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Augustine on the Delta Factor?

Delta-Factor-Walker-Percy

As I read my Lenten reflections, Augustine’s “On the Psalms” (sadly, the ACW series translation only got as far as Psalm 37) I hear little squeaks of Percian linguistics peeking through Augustine’s take on Psalm 9…

“Thou hast blotted out their name forever to the age of ages [Psalm 9:7]. The name of the wicked has been blotted out; for they who have come to believe in the true God can no longer be called wicked. Their name is blotted out forever: as long, that is, as this world shall last. To the age of ages. Now what is this age of ages? Is it not that of which this world is, as it were, an image and shadow? The course of the seasons following one another, the waning and waxing of the moon, the sun returning to the same position year by year, spring, summer, autumn and winter each passing away only to come round again – all this is a kind of imitation of eternity. But the duration underlying an immutable continuity is termed the age of ages. It may be compared with a line of poetry, first conceived in the mind and then uttered by the tongue. The mind gives form to the spoken word; the one fashioned an abiding work of art, the other resounds in the air and dies away. Thus, too, the age which passes takes its pattern from that unchangeable age which is termed the age of ages. The latter abides in the divine workmanship, that is to say, in the Wisdom and Power of God, whereas the former is worked out in the government of creation.”

Further along, looking at verse 11, Augustine rounds out the notion thus:

“And let them trust in thee who know they name [Psalm 9:11]. Again, the Lord says to Moses: I am who am; and though shalt say to the children of Israel: HE who is hath sent me. Let them trust in thee, then, who know thy name, so that they may not trust in the things that flow by on the rapid stream of time, possessing nothing but the future  “will be” and the past “has been.” For the future, when it comes, at once becomes the past; with longing we await it, with sorrow we see it pass away. [Augustine revisits this idea in greater detail in his Confessions.] But in God’s nature there will be nothing future, as if not yet existing, nor yet past as if existing no longer, but only that which is; and this is what we mean by eternity. Those, then who know the name of Him who said I am who am, and of whom it was said, He who is hath sent me, must cease to trust in and set their hearts upon the things of time, and must betake themselves to the hope of things eternal.”

The question, then, is this: Is the “search” Percy talks about a sort of fumbling around in these ages looking for that age of ages the way Helen Keller fumbled around with her fingers before she grasped the idea of water? Furthermore, when one stumbles upon the search, does he do so as a gift from God or is there something within our nature that desires to find that age of ages even if we’re as deaf, dumb and blind as Ms. Keller?

 

Kevin Drum on Assisted Suicide

It would be unfair to call this “banging on”, but Kevin Drum of Mother Jones has written a very sad story backed up with all sorts of facts and figures, as well as charts to help marshal those facts and figures as a buttress for his argument in favor of assisted suicide.

Daniel Payne (I presume that last name is pronounced just like the word “pain”, with whatever association you’d care to make) has written a reply without as many facts or figures, let alone as much emotional punch, but with a whole lot of sound reasoning. Here’s a bolus:

It is a ghastly future in which people take their own lives to the gentle and smiling encouragement of their loved ones.
It is a ghastly future in which people take their own lives to the gentle and smiling encouragement of their loved ones who would rather just get the whole thing over with and move on.

I will pray for Drum, and you should, too. Pray his cancer disappears and he lives to be a grumpy, curmudgeonly old liberal geezer still talking nonsense about gun control and other progressive ballyhoos.

If his cancer should return, however, I pray he does not take the easier way out. I pray he gives his wife and his loved ones a final, priceless, and irreplaceable gift, a gift of himself that only he can give: the gift of needing their love, their attention, and their full and unconditional care in the twilight moments of his precious life.

Desire and Deceit

girard

For Rene Girard, 1923-2015

Not again, the old men with beautiful manners.
– Ezra Pound

The old men of our age are young against
The violent, suffering such sacred cries…
We live as if the times were free and cleansed
Of envy, but we know from these
Embarking ferries what cruel death would say:
The fire rises every dawn to mystery –
Familiar as desire, lost as memory.
So truth is night that verges every day
Which hates itself, yet knows itself as day.

We try to capture every moment’s breath
With flesh, but lose the soul of argument
Because the body knows that only death
Provides the wound – unless the sentiment
Of beauty heals the foreign element –
The other – those – the sin that takes the step
In which we place the body deep, deep, deep…
I wish that nothing were the case – but take
It life will some day give what death will take

And knew no French but heard you anyway
By age and time. By youth and wonder’s books
I sat and heard you lecture, heard you say
That creatures live and imitation speaks
The grammar grace’s tender mercy brooks
Between the prepositions of and in.
I loved a woman of the world – taboo
And token sin – and urge and instinct knew
That beauty suffered what my conscience knew.

Remember, man, that dust remembers man –
Recalls the day angelic beasts renewed
Our call to human living. Manners can
Propose a mystery: the stage construed
With shadows, fictions made with words and breath;
But understand by holocaust of faith
That noon escapes, confirmed by midnight’s dark,
And night corrals the stars, each a splintered spark,
You ancient man, that hates and loves the dark.

