Today, on this last day of 2006 A.D., I would like to pause and reflect upon those lessons which I have learned, hoping beyond hope that my follies and foibles, as well as my successes and jubilations, will serve the common good of my three to four readers as we move forward into a new year.
I suppose I should begin by saying that each year I learn a little more about why everyone celebrates the beginning of each New Year. I have always had an a priori distaste for the celebrations which appeared to me as wholly bacchanalian revelry in which people desired to lose themselves in the end of a year in order to embrace the "new opportunities" of the upcoming year. While this dismal caricature of New Year's celebrations doubtlessly exists, I have, only with the slowest of wits, come to appreciate those celebrations which surround the unfurling of the new year. Because of my often self-deprecating nature, I have often avoided the social situations which are concomitant with New Year's Eve. Of course, I have found myself all the more miserable for being like this and therefore use that misery as the lens through which I try to understand my own misunderstandings and misguided steps. (It is often through misery that we come upon the boundaries of our being, forcing us to reevaluate our positions in light of our destroyed self-perceptions.) The joy that was missing in the past has been experienced fully these past three years as I have spent my time with friends, celebrating what has been and what will be. The very presence of our beloved friends and family serves as a guiding sail by which we steer our courses through the turbulent waters of the future. The celebration of New Year's Eve thus becomes a microcosm of what I call "conservative-progressivism" in the spirit of the beloved G.K. Chesterton of what the somewhat more pugnacious Bill O'Reilly would call "liberal-traditionalism." We look backward to the previous experiences that we have had among our beloved, strengthening those bonds of love which have united us in the past year and provide the source material for the activity of the coming new year, the base for all activity henceforth.
Now, since many people my age like to indeed make New Year's Eve into nothing more than a drinking party, I will at least express my resolute rejection of any celebration of this holiday which seeks to lose oneself in order to leave behind the old and usher in the new. I have more respect for Qoheleth as he says, "There is nothing new under the sun" than I have for the modern man who says "There is nothing under the sun which I desire to remember." Such is an act of un-violent suicide that does no justice to our hopes for a new year but instead promotes a culture in which life is abhorred and nihilism runs rampant, leaving humanity as nothing more than an amalgamation of walking corpses, shambling through the pathways of each day trying to scrape a living off the rocks of broken dreams and forgotten pasts. Where we lose the microcosmic nature of New Year's Eve, we lose our humanity, for we deny ourselves the sight of true progress, which embraces the past, particularly in the love which we have for one another, for it is only by that love that we shall progress through the ages and only through, with, and in Love that we will become a truly united humanity.
Now that I have been a wind-bag, let me go off on my original topic: Those lessons which I have learned this year, 2006 A.D, in descending order of importance and not in chronological order.
First and foremost, I am slowly learning that long-learned, often-ignored lesson about the relationship between busyness and holiness, namely that everyone else is right when they assure me that busyness and holiness are not directly proportional but are often indirectly proportional. I am the type of person who likes to keep busy beyond measure because the silence often unnerves me, leaving me in a zone of discomfort which seems to be wholly undesirable instead of thoroughly purgative and uplifting (which it truly is). I am learning how to be busy and be human, how to strive for true activity which does not avoid the glorious humanity which I have but instead brings me more into contact with myself so that I may truly devote myself to God and others and not devote a shell of a who I am. I have learned that keeping busy for its own sake is a road which leads straight to the cold, lonely recesses of Hell, a road which cuts one off from others, dehumanizing them by abrogating the dialogical bonds which make us most human. To a great degree, I learned this by the difficult road, that same well-worn way by which I learn almost all the important lessons of life. I look back to my senior year of college and see many good memories but also see many chances that were abandoned because I didn’t myself slow down, didn’t allow Matthew Kenneth Minerd to step forth onto the stage with his heart wide open, ready to accept the world and be embraced or rejected by it. Instead, I became my own island of busyness and lost the chance to truly enjoy my last year of school while also maintaining a responsible schedule, something which I have only done once in my life during a blissful two years known as my Sophomore and Junior years of college. Alas, the lesson to take from this is that I must not allow being busy to be my aim in and of itself but always focus myself on the more arduous and fulfilling task of loving God and the world to the fullest, even though such love opens my heart up to the most supreme of pains as well as the most sublime of joys.
The other major lesson that I learned this year was that the world may not end at the hands of an Axis of Evil in the coming months. For a while, I was quite afraid of this occurrence and truly did not think I would live to see the beginning of 2008, or if I did live to see it that I would not know that it was happening because of supreme isolation and communication fall out in the wake of a massive nuclear war. Instead of worrying each day about the fall of the West from the outside, I have instead decided to concern myself with the ways that I, Matthew Kenneth Minerd can defend the West from the inside against those who despise our own glorious heritage that has brought forth this splendid nation and into which the savior of the world was born. However, I have also learned that this must be a task of humility and that I must always remain a tool in the hands of the Truth which guides the paths of all humanity through this life. Instead of trying to come up with my own ideas of how I can chivalrously save Western civilization, I must always remain a Collaborator in the Truth and an Apostle of Love, never separating these two roles but seeing them as a dynamic duo by means of which disparate human activities are united by the power of Love in the face of Truth, a unity which requires the work of many, the dialogical interchange of ideas and, more importantly, being.
The final, least important, lesson of this past year was the fact that my vote doesn’t count, not because of its numerical insignificance as much as the fact that the American electorate only has the babbling of partisan politicians to guide them through the storm of elections. This was the first time I have ever voted for a candidate instead of against another, and I was sadly disappointed in the fact that so many people bought into the diversionary tactics used by Mr. Robert Casey. Now, let me first of all say that I don’t doubt that Mr. Casey is a good man, at least as good as a politician can be given the fact that the government will only suck your soul out unless you have an iron-clad lock box around it. I don’t doubt that he truly has a vision to help America and do not at all desire (nor intend) to lob partisan labels at the man. However, I was thoroughly disappointed not at his attack ads (which are so common place that we must be disappointed in all politicians for them) but instead at his ads which spoke in a positive sense about his platform on the issues. It was nothing more than wispy desires for better lives for seniors and children, more successful education for children, and other such things that are embraced by all human beings, even our long-ago progenitors with clubs and a burning amazement for fire (no pun intended!). What truly disappointed me about this one ad received in the mail was greater than any other attack ad seen this year, for it was an insult to Mr. Santorum on a deep level, inferring that he was against such fundamentally human and Christian platforms. I was dismayed that so many people would vote for someone who played such a partisan card that tried to make a direct correlation between being a Republican and being a monster who wants the death of old people and schools to be built out of mud taken from the gravesites of the aforementioned dead old people. Now I don’t think that the Casey campaign fully meant to vilify Mr. Santorum to that degree but do indeed believe with a firm conviction that he was playing into the partisan standard that makes the Democratic Party “for the little man” and the Republican Party “for big business,” a standard that is useless if people would only think, for the entire government is partially in the pocket of big business, Democrat and Republican alike. I am a registered Democrat who is an independent thinker, Catholic first, Minerd/Szepesi second, and then an American, relegating any party affiliation merely to a functional level of primary/local elections giving not a single damn about the D or the R so much as T and L, Truth and Love. So what is the point of this last rant for 2006? Namely, it is that I do not know what it was that people found in Bob Casey that was so delightful that it merited the overturning of a tried-and-tested senator, a senator who has indeed made mistakes but who is also willing to speak with conviction and not with smoke an mirrors. He at least had a listing of fifty “controversial” viewpoints instead of a small list of feel-good platitudes. Do I think that people were stupid for doing this? Of course not, for they may have had more information that I did on Mr. Casey. However, I know from personal experience (and am disappointed) that many people voted against Mr. Santorum because he is Republican and that they thought he was nothing more than a war-mongering, grandma-hating person who likes to catch fish in bottle tops and wear them as jewelry while shoving cigarettes into their mouths in order to increase second hand smoke in schools when he visits them to burn them down with the same smoke-producing cigarettes. Well… that may be a bit over the top, but nonetheless, I would like to see partisanship end on both ends. I have just used this as an example because Mr. Santorum has a clear vision on many things and remains open to the other side more than people give him credit for, particularly insofar as he publicly stated that he thinks that the Republican party is weak on social programs to lift the poor up. Even though his policies on this might be a bit different than some on the other side would want, he is indeed united with them in the ideology itself, something very important and often-unheard of today.
Well, my friend, thank you for making it thus far through another raving of this coding Catholic. I hope to have an expanded reader base in 2007, although nothing so surprising is certain. The one hopeful fact is that my readership base is so small that it wouldn’t take much to increase it. ;-) In all seriousness, though, thanks for sticking to this blog even when it was not updated with much frequency. This coming year I hope to give some mind to more frequent updates, even if they are but small insights into other works of mine while I am swamped with busyness.
