Check out the animated show Bat out of Hell on Kickstarter!

Two Very Short Poems About Common House Pets

The Fat Cat Doesn’t Need You
Don’t bother talkin’
To that old grimalkin!

A Man’s Best Friend’s Personal Attendant
Holding a warm bag, he watched his collie wag
her tail at the end of the trail, then lallygag.

One mild evening in early fall somewhere in the middle of God’s country…

colloquium 1

I made a drink

colloquium

and a diverse group of Catholic gentlemen talked a little Plato.

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We talked and talked and drank and drank and talked and drank …. until the horse came home.

Two Short Poems about Animal Husbandry

A Sacred Moment of Love
Sometimes it must be now:
the moment when, er, a bull
approaches his beloved cow—
it isn’t always so venerable.

The Bored Lover Seeks Novelty
The mares seemed so last year,
so the stud mused, “That zedonk
on the far side of the pasture
has one hell of a badonkadonk.”

Korrektiv goes to the Jesuits…

Unknown

Here.

By the by…

horse-tack

…I figger it’s high time the rest of us started in blogging again. Otherwise, people might start to get suspicious. They might think we were doing meaningful work behind the scenes. Can you imagine?

Anyway, we had our parish priest over for dinner last night. He gave a fine homily for Trinity Sunday about the necessity for experiencing the dynamic of love within the Trinity as being rather more important than understanding its workings, and he closed with a bit from a book written by a father raising a severely autistic boy. On a day when the readings made explicit reference to believers as children of God, it was easy to substitute myself (and all of fallen humanity) for the afflicted son. I recast it thusly:

The Horse and the Boy

The child is simple – anyone can see it
The way he blindly flails about the barn
– in here, where blade and beast might do him harm
and him without the beastly sense to flee it

It’s not his fault – the flaw’s been there since birth
or further back; it’s left him largely with himself
for company, untroubled by the wealth
of words and rules that circumscribe the earth

Thank God, old Betsy has the patience of a saint
Another horse, with some less gentle spirit
Might kick, and stop his cry before I’d even hear it
(If his mother knew I brought him here, she’d faint)

But once I’ve helped him up upon her back
He flashes forth the longing to be known and know
the world beyond himself in just two words: first “up” then “go”
to seek and find what he and I and you still lack

Mind & Brain III: What is so special about the human brain?

Also related to Rufus’ Field Notes and the Philosophy of Mind is an article that has popped up on Facebook is Captain Paul Watson’s “social media” article, The Cetacean Brain and Hominid Perceptions of Cetacean Intelligence. Writing about comparisons of intelligence, Watson writes:

Interspecies comparisons focus on the extent of lamination, the total cortical area, and the number and depth of neocortex convolutions. In addition, primary sensory processing relative to problem solving is a significant indicator; this can be described as associative ability. The association or connecting of ideas is a measurable skill: a rat’s associative skill is measured at nine to one. This means that 90 percent of the brain is devoted to primary sensory projection, leaving only 10 percent for associative skills. A cat is one to one, meaning that half the brain is available for associative ability. A chimpanzee is one to three, and a human being is one to nine. We humans need only utilize 10 percent of our brains to operate our sensory organs. Thus the associative abilities of a cat are measurably greater than a rat but less than a chimp, and humans are the highest of all.

Not exactly. The cetacean brain averages one to twenty-five and can range upward to one to forty. The reason for this is that the much larger supralimbic lobe is primarily association cortex. Unlike humans, in cetaceans sensory and motor function control is spread outside the supralimbic, leaving more brain area for associative purposes.

At the top of Watson’s article is this picture of a human brain and a dolphin brain side by side. Besides the fact that the dolphin brain appears to be somewhat larger, what is to be made of the the wider gap between the two lobes, the more complex squiggly things (sulci, I think) and the much bigger cerebellum (it looks like a third lobe beneath the two upper hemispheres).

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I know all this might seem a little ridiculous, but there’s no question that various animals certainly do have capabilities far in advance of humans—dogs and hearing, for example, or elephants and memory. And then there is the subject of elephant death rituals.

