Wednesday, 10/28/15

  1. “Dialog”
  2. Why care who won?
  3. The Kingdom of Americanist Internationalism
  4. NYT finds a problem GOP didn’t cause
  5. Forgotten youthful infatuations
  6. Between cynicism and naïveté
  7. The rigidity of Germaine Greer
  8. Hell-bent on hating


(Rod Dreher) That last sentence distills, oh, 50 years or so of my sentient experience of religious life in the U.S.


I could go crazy playing “Who Won the Synod?,” and for no good reason. I hereby adopt Ross Douthat’s opinion, unread and not critically examined.

Whew! That’s a relief!


Ethika Politika is running a series of articles the deepen what’s come to be called “the ecumenism of the trenches” — Christians from disparate traditions, typically quite committed to conflicting dogmas, who nonetheless agree on some important public issues.

Susannah Black, an Anglican, shares What I Want from Catholics: Occupy the Public Space

[W]hat I would like from Catholics in public is for them to continue to take up space, to be by their presence — even the physical presence of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Midtown, for example … — an insistence on the fact that there is no such thing as a religiously neutral public sphere. I want St. Patrick’s there, facing off against the statue of Atlas that was placed across the street at the entrance to Rockefeller Plaza, a symbol (as I take it) of an alternative universal church: the Kingdom of Americanist Internationalism.

That ecumenists of the trenches, generally a conservative lot, should start to see the Empire itself (not just some fellow citizens) as anti-Christian is a hopeful sign.


Mark your calendar for Sunday the 25th. The New York Times Editorial Board found a real problem and doesn’t blame the GOP!:

Forty-three percent of all 2013 law school graduates did not have long-term full-time legal jobs nine months after graduation, and the numbers are only getting worse. In 2012, the average law graduate’s debt was $140,000, 59 percent higher than eight years earlier.

(The Law School Debt Crisis) I’m a little vague on how loan defaults then stick the taxpayers with the tab, since I thought student loans weren’t dischargeable and the Times doesn’t explain whether Direct PLUS Loans are an exception to the rule.

In any event, the recession of 2008 suppressed the appetite for law school among the sentient, leaving the schools scrambling for candidates, some of whom scored low enough on the LSAT that their odds of ever passing a bar exam are statistically low. It’s disheartening both for the graduates and for those surveying the law school scene for prospective hires, finding instead students with deep feelings but marginal analytical and writing ability. (I decided not to link to a particularly awful writing sample I saw recently on the chance that someone would identify the author, pass my snark along, and hurt the feelings of someone who’s in deep debt already.)


When I was young I reflexively told people I liked poetry. I hardly knew any poets and barely understood those I had read, but poetry seemed to be a necessary affectation for the burgeoning literary snob that I was. I read randomly: Blake and MacLeish, Poe and Dickinson, Whitman and Carroll. I memorized “The Tiger” because I had to, “The Raven” because I was bored in class, and Dickinson because I was bored while sneezing.

I stuck to the poets of previous centuries for the most part, although I was vaguely aware that poets were not an extinct species, that dark corners of the planet still held strange specimens who wrote without meter or rhyme about The Orgasm and the joys of life as a Maoist rebel in Punjab, but I gave them a wide berth for fear that I might catch something and lose my ability to write with capital letters.

I couldn’t tell good poetry from bad, and that made me wary of everything I read. Perpetually afraid of being taken in by the wrong poetic crowd and waking up one day a chain-smoker in tight jeans in a Greenwich Village walk-up, I soon refused to read any poets I didn’t already know. Parched by the heat of suspicion, my love for poetry quickly withered and then fossilized, until I placed it on a shelf with my other forgotten youthful infatuations, like Star Wars and the clarinet.

(Fr. Gabriel Torretta, Poetry is not Important)

Regarding some poetry of Christian Wiman, Mark Bauerlein manages to dissect without killing.


Krista Tippett of On Being interviewed Maria Popova of a few months ago. This struck me:

MS. POPOVA: I think a lot about this relationship between cynicism and hope. And critical thinking without hope is cynicism. But hope without critical thinking is naïveté. And I I try to live in this place between the two to try to build a life there because finding fault and feeling hopeless about improving our situation produces resignation of which cynicism is a symptom and against which it is the sort of futile self-protection mechanism.


MS. POPOVA: But on the other hand, believing blindly that everything will work out just fine also produces a kind of resignation because we have no motive to apply ourselves toward making things better. And I think in order to survive, both as individuals and as a civilization, but especially in order to thrive, we need to bridge critical thinking with hope.

Part of me says “if you’re not cynical about politics, you’re not paying attention.” That would be the simplistic and somewhat hypocritical part, because (I assume) I rant and rave because I somehow think ranting and raving may make a difference.


The rigidity and conventionality of Greer’s stance puzzles me: to define a woman as a person born with certain organs in certain places is uncurious – uncharacteristically so from this famously interrogative mind. The philosophical dimension of gender is far more complicated and interesting than the way a person looks or sounds; to refuse to brook any of that, appealing instead to the gut sense of an unidentifiable bloc of “a great many women”, is authoritarian and narrow.

(Guardian journalist, Zoe Williams (who presumably covers the “so absurd only an intellectual could believe it” beat), responding to Germaine Greer, who thinks Bruce Jenner is a man! Shocking! She probably thinks he’s Caucasian-American, too. Via First Things)


Traveloguer Rick Steves is an Obama fan, I guess, and I was prepared to harumph that “this isn’t why I follow your blog, Rick!” But he makes a decent point that will be lost completely on those deranged by BHO, the repetition of which point risks getting me labeled a RINO:

I realize that lots of Americans are hell-bent on hating Obama and believe our country is going to hell in a Democratic handbasket. But I’ve traveled enough to know that our country is doing pretty well these days…and it’s not an easy ship to captain. And, to those who hate government in general, I’d recommend traveling to a land where there is no competent government, as I have many times.

As for the RINO label, I reject it because I reject the label “Republican.”

And that does not make me a feticidal Democrat. Politics, unlike sex, isn’t binary.

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.