he guessed as much from the way I held a pen in my left hand whilst writing – apparently it’s an odd manner of holding a writing instrument typical of people who were born under the circumstances of complications I was. This man then proceeded to tell me about my life – my personality, many of my quirks and idiosyncrasies, details that simply astounded me. Apparently it has to do with people who would have been left brained becoming right brained because of certain complications in their mother’s pregnancy. The cross over creates very predictable personality and thinking traits. I’ve never in my life, before or since, been so perfectly pegged and described, and this was the first conversation I ever had with the man. He then, after asking if it was OK, proceeded to give me advice – the sorts of jobs I should go for, the sorts of things I should read. He ended by telling me that I needed to read Hegel and keep him close by my side – that Hegelian thought corresponded to how a brain like mine is wired.  

There were other unbelievably bright folks there, with astounding intellects.  The seminary librarian who speaks 11 languages and has the most comprehensive mental bibliography you've ever encountered.  The head of a Catholic university in the Philippines who writes theatre in the French Absurdist style in his spare time.  The portly Benedictine monk who was a quiet genius though you would never guess it when first encountering him.  The reserved philosopher who never says much in the store but always comes out and has a smoke with you, saying he can't pass up a Camel non-filter as this is what he smoked at P.I.M.S., and then telling you quirky stories about Gilson.

We (the staff) definitely had our favorites when it came to customers, and we could be quite, uhm, short, with the legion of other customers whom we for the most part tolerated.

But the reason I started this series of posts is because I learned recently that the old church which houses Loome Theological Booksellers is up for sale, and so I need to turn this remembrance in the direction of that building, and my relationship to it, and what she will always mean to me.

That will have to wait until next week.  In the meantime, my old friend and former colleague Henry has a new catalogue out, so buy some books from him this weekend.

- to be continued.

spatiamentum, and other fragments, in slight payment of an old debt. Part I.

I guess I'm on a religion role.  Forgive me, or read something else, whichever you prefer.

That said, the narratives of returning to Rome that I've read (whether from Orthodoxy or Protestantism) involve a kind of visceral, emotional bond that I know I'll never really comprehend.

- Samn!, from the comment thread below.

I've been thinking a lot about Samn!'s comment.

I developed an emotional bond to Orthodoxy when visiting Russia in my late teens during the summer of 1992.  Y'all that have read me for years now know that.  

That comes with quirks in the narrative I didn't mention when streaminlining my story for Orthodox apologia purposes in the past.  The elderly translator for my mission team in Russia, whom we called Baba, an intellectual woman from Moscow, told me to go home and look into Catholicism, though she was Orthodox.  When I got home and started looking for literature on Orthodoxy, it was some Catholics I knew (from my days in the pro-life movement) who first gave me the copies of Franky Schaeffer's The Christian Activist that contained some summary articles on Orthodoxy, and it was Catholics who gave me my first copies of The Orthodox Way and The Orthodox Church by Ware, and it was Catholics who introduced me to the first Orthodox I met in the States.  It was only after that that I went through the 'Eastern Orthodox' listings in the phone book (then living in the suburbs of Detroit) and made calls until I got someone to answer the phone in English.

