Saturday, August 2, 2008

Spengler - Mythically Shrouded Paganism

Here is some vintage Spengler of The Asia Times in his article, The Faith That Dare Not Speak Its Name:
The Rousseauvian paradise of paganism depicted in the anthropological writings of Margaret Mead or such films as Dances With Wolves do not square with the all-embracing, total control of the individual we encounter in paganism. In fact, Rosenzweig wrote, pagan society dissolves the individual into a mere instrument of race or state:
People, State, and whatever else the societies of antiquity may have been are lion's caves before which one sees the tracks of the Individual entering, but not leaving. In fact, the individual human stands before society as a whole: he knows that he is only a part. These wholes, with respect to which he is only a part, these species, of which he is only a representative example, have absolute power over his ethical life, although they as such are hardly absolute, but are in fact themselves only examples of the species "State" or "People". For the isolated individual, his society is the society ...

In the thoroughly organized State, the State and the individual do not stand in the relation of a whole to a part. Instead, the state is the All, from which the power flows through the limbs of the individual. Everyone has his determined place, and, to the extent that he fulfills it, belongs to the All of the State ...

The individual of antiquity does not lose himself in society in order to find himself, but rather in order to construct it; he himself disappears. The well-known difference between the ancient and all modern concepts of democracy rightly arise from this. It is clear from this why antiquity never developed the concept of representative democracy. Only a body can have organs; a building has only parts.
That is precisely what Rosenzweig meant when he described Islam as pagan, and Allah as an apotheosized despot. He began, that is, with a general characterization of pagan society, that is, society in the absence of God's self-revelation through love, and then considered Islam as a specific case of a paganism that parodies the outward form of revealed religion. God's self-revelation as an act of love first makes possible human individuality: the individual human is an individual precisely because he is loved.
Read all of The Faith That Dare Not Speak Its Name.

When the Plug Gets Pulled

Young Girl Reading (1894) - Mary Cassat

Introducing the new Bio-Optic Organized Knowledge device, trade named BOOK. Book is a revolutionary breakthrough in technology: no wires, no electric circuits, no batteries, nothing to be connected or switched on. It's so easy to use, even a child can operate it. Compact and portable, it can be used anywhere-even sitting in an armchair by the fire-yet it is powerful enough to hold as much information as a memory stick.

Here's how it works: Book is constructed of sequentially numbered sheets of paper (recyclable), each capable of holding hundreds of thousands of bits of information. The pages are locked together with a custom-fit device called a binder which keeps the sheets in their correct sequence. Opaque Paper Technology (OPT) allows manufacturers to use both sides of the sheet, doubling the information density and cutting costs. Experts are divided on the prospects for further increases in information density; for now, Books with more information simply use more pages. Each sheet is scanned optically, registering information directly into your brain. A flick of the finger takes you to the next sheet.

Book may be taken up at any time and used merely by opening it. Book never crashes or requires rebooting, though like other display devices, it can become unusable if exposed to high ambient temperatures. The "browse" feature allows you to move instantly to any sheet, and move forward or backward as you wish. Many come with an "index" feature, which pinpoints the exact location of any selected information for instant retrieval.

Book can be stored for an almost unlimited amount of time without connecting any outside power source. Many Book units may be stored together as they cause no interference with one another, even when placed in close proximity. An optional "Bookmark" accessory allows you to open Book to the exact place you left it in a previous session-even if the Book has been closed.

Bookmarks fit universal design standards; thus, a single Bookmark can be used in Books by various manufacturers. Conversely, numerous Book markers can be used in a single Book if the user wants to store numerous views at once. The number is limited only by the number of pages in the Book. You can also make personal notes next to Book text entries with an optional programming tool, the Portable Erasable Nib Cryptic Intercommunication Language Stylus (PENCILS). Portable, durable, and affordable, Book is being hailed as a precursor of a new entertainment wave. Also, Book's appeal seems so certain that thousands of content creators have committed to the platform and investors are reportedly flocking. Look for a flood of new titles soon.
- Author Unknown

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Requiescat in Pace +

My brother, David, who goes before. May he rest in peace. +

Want to Win - Here's How

Mark Joseph makes it real simple in a Memo to John McCain: It's the Christians Stupid! And I tend to agree with him.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

NYT Scapegoats Israel - Surprise

Richard Landes of Augean Stables wonders something:

When Israel seems guilty of killing Palestinians to The New York Times, the newspaper is eager to trumpet the story across its front page. We all remember the June 12, 2006 headline “Errant Shell Turns Girl Into Palestinian Icon“, and the article that suggested that in all likelihood, Israel was responsible for the shell that killed 9 Palestinians.