By God bless you and all your beloved as we begin 2007 A.D., and may the Love and Joy of our Father be yours forever.
- Matthew Kenneth Minerd, The Coding Catholic
Sunday, December 31, 2006
Today, on this last day of 2006 A.D., I would like to pause and reflect upon those lessons which I have learned, hoping beyond hope that my follies and foibles, as well as my successes and jubilations, will serve the common good of my three to four readers as we move forward into a new year.
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Hope For Awe
Above the earth, beneath the sky,
man walked without a care.
There was no thought that he would vie
with hunger or despair.
The moon, the sun, the shining light
of heaven's night and morn,
impressed on him an image bright
of hope and joy new born.
All things were new unto his eyes
and thus filled to the brim,
he let his intellect arise
to name the world for Him.
It was his place, divinely said,
to use his mind as such.
Yet in this gift his mind was led
to higher thoughts untouched.
Thinking this gift was made for lust,
for arrogance unfurled,
man thought that he was more than just
a steward of the world.
And thus was served the great death-pill
to man through such hubris.
He soon began to think his will
to hold God's divineness.
Alas, O man, your prideful will
has enslaved all mankind
to sin, to sweat, to have our fill
of death's icy cold bind.
And yet this fault does little stop
the Great Creator's plan.
Such acts cannot traverse the top
of His good will to man.
Out of this darkness from the sin
of fallen man did come
a better Word, both God and kin
conquering sin's death-numb.
By words and deeds did Death enter
through man's own prideful lot,
yet in reply to death's letter
a Word salvation brought.
O man, rejoice for in this Word,
mankind, free from death's claw,
sees all the sights, hears all you heard,
and once again has awe.
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Enjoy or not at your discretion! I will post another relatively soon. It is another old one that is a bit more religious in tone.
A Scholar’s Change
Erudite, the young man sat alone by the dim fire.
He pensively considered how he came unto this mire.
Philosophy, mathematics too, and also chemistry,
these things and more he sought under his lonely thinking tree.
All of his days he spent as such, from youthful confidence
and now he saw that all he knew was not worth a coin-pence.
His life had been a story of such arrogance and pride,
he thought he'd stand upon his own and in no one confide.
His students thought he was gleeful, with energy in class,
but to those whom he was closest, a smile would seldom pass.
And so was he, in doubt of mind when unto him did come
what seemed to be the very form of beauty in its sum.
Out in the field, he saw such grace and allure that he rose
to watch her sing and dance without a hint of worldly woes.
He went outside and spoke with her, the maiden pure and fair,
for curious he was to know why she was singing there.
And so she looked into his eyes and told him simply this:
"Some people live only to spread both bliss and sweet goodness."
Yet when she peered into those deep and utmost lonely eyes,
his heart was locked in wonderment and from the depths did rise.
He saw his life, his work complete, his praises sung by all,
yet at his grave stood only those who shouldered his small pall.
Yet while he gazed at her deeply, he saw another sight
that gave him hope that there may be a brighter source of light.
He saw that he could live beyond his book-filled fantasies,
that life could mean more than musing on grave realities.
And she, in looking, saw the face of someone trying much
to be patient and kind although it was so out of touch.
For long they walked that summer day and deep into the wood
they ambled speaking and singing of all things fair and good.
And so it happened that this man who thought he was alone
came home each day to hear her sing and talk of all they'd done.
At length they wed and many saw the vows be taken then,
and joy there was in all the guests who came to visit them.
The scholar's work was lessened some and yet he saw much more
that all work done must strive to help mankind with spirits poor.
While there were troubles, there was joy and life sprung forth with glee,
and all gathered around them oft their happiness to see.
And so the two together trod down life's long troubled path,
helping the stumbling of the other, calming thoughtless wrath.
And in the end, when their souls went to God the creator,
these two lovers were remembered for more than knowing lore.
Indeed a man, with book in hand, may find a maiden fair
and have more joy with love in life than in his book-filled lair.
Sunday, December 24, 2006
We begin with a question of prime importance: "Who is Jesus of Nazareth?" I believe that this question has only two possible answers. You will have to excuse what you may perceive to be irreverence. I do not believe my thoughts on this to be such but instead to be brutally truthful. Without any additional circumlocution, the following are the two possible answers to the question, "Who is Jesus of Nazareth?":
1) A radical Jew who, in addition to being a "nice guy" was a complete lunatic who thought he was God. He preached a good message, but things have been a bit weird for 2000 years because he had this latent schizophrenia.
2) Emmanuel, God-With-Us, the Incarnate Word which undergirds all creation, is its source, and final destination, its Omega Point. He is the Kingdom of God among us.
Christianity chooses the latter and builds itself upon Faith in this choice. Now, we must seriously ask ourselves, in both cases, is there reason to celebrate Christmas, or is such celebration only relegated to the latter case?
I believe that it is possible in both cases to celebrate the birth, but do not think that it would be celebrated if the consensus were for the former case. If you consider all the great moral teachers, national figures, and social liberators in history, none has garnered such support for birthday celebration as Jesus the Christ. I therefore posit with 100% confidence that it is only in light of those who hold on to the latter belief that anyone else can celebrate Christ under presupposition number one. The continued belief is only possible when Christ’s divinity is believed to be reality. Otherwise, humanity will wax and wane, kind of like it does with President's Day, or the ever-so-popular Flag Day. In both those cases, the holiday is barely celebrated because there is a degree of "eh, so what" that goes through everyone's mind. Indeed, poor Lincoln or The Stars and Strips cannot make people accept gifts like Santa sweaters and fruitcakes year after year with a smile (albeit a sometimes forced smile). It takes a holiday that has something to do with Truth, Love, Beauty, and Goodness to make us endure things year after year of our own volition. (Aside: We are forgetting that the 4th of July is about the Truth and are therefore destroying that noble American holiday. Alas and Alack, this is not the place for such reflections. Let us continue without further adieu!)
Now, with this in mind, we realize that the ontological status of Jesus is the primary motivating fact for the continued celebration of His birth. Why is it important that God became man, and therefore, why is His birth upon earth to be celebrated? The answer: The Cross and the Resurrection. Alright, let's step through this one, though, before we start sounding like atonement-only theologians and take all the beauty out of the Cross. (I have a deep-set dislike for those who would portray the cross as the action of a pissed off God who wanted to have someone to "smash" for the sins of the world.)
What is the Cross but self-sacrifice to God for the sake of humanity? Christ goes readily to the Cross, embracing it as his action. He flinches, indeed asks for it to be taken away from him. However, in the end, this fear of the suffering to come is that which truly allows humanity to be submitted to God fully, through all reservations and fears. It is Christ who says, "remove this chalice from me; but not what I will, but what thou wilt" (Mark 14.36). To walk the fearful way of the Cross without losing faith is to unite oneself to God, to trust, and hence -- in union -- to Love, for Love is unity, it is (in the words of Aristotle) "a single soul inhabiting two bodies." Therefore, the Cross is nothing more than the story of Jesus' love for the Father, a love which raises humanity up, recapitulates Creation by means of humanity. The source of Love, God, comes to Creation to lift the vehicle of Love, humanity, to it's true end, union -- not only by means of love but with Love itself. The vehicle is given the gift of becoming that which it carries.
It is this union which allows for the Resurrection. The Cross is meaningless without the Resurrection, for the Resurrection is the affirmation of the power of Love. "He is risen" (cf. Mark 16.6) and "The Father has raised Him" (Cf. Galations 1.1). The two phrases refer to the same ontological and relational truth, namely that it is by means of the reciprocally shared love between the Father and the Son that the Resurrection is possible. Christ's love for the Father allows him to rise and it is the eternal Father's love which sustains and “holds” the Son through even death. Therefore, the Resurrection is nothing more than the historical event which proves that Love is stronger than death, that love overcomes all, even the physical cessation of life. The Cross and the Resurrection are inseparable events, dependent upon and drawing their strength from the power of Love.
Now, have we just hopped aboard Matt's ADD expressway or are we coming to the crux of the matter (no pun intended!)? Let us draw the story together. The very life of Christ is animated by His Cross and Resurrection, for that is self-giving love which ultimately unites humanity to God. Through our loving union with Him, we can become brothers of the Son. (Ultimately, this is why the Eucharist, as understood in Anglican/Catholic/Orthodox/Lutheran circles is of absolute importance, for it is true ontological union. Indeed, the only proof that is needed for the Eucharist is the answer to this question: If God is Love, would he not allow for direct union with that Incarnate Love that sustains humanity even through death? Nonetheless, this is a different subject for another day. We will perhaps treat it in another entry!)
