Wednesday, 11/4/15

  1. “They are cowards and I am their enemy”
  2. Will simplicity go into the mark-down bin?
  3. Once upon a time, there lived an embryonic stem cell
  4. Grantland, I really, really hardly knew ye
  5. Varieties of religious forgetting

1

Battle lines are being drawn, and James Howard Kunstler, somewhat improbably, seems to be on the Right side. The conclusion of his smokin’-hot Monday indictment:

Sometimes societies just go batshit crazy …

Black news pundits such as Charles Blow of The New York Times constantly call for “an honest conversation about race,” but they don’t mean it. Any public intellectual who ventures to start that conversation is automatically branded a racist. Hey, I couldn’t even have a conversation at a private dinner on the merits of speaking standard English with three college professors whose life-work centers on race. They had a melt-down and used a proxy (who wasn’t even there) to slander me on the Internet.

They are cowards and I am their enemy.

Insofar as the battle is to be fought with words, we just drafted Goliath.

Yes, as a matter of fact, I do remember what happened to that invincible warrior; but what if God had been on his side?

2

Americans are geniuses at commercializing stuff:

One of the troublesome things about today’s simplicity movements is that they are often just alternate forms of consumption. Magazines like Real Simple are sometimes asking you to strip away your stuff so you can buy new, simpler stuff. There’s a whiff of the haute bourgeoisie ethos here — that simplification is not really spiritual or antimaterialism; just a more refined, organic, locally grown and morally status-building form of materialism.

Today’s simplicity movements are also not as philosophically explicit as older ones. The Puritans were stripping away the material for a closer contact with God. Thoreau was stripping away on behalf of a radical philosophy. It’s easy to see what today’s simplifiers are throwing away; it’s not always clear what they are for. It’s not always explicit what rightly directed life they envision.

(David Brooks, The Evolution of Simplicity) The same seems to be true, from what I’ve heard, of “mindfulness” — i.e., some have made it a business opportunity, but there’s no clarity about what to put in place of the demon of distraction.

3

People need a fairy tale.

(Ronald D.G. McKay, stem cell researcher)

It’s time for scientists and bioethicists to establish a Embryonic Stem Cell Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

(Michael Cook, Mercatornet)

Darn right, that’s cryptic. If it’s intriguingly cryptic, you’ve got the links.

4

Among the spectacles of our sports-entertainment complex, there are only two in which people are regularly killed — not accidentally, but directly as a result of that sport’s essential identity and, more ghoulishly, that sport’s essential public appeal. One of them is auto racing. The other is American football. Of the two, there is only one in which children are now regularly killed. That sport is not auto racing …

According to the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research, which is housed at the University of North Carolina, 13 high school American football players died from injuries between 2012 and 2014. This is a plain and simple statistic. Alone among our sports spectacles, American football kills our children. I was at none of these games but, as Toby Ziegler once said to Jed Bartlet on The West Wing, I will bet all the money in my pocket against all the money in your pocket that the people in the stands cheered the “big hits” that killed all three of these children …

Let us be plain. For the moment, anybody who writes about sports who chooses to boycott American football because of the inherent and inevitable damage it does to the individuals who play the game is doing only half of their job. American football is the great, gravitational force at the center of the universe in which our spectacle sports operate. It is fine to operate from the moral high ground, but the fact remains that the existential crisis of physical destruction in American football is an existential crisis at the heart of American sports. It requires a serious moral calculation on the part of everyone who makes a living within the game, who makes a living transmitting the game out there to all the Evan Murrays watching at home, who involves him or herself vicariously through fantasy leagues, and who works at covering the complex at any level of journalism.

I confess I never followed Grantland, which ESPN has now killed. This certainly is not conventional sportswriting.

The website fivethirtyeight.com collects some favorites.

5

Catholicism is a form of Christianity that in theory is profoundly shaped by history and maintaining the living continuity of the Church from Pentecost till today. This consciousness is barely present in contemporary American Catholicism, not because Catholics are Catholic, but because they are Americans, which is to say, they are moderns.

… Evangelical institutions are failing to teach Scripture as they once did. … [A]s an Evangelical who had been raised in a strict fundamentalist family told me last weekend, some of them are teaching it in a way that is so rigid and thoughtless (e.g., as a divine rulebook) that it cannot withstand the clash with culture outside its confines. The example this particular Evangelical used is the way many conservative churches within that tradition argue against homosexuality by citing decontextualized Bible verses, and fail to explore the deeper teaching in the Bible about sexuality, purpose, and human nature. If the only understanding a young Evangelical has about homosexuality is that ten or fifteen Bible verses condemn it, and that’s the extent of the Bible’s message about it, she will be susceptible to the Levitical sophistry of pro-gay antagonists, e.g., taking commandments from the book of Leviticus and saying, “If you take Leviticus seriously on homosexuality, then you are bound to take Leviticus seriously on not wearing wool and linen together. If you don’t take fashion advice from Leviticus, you shouldn’t take advice of sexual morality from it either.”

(Rod Dreher, as part of a long, rambling posting The Fragility of Historic Memory)

* * * * *

“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.