Maybe next year, Cormac…

This year belongs to a Belarussian – that is, a bella Belarussian

Svetlana Alexievich

And I have no doubt that Fables of the Dead will soon be up for nomination as well – as soon as it appears in print…

from Territorial Rights by Muriel Spark

Territorial Rights isn’t Spark at the top of her game, but even Spark at half power is more inspired than most writers at their best. It takes place in Venice, where a handful of English acquaintances improbably, ridiculously, end up at the same pensione. One is a young man, Robert, who has recently walked out on Curran, his chicken queen, in Paris in order to chase Lina, a young Bulgarian art student who may or may not be under surveillance by Bulgarian spies (the novel was published in 1979 and takes place not long before then).

Robert disappears, perhaps at the hands of those same Bulgarian spies, and Lina befriends Curran, who in turn gets her a job doing sociology research for his friend Violet, yet another English expatriate who does research abroad for a private detective agency. Leo, who is traveling with Grace, who is in Venice to find out about her former lover, Robert’s father (also in Venice, with yet another adulterous companion) on behalf of Robert’s mother (back in England).

Lina moves into the attic apartment of Violet and soon after begins sleeping with Leo (Robert, remember, has gone missing).

Another scream, a bang, a man’s voice protesting, trying to placate. Violet precipitated herself out to the landing, in time to see the little lift descending and, through its glass windows, Lina with her head thrown back dramatically and, her hands clutching her head, giving out frightful animalistic noises.

The lift passed the upper floor of Violet’s apartment and reached the ground floor of the building. Violet, followed by Curran, had run down the flight of stairs to meet the descending lift, while Grace, outside Violet’s landing joined the banister audience.

Lina flew out of the lift, still yelling wildly, barefoot, dressed in a huge yellow flannel nightdress and throwing her arms around in a way which was quite alarming to watch. Violet caught old of her, and Curran, too, tried to hold her, both joining the exclaiming chorus of people above in the tall echoing palazzo. ‘What’s the matter? … Lina, whatever is the matter? You’ll catch your death … Stop … Wait! ….’

But Lina had struggled free in a flash and had opened the front door. She ran out on to the landing-stage. She turned with her back t the water for just a moment in order to cry out ‘Leo is the son of a Jew — I have slept with a Jew — God, oh God! — I must cleanse myself! I die for shame!’ And with a further shriek the girl half-turned and dropped into the canal.

That would be a canal in Venice.

You’re Welcome!

Novelist as Barefoot Trinitarian

It was Miguel de Cervantes’ dying wish to be buried inside the walls of Madrid’s Convento de las Trinitarias Descalzas — the Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians — where a dozen cloistered nuns still live today, nearly 400 years later.

As a young man in his early 20s, he fled Spain for Rome, after wounding a nobleman in a duel. By 1570, he returned home and enlisted in the Spanish navy. He went to war to defend the pope — and got shot in twice in the ribs, and once in the shoulder — an injury that left his left arm paralyzed.

And it was only then that he got kidnapped by Algerian pirates …

How’s that for a cliffhanger? Read the rest of the story at NPR, here.

Yuval Levin on Laudato Si

I find everything Yuval Levin writes worth reading. His commentary is always measured, well-reasoned, and insightful, taking the long view of even the most contentious political issues. He is easily one of the best writers at National Review.

Here he is writing about the latest encyclical, seeing it with a perspective and charity I certainly haven’t had:

I’m not Catholic, I’m Jewish, so you should certainly take my reading of papal documents with a healthy dose of kosher salt. But for what it’s worth, the kerfuffle over Pope Francis’s recent encyclical on (among other things) the environment seems to me to point to some interesting tensions at the heart of modern environmentalism.

A lot of critical interpretations of the encyclical have treated it as abusing the Pope’s standing and authority (in the eyes of Catholics and others) to advance a left-wing or radical environmentalist political agenda by dressing it up as Catholic doctrine. Having finally read the encyclical, I’m left thinking roughly the opposite is the case. The Pope is trying to hijack the standing and authority (in the eyes of global elites and others) of a left-wing or radical environmentalist agenda to advance a deeply traditional Catholic vision of the human good and to get it a hearing by dressing it up as enlightened ecology.

Read the whole thing here. And don’t forget to read the actual encyclical, either.

Korrektiv goes to the Jesuits…

Unknown

Here.

Two Very Short Poems About the Scottish Englightenment

David Hume Recalls Charles Boyle
I speired him thareanent heiven, for a wee
bairn I was, dumfoondered at his orrery.

Moral Sentiments, Imaginary Beings
Adam Smith learned from François Quesnay
that if laissez faire et laissez passer,
le monde va de lui meme!
An Invisible Hand to favor
industry and more productive labor,
with an Impartial Spectator to fairly examine
our pursuit of even more mammon.

The Last Gentleman Conference postponed.

Argh.