Alright, so the life of Christ draws its commission and driving force from the power of His Love which is fully actualized on the Cross and proven by the Resurrection. Well, that's great and is something that should rightfully be celebrated. However, why is it the birth that must be celebrated and not just the Cross/Resurrection? Well, for this, we must back up 9 months before Christmas to the Annunciation and conception of Christ. We could bicker about the historical significance of the virginal-birth narratives. However, no matter what your tenor, if you believe proposition number two above, then you must believe the following without reserve. The act of God's incarnation in Jesus of Nazareth is not the product of human choice but is instead fully the act of God. Jesus is indeed the only human being to choose His own birth at the "fullness of time" (Cf. Galatians 4.4-7) and does so in order to bring the fullness of Love to humanity.
Therefore, today we celebrate Love which chooses its own genesis, knowing the pain and suffering concomitant with its birth and life. On this Christmas we celebrate the warmness of God's embrace as He chose to walk among us and die to Himself so that our humanity may be divinized. That is the warm-and-fuzzy message of Christmas. However, that is not the commission given to believers on Christmas, for the embrace of God is something not taken easily without Love which requires death to self.
While it may at first seem somewhat depressing, we must see the commission of Christmas not in the manger but in the confluent event of Manger-Cross-Resurrection, the entire life of Jesus. The Nativity teaches us that it is right and proper to be apostles of Love, and that means that each day must be seen as a choice for the genesis of love. Each day is a nativity in so far as we choose to appropriate for our own lives the spirit of the Cross, of chosen self-death to others and, ultimately to the Father through Christ, empowered by the Spirit of Love. Therefore, Christmas is the open invocation to make Love our own, but Love is not an easy affair. It is humble enough to lay in a manger, selfless enough to have no place of rest, zealous enough to wander upon the roads of ancient Palestine, so untiring that it ceaselessly heals the sick and feeds the poor, and submissive to the point of Crucifixion. Love demands all; it requires that no barrier be left, no stone unconverted in our hearts, no possible wound be prevented on account of fear.
Now, this is somewhat of a somber look at the Love which Christmas requires of each of us. My goodness, it is quite daunting to think of this warm holiday which is so cheerful while looking toward the Crucifixion. Indeed, one may want me to stop and leave that for Good Friday, for that seems to be the proper place for thoughts about the Crucifixion. However, such Love as Christmas requires can only end with resurrection and ultimately the Resurrection. Every cross has its resurrection, every pain is answered by the realization that we are held in Love more tightly, that we no longer are our own but are instead united in the very motion of all Creation: singularly united Being which finds its point of coalescence in our Alpha and Omega, Jesus Christ, Love Incarnate, the humble Babe of Bethlehem.
My friend, I thank you for your time and for all you do for the world. May the graces of the Christmas Season set your heart on fire with Love for God, humanity, and all of Creation. God chose to become man so that humanity could be raised to the Godhead through the Love of the Cross. May that Love be yours now and forever, and may we venture together into 2007, united in Love.
God bless you and all of yours. Enjoy your Christmas!
- Matthew Kenneth Minerd
December 24, 2006
Monday, November 27, 2006
There will not be any long-winded discussions tonight since I just wanted to explain my absence and ask for your prayers. The Christian vocation is one, namely to love and be loved, for Love is that power which is the foundation of creation, its source and its final Omega point. May we all walk together toward that same unification in Love, discerning the means by which we may love the most in the symphony of God's creation in which we are called to be Collaborators in the Truth and Apostles of Love.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Anyway, I now would like to talk about the Pope’s address in Regensburg on Tuesday, September 12, 2006. I’m going to completely circumvent the ridiculous controversy that broiled over the propaganda-driven reading of the text by those who wanted to incite the ire of the Arab world by distorting the words of the Church’s beloved Holy Father Benedict XVI. Please note that I am going to probably treat some philosophical systems with great brevity, not touching on major themes within said systems. Such omissions are not desirable but are only in the nature of such a reflection.
The shadow of empiricist thought remains deeply ingrained on our minds, thanks in no part to the preliminary foundations set down by Rene Descartes, the man who is, in my opinion, the inadvertent progenitor of modern relativistic thought. Cartesian philosophy begins with a total denial of the material world in order to rationalistically prove from purely certain grounds the existence of the world. This dualistic split of the material from the rational is a complete turn-around from the Aristotelian notion of the world and its ultimate relationship to the intangible, starting the long move of thought to the realm of “pure” knowledge of ideas and (in some systems, in various ways) being.
This split ultimately leads us to the empiricism that is found in David Hume, an ideological system which provides only perceptual knowledge as the standard for human knowing. This type of knowledge relies upon empirically analyzing the world, realizing that absolute certainty is impossible, as it would require a complete investigation of all perceptible phenomena in reality. Cause and effect is greatly reduced in such a system of thought, implying that we are only able to perceive the strings of causality in our experiences by means of experimental (empirical!) knowledge. Hume’s system denies that it is provable that such a relationship exists in reality but is instead imposed upon the external world by the mind as it experiences perceptual reality.
However, let’s turn to the noble Emanuel Kant, who tries to counter Hume’s skepticism about man’s ability to have certain knowledge. For the sake of brevity, we will proceed directly to the question of how the mind perceives cause-and-effect relationships in the Kantian system of philosophy. In this system, the cause-and-effect that we perceive is reflective of the mind’s perceptual categories which exist a priori to the experience of sensation. This means that the human perception of causality is something which is placed upon reality by the mind, not derived from reality. Ultimately, we still remain with our brain locked in a casket, in the same scenario as that which Descartes placed us in and Hume buried us into. While there is some nobility in Kant’s system as a whole, the great detriment is the fact that it ultimately sows the worst seed (as David Hume ironically holds his hand): Relativism.
At this point, you should be seeing the growth of overall intellectual climate of today, one which only gives primacy to empirical knowledge, derived from experimentation. Modern and post-Modern systems have grown in various ways since the days of Kant but are ultimately related to this major stumbling which is ultimately tied to the “Cartesian revolution.” Such a blatant denial of substantialistic (Platonic/Aristotelian) thought is lamentable for the entire body of human knowledge, as it is nothing more than a shrinking of the overall understanding of knowledge, removing its very foundations from under it. Any epistemological system that is built without a substantial base is one which is doomed to be meaningless and provide no true sense of what is right action, for it will have no basis in the world as it is experienced. Classical thought ascribed rationality to the material world, teaching that the substance (that which stands under all accidental qualities) of material objects is the very principle upon which our knowledge is contingent. Substance dictates the rational action of the material world which is united to the Truth which supports all of reality, making it perceivable by the mind because of the mind’s inherent ability to perceive the nature of reality and hence understand and integrate sensory experience.
It is in light of this that the Pope stands in order to proclaim the necessity of an understanding of God that is rational and therefore in continuity with creation by means of that creative rationality, the Johannine summation of YHWH as Logos. The great strength of substantialistic thought is that it affirms the possibility of true knowledge being gained by reflection upon reality, giving humanity a capacity for the Truth. The Holy Father suggests that we should regain this notion of the Truth as an expansion of thought, not as a regression from modernity to the thoughts of antiquity. Without such Platonic forms of thought, it is impossible for dialogue to truly take place, as dialogue is always a conversation about a Word, a Logos, which is held in common between the two parties. If man cannot perceive the Truth in external realities, he is unable to hold anything in common with the rest of humanity and dialogue is impossible. The regaining of the Platonic/Aristotelian idea of Form/Substance is the only way by which true dialogue can occur.
The Pope’s positive message is that religion, when it is truly religion, a re-ligation – a re-binding- of man to the Truth, is essential for any kind of dialogue precisely because of its orientation to the perceived Truth which stands outside of humanity and is perceivable to humanity. Religion will always triumph over mere relativism when it comes to the dialogue of cultures, for pure relativism proclaims that everyone is right, a proposition that ultimately predicates that nobody is wrong. In relativism, truth is internalized into the people/groups who are attempting to dialogue and is not able to be shared because of the claims of each group. Indeed, there is not a dialogue in these cases so much as there is a story-telling session, isolating man from man instead of uniting all of humanity.