I didn't have a Catholic childhood, as most or all of you know.  But Catholicism was always around.  I always had Catholic friends.  In late high school I worked as a weekend janitor at a Knights of Columbus Hall (best job ever, my buddy Eric and I were unsupervised when cleaning the place out on Sunday afternoons, and there was a well stocked bar - we had 5 hours to clean it, so we flew around working our asses off for 3 hours and then drank free beer and booze for 2 - and in the spirit of Catholic Social Teaching we were very well paid - $75 a piece for 5, really 3, hours work, and this was in the early '90s).  Years before all that my mother was just about to throw the towel in on Christianity (she had grown up being dropped off at the local fundy Baptist church) when a RC priest and Navy chaplain she met on Guam (one of the places my mom did a stint as a Navy nurse during Vietnam) brought her back to faith, though mom went back to Protestantism and not to Catholicism.  And of course mom had grown up in an Ohio steel town wherein her nominally Protestant family felt keen solidarity with the Catholic families they lived next to come strikes, a solidarity that ran so deep that my mother, despite her strong Prot religious convinctions, would hardly utter a word of criticism towards Catholicism.  My dad has any number of stories to tell of the anti-war and civil rights Catholic priests he knew and was friends with in the 60s and 70s (including one in Cleveland who had a poster in his restroom which stated "Fighting for Peace is like Fucking for Chastity"), and dad even had a poster of John XXIII on the wall in his bedroom back in those days, his tension between radical politics and a desire to find religious solace one which would eventually carry on at least a generation.  In the ecumenical clergy group my dad belonged to in that suburb of Detroit, his best friend by far was the local Catholic priest, much to the chagrin of a couple of old dour Baptists in our congregation.  Dad was the one who excitedly told me that in Michael Collins' first IRA brigade there many Baptists, and Baptists and Catholics fought and died side by side against their Anglican and Presbyterian English oppressors.  My mother once sternly corrected me, when I was in late elementary school, for using the term "Hail Mary" in reference to a football play I had seen on TV.  Mind you, my very low church Protestant mother does not have an ounce of Marian devotion in her, but she had, and has, great respect for Catholics and was not going to allow me to use a phrase which made light of their religion.  The summer I was in Guatemala, which was the summer before my Russia trip, I was greatly interested in the local Catholicism but the leaders of that trip, being something of Nazarene fundamentalists, were not keen on us spending much time in Catholic Churches so my exposure was limited.  During my few years of pro-life activity I met all sorts of Catholics, and went to Mass with them on occasion, and it seemed perfectly natural a thing to do given my parents posture towards Catholicism.

But despite all that I had nothing close to a "visceral, emotional bond" with Catholicism.

That would come a few years later.

Many of you longtime readers of my blogs know that I ended up at something of an odd Bible college, which had the especial goal of training missionaries.   It was there I met my wife, but, connoisseur of imprudent decisions that I am, I married someone else (my "first wife" as we say) - the girl whose passion for life and rebellion there was most on par with my own; separately we were legendary on that small campus, together we were epic.  And the thing is, epics end, often in a fury.  She was and is an extraordinary human being whom I am blessed to know - today she is married to one of the best guys I've ever known, an old roomate and drinking buddy of mine, and they have six sons, two of them adopted from China, one of them a special needs kid.  But as was apparent to damn near everyone who knew us, we weren't well suited to each other - we were both, as they say, larger than life individuals, each with a particular, and explosive, and quite different and ill suited, joie de vivre.  That said, I think both of us can say now that the world is a better place with the other in it.   In any event, our marriage pissed off both of our families, and was by any measure the embodiment of a "starter marriage."    It was, so RC canonists have told me, the most annulmentable of marriages - she had never been baptized, we we about as far from morally scrupulous as one might imagine, we almost called it off several times before the wedding, we went barefoot in the wedding (well, at least my mother thought that a proof of invalidity), we skipped out on the reception, I could go on.   But life is a mess, at least for many of us.  

We ended up going to Maine and working in the (Catholic Worker and Emmaus International affiliated) homeless shelter there, where the broken from the start marriage began to unravel, and upon coming back to Minnesota things just got worse.

But now I need to back up.

Shortly after getting married, when we were still in Bible college, I went into a period of crippling anxiety attacks.  Perhaps my intuition regarding that recent decision was expressing itself via my psyche.  With that came intense agoraphobia.  I was in the hospital for a short bit, and other than my two meetings a week with my (unbelievably competent, in hindsight) clinical psychologist, I never left campus, and rarely left my room.  This went on for months.  After a spell, my prof and intellectual mentor,  Tom Correll, the anthropologist and linguist (who for many reasons you would never expect to have found at a little bible college - he ended up there via something of a fluke) told me he was taking me on a trip.