But when Palestinians kill Palestinians, The New York Times is a lot less interested. A car bomb near a Gaza beach on Friday exploded near a Hamas vehicle, killing five Hamas members, a 7 year-old girl, Sareen Safadi, and wounding 22 others (at last count). Did The New York Times put the story on its front page? No, but the article about over-exuberant parents of children at summer camp did.
Read all …

To be fair, the New York Times, like, say, the moonie rag, the Washington Times, is somewhere on the hypocritical continuum of awareness of what they routinely do in terms of journalistic standards of objectivity. Not completely blind; not completely biased. But Landes reasonably points to the NYT's selection of the satanic principle of the scapegoating Israel because, in my opinion, it has recourse to no other system having rejected the Christian faith alternative long, long ago. The latter offers a way out of the false transcendence of "Satan casting out Satan" that may for a time produce momentary social stability. The latter offers a freedom that the NYT knows nothing about.

Scandal - René Girard

The word skandalon (in the New Testament) means a 'mimetic stumbling-block,' something that triggers mimetic rivalry ... Skandalon becomes the inability to walk away from mimetic rivalry, an inability that turns rivalry into an addiction, servitude, because we kneel in front of those who are important for us, without seeing what is at stake. The proliferation of scandals, meaning of mimetic rivalry, is what produces disorder and instability in society, but this instability is put to an end by the scapegoat resolution, which produces order. Satan casts out Satan, meaning that the scapegoat mechanism produces a false transcendence that stabilizes society, through a satanic principle, and the order cannot but be only temporary, and it is bound to revert, sooner or later, into the disorder of scandals.
- René Girard, Evolution and Conversion

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Deo Gratias II

Having just finished James Cameron's Aliens of the Deep, a feature still popular at the National Museum of Natural History's IMAX theater, and eager to watch PBS's Magnetic Storm that reminds us of the mind-boggling fact that the Earth's outer core is a million billion - pardon, silly me, a billion trillion - tons of molten iron spinning at 1,000 MPH that creats our electronmagnetic field, shielding us from solar radiation (who could make this up?), I just purchased via Amazon a used copy of Into Great Silence.

Geologic time scale has a way of helping one realize how brief a time each of us is here. How better than to use earth science, Girard's mimetic theory, and the Sermon on the Mount to help one love and praise God, love our neighbor as ourself, and slow down and watch nature in absolute awe?

Spengler on Resurrection

The inimitable Spengler reviews of Resurrection - The Power of God for Christians and Jews by Kevin J Madigan and Jon D Levenson:
Resurrection draws a red line from the earliest response to death in the Hebrew Bible, to the promise of resurrection in the flesh in the 2nd century BC Book of Daniel and in Christian doctrine. Madigan and Levenson show how basic to Jewish and Christian belief is the promise that a loving God will redeem his faithful from death, in the full unity of body and soul. This is the promise of redemption that has sustained Jews and Christians through the centuries, and given them a perception that their life in this world participates in eternal life. Thus they are alive even in death.
He also takes time to level a jolt of reality at contemporary secular materialism:
It is a conceit of modern materialism that identity no longer is social, but rather individual; we choose our pleasures, and, if the mood strikes us, shop for a religion the way we might choose a neighborhood. We fancy ourselves rational beings. If we are not quite beyond good and evil, for law and custom still discourage rapine and murder, we certainly are beyond sin and redemption, which we have replaced by stress and therapy.