This is the positive message of Benedict XVI as he addresses a world that is desperately in need of true dialogue which unites all to the Truth which is manifest in objective reality as experienced by man. The sphere of human consciousness must be expanded once again to include religion, the re-ligation of mankind to the Truth. Christianity plays a special role in this formation by means of reflection and explication of faith in God who is Logos and is not only Logos but is ultimately Agape, love which unites plurality into a unity of individuation. The rationality of Faith builds bridges between humanity is therefore akin to the greatest movements of Love which manifests itself as the ontological union between beings. Benedict rightly proclaims that religion (and Truth-oriented philosophies of the world) must remain as part of Man’s understanding, for Truth and Love are only attainable when man does not destroy himself by reducing reality to mere perceptions that are removed from the Truth and by casting doubt upon the primacy of the self which underlies all thought and ultimately functions as the unifying and unified member of all dialogue.
My friends, if you have made it thus far, I’m touched, as I’m certain that my reflections are riddled with holes which demand much more thought and therefore prevent this rambling from being a unified whole. Perhaps some day I will return to such thoughts in a more systematic way. For now, I must be going. I will break from this and be writing some poetry that I have been thinking of lately. Look for it in the coming days.
Monday, September 11, 2006
I'm using the pronunciation of nous to be "noose", not "naws".
I actually use meter and rhyme. Perhaps some day I will rant about why I hate poetry that is nothing more than prose with extra white space. Indeed, I think I will rant about that sometime relatively soon because that entire issue is indicative of what I think is a disordering of art that is related to a modernist (and I believe Kantian) view of beauty.
Like any artist, I don't particularly like to do this but hope that someone will like it or at least have a reaction. Note that it is but a brief labor, not a masterpiece.
But for now, without further adieu:
The Light of Creation
Beyond the rim of future hope
A light burst from the land.
The world held in its motion's breath
As in awe it did stand.
All had been rising to the sky
In conscious glory's path.
The whole motion of thoughtful life
Had striven against wrath.
Disorder was not the desire
Of progress in the land.
It was unity of all things
That gave the guiding hand.
Involuting upon itself,
Creation looked anew,
With central head rising above
The dregs of oldest rue.
The growth of thought burst forth anew
From biologic use
A newer sphere took up the quest,
Uniting in the nous.
The head came forth, looking upon
The movement could thus turn its gaze
To inward reflection.
And yet the head, thus shining forth
Marred its own destiny.
Choosing not to shine for the world
It closed up inwardly.
But Glory could not concede that
The light should be so dark.
For from this mire, the head would find
Its unifying spark.
The Source of brightness from without
Would shine within the head.
Raising above the mire of sin,
The lamp in darkness led.
When time was full, from nous broke forth,
Radiant from above,
The purest Head of splendor bright
To be the path of love.
The banners of this unity
Attest to Holy Light,
One which will show creation full
Within its loving might.
And so that Head which first did see
The glory of the rise
Of creation from simplest form
Did loosen all the ties.
In this new light, the head could lead
United in Love's use,
Bringing the world its fullest hope
From the sphere of the nous.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Without any further adieu, I will attempt to begin this subject. Tonight I want to talk about the relationship between animals and humans and the significance of consciousness in both. I am certain that I’m about to insult two parties. On one hand, I’m going to thoroughly piss off those people who want to make animals and humans coequal in the created order. I’m not going to ever do that. If you want proof of that and haven’t got an open mind, go elsewhere because I don’t particularly want to anger you. The other group will be those people who want to say, “Those damned beasts are worthless. Jesus was a man and not a cnidarian. They are unimportant.”
Alright, having said all of that, let us also consider my method in this set of reflections. Since they are just that, reflections, I will once again appeal to my lack of cited sources. Furthermore, I will admit that I am standing on the shoulders of innumerable giants in this undertaking. I am trying to synthesize a lot that I have thought about without taking full time to research the question. That task, as I have learned multiple times, is too time-consuming for a medium like a blog. Now we embark over the edge….
When we look at the entire motion of creation, it is easy to see a pattern emerging in the process of evolution. This evolution, extended beyond the biological sphere into the sphere of the physical sciences, exhibits a tendency toward complexification and, more importantly (and correlatedly) consciousness. From a single unity, beyond time, the universe is set forth into a variety of cosmological processes which increase the diversity of the entire universe. Since my specific knowledge on astrophysics is limited, I will not outline these in detail but mention them to make my point.
Looking at one of these discretely developing masses, our gaze turns upon our own beloved planet. In even among the simplest elements, there is unity. Inorganic synthesis, crystallization, and, most importantly, organic synthesis all show a movement toward a unity of these parts. It is perhaps ironic that from a unity, diversity sprung only to return to unity. The beauty is, though, that it is now a universalization of diversity, and not a strict monad of matter. It is a unity of individuals, not a sea of interchangeable drops. As the basest organic molecules develop, we see unity growing with complexity.
Now, what is the aim of this complexity? For this, we look at the human person. If you want to deny that humanity is the most complex of being on earth, go ahead. I’m sure that I can find you a mental ward if you so choose to go there afterwards. I don’t doubt that there are many complexities in the world. However, when we look upon the actions, ideas, and the radical potential for love which all exist in humanity, our words must cease as we stand in awe before the behemoth of our own grandeur, a grandeur which we did not create but instead inherited through the very plan of creation.
I ask for an aside, your honor. Please bear with me for but a moment. Must we not acknowledge that in an evolving world everything must exist in a latent form prior to its final conception? Must we not say that the earliest form exists, although most rudimentarily in the past? If such can be acknowledged, then consciousness itself must be a constituent of all of creation, although in some rudimentary form. In this view what is that realm of reflection which is definitive of humanity? It is nothing less than the state at which consciousness gazes upon itself, knowing itself as an object. It is the very point at which consciousness knows that it is conscious. This is the great gap which separates man from those apes which existed before the peduncle from which modern man has developed. Until that point, consciousness was flaring toward its apex, but still didn’t know of itself. The entire development of creation was a march toward the point at which it could gaze upon itself. This is the sphere of man, a sphere which promises so much for the entire universe. (There will be another reflection related to this in a later entry.)
This aside now allows for a further development. If we acknowledge the existence of freedom in persons, we must also acknowledge that it has a role in all of creation. (We won’t go into major proofs of freedom right now. To try to treat this argument in a few sentences or even pages would not do it justice.) Freedom must have rudimentarily existed in the world before mankind. The threshold of reflection radically affects this freedom, opening it up to new possibilities. Nonetheless, it must have existed from the beginning of time, for even time’s beginning must be a freely chosen moment. When the walls of science open up, as matter becomes comprehensible from the mass which preceded the Big Bang, freedom exists already, for freedom sets these events into motion from outside of time. In the lower orders, we see freedom in a much more deterministic light. However, freedom, intrinsically existing, develops as part of the overall movement of creation. From the almost deterministic bonding of atoms, we move to the not-so deterministic actions of cells. This continues throughout the tree of life, growing with the overall complexity of the constituent branches of this arboreal mansion.
Given all of this, we now come to the original question about those animals which lack the characteristic of reflection but still remain within the overall process of complexification and the development toward conscious reflection. It is also at this moment that I have most tenuously grasped outward toward the boundaries of orthodoxy and perhaps may be incorrect in my assumptions on the subject at hand. Nevertheless, I shall attempt to make a synthesis based on all of the aforementioned reflections and a variety of uncited sources.
Since I am striving to work within a Catholic framework of theology, I feel that it is necessary to relate this question to the claims of orthodox eschatology. One of the most peculiar things about Christianity is that its principle teacher, Jesus of Nazareth, functions not as the purveyor of a radically new morality. Much of the teaching of this humble Jewish man can be found in the overall striving of the human mind throughout history in the various branches of theology and philosophy. (I am about to paint with even broader strokes of the proverbial brush here, so please deal most patiently with your humble blogging servant.) The particularly unique elements of Christ’s message are those which direct the reader/listener to consider the dialogue of being between Jesus and God. Christianity serves not as a story of moral precepts but instead as an encounter with a person who is unique insomuch as his very work is united with his being, which is itself united to God the Father. It is by means of unity in the Spirit of Christ that mankind has an opportunity to be united with the Father. In the personhood of Christ, orthodoxy declares that God has penetrated the human race and has indeed moved the evolution of complexification, unity, and hyper-consciousness to its Omega point, its point of capitulation. In my opinion (developed, of course, from research and not my own devices alone), this is what the Christian message is about: The very personhood of Christ functions as the necessary ontological bridge between humanity and Godhead, moving the plane of evolution into the only possible condition for the completion of complexification. Without the “evolutionary” thrust of the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, mankind is unable to find unity with God. It is solely by God’s action that man and God find unity, in the mission of Christ. By being held in the very being of God, through the mediation of the personhood of Christ, mankind is able to exist united (and yet individuated) through all of eternity by means of a dialogue of the soul, a dialogue of reflective beings and Reflective Being itself.