That trip was to Loome Theological Booksellers in Stillwater, MN.  Maybe a 45 minute drive from my campus.  I gripped the door handle of Tom Correll's little truck the whole way there, and was my then usual anxiety ridden terrified.  Finally we pulled up to this late 19th century brick church building (built by Swedish Covenanters, later known as the Evangelical Covenant, as it turns out) on a hill in a picturesque river town.  We walked up the steps and went in.  Instantly the smell of books.  Later I would learn it was the smell of 350,000 books.  Books crammed the narthex.  We walked into what had been the sanctuary (in the Prot sense of the term, the nave in Orthodox/Catholic terminology) and there were books everywhere - above us was a large loft with many thousands of books.  In the old altar/pulpit area there was an enclosed office with stairs leading above that interior structure with thousands of books there.  Eventually we would venture into the back and discover more rooms, all crammed to the hilt with books.  There was also a lot of Catholic statuary (from small to 4' tall), there were framed medieval manuscripts on the wall, there were all sorts of copperplate engravings and other religious ephemera framed and on the wall, and crucifixes, and prayer cards, and what not - and not all of it Catholic, plenty was Prot and some of it Orthodox.   But don't take this as a mere religious bookstore.  There was a vast philosophy section with thousands of volumes, and a medieval studies section about half the size of my current home, and thousands of tomes on ancient Rome and Greece, and Victorian England, and frontier America, and so on.

We spent a few hours in there.  It was a healing salve.  I had grown up loving books.  My parents were book lovers and I was spending a substantial amount of my income on my books from my teens onward.  But this place, this Marian, if you will forgive a cheap comparison, womb and temple of books was nothing like I had encountered before.   There, for the first time in a long while, I could open a book and read with full attention; I could let my mind rest on words on pages.

Tom (Dr. Correll) then took me to the famous Brines bar and restaurant down the hill in Stillwater, we had beer cheese soup and talked about the books in the grocery sack I was taking home.  I still had anxiety in my nerves, but I also had an ability to focus which I hadn't had in months.  

Fast forward.

Back from Maine I worked part time at an art framing place (my buddy who ended up marrying my ex got me that job).  But that wasn't going to pan out long term and I needed more hours.  I had kept going to Loome's now and again before and after the Maine adventure, spending whatever spare cash I had there.  At some point I mustered up the courage to ask the guy taking my money if they were in need of any employees, and sure enough they had been talking about hiring a guy to handle their shipping - packing books up and all that jazz.   I expressed my desire for the job.  Not long after, I was hired.

- to be continued.

busybodies and grovellers

A post from Roland Boer that is so fascinating I post it here in its entirety:

Many are the recent efforts (since 1989) that argue the ancient Near Eastern economy was founded on trade, that it was ‘partly capitalist’ (the phrase is actually used). Some cite Ezekiel 27: 12-25, suggesting that here we have a detailed and glowing account of the trading ventures of Tyre. The NSRV really gets carried away, offering the following:
Tarshish did business with you out of the abundance of your great wealth; silver, iron, tin, and lead they exchanged for your wares. Javan, Tubal, and Meshech traded with you; they exchanged human beings and vessels of bronze for your merchandise. Beth-togarmah exchanged for your wares horses, war horses, and mules. The Rhodians traded with you; many coastlands were your own special markets; they brought you in payment ivory tusks and ebony. Edom did business with you because of your abundant goods; they exchanged for your wares turquoise, purple, embroidered work, fine linen, coral, and rubies. Judah and the land of Israel traded with you; they exchanged for your merchandise wheat from Minnith, millet, honey, oil, and balm. Damascus traded with you for your abundant goods — because of your great wealth of every kind — wine of Helbon, and white wool. Vedan and Javan from Uzal entered into trade for your wares; wrought iron, cassia, and sweet cane were bartered for your merchandise. Dedan traded with you in saddlecloths for riding. Arabia and all the princes of Kedar were your favored dealers in lambs, rams, and goats; in these they did business with you. The merchants of Sheba and Raamah traded with you; they exchanged for your wares the best of all kinds of spices, and all precious stones, and gold. Haran, Canneh, Eden, the merchants of Sheba, Asshur, and Chilmad traded with you. These traded with you in choice garments, in clothes of blue and embroidered work, and in
carpets of colored material, bound with cords and made secure; in these they traded with you. The ships of Tarshish traveled for you in your trade.
The problems here is that this word picture appears in the middle of an extended condemnation for precisely these activities by the busybody Tyre. The despicable status of ‘merchants’, or rather busybodies and grovellers, is standard throughout the prophetic literature. Each of the key terms used in the text from Ezekiel has decidedly more shady and undesirable elements within its semantic field. So I suggest that a translation which captures that feel of the passage might go as follows:
Tarshish scurried [sḥr] about with you due to your massive piles of riches; silver, iron, tin, and lead they gave [ntn] for your forsaken wares [’zb]. Javan, Tubal, and Meshech trafficked [rkl] with you; they gave human beings and vessels of bronze for your barren cargo [‘rb]. Beth-togarmah gave for your forsaken wares horses, war horses, and mules. The Rhodians swarmed [rkl] about you; many coastlands became your own busybodies [sḥr]; they brought you in payment ivory tusks and ebony. Edom scurried [sḥr] about with you because of your many shady dealings (’śh); they gave for your forsaken wares turquoise, purple, embroidered work, fine linen, coral, and rubies. Judah and the land of Israel swarmed [rkl] over you; they gave for your barren cargo wheat from Minnith, millet, honey, oil, and balm. Damascus scurried [sḥr] about with you due to your many shady dealings – because of your piles of riches of every kind – wine of Helbon, and white wool. Vedan and Javan from Uzal gave for your forsaken wares wrought iron; cassia and sweet cane were for your barren cargo. Dedan swarmed [rkl] about you for saddlecloths for riding. Arabia and all the princes of Kedar were your favored busybodies [sḥr] in lambs, rams, and goats; in these they scurried [sḥr] about with you. The busybodies [rkl] of Sheba and Raamah swarmed [rkl] over you; they gave for your forsaken wares the best of all kinds of spices, and all precious stones, and gold. Haran, Canneh, Eden, the busybodies [rkl] of Sheba, Asshur, and Chilmad swarmed [rkl] over you. These swarmed [rkl] over you for choice garments, for clothes of blue and embroidered work, and for carpets of colored material, bound with cords and made secure; in these they swarmed [rkl] about you. The ships of Tarshish sailed for you with your barren cargo.