Modern materialism has weaned the industrial world off spiritual food, like the thrifty farmer who trained his donkey to eat less by reducing its rations each day. "Just when I got I had him trained to live on nothing," the farmer complained, "the donkey had to die!" Like the donkey, the modern world has died when its spiritual rations were cut to nothing. We refuse to acknowledge that our deepest needs are no different from those of Biblical man. We fail to nourish them and we die.
And he also notes what the Syrian Arabic poet 'Adonis' says about the despair of the Scimitar without hope of the Resurrection:
In a recent interview, he described the three hundred million Arabs as already an extinct people: "We have become extinct ... We have the masses of people, but a people becomes extinct when it no longer has a creative capacity, and the capacity to change its world ... The great Sumerians became extinct, the great Greeks became extinct, and the Pharaohs became extinct."
Madigan and Levenson's book seems a vital contribution. Spengler’s review as with all his work is worth the time to read.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Cockadoodle Doo

Denial of St. Peter (1660) - Rembrandt

So it turns out that Gonzales Aides Broke Laws in Hiring, an internal Justice Department Report Concludes. This sort of behavior is what every upstanding Republican fears that the Democrats will do if they happen to capture the White House this fall, and simultaneously it is what every upstanding Democrat knew would be uncovered about the current Republican administration.

And both would be correct. This is the doubling rivalry of René Girard's mimetic theory in a nutshell. For those who take the time to be impacted by these anthropological insights, it leads to the conclusion (a) that all of us fall into such "funny business," as Gil Bailie would call it, but (b) we rarely see it when it happens to occur in our own psyche.

It takes a converted self to be able to own up to this reality about ourselves as mimetic beings, a contrition born of remorse, akin if not identical to Saint Peter's hearing the rooster crow after he denied Our Lord (Mtt 26, 69-75). And even then, it takes a rootedness in our vast human neediness nearly every single moment in order not to fall back into a smug, self-satisfied pleasure in one's own insightfulness.

Anything else is sheer illusion and denial.

Evil Doers Anonymous?

h/t: The Smart Set

Dynamis of Human History

The continuous teaching of Christ's message through the diffusion of the Gospels ... is exactly what transforms the world, not in a sudden and abrupt way, but gradually, through a progressive assimilation of his message, which is often readdressed to be used against Christianity itself with the Enlightenment philosophy or with contemporary atheism, which is above all a protestation against the sacrificial elements of religion ...The Gospel texts are the real power behind the modern demystification of unanimous violence.
- René Girard, Evolution and Conversion

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Real Climate

In all the internet hubbub about climate change - a most heated topic in the pop culture, right/left, republican/democrat doubling mess - it is of some interest to follow the mass media hype in regards to Hollywood depictions. One could remember Waterworld (1995) that posited a watery planet when the ice caps melted, leaving only the Himalaya peaks exposed. Then came Day After Tomorrow (2004) that depicted the shutdown of the North Atlantic conveyor, bringing an instantaneous ice age to the northern hemisphere.

May I suggest a reasoned approach to climate apocalype? Bookmark Real Climate, a site from climate scientists who lay it all out in dizzying complexity and rarely leap to hasty conclusions. A check every other week or so will keep your in tune with such matters, if they really interest you.

Worth a 1000 Words

The New York Times Books asks a question posed by many an educator today: Literacy Debate: Online, R U Really Reading?

'England Inseparable from Catholicism'

George Weigel at Catholic Exchange writes on a topic near and dear to my heart: the conversion of England.

In 1850, Cardinal Nicholas Wiseman wrote his fellow-Englishmen from Rome, announcing that Pius IX had restored the diocesan hierarchy in England and that he, Wiseman, would be cardinal archbishop of Westminster. “From Out the Flaminian Gate,” a pastoral letter longer on baroque rhetoric than ecumenical diplomacy, caused a perfect storm in Protestant England. Queen Victoria wondered whether she remained the sovereign. Lord John Russell, the prime minister, said he would rely on the good sense of the English people, who “looked with contempt on the mummeries of superstition.” The Anglican archbishop of York warned that Rome was plotting Anglicanism’s “captivity and ruin.”

As things turned out, Anglicanism proved quite capable of arranging its own sad ruin ...

Into that slough now rides Father Aidan Nichols, the distinguished English Dominican theologian. His small book, The Realm: An Unfashionable Essay on the Conversion of England, makes a bold claim about the past and a bold wager about the future: “England is in fact inseparable from Catholicism, unimaginable without it.” Moreover, Father Nichols argues, to preach, teach, propose, and invite the conversion of England is not bad manners, but true courtesy.

Read all of Converting England – And Us