There is a reason why I have delved into this heavily Ratzingerian/Chardinian moment of theology and anthropology/cosmogenesis. It brings to us the realization that the only way that being can be sustained eternally is by means of a dialogue of openness. This dialogue is not a mere reduction into pantheism, for this would be incompatible with the overall notion of dialogue. This dialogical character of being demands that we acknowledge the place of the individual person and also sheds light on the nature of reflection. Reflection, that beautiful moment of self-realization, is the only means by which dialogue of being is possible. This is precisely why Christ came as a man and not as a camel or, more ironically, a literal lamb. If all of this is the case, Christ being the radical chance for unity and everlasting life by uniting the world to God, then mankind itself offers the radical possibility of unity to the world by means of its own rationality. By means of mankind, all of creation is able to be united with the Spirit of Christ and hence to the very being of God the creator.
Now, the relationship between man and the rest of creation is quite a bit different, for it moves in a singular direction. The reflective capability of mankind allows the human being to receive the other beings in creation specifically as objects to be held in the mind and united in being to the human person. All aspects of creation are important for that reason, for they reach out to our stewardship, desiring to have us act as that uniting principle, lifting them from materiality to the realm of what Teilhard de Chardin called the “noosphere”, the realm of reflective thought. We are the body of Christ with the person of Christ as its head. It is our mission, as good stewards of creation, to enfold the world within the embrace of our minds, hearts, and souls, so that all that has been given to us by God may be forever united to him by means of humanity’s free capacity to love.
In the end, this is where I stand on the animal kingdom, then, as well as the entirety of the unreflective remnant of creation. The gift of stewardship given to mankind is one that allows for a radical opportunity for ontological unity among all the constituents of the created order. By means of mankind, the animal kingdom is able to be held in man’s reflective capacity and is able to step into the realm of eternity, lifted up beyond the individual to the super-individual. The ultimate recreation of the universe allows the material component of this ontological dialogue to flourish in a new way, united and yet individual, just as risen humanity will be united to God (and, hence and yet individuated most extremely. We shall thus find ourselves part of that great symphony of creation, not as mere spectators, but as the principle players in each instrumental section, directed by the plan of God, singing and sub-creating a reality by means of our unity, a unity which is founded upon the Throne of the Almighty.
Sunday, August 13, 2006
Oh, I love to bring up specters of things which don't really trouble us except in academic circles and a few countries that are heavy-handedly ruling their people. Today's topic is: “The Utopian Wishes of Marxism/Communism in Comparison to the Promises of a Free Market.” I am quite aware that I am not fully qualified to talk about this subject. Nevertheless, I have taken time to think some of this out after much consultation with people who know a bit more than me. Here we go.......
Although there are many insidious factors dormant in Marxism, one of the greatest dangers is the fact that it promises an economically-built utopia of equals. The quip that everyone says about communism is something like, "It's a great idea on paper but just does not work out in reality." For however much you may argue over the triteness of this comment, it is correct to a degree. (Pure Marxism on paper is not great thing. However, we will not get into that here!) Continuing on before I get my attention diverted....
We all know by looking at Communist regimes that they don't particularly work out very well. The problems which they experience range from economic stagnation to complete poverty. Additionally, there is always the concomitant governmental regulation of life that drives a stake through the heart of human liberty. We all know why a system of people striving together as equals doesn't work. This is because, in the words of George Orwell, "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." The sins of fallen mankind will forever prevent a united front of pure progress. The Utopia can not be realized by the actions of mankind alone. More on the relationship of this to freedom later.
Now, in contrast to heavily socialized systems, we have people who are in favor of a completely free market. Now, I think that the free market has done wonders for economic prosperity. Indeed, this prosperity allows the United States of America to provide billions of dollars to the world community in order to help the less fortunate around us. The general fear of pure free-market economists is that governmental intervention will stagnate the system which allows for such good to be done. The banner is often waved to say that the free a market is, the more prosperity will follow.
Now, it is at this point that I feel that it is necessary to compare this to the Utopian hopes of communism. It is intriguing how both parties can so easily proclaim that all is possible by mankind's systems in their pure forms. Free markets open us up to the risk of extreme personal greed and subjugation without any checks from powers outside of the market itself. This in itself is utterly lamentable and is wrong. It is an example of how free-markets do not in all ways, at all times insure that the world is perfected. If somebody thinks that a Utopia is possible by means of free-market economics, they are sadly mistaken.
Now, I will retain a defense for the free market that I can not give to communism. The beauty of a free market is that it acknowledges the primacy of the individual owner and worker. All Americans should agree that the person should never be subordinated to the whole in such a way that he is robbed of his individuality. Many communist reformers have reacted to the aggrandizing of capital over labor, that is to the subordination of humans to the capital gained from production. The reformers often argue that this subordination is an intrinsic property of free markets. Perhaps I am going out on a limb here but I think I can argue that the protesters are wrong to say that this. I feel that it is the keynote of the greatest fall possible in a free market. A free market proclaims that the individual should be able to make choices about how he should use his sub-creational abilities, given by God and not the government.
The irony in all of this is that the very hole in the armor of free markets leads directly to the heart. The great risk of freedom is that it can be exploited against the freedom of others. The very risk of a free market is that it can act against its own ideals by this greatest risk. Freedom is sullied by the Fall. The greatest things can also be misused in the worst ways. This doesn't make them bad but perilously beautiful.
Now, along these lines, I must say, therefore, that completely unbridled free markets can not and should not be pursued. I think that freedom should be allowed as much as possible. Indeed, governmental action should try to promote the good use of the freedom instead of trying to eliminate it. Nevertheless, if individuals become as decadent as to deprive others of freedom, the government has the right to sanction the violators in order to restore a balance of freedom.
The utopian desires of economists are impossible but good. I think it is somewhat ironic that a free market should be so fully contrasted to communism, even by me in this rant. A free market should ultimately lead at least to equality: equal enjoyment of life. Why they are contrasted is because a fully government-controlled system can not allow for that, for the human person desires to use his will to make choices with respect to his sub-creational abilities. If freedom can not be permitted, enjoyment will not follow but thralldom will instead. Communism aims for equality but takes the wrong road on its way to get there.
I know, I know, I have rambled a lot. If this were a true scholarly essay, I would have sources and would have been so very organized. Well, I want to put these blog entries out here with some degree of frequency. Therefore, they're more rambled thoughts without citations. Nonetheless, what you should take away from this is the following:
By permitting human freedom, the free market allows for the most excellent opportunity for proper stewardship. The lack of this freedom as found in Marxism/Communism is a thralldom that deprives the individual of the ability to make the important choices of sub-creational beings. However, free markets must realize that they are not fully eschatologically oriented and must therefore not believe that humans alone can make a Utopia by means of economic systems. This ironically relates free markets to Communist markets, for Marxism purports that humanity can reach perfection by means of economic systems. The sinfulness of man will always remain to destroy any such Utopian hopes.
It is by union with God that mankind can find fulfillment. True eschatology must always look for a completely true human unity in the face of Goodness. This is the strength of Christian eschatology. We look for union with God, made possible by the union of God and man in Christ. Humanity can not be united in and of itself but only by being united with Another, with the One.
Saturday, August 12, 2006
I had a nice long entry about me being away, etc. Well I'm not going to do that now. I was/am busy and was away for a week of vacation with my family. I am catching up on some Amazon.com book reviews for a bunch of books that I have read as of late. Once I am done with those, I will return to here. I have bunches of subjects about which to talk. I will return this week in a blaze of something.... ;)
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Any heated rhetoric in this discussion should not be directly aimed at the rural user but instead to a government that encourages an entitlement attitude. Whenever these taxes were passed years ago, most (hopefully all) of the representatives involved weren't wringing their hands saying, "Good, just another way we can steal from the taxpayer." They really wanted to help the American people.
The issue at hand, though, is that it doesn't help the American people to monopolize the plan for such an infrastructure. The government's role should be to guarantee that the market can remain free for competition and primarily take that role. When it comes to addressing an important issue like getting telephone lines to everyone, the forces of competition will encourage efficiency. Ultimately, those representatives who were not directly trying to steal from the American public really end up doing such because excess money will always be taken by taxes. If there isn't enough, it will just be raised. That does not encourage much fiscal responsibility. In this case, so much money is wasted where it could be used by the public to reflect the progress desired by the American people when they use the forces of their buying power.