one story.

Keeping up with a recent theme of reversion/conversion, etc., a friend of mine pointed out to me this comment made by Charles Curtis (a name which might be recognized by persons familiar with Ortho and Catholic blogdom, as that name appears on comment threads in various places) on this Dreher post.  I reprint it here in its entirety.  Whatever ecclesial direction one happens to head in (if any), these words strike me as hitting at the humanity involved in the struggle of religious identity in the spiritual marketplace that is America:

As I am in story telling mode this weekend, I think I may have a tale apropos enchantment to share with you. This story I’m going to tell is not in any way meant as a criticism of you, Rod. In fact, I usually sympathize and always empathize with you. It’s why I keep reading your blog, and when they gagged you at that other gig of yours, I missed this daily dose of Dreher immensely. I’ve already told you I get why you did what you did, and that I respect it. I, after all, have done the same thing.
Because I don’t know if you remember my sharing this from the old Belief Net days, but I’ve converted to Orthodoxy, too. Pascha 2005, Holy Theophany in Colorado Springs. Maybe one of the 10 best OCA parishes on the continent.
I did it partly from a similar emotional alienation to yours. Back in 1997 when those 9 former Legionaries first accused Maciel, and then nothing happened, I knew in my gut that it was true. I’d been romantically involved with a girl in Regnum Christi for two years (non- consecrated teacher at the school for consecrated in RI, no less) and been on multiple Legion retreats. I’d been drinking from the polluted well of Maciel’s Cult of Personality, and had bought into the lie pretty deeply.. But not so deeply that I hadn’t already begun to walk away before I knew the worst.. I’d been growing skeptical, could feel something was off in my bones.
But I was till starry eyed enough then that the realization that he was a sociopath, and that the Holy Father was going to do nothing about it, still wrecked me. When the rest of it broke, it only deepened my angst and anguish.
Unlike you, I guess, I then also had a major intellectual collapse. I was in the Army, studying out in Monterey, and made a group of Orthodox friends. All evangelical converts like the people out at Holy Theophany. There’s another parish I began going to to escape the insipid masses at the Presidio, out in Cali at Ben Lomond; SS Peter & Paul. They also are all evangelical converts who came in corporately with Fr. Gilquist back in the day. I began a friendly debate with them, arrogant in my assumption that my canned Catholic Answers/EWTN apologetic of the Gregorian papacy would drive them from the field. Tearing any protestant an apologetic new one based on scripture and tradition was easy, so how hard could these Orthos be? I had received my education from the Donminicans at Providence College, I knew my stuff.. Or so I smugly thought..
But when I went deeper into the Fathers and the history of the Councils, and listened to the Orthodox case, I suddenly saw that the Gregorian Reform was a radical innovation. Just as radical in it’s effects as Constantine’s conversion itself, and far more radical in its claims. The ecclesiology of the Church from Constantine through Charlemagne was Imperial, and the Emperor was calling most of the major shots. All the seven Councils were called by him, the pope never even attended one. Paul wrote half the NT, not Peter. Athanasius settled the Arians, the papacy sat the entire debate out. The most important theological debate in the history of Christianity, and the popes were basically silent, the whole battle basically occurred in the East. It was only with the rise of the Franks, and the vacuum created by the utter withdrawal of Imperial forces from Italy and North Africa in the face of the Muslims that the dominance and authority of the “Greek” Emperor was called into question.
We can thank the Muslims for the Schism..
The filioque suddenly seemed like a tool used by the Franks to claim the Roman Imperium form the Greek “heretics.” The entire Schism, and the attendant rise of the Germans against Rome (which culminated in the Reformation note) all seemed driven by lust for Imperial power by Aachen, Rome and Constantinople.. And then Moscow. See Romanides on this. Heresy meant illegitimacy. Hence the recriminations all around. He baldly states the core of it far more eruditely than I can.
