Monday, 11/4/13

    1. Dance or Die
    2. American Pie, played on Air Guitar
    3. Deep Thinker awes Purdue
    4. Comparative comboxes
    5. Standing pat despite it all


The humanities are prized only when we can hook them up to consumer interests, make them turn a coin, demand that they entertain us.  There’s always the implicit threat that if we can’t get the bear to dance, the poor old fellow will be put down.

… William Shakespeare can be mutilated, but he can’t be tamed. As one teacher said, after a student had made a snarky, sophomoric comment about Hamlet: “Mister, when you read Shakespeare, Shakespeare’s not on trial. You are.” …

I’m told by those who teach that we now have a generation of young people who, in large measure, no longer ponder the terms of their existence or question their reason for being.  Tomorrow is for another pizza, aceing the PSAT, or another video game.  The “Holocaust” is a description of a description of Black Friday sales; the Civil Rights movement has something to do with … what?  Will I be graded on it?  We have managed to break a fundamental chain of civilization. We’ll pay the price down the road … wait, we already are … but it’s not taking the form we had anticipated.

Cynthia Knox, The questionable utility of the dancing bear, or, the future of the humanities. Do not miss the Michel Serres YouTube Video at the end. (H/T Arthur Rossman on Twitter)


[A]t summer camp we had to stop singing all the verses of American Pie because we found young kids crossing themselves at the lyric: the three men I admire the most, Father, Son and the Holy Ghost – they caught the last train for the coast. the day the music died…

(Christine Krin, on Facebook, commenting on Frederica Mathewes-Green‘s definition of “Orthodox Air Guitar”: “noun — that automatic lurch your right hand makes when you’re at a Protestant service and you hear the pastor refer to ‘the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.'”)



Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather. I had no idea times had changed.

That changes, like, everything, doesn’t it?

He was the perfect Bishop for scratching the itching ears of the era. It’s such a shame he retired, no?


Ross Douthat writes Sunday of “the rise of a live-and-let-live social libertarianism, the weakening influence of both religious conservatism and liberal communitarianism, [and] the growing suspicion of moralism in public policy,” using shifting opinions about Casino Gambling and legalizing marijuana as his launching pad. It’s a good column.

I read recently that Casinos get about 4% of their revenue from the 75% of patrons who dabble and walk away. Ponder that.

Got it? 96% of their revenue comes from the 25% who obsess and don’t walk away.

But of course, it’s good to live-and-let-live. There’s no such thing as destructive addictive behavior, only free choices, and if someone chooses destruction, that’s the price of freedom, right?

I probably wouldn’t have bothered mentioning this were it not for my having foolishly read the comments to the Douthat column. They are much more grammatical and better-spelled than the comments in our online local paper, but only slightly less shrill and inane. Douthat, one of conservatism’s most thoughtful commentators, is accused of shilling for the GOP, the party that’s perfectly happy to let evil corporations exploit addictive gamblers, as if Douthat’s observation about revenue-hunger of the states hadn’t the slightest grain of truth to it.

It’s nice to know that there’s still derangement on the literate left, since Lord knows there’s little but derangement on the GOP right these days.


The question of why I would remain a Catholic through all of this, when I could greatly simplify things by, at the least, renouncing the Church’s teaching … has been posed to me more than once — not only by others but by me. The simplest answer is that I’m persuaded that the Catholic faith is true, and with that comes the conviction that the Magisterium is reliable. Any dissent from the substance of her teaching on my part would be intellectually inconsistent, and, for someone built like I am, knowingly engaging in intellectual inconsistency would be the height of dishonor. I can be a whore, and that’s one thing; but being a liar — that would be a far deeper violation. It would remove the conditions by which I am able to sin and still repent, and I need those to function as a Christian. Even, perhaps, to function as a man.

But there’s something else going on, too. Something I don’t understand, except that I sense its presence, and it is not simply intellectual; it’s deeper than that (by which I don’t mean it is emotional — as important as emotions are, they are not more core to a person than the mind, just different). I certainly haven’t got the strength, and don’t know whether I will receive the grace, to continue on the path of celibacy. But, deep within, something is happening — God is doing something in the dark.

(Mudblood Catholic, Raw Tact, Part X: Agony, Ecstasy)

I can really relate to that. I elided two words, “on sexuality,” to eliminate ambiguity about what I mean by “relating to that.” Maybe I should have elided “Catholic” and “the Magisterium” as well, since my perspective is Orthodox (which is catholic but not Catholic) and we don’t use the word “Magisterium” (nor do we have magisterial opinions on so many things as does Rome).

With those qualifications, it really does mirror my experience. I trust the Orthodox Church on some things despite my feelings. I cannot leave it, without leaving the Christian faith (as I now understand it) entirely, while remaining intellectually consistent, “and, for someone built like I am, knowingly engaging in intellectual inconsistency would be the height of dishonor.” And something supra-rational but not emotional is going on, too.

I think one reason I follow several Christian bloggers who (there’s no good way to say this) struggle with same-sex attraction is threefold. None of it, I think, is voyeuristic, as none of these folks write explicitly about sexual experiences (Mudblood’s Part X is about as X-rated as it gets).

First, sexuality remains, in Christian circles, something of a powderkeg,* and it’s difficult or dangerous to extemporize about it. These bloggers take the time and discipline to reflect deeply, not extemporaneously, on their experience.

Second, as shown by this example, struggles over sexuality have a lot in common with struggles over other passions, but it’s harder to find much edifying material on, say, struggles with gluttony.

Third, it’s just good to see people – especially those who could “simplify things” so easily (and with less social stigma than they get for standing pat) standing pat anyway. Or at least leaning into the wind, trying to stand pat.

* * * * *

* It’s a powderkeg in part because the civil status of “married” for same-sex couples “forces the issue” socially in a way previously unprecedented:

Until now, the sexual revolution achieved its political goals by way of a supposed right to privacy, a legal artifice that says, in effect, that we are free to do as we please behind closed doors—use contraception, engage in sodomy, and so forth. The imperative of “marriage equality” is very different, because marriage is the very opposite of private. It will require us to affirm same-sex couples as couples, pairs that rightfully and without any shame or legal disability do what married couples do: have sex, form households, have and raise children.

(R.R. Reno (pay wall) in the November First Things, to which I’ve newly re-subscribed after a hiatus.) That mandatory affirmation encroaches religious freedom and that, if nothing else, makes the issue explosive.

* * * * *

“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.