Perhaps if any action should be taken by the government, it should offer tax cuts to the people who are willing to take the risk to wire in these rural areas. This too has to be watched, though, so as to be proactive and not just an empty check to the businesses. Another factor is that phone companies, in an open market, could ask for an extra dollar or two voluntarily. I know that my gas bill allows for this to help subsidize the very poor. Such a donation could function the same for phone companies to subsidize the bills of the very poor.
A truly noble government does not make the righteous decisions for people but enables people to make righteous decisions on their own. Of course I think that taxes can do a lot of good and can even reflect the righteousness of a people. However, they are not the only answer. People do not always have to work en masse but can also work together as individuals. Ultimately, the truly just society will do just that.
Saturday, July 22, 2006
First of all, let me bring some nice little facts into the foreground. My little sister, who is fifteen years old at the time of this entry, is a type I diabetic. She has been such since the summer between second and third grade. I have seen her deal with needles like a little champ for all these years and have often thought, "Gee, Matt, she sure is brave compared to you." When I donate blood I have to make sure I don't look at the needle. I have been at her bedside trying to get her out of low blood sugar moments (for those of you who understand the figures, we're talking 22 millimoles /L [I believe that is the unit] ). What's my point? I have someone dear to my heart who is effected by this entire situation and keep her in mind when I make the sorts of pronouncements that I am about to make below.
The lamentations arose from many this week over the veto of the bill. I wasn't one of those who were lamenting. I think that such a veto is necessary in a sane, stable, and moral, society. My question is this: "Since when have the most vulnerable among us been made into the ones who are to be used by us? Since when has that been right?" And where in the world are the heads on the politicians who are decrying this veto? Aren't they supposed to be the people who stick up for the little guy? There's where we start to see the insidious danger of this. They stick up for the little guy who they have defined.
Now, I know that many people truly are "the little guy" and need help. They should be helped. I ask, however, "What defines the little guy? Is it the definition itself or his/her current situation in life?" It's the situation! That a definition of "little guy" is attached to him is of secondary importance. The vulnerable are those who are down-and-out, who are defenseless, who are powerless. By their very situation, they become those who are to be helped. I will not suffer politicians defining who the "little guy" is with respect to embryonic life. Now, I feel all the pissed off complaints coming: "How dare you, Matt. You're nothing more than a closed-minded dogmatist." Well, to that I say, "Follow me through on this one."
If you slip but a millimeter, indeed, if you only give them the size of one cell, created by the fusion of sperm and egg, you will give them the entirety of humanity. There is no actual justification for the redefinition of life as excluding the embryo except by rhetoric (with cold logic). Perhaps one could argue that the definition of life from the embryonic stage is also nothing but rhetoric. Even if that were so, we can quickly see which tree is good and which is bad by observing the outcome of excluding embryonic life as being human.
This is already visible when we look at the entire vision of the issue of abortion. Slipping on the embryo has led to the point of making permissible even partial-birth abortion. If you define a human by exiting the womb of the mother, you can justify all acts of murder up to that point. Eventually, one must put to question the perpetrators of such actions. You most surely want to ask, "What is the difference between that child just killed and what it would have been several moments later, outside of the womb." It is but straw to say that it is only the fact that it had not left the mother. Such close proximity of time makes the act almost unjustifiable in the eyes of its supporters. Perhaps the response becomes, "Well, I didn't want the child, therefore, it is not good for it to live."
Now, we all know that the opinion which others have for us ultimately should not make us choose to die. Nevertheless, this is what is forced on these children who could have at least been adopted. The fruits of that mentality are already manifesting themselves in the pre-birth genetic screenings that are done to determine if a child is truly wanted. (Yes, I know that not all people get these done for the end of deciding on an abortion but instead to be informed of the health of the upcoming child. In such a case, the test is not evil but only serves to prepare the parents.) However, this becomes even more dangerous, for now it is no longer just a matter of the circumstance dictating the life's viability but instead the existence of a variety of traits.
It is at this point that we should all be shuddering. Of course, not everyone shudders at this. They can think of a whole list of things that they think are undesirable in life. We can all make a list of attributes that we don't like about ourselves and wish we didn't have. However, we , and I emphasize this, must agree that such feelings are wrong because they deny the goodness inherent in a person by their very being. The very thought of such definitions making the decision for what is and is not life should frighten you nearly to death. At this point, not a single thing stops eugenics from occurring. All that is required is for someone in power to decide what traits really are not worth living with. To such assertions, I must insist the following: "The ontological goodness of the human being can not be defined by genetic determinism which creates characteristics. The love which is always (I stress ALWAYS) potential in humanity is what makes man good. Man is never without the potential to love and to be loved." Ultimately, this is a choice between collective determinism and personal freedom. More on that below.
Open wide the doors to eugenics and people fully become only objects and lose all subjectivity. The potentiality of the person no longer matters. To such people, humans are only human because others chose to define them as such. I must repeat: The person makes the definition and is not ascribed an ontological characteristic by the definition being applied to him. A man will never be a woman because I call him such. A person will never,ever be a person because I call him such. A person is called a person because he/she is one. End of story.
Now, we come back to the question of whether or not the embryo can definitely be called a person. It must be acknowledged that even at this stage, we are seeing the unfolding development of the human person before our eyes. No person stands alone in the world (except perhaps the ultra-insane but even they had human contact at some point). The physically developing fetus / embryo is no different. Indeed, it is one body with the mother for 9 months. If anything, what we see in the development of the person in the womb is a radical instance of unity which speaks truly about our very nature as relational beings. The fetus, in the womb, is radically living the human life, fully given to the mother for its development. He/she is not a thing to be tossed aside but a human who is growing because of the love of the parents who conceived him/her. There exists no proof that the embryo is not a human being. The very potentiality for development always exists in humanity, for each person is always working to “become more human.” It is only greatly magnified in the first months of the human life.
Alright, now we see the danger (and perhaps the fallacy, although I have only begun to discuss that) of defining these frozen embryos as being "not really human". Let us also reflect on the fact that such an objectification of man, refusing to give the human person recognition is utterly contrary to democracy. Does not democracy (as I have actually said before in this blog) declare the fact that every person's will has the potential for good? We know that being must precede the will, for without being the will can not be expressed. Therefore, democracy says that every person, in his/her very being, has a radical capacity for union with the Truth. The objectification of the embryo is one step which is part of the denial of basic ontological goodness inherent in all humans. It is therefore utterly opposed to the spirit of democracy.
I found it very amusing that the "People for the American Way" claimed that "President Bush's veto of stem-cell research is a sad but telling confirmation of his administration's priorities". (See http://www.pfaw.org/pfaw/general/default.aspx?oid=21812 for the entirety of the comments.) Boy, isn't George just doing it all because all he really does is hate people, wants them to be sick, and die, all just to please those whack-jobs on the right. I can not begin to explain how my head nearly exploded when my business partner showed me this article. Yes, I, like Glenn Beck, needed duct tape to keep the pieces of my skull in relatively close proximity. How can people think that anyone would have that kind of conviction and make it publicly known. It's the stuff that goes on in secret that we have to be most wary of. Come on people, give the other view a chance. I'm willing to at least say that you are trying to be compassionate. You aren't even willing to acknowledge anything good in it. (This is one reason why I must say that modern liberalism isn't very liberal.)
Now really, I know you may be thinking, "Boy, that Matt is just such an uncaring hate monger." Well, my friends, I really am not. Do I want cures for Diabetes, Alzheimer's Disease, and other illnesses? Of course I would. Do I think they are just as possible with adult stem cells? Perhaps. The science (for both) is rather unknown right now. Even so, such an unknown does not warrant the killing of human beings, using them for the experimental desires of scientists. My answer to this situation: Let donors come forth to get the embryos implanted. Maybe after that's done, we can finally outlaw in vitro fertilization. That, my friends, is the tip of another iceberg, one which we will avoid this evening.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Thus shall open this most wispy, poorly-formed, blog entry. Imagine the excitement in Paul Harvey's voice when he exclaims, "Stand by for news." Now augment this same excitement with a dash of frankness and dab of sarcasm. You now have my tone as I say, "Stand by for sweeping generalizations." Yes, my friends, what you are about to read is going to be relatively sweeping in its nature. Not every generalization is meant to point the finger at every member of the group to which the generalizing process has been performed. However, I have things to do with myself that prevent me from listing all kinds of researched sources. Hopefully some day I shall have such time but not for this entry. Now let us begin.
I have all sorts of subjects lined up for this blog. Tonight, I have picked the most shallow of subjects. It is shallow insofar as it does not penetrate the timeless questions of the universe with biting clarity. It does not primarily take its subject material from those most profound questions on essence, being, truth, and love. Instead, I shall now proceed to reflect upon (and inevitably lambast against) the modern world of Hollywood and the media.