Tearing apart sola scriptura is one thing. Realizing that the only thing holding up Rome apologetically is Cardinal Newman’s theory of the development of doctrine, and that the ecclesiology of the Church in the 1st Millennium had absolutely nothing to do with Unam Sanctam or Vatican I, just totally wrecked me.
So I fell apart. The center no longer held, and the entire post- vat ii schict suddenly seemed fraudulent. I had to leave. So I did. I became Orthodox, and went on a retreat to St. Anthony’s in Arizona. Was blessed by Elder Ephraim himself. I was off and running.
(I incidentally have also met Metropolitan Jonah, when he was still abbot in the mists on the hill above San Fran, before the horse farm. He was very kind and funny. I liked him instinctively, with his squint, his patchy beard and marvelous physiognomy.. He seemed more like he ought to have been the porter, not the abbot. Never bishop. I say that as a compliment, because I have much more esteem for porters than bishops. I was very pleased when he was elevated. I’m very sorry, but not at all surprised at how it all turned out. I bet he was incompetent in their sense of the term, and I was not impressed by his political hay making. Still, they did not deserve him, and they should never have removed him.. That’s my 2 cents there, but I digress.. )
Suddenly the liturgy and fasting – things that as a Catholic I had never cared about – consumed me. I became a snob, judging church architecture, iconography and hymnody like a prig. If there was an organ, it was fraud. You know the deal. I became insufferable.
Three years. First it was great. Two Paschas, mind blowing stuff. Never knew such beauty before. I drank it in, parched for it.
Then I moved back to the boondocks in Maine, and had a two hour drive to the nearest Greek parish. Tried multiple times to make personal contact with the priest there. He never returned my calls.
Then, I tried the ROCOR parish in Richmond, Maine. Used to be White Russian. Now it’s a dozen old Russian ladies in pearls and finery sitting in back, and a few dozen converts standing in a candle lit church, most of whom travel hours to be there. From as far as Vermont (“the GOA parish down the road from us is just like a Catholic one, so we come here..” etc.) The Russians were dressed like Park Avenue dowagers, the Americans were all trying to pretend they were kulaks circa 1905 or something. Basically only the old ladies and some children received, maybe a quarter of those present, because father required attendance at Saturday vespers and confession prior every reception, and most of the congregation couldn’t make it.
Stank like Jansenism, or whatever you call its rigorist analogue in Greek. I was not impressed, at all.
I talked to the priest (another convert) after two liturgies. He discovered I’d been received by charismation, not baptism. I got the strong impression he didn’t want to have anything to do with me. He also never took or returned my calls. I guess I’m annoying, but one thing I can say of my OCA and Catholic pastors is that they or a secretary tend to return phone calls.
The upshot it seemed that canonically ROCOR and the OCA are apparently on somewhat different pages, I guess.
Incidentally, I was still frequently going to mass back home and not receiving, in lieu of traveling the prohibitive 2-3 hours to liturgy every weekend, and that was torturous.
I finally got a chance to visit Army friends down in DC, and went to liturgy at a Serbian parish there. We sneered at the charismatic Catholics who had a guitar mass in the rented church hall before liturgy. I went to confession withe priest, a kind old fellow who’d been Fr. Hopko’s room mate in seminary. I confessed, he looked at me, and said “look son, that [certain sexual matter] is not a sin.” I looked at him, astonished. That’s a line I’d become used to from an occasional flapdoodle Catholic confessor, and I would always get angry thinking “it’s listed as such in the Catechism, and it’s my conscience and confession here padre, and most saints in the canon would think it is, so unless you think there’s some impediment please give me absolution, and cut the grief.”
