Saturday, May 3, 2008

Pagans 'R' Us

Lest we forget that early 21st-century western culture is anything but "advanced," former President of the C. G. Jung Foundation, Jeffrey Burke Satinover reminded us:
...pagan society is pantheistic or animistic: gods and goddesses inhabit the natural world and are one with it; nature itself is worshipped as divine; there is no serious distinction between creature and creator. Again, on a practical level, this means that men worship not only the nature "out there," they also worship their own nature, which is to say, their instincts: e.g., hunger, sex, and aggression, and more generally, pleasure. In thus spiritualizing the instincts, pagan worship therefore tends naturally to the violent, the hedonistic, and the orgiastic. Pagan religious ritual arouses the instincts, especially sexuality and aggression, to the keenest possible pitch. In the subsequent gratification of these instincts, the greatest possible pleasure and hence also the highest level of religious ecstasy is meant to be achieved. Violent intoxication, temple prostitution, the ritual slaughter of enemies, self-mutilation, even child sacrifice: all these historical phenomena can be understood not as pathological, but as predictable end-points to the unfettering of human nature. Not recognizing how thin and easily cracked is our present veneer of Judeo- Christian culture, we tend loftily to think of such practices as ancient and utterly alien. (We have, after all, "progressed" beyond them.) But we need only look to television, or to the current literature of child abuse, or a few years back to the Holocaust to understand how entirely unexceptional they are.

-- Jungians and Gnostics (1994)
Here and here are evidence of the fraying edges of western culture, what Saint Paul gave an astute taxonomy of in Galatians 5, and what we are loathe to see and understand about the recrudescence of paganism and polytheism devoid of the Revelation vouchsafed by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. It is the fallen, default position of human culture; what René Girard deemed "the primitive Sacred." Without conversion to Catholic truth, it is the horrific realm of Satan we see our world reverting to with rapidity, cruelty, and cravenness.

May I suggest a careful reading of The Dionysus Mandate? It may direct your attention to the depth of the wisdom of the Catholic faith, with faithful commentary by René Girard and Gil Bailie, servants of the Magisterium and Our Lord, the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Quotes of the Day - René Girard

“What is frightening is the conjunction of massive technical power and the spiritual surrender to nihilism. A panic-stricken refusal to glance, even furtively, in the only direction where meaning could still be found dominates our intellectual life.”

"Choice always involves choosing a model, and true freedom lies in the basic choice between a human or a divine model."

"Deviated transcendency is a caricature of vertical transcendency. There is not one element of this distorted mysticism which does not have its luminous counterpart in Christian truth."

"'Genuine spontaneity' is not the absence of mimetic behavior but the most naive and innocent imitation of all, that of a little child, the attitude recommended by Jesus."

First Bearded Iris - 2 May

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God

I have received a few batches of letters from my students, all showing concern and caring as I am home now to recuperate from my surgery.

It is obvious as an educator who spent more time with these kids during the week than their parents, they don't grasp the time-span of my 4-6 week recovery period. They live on-the-fly, making decisions and forming attitudes on the emotional roller coaster called early adolescence. Of course, to their credit, before this wake-up call, I spent my time in a regimen of balancing my time between job, family, cross-training, blogging, and caring for perennials. I'm totally in my students' corner on this one: what AM I doing now?

(1) I am doing what the doctor orders: no exercise (there goes the cross-training, a positive addiction), Percocet - no more than 1-pill every four hours for pain, and plenty of water to get my last kidney used to doing all the heavy lifting (I guess I AM getting SOME exercise).

(2) I am realizing the trauma that my body underwent in a 4-hour surgery a week ago. Evidence of it is that I feel new kinds of pain nearly every day as this and that organ and/or set of nerves wake up from being in shock -- yes, in shock. Again, thank goodness for Percocet.

(3) I do not expect students to understand any of the above, nor if it comes to it, anyone who has not been told that (a) without this surgery you will die of cancer and (b) do exactly as you are told until 4-6 weeks pass with frequent monitoring to follow. The comeuppance is I find myself in a very select club and lifestyle very unlike the one I have practiced for most my adult life.

The upside is, I am spending a lot of time reading things I want to read: some Tolkien and more of Pope Benedict's Jesus of Nazareth than I had before. I am dozing under the influence of drugs. I am praying using a Rosary blessed by the Holy Father when he was on his Mission to the United States. I am wondering, if I get a clear bill of health, how long it will take to get back to my former state of conditioning. Only the last item sounds very selfish and a little silly -- after all, it didn't keep cancer away did it?