When you think of Hollywood, you think of a variety of images. I will not list them all here right now. To do such would be an insult to your intelligence, for you truly know of you own mind's images. However, there is one image which I would like to extract from the fibers of your brain and place before us. If you have kept in touch with any of the goings-on of the present situations in the world, you are quite aware of the protesting image of Hollywood, particularly against the War on Terror. These protests are an ironic twist in the fiber of social interactions, for the protesting are partially (I will not say the only) the cause of the subject against which protesting is undertaken. That is, they have fanned the flames of the situation, escalating it to its present state.
Why do the Islamo-Fascists hate us? Of course, this is primarily answered in saying, "Because we're not Islamo-Fascists." The veracity of this statement is beyond a doubt. However, how is it that they garner support from truly thinking people? Inevitably, many of them point to the debasement of society which they perceive in the West. They are able to conjure images in which the only absolute moral fact is that every moral fact is relative. (Yes I know this a contradiction. Tell that to the pure relativists.) They Jihadists are able to point to the sexual perversion of the West as well as the narcissism of the wealthy. They decry the supposed immorality of the West as a destructive force against culture.
Now, if you are a reasonable human being, you can not deny that immorality marks the decline of a society. If a society loses its ultimate base with respect to the Truth, it begins to slip from dominance to destruction. Based on the images painted by extremists, the West could truly appear to be a danger to the rest of the world. (Of course, they do not reflect upon their own immoral destruction and despising of life. That is a different topic, though…)
Now let us think about where these images come from. We all know it and have all heard it: The media (and Hollywood). Where else do we find an agenda for the full-sweeping acceptance of homosexuality, for a cutting off of life, and for the very snuffing of it by means of abortive actions. It is in so much of Hollywood (etc.) that we find individuals who look to liberate mankind from traditional values while enslaving him to a valueless existence. It is in Hollywood that we find elitists who make their vast shares of money by promoting such currents of thought. Here do we find those who are so wrapped up in themselves that they can scarcely step outside of their own narcissism to actually be selfless. Although much of this is imposed by those who fawn over them, they too often do not make any attempt to actually live by the standards of the rest of the world, in which self-effacement is accorded a positive, edifying role.
Although America is suffering from a deficiency with respect for the most primal institution for the advancement of the society, marriage, Hollywood takes this destruction a step further. Think of all the tabloids that talk about so-and-so getting into their new marriage, etc. Additionally, think of the redefinition which they are making so unreflectively with respect to homosexuality. All of this comes from unbridled “feeling” which has not found itself directed by the intellect and will of humanity. With all surety, those who wish to undermine the family itself are a danger to the civilized world.
Having said all of this, what is my point thus far? Succinctly placed it is: The accusations of the Islamo-Fascists are not fully wrong, although they are based on an incomplete vision of the West and are hypocritical in so far as they ignore the greater danger that they pose to the entirety of the world. Whereas the world of Hollywood may often make war on the nature of the family, the radical Islamic world makes a more direct assault on humanity by denying the meaningfulness of freedom in the overall understanding of the human venture.
Because of these facts, I think that Hollywood should reflect and realize two things:
- They can not side with fundamentalist Islam if they want to acknowledge the dignity of each human person. If they were to make such a pact, they would hook, line, and sinker sell release their claim to an edifying view for humanity.
- They need to really realize that perhaps the world is not all about them. Perhaps they should stop trying to shout their opinion so loudly without thinking of the ramifications of their feelings. Quite frankly, perhaps they should “shut up” and realize that they are part of the problem that we are currently facing because they paint the distorted image which so many take to be the American morality.
The protests of Hollywood are partially caused by their own slide into moral degeneracy. In my opinion (which could well be wrong), they are part of the reason why radical Islam can take root in so many nations. If the world gazes upon America as nothing more than a self-serving nation which seeks to uproot the Truth, then we indeed must seem to be a danger. We must seem like a nation that does not want to help the world but only to help ourselves. It is no irony that the extreme left of Hollywood thinks that we (America) should keep our nose out of other people’s business. In their minds, people only act selfishly, not out of a care which desires to lift up and liberate the oppressed. Perhaps, just perhaps, these celebrity types should realize that their worldview is problematic and antithetical to the process of the liberation of mankind and that, no matter how much they protest, they will never make positive progress unless they do some intimate soul-searching for the Truth. Only after such a reformation will the actions of these protesters aid us in our quest to stop (hopefully by peaceful means but also by just war when necessary) the dehumanizing forces of Islamo-Fascism.
Please note that this writing is perhaps a bit caustic. There are many celebrities who are doing great things for the world. As I said above, I am painting with broad strokes in this entry.
Saturday, July 15, 2006
Alright, as many of you know there were allegations of rape and murder by a group of US soldiers in the Iraqi city of Mahmoudiya. In response to this, the accused soldiers were taken into custody for a trial. Additionally, the radical Islamic world decided to take matters into their own hands. Two soldiers were captured and murdered in revenge for the rape / murder. For more information on this, visit http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/07/10/iraq.main/index.html.
While I’m still semi-cool-minded, let me assess the two responses to this situation because they epitomize what is utterly different between the radicals and the US. The United States immediately acknowledged that the rape and murder were wrong. The soldiers were taken into custody to be tried. If they are guilty of these actions, which are against our moral code, they will be punished as we see fit, without being cruel and unusual. Ahh, but the terrorists were quite a bit different. In response to this offense, they decide that two people should be sacrificed in revenge for the action. To them, human life doesn’t mean anything unless it is subordinated to their message. Their idea of justice is killing two people out of revenge, placing culpability upon the heads not only of the accused but also of others who had no part in the crimes.
This is what is most insidious about radical Islam. Human beings do not really matter to them. The human is good only insofar as he is subjected to its message. If people must be killed in order for their sectarian views to spread, so be it. If revenge is necessary to galvanize people into action, so be it. They are the people who should be feared in the Middle East and not us.
Now, I know that some of you out there are thinking, “But Matt, aren’t we just subjecting them to the message of freedom? Aren’t we killing them for our view point?” Well, first of all, what premise are we starting from? We stand for the view that men/women are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights” among which are “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This is what America was founded on, and this is the end current of much thought which has occurred throughout man’s history. Therefore, our actions are driven by a pursuit of life.
Now, how are we pursuing life through death? It is not always an easy task to decide how you can respond to threats to these fundamental tenets of human existence. Nonetheless, at times there are threats which are so great that they must be stopped by as humane of means as possible. Radical Islamic-Fascism is the great evil of our time. It is a movement which suppresses individuals to its message. The message is what is important, not those who believe therein. By means of perversion of Islam, they have created a fearful environment in which people sacrifice themselves out of a fanatical fear or misperception. This movement must be prevented before it can spread across the globe. This can be stopped by multiple methods which much smarter people will arrive at.
They do not speak much for the truth of their religion by forcing it on people. If a religion is in line with the Truth, it will shine forth for the world to see. Perceiving the truth, they will come to it, finding rest in that which is ordered toward the totality of the universe. A forced religion is no religion at all. It is nothing more than affront to the Almighty, for forced submission is not submission at all. It is only when religion is received in the heart that it is truly a rebinding (a re-ligation) to the divine. The more fear is spread, the less the religion is freely chosen. I therefore do not think that Radical Islam is not a religious movement by a power movement.
From this, I posit something further. If every human in the world woke up tomorrow and said they were Islamic in the way that these terrorists want, they would not stop their actions. Since their quest is not really a religious one but one of power, they will not be satisfied. They will only be satisfied if everyone is subordinated to them.
Oh, I can hear it coming, “You’re Catholic, Matt. If anyone subordinates himself to someone, it’s you to the Pope.” Now, I truly believe that the Church is the steward of the Truth. St. Joseph is often used as the image of the bishop, protecting the Truth inside of Mary’s womb. This image is most excellent in this case. St. Joseph is the steward of the Truth which comes to him from without. Indeed, he doesn’t even accept it at first but only does when he realizes that something much greater is at stake here then his own opinion. This Truth doesn’t just come to him alone. The Truth is in Mary’s womb and inevitably gives Himself for all, the central tenet of Christianity. The Church doesn’t begin as a closed circle but one of openness. Although things are much more complicated 2000 years later, we still haven’t forgotten the universal call of the Faith. The sense of the faithful is still recognized by the Church as indefectible in matters of faith and morals. All can have contact with the Truth because it stands outside of the meddling of mankind and exists immutably on its own. The Hierarchy stewards the perception of the Truth in order to prevent it from being perverted. It does fail when it contradicts the Truth. It can only be a good steward by God’s grace.