But there I was defeated. I received absolution, went to the coffee hour where Magda, this nice Serbian woman, told me how she was going to find me a good Serbian girl, and how the Orthodox needed shorter services, and you know “a council to modernize the church like Vatican II.”
My friends thought this was hilarious, Those damned ethnics are so wishy washy, you know?
I got in my car, and drove home to Maine. I was in anguish. On the way by Worchester, MA I got off and made a visit to the home of Little Audrey [] whom I ‘d always meant to visit, but never yet had. She was still alive then.
I went to mass in the chapel there, where everything is mysteriously oozing oil. There was this crapulous 80 some year old Flemish priest there, accompanied by his niece and nephew, whom he roundly abused while they translated his homily for him. He was there to ask Audrey’s intercession for vocations in Belgium, where there hadn’t been a seminarian ordained in several years. There was another old American priest there concelebrating, and may 20 other people crammed into that little chapel full of oily religious kitsch.
After mass, I asked to confess. I made an anguished admission of my act of schism. I thought the priest would react, have some particular counsel of what I needed to do to set myself right. He just looked at me, and asked if I prayed daily. I said I did. He said, “good. You wouldn’t forget to eat would you?” I looked at him, half tempted to think him a simpleton, when I realized what a total and complete jerk I’d been, and was. I started to cry. I went outside, and the old Flemish priest came up to me. He asked me if he could bless me. I said of course. He blessed me with a prayer to Our Lady of Fatima. I was a complete mess, but somehow at that moment I knew that everything was going to be okay.
My Orthodox friends were all scandalized by what I did. At first, I wasn’t sure that it was wise. I mean, it’s pretty darn obvious I’m not wise, but you know what I mean. I’d always told them I wasn’t leaving the Catholic Church by becoming Orthodox, only undoing the Schism in myself and rejecting the historical distortion of papal supremacy. The Orthodox Church has to be the Catholic Church, or else it isn’t the Church at all. Father K always smiled and humored me when I said stuff like that. He probably shouldn’t have.
I just went back to mass, and shut up. I had to stop judging everything (“On Eagles Wings” again? Holy..) and just accept it all in humility. The Church ladies, who are very obviously holier than I, like the kitsch. Who am I to judge them for it? A total freaking ass, is who. So I just decided that I was going to take it all. Then, I decided I was going to like it all again.
And very slowly, I have begun to.. Again.
So, what does all this have to do with your query, as to weather enchantment is possible, living in this supposedly secular age of ours?
it’s just to say that my life is this crazy, beautiful love story. That in spite – no. Because of it all, I am in love. I think I have a pretty good intellectual apologetic for my faith. I often wish I could have a go at Dawkins, and ask him what his personhood is based on? How he believes he even exists if he is without any transcendence? If he is merely energy that dissipates at death, then why does he believe in himself at all? Because if he doesn’t transcend then it seems as if “he” doesn’t really exist at all..
And that is an absurd idea, isn’t it? I mean, because honestly, Rod, believing in Richard Dawkins is as much an act of faith, and article of the Faith, as my believing in God. Descartes is right, you know, in the sense that we cannot prove anything beyond the sensation of our consciousness. That’s all I have, anyway.
I *have* to believe. I would be insane if I didn’t.
So in this essential way I know it’s all true. I go to mass, and it is mystical. It wrecks me, having so great a love as this in my life. In my heart.
And just so you know, I’m convinced we’re communing at the same chalice, Rod. One cup, one body, one Church, one Faith, One God. There is no division in Him. By our baptism, in the eucharist, we are one. The schism is just politics and lack of charity. If they wanted to they could have a council to deal with it next month. It’s pride and vanity that keeps them from it. They like their dissension. I no longer have energy or time for it.
So the enchantment is real, because the Faith is a great romance that we share. This great hope. That’s it.