But I must have hopes -- small 'h' -- and the only way I can have hopes is by believing in a Great Hope -- the kind that Cardinal Newman spoke of.

And so, gentle reader, I beg your forgiveness if I am off the mainline, out of the loop, and in a side current not of my own volition or doing. I also ask for your prayers and intentions as I try my best to be faithful, hopeful, and loving in this desert time of my life. Many thanks.

On the Ascension - Newman

From the valuable readings found in MAGNIFICAT for the celebration of the Ascension of Our Lord:
What has been now said about the Ascension of our Lord, comes to this: that we are in a world of mystery, with one bright Light before us, sufficient for our proceeding forward through all our difficulties. Take away this Light, and we are utterly wretched -- we know not where we are, how we are sustained, what will become of us, and all that is dear to us, what we are to believe, and why we are in being. But with it we have all and abound. Not to mention the duty and wisdom of implicit faith in the love of him who made and redeemed us, what is nobler, what is more elevating and transporting, than the generosity of heart which risks everything on God’s word, dares the powers of evil to their worst efforts, and repels the illusions of sense and the artifices of reason, by confidence in the truth of him who has ascended to the right hand of the Majesty on high. What infinite mercy it is in him, that he allows sinners such as we are, the privilege of acting the part of heroes rather than of penitents? Who are we “that we should be able” and have opportunity “to offer so willingly after this sort?” – “Blessed,” surely thrice blessed, “are they who have not seen and yet have believed!” We will not wish for sight; we will enjoy our privilege; we will triumph in the leave given s to go forward, “not knowing whither we go,” knowing that “this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.” It is enough that our Redeemer lives; that he has been on earth and will come again. On him we venture our all; we can bear thankfully to put ourselves into his hands, our interests present and eternal, and the interests of all we love.
-- Venerable John Henry Newman (+1890)

William Stott

Girl in a Meadow (1880) - William Stott

Holy Father's Recap

Michael Dubruiel offers the Holy Father's own recapitulation of his mission to the United States at Annunciations.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Thank God for Good Doctors

I'll never post another picture like this, I promise.

Faith of a Marshwiggle

(This clip will not make any sense to you unless you first read The Silver Chair by Mr. C. S. Lewis. Do that first, then come back.)

'Appease' Equals Remythologize

Bruce Bawer, author of While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam Is Destroying the West from Within, pens An Anatomy of Surrender at City Journal.

Appeasement, the strategy of multiculturalists, is another word for re-mythologizing, anthropologically speaking. That is, "going along by getting along" with Islam equals drawing a cloak of silence over the demands of the primitive Sacred. Scimitar religionists will, however, continue their successful strategy to draw upon violence, or threats of it, to try to make critics kowtow before their deity of blood.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Modern St. George

A belated happy St. George's Day to you -- a BBC testimony to a heart-felt love of all-things English by a Modern day Saint George, who happens to be Sikh (h/t: Brits at Their Best).

For All You Do - Thank You

Home Again - A Front Room Window

After five days of expert care in one of northern Virginia's finest hospitals, I am happy to announce that I am now home. The doctors, nurses, and staff were superb and I am grateful for the way God used them as instruments of healing; I would, after all, like to keep this matter in the form of a human being, imago dei, for quite a while longer time to come.

Besides the kind and loving support of Lady Athos and our younger son (our elder son being on a tight work-log at Best Buy), it was a privilege to have a visit from Dawn Eden who took a moment out of her busy (some might say hectic) schedule to visit my room yesterday and bring some reading material along too. Thanks, Dawn!

I was doubly blessed to have both Sister Mary Jo and Father Dan Hanley from St. James Parish bring Our Lord to me on Sunday - I need all the Grace I can get -- and the Rosary blessed by Pope Benedict XVI is in use for Christendom and for the blessing of "offering up" this experience however Heaven may choose.

The prognosis looks good: no radiaton or chemotherapy needed, but a 4-6 week recovery period and keeping close tabs on things, as they say. Lady Athos says I have about fifteen inches of incision, so I won't be doing my arched-back sit-ups or other exercise regime for some time (drat). Yet I have the astonishing good luck, or providence rather, to have a fellow Mass'keteer who preceded me on this adventure in brother Aramis. And I will lean on him and his experiences to inform me of what to expect and how to proceed.

Thanks to all for your prayers and daily intentions. You are of inestimable blessing and help.