Now these two different organizations of religion can run the danger of becoming closed-in on themselves when power becomes an issue. The difference between the Hierarchy and the leaders of Islamic terrorism is that the Hierarchy stewards a truth given to them. The terrorists subordinate their holy text to themselves and their aims and then subordinate humanity to their views. It’s not a matter of looking for the Truth but instead of looking after the leaders’ aims. They contradict the Natural Law by ignoring the fact that humans are endowed with liberty and that liberty is the only way that religion can have any binding force. They ignore the fact that human lives have dignity just because they exist. If you disbelieve me on this point about life and liberty, then you really don’t believe in the American ideal, an ideal which is not proclaimed for this nation but for the world as an exposition of the Truth.
I have barely scratched the surface on this subject. I require much more thought before I can be more coherent in my reflections. Please bear with me if I should revisit this.
At this point, I sign off. So much more could be said. I will save that for another day.
Let us all pray for peace,
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Perhaps this message of St. Benedict is one which should be resounded to modern thought. I think that man has tendency to be a bit too hopeful in his own endeavors. A great example of this is the fact that mankind seems to have a proclivity to trust the "market" or "government" as forces of salvation. There are indeed many good things that can be done by each force. Free-market economics, like it or not, have done a great deal of good for the world. By encouraging free investment into ideas, it spurs man onward toward many goods in both science and the arts. However, the danger always remains latent in such systems that man will forget that he is more than a utility. In these cases government does its good share as well. It also is a necessity in the preservation of human freedom insofar as it prevents the destruction of coexisting freedom. Even so, it can also become a force of indoctrination which seeks its own propagation because of its own rule for the "good" of all.
What is missing in both cases is often a realization of the Other. Man must orient himself to the Truth if he is going to make any true positive progress. (This is a theme which seems to keep cropping up in this blog. No redundancy is desired in stating this fact.) If market and government become the focal point of orientation, all deeds are focused on the truths latent in their subordinate existence, ultimately dependent on mankind. It doesn't take much to realize that being subordinate to man's own conceptualizations is a bit risky of an endeavor (to say the least). The whole sodden state of affairs in which we find ourselves riddled with sinful action proves that man is not absolutely good (although he is indeed capable of a radical ordering to the Truth). Man's gaze must rise above himself if he is to act in such a way that will truly build the world up. He must orient himself to That which is greater than him. This is where ora becomes necessary.
Prayer remains that fundamental link which never can be forgotten. It is only possible if the author of Truth and Truth itself are communicable and not merely idle forms outside of the world. Effective prayer is an encounter in which the relationship between the created and the Creator is refreshed and strengthened. Labora is only fully possible when ora occurs. It is only by communing with the Truth that man may fully act according to It. Without this orientation, man begins to strike out without reflection. Like St. Peter who fell asleep in the garden of Gethsemane, we will find ourselves always cutting the ears off those who assail us instead of reflectively working to lift them (and the world) up. It was up upon the Cross that the great Labora was done by him who continually remained prayerfully in God's presence. Through this exchange of being, the great "work" of the Resurrection occurred, as He who prayerfully remained one in being with the Father removed the limitations of humanity, lifting humanity into the realm of the divine.
Monday, July 10, 2006
A couple of days ago, I was very much so tempted to write a bit in here about my position with respect to those lovely terms "liberal" and "conservative". I have since then decided against writing extensively about myself per se in this blog. I come here, having toiled most of the day either at my part-time job or for my business (or for both), to discuss ideas and not myself. I will only briefly touch on this subject and thus proceed to today’s reflection. I think that you will find through my ideas that it's not a matter of right and left, liberal and conservative, etc. As Sean Hannity would say, "It's a matter of right and wrong." This isn't to say that we live in a black and white world. I only endeavor to say that I desire to reach out for that most fundamental Truth which is the basis for all existing things and to behold it, as much as possible, in its fullness and no less if possible. I will err along the way but will always strive to find it where it is. In this spirit, I am liberal, willing stating a claim which is in some translations of St. Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologiae attributed to St. Ambrose, "Every truth, by whomsoever spoken is from the Holy Ghost". However, I am also conservative in so much as I am willing to state that there is ultimate meaning which is relational but not relative. Because of my general disdain for this subject and the problems which is causes, I will now move on to my reflections for this evening.
Over the weekend, I purchased some new books second hand from the Scottdale library. Yes, I know that many of you who know me are wondering, "Why in the world did you buy more books?! Don't you have enough already, Matt?" I shall reply only in this: "(1) There are so many things to know and love in this world that man should have an unassailable thirst for knowledge to the degree that it enables him to be more open to the beauty and goodness of the world as it exists. (2) I'm cheap and don't have a great income flow. Therefore, used book sales are always a taAt any rate, I found a variety of books on the few shelves available. Among the various donated tomes, I found a variety of science fiction and a smattering of light theology and philosophy. Among the science fiction, I purchased several works of Isaac Asimov. To this point in my life, I have only read I Robot by him (and not in response to the movie which I did not see). Among the works that I purchased, one was a collection of short stories that he has written. Today while I was on my lunch break at Uptegraff, I decided to crack out this small book of short stories. (This dual offering of diminished size does not reduce the dignity of the stories, of course. ;-)) The last story that I read was a little gem called "Eyes Do More Than See." Now, in my ignorance, I had not read this very short tale up to this point in my life. If you are already familiar with this text, my hat goes off to you. For those of you who have not read it, it can be found at: http://graphics.stanford.edu/~tolis/toli/other/eyes.html. From thence on, I shall reflect briefly on this story.
"I will not say: Do not weep; for not all tears are an evil"
Blessed are we, who are compositely spiritual and material. Beyond the intellect, we are able to reach the affective emotions which spirit our actions onward toward goodness, even though much bad may also come of their misuse. The beauty of the cosmos is ours in manifold ways. Man's intellect drives him onward toward such potential for good that one can scarcely begin to imagine the possibility which he promises to all of creation. Existing radically for relationality, mankind stands above all creation, able to order it in accord with the Truth and in unity with it.
If man were nothing more than a soul locked inside of a physical body, then physical existence would have no meaning for him. However, the "eyes do more than see." Think only briefly about the existence of the ocular sense. By means of our eyes, we see the world around us. In this aspect, it is not different from our other senses, which all communicate to our consciousness from the outside world. However, it is in the eyes that we have our contact with the world from within. The very gaze of man can penetrate into another, expressing feeling and depth. It is often said, in a variety of ways, "The eyes are the window of the soul." Indeed this is true, for through the eyes it can be proven that man's rationality can communicate with the corporeal realm. It is the eye which communicates those great movements of the soul from within to the without. It is also through the eye that we take in those guises of others, lightening or darkening our souls (cf. Mt. 6:22).
Alas if man is unable to express himself. If man can not jump, shout, laugh, or cry, how can he communicate himself to the rest of creation? Indeed he can not. Without these signs, man is alone in his emotions. Rationality alone can not express the inexhaustible movements of the human spirit. That most blessed doctrine of the Resurrection gives man hope beyond all compare. That man can be united with God, so fully that he can remain even bodily through eternity, is a cause for joy incomparable. Through all eternity, man need not be alone in his emotions. He can weep with Rachel for her lost children (Jeremiah 31:15) and sing of God's glory (Rev. 15:3). Humanity has no need to worry about a lack of corporality or to pine over "the fragile beauty of the bodies they had once given up" ("Eyes Do More than See"). Indeed, mankind can weep for all eternity, for his bodily emotions are not meaningless. "Not all tears are an evil" but are an expression of the depths of his emotion unto others. It is indeed an exchange of ontological importance, in which emotion communicates man’s very being, from the soul, through the body.
- There are varied degrees of relationality possible by means of the other senses. The eyes seem to be the most radical, although this is possibly contestable. For the sake of these reflections, I will not consider them, for it is the spirit of Asimov’s story that spurs it on and not the overall correctness of a closed philosophical system.
- The first (and last) quote are taken from the last words of Gandalf the White in The Return of the King. This can be found on page 310 of The Return of the King in the collector's edition of The Lord of the Rings.
- Additionally, I am not prescribing that man necessarily only weep throughout eternity. However, it is not an indignant position for man to take, for tears can be of great sorrow or great joy. Additionally, it is in keeping with the theme of Asimov's story, for Brock would much rather have wept than have been in a state of perpetual non-weeping.
- I do not usually pay heed to politically correct speech. I am not sexist but prefer this style of writing. No offense is intended. I will not reiterate this point again unless pressed to do so. I do not wish to lambast those who use "she" exclusively, so long as I am not accursed for primarily using "he".