So what is it that sets the human brain apart from all other animals? That human beings have crossed the symbolic threshold is the ready answer, certainly, but how exactly did that happen? Girard has some interesting thoughts on the subject of course, as does his student, Eric Gans. Sticking with the brain for the moment, neuroscientist Suzana Herculano-Houzel says that a lot of it boils down to cooking. Yes, cooking:

On Whether or Not Animals Go to Heaven, David Bentley Hart on Thomists, and Edward Feser on the Soul

Dog Heaven

                                                                  
Somewhat related to Rufus’ Field Notes and my own reference to two articles on Mind and Brain below, there has been an interesting debate of late about whether animals go to heaven. In case you missed it, David Bentley Hart wrote his monthly article in First Things about it, and began with an extended riff comparing Thomists to … beatniks.

I was once told by a young, ardently earnest Thomist … you know, one of those manualist neo-paleo-neo-Thomists of the baroque persuasion you run across ever more frequently these days, gathered in the murkier corners of coffee bars around candles in wine bottles, clad in black turtlenecks and berets, sipping espresso, smoking Gauloises, swaying to bebop, composing dithyrambic encomia to that ­absolutely gone, totally wild, starry-bright and vision-wracked, mad angelic daddy-cat Garrigou-Lagrange. . . .

Weird. And I like Garrigou-Lagrange, at least Reality: A Synthesis of Thomistic Thought, which is one of the first books I read in Kindle form (“Kindle form” because I actually read it on my phone).

Luckily, there’s always Ed Feser to rely on. Feser posted his response to Hart at the Public Discourse, and it’s well worth reading.

Hart is correct to note that Thomists deny that there will be non-human animals in Heaven. But he gives the impression that Thomists “reject all evidence of intentionality . . . or affection in animals,” and that they are committed to a “mechanistic” account of non-human animals according to which their apparently conscious behavior reduces to “biomechanical stimulus and response.” He insinuates that at least many Thomists maintain an “unsettlingly gnostic picture” of human nature on which “the vegetal, animal, and rational functions of the soul must be segregated into strictly impermeable compartments,” so that the human soul becomes a “Cartesian ghost” inhabiting the physical body.

None of this could be further from the truth. As with his critique of natural law two years ago, Hart’s latest anti-Thomistic salvo is a showy exercise in firing blanks, all shock and no awe. Hart’s piece is long on rhetoric and short on argumentation, riddled with sweeping assertions, attacks on straw men, and failures to make crucial distinctions. The reason why Thomists tend to deny that non-human animals go to heaven has nothing to do with those attributed by Hart. Let’s untangle the mess.

Good stuff, and worth reading even as an introduction to the Thomist view of the nature of human souls. Feser is hard enough on Hart that I doubt Hart himself will be persuaded, but he ought to be.

Heads up.

Martyrdom: The Coloring Book - Fryd and GfrörerMartyrdom: The Coloring Book

  • Illustrated by the supremely grim, superlatively talented Julia Gfrörer *
  • Due September 2015 from Zest Books
  • Blurb:

    The lives of the saints are filled with inspiring, life-changing moments—but the deaths of the martyrs are where you’ll find the real “Oh, hell no!” moments of history. This adult (very adult, as the body count will quickly indicate) coloring book gives aspiring crayon and paper artists the chance to hone their craft while also buffing up their knowledge of Catholic history and tales. The attending stories will go down pretty easy at cocktail hours as well. [Continued…]

Two More Short Poems About Animals

Don’t Stir Up the Dust!
On the savannah, a spindly-legged,
galloping camelopard
dwarfed a nearby zebra, who begged
her not to trammel so hard.

So Not Happening at the Zoo
You’ll have to forgive the elephant,
if his manner seems a bit brusque:
imagine a runny nose in that trunk,
let alone a toothache in his tusk!

Badger Korrektiv

aotm

Yep, just like the proverbial blister – showing up after the work is done. That is in fact JOB staying the hell out of the way of men who actually know what they’re doing as he heads to Twin Cities for something called the Argument of the Month Club as chauffeur for ten good men in Driver 8, including Matt Korger, Wisconsin’s Own Blogging Superstar of the Catholic Blogosphere, who was there to document the crash course with zaniness.

We were done in under 20 minutes with plenty of time for beer and appetizers…

Enough to make even the Old Man proud.