Friday, 4/15/16 – item 3 updated

  1. Refections on the Vietnam Memorial
  2. Überbuff (if only in his own mind)
  3. Making enemies superfluous

1

A Vietnam veteran reflects on the war’s Memorial in Washington, DC:

The monument itself is a kind of symbolic account of the war. You descend into it, just as we descended gradually into the war. It begins around your ankles, with low granite panels and you must bend down to read the names. Small panels; just a few names, just a small war. These are the names of the first to die. On other war memorials, the names are filed alphabetically, so that even in death, the soldiers are just as trapped in a bureaucratic filing system as they were in life … It really is an historical memorial, not a stone filing cabinet of names.

The war rises to meet you. Panel by panel, you descend into the roster of the dead. Soon you are in over your head. “Now I understand,” I thought, “why they dug a ditch.” …

And as I read the swarm of names, my eyes lose focus, until I am no longer looking at the names, but at myself standing among them …

I could not avoid thinking about the new wall that must be built, the wall for the Iraq war, so much like this now ancient war. How many panels will it take, how much stone will have to be polished and scratched to list the names? How similar were the arguments, arguments that so many of us fervently believed? “We must fight them there so we don’t have to fight them here!” “We are making progress; we have turned the corner; there is a light at the end of the tunnel!” …

What wall should we build for the new batch of dead? I suggest a labyrinth, one where visitors would enter and then spend panicked hours among the names of the dead trying to find a way out. Or perhaps we could dig some catacombs and relocate all the dead into the niches. Then we could wander among the bodies of those whom our political indifference and moral obtuseness had killed.

I, who opposed and did not serve, have nothing to add.

2

A 70-year-old Orthodox Monk (and Police/Fire Chaplain) recounts his days of weight training:

I was soon made to feel at ease after one of the trainers approached me, offering to help me get started. Grateful for the direction, I began what was to be a mainstay of my physical exercise for years to come. I didn’t stop weight lifting until I’d become a monk, and have regretted the decision to stop until this very day …

The very day I walked into Laprinzi’s Gym, another young man walked in for his first try at weightlifting. But, unlike myself, he was too prideful to accept direction from anyone. He stupidly turned down the offer of a trainer, and proceeded to weight lift without professional guidance. Some six months later, my trainer quietly pointed to the other young man, saying, “David, do you notice the difference between your body and his? Since he has been his own trainer, he sees only his front side, so his muscle development is concentrated in his upper arms and chest. His back muscles and legs are underdeveloped, so he looks like a skinny ape”.

I share this story because of the saying in Orthodoxy, “The man who is his own spiritual director, becomes the disciple of a fool.” When we embark on the spiritual path, we need the direction and foresight of someone who is experienced, for there are all sorts of traps ahead ….

3

A week after release of Amoris Laetitia and the New York Times (albeit this time in an OpEd) still can’t stop being the smirky-face friend of Pope Francis who makes enemies of his Church superfluous:

  • Yes, sex. The pope approves of it, in many forms.
  • skeptics were disappointed that the latest apostolic exhortation did not change church teachings
  • the document signals the end for one particular kind of medieval millstone
  • an institutional cancer tied to its own awful pathology
  • a self-professed less-judgmental church
  • the everyday lives of people who don’t believe that they should be constantly reminded of their inadequacies
  • Sex was dirty. Sex was shameful. Sex was unnatural. (Emphasis added)
  • Sex had one purpose: procreation, the joyless act of breeding.
  • [A]dmonition No. 256 in the Baltimore Catechism … warned about the dangers of “sinful curiosity, bad companions, drinking, immodest dress and indecent books, plays and motion pictures.” … [T]hat sounds now like the dynamics of a good dinner party ….

That’s maybe 2/3 of Timothy Egan’s piece. If Egan is Catholic, as I assume, he could use a little dose of that good ole Catholic guilt, and perhaps a conversion to Unitarian Universalism, where the only sin is believe there’s such a thing as sin.

But I’ll give him a little credit for this:

The old message was: If you break the rules, you’re condemned. Shame, shame, shame. The new message is: Welcome, for forgiveness is at the heart of this faith.

I always thought forgiveness presumed sin. Maybe Egan is counseling continuing in sin that grace might abound? You can’t expect coherence from anyone but Douthat when the Grey Lady publishes about the Christian faith.

UPDATE: Rod Dreher shows the absurdity of Egan’s Catholic guilt “canard,” which probably is the best noun for this sort of vacuous flippancy.

Pope Francis … is speaking to a world that does not want to hear what the Church has to say about sex and sexuality. He’s living in a world in which people like Timothy Egan will tell lies about the Catholic Church and what it teaches about sex.

But here’s the thing: no matter how much Catholics take the Egan line, and live by it, they will be guilty. And deep down, they will know it.

It will be to no avail. As with various kinds of Deniers, you can’t shame a hack whose salary depends on preaching flippant canards to the progressive choir. Egan’s OpEd is still featured Saturday.

* * * * *

“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.