Dr. Tighe sent me this confession by Eamon Duffy.  It is among the most beautifully written and compelling that I have read, escaping so much of the rubbish put forth today promoting one's self&religion truth conquestory.

because st. peter claver has long evoked many questions and some sentiments, or something like that....

There are so many interesting tidbits in the life of St. Peter Claver.  Among them that the ex-slave hired to care for him at the end of his life beat him and starved him.  Those ungrateful lumpenproletariat - what can you do?  I am simultaneously repulsed and compelled by various aspects of Claver's hagiography.  The whole Apostle to the Blacks moniker has a racist "magical Jesuit" ring to it.  At the same time, given the conditions and "truths" of his age, it is hard not to view St. Peter as an amazing anomaly of sanctity and decency.   That the powerful men who had not cared for his annoying presence when he was alive buried him "with pomp and ceremony" reminds me of the famous Dorothy Day line - don't make me a saint; I don't want to be dismissed so easily.

I like that they picked anarcho-syndicalist colors for the above stamp.  

St. Peter Claver as lighter skinned brother bringing the White Man's God, or something like that.  I do like this series of paintings - they could use a bit more of a Caribbean folk art aesthetic, but I'll take this.

roth gets wikid: on the new media.

Philip Roth has written a temper tantrum against Wiki in the New Yorker.  Short version of the story is this: he didn't like Wiki's page on his book The Human Stain because it noted that the work was “allegedly inspired by the life of the writer Anatole Broyard.” 

This speculation was based upon four reviews of the book.  Those reviews were written by  Michiko Kakutani, a Pulitzer prize winning literary critic, Lorrie Moore, a short story writer, Charles Taylor, one of the nation's leading film critics, and Brent Staples, one of the nation's leading writers on matters concerning race.  

I support Wiki's original decision.  First, Roth is infamously known in the literary world to be a grade A prick, and his writing sucks.  This man thinks phrases like "fucked the lesbian out of me" constitute literature (read his book The Humbling, no, actually, don't - it's time you can never get back).  Second, the four reviewers mentioned above, from fairly different backgrounds, made the same speculation in print.  Third, the "secondary sources" only policy is sound for Wiki, as Wiki is basically an encyclopedia derived from gathering accessible secondary source materials.

Cognitively sound readers could have followed the links to the four reviews in the prior version of that Wiki page and determined for themselves that the speculation was speculation, as the text of the Wiki page suggested.  That the author denies the speculation is true is not a guarantee that it isn't. And this matter could have been easily resolved by Roth without the New Yorker piece.  He could have had one of the many writers he knows write some brief statement, virtually anywhere, stating that Roth had told him or her that the speculation in those reviews was false.  That secondary source could then have been added to the Wiki page with content which countered the text that covered the speculative thesis.   This would have been easier, and likely faster, than what Roth did to "correct" the page.

I'm sure there are many instances out there where individuals who have Wiki pages concerning them and/or their work would like to be able to contact Wiki and assert "that bit isn't true" and have it removed from the page.  But encyclopedias, whether traditional print or new media, can't effectively operate in that manner.
  The secondary source requirement is perfectly rational and fair.  
A nice little run down on why the males of our species are now for the most part worthless.

Having spent a fair amount of time in community college classrooms in the last few years, and now finding myself spending mornings training a 19 year old and a 25 year old (both males) in my shop, I can say that my own observations correspond exactly to the picture Zimbardo paints.  Dismal.


by W.H. Auden

I sit in one of the dives

On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade: 
Waves of anger and fear 
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth, 
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death 
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use 
Their full height to proclaim 
The strength of Collective Man, 
Each language pours its vain 
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare, 
Imperialism's face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are, 
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash 
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish: 
What mad Nijinsky wrote 
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart; 
For the error bred in the bone 
Of each woman and each man 
Craves what it cannot have, 
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
'I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,'
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game: 
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the dead,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street 
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky: 
There is no such thing as the State 
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.