Tag Archives: Catholicism

He Said What?

I was rereading one of the articles I posted about in the prior post, the one entitled The Ten Commandments Rationally Considered (it was renamed to The Ten Commandments: Not Freedom Friendly).

It would take me days and days to get through all the double-think and make-believe the author goes through to squeeze in his Objectivist narrative of history. But one thing stood out.

Near the end of the article, Cline is quoting Rand (who else doth quote?) and her religion as primitive form of philosophy jig. [Note: this is a core historical assumption of the Objectivist. I merely pass over it, it is a category error – charitably. I don’t think Rand was that obtuse. The two can, obviously, overlap, but they are not the same thing.]

After quoting her view he goes on to make the following incredible assertion:

By way of illustration, religion can be compared with the stick men children first learn to draw; a fully rational philosophy, absent any form of mysticism and reliance on unsupportable assertions, should then lead them to create the likes of Michelangelo’s “David.”

The context is the failure of modern philosophy to provide a rational basis for the proper representation of man (and of this part I still agree with Rand, modern philosophy is a titanic failure in that regard and most else).

If one knows anything about Michelangelo (he was a devout Catholic, even more so as he grew into old age) and about his work in general, one wonders if he is saying Catholicism is a fully rational philosophy? What is he trying to get across here? Who is this David? It is David of the Bible. But it wasn’t a “fully rational philosophy” (not by Objectivism’s definitions) that produced David, neither in subject nor in its creator. No. What produced David is the wooly mysticism and irrationality of the Church to describe it in Objectivist terms.

If you were to ask Mr. Cline to explain how the opposite of rationality, i.e., faith produced the zenith of art, and subsequent, secular philosophy did not, he would have an answer. And it would involve a story about St. Thomas Aquinas reintroducing Aristotle into medieval culture and the subsequent triumph of reason over faith and that the depiction of David in sculpture is the force of reason acting upon subjects of mysticism.

To understand that, one would have to go into the tale of history as told by Rand and most other secularists. It is a false story of course. And it leads men like Mr. Cline to say the absurd as the quote above illustrates.

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NaNo Day 20 – And Reflections So Far

Still playing catch up from a rough weekend. Posted 2568 today for a total of 32,436 words so far this month. And that leaves 17,564 to go.

The tracker on the NaNo says that I will finish on December 3rd at my current rate which is an improvement from yesterday that had it for December 5th. I need to reach at least the same number of words tomorrow, the minimum on Wednesday (a workday) and then max out on Thursday (Thanksgiving, challenge day!).Too bad before last Thursday I was at finishing on November 28th.

I am treating this not only as a teaching exercise in actual writing (as opposed to my professional procrastination (which I think I’ve achieved the rank of MASTER – bonus to me for double parenthetic comments, btw)) but also as an exercise in reaching deadline. I will reach that deadline, so help me God!

I have learned a bucketful so far in just twenty days. Number one, every single writer you have ever heard say that the way to learn how to write is to write is one-hundred and fifty thousand percent absolutely freaking correct. And I’m not saying that because I have acquired the skill in twenty days to write. Far from it. What I have learned is how much there is to it.

There is so much that goes into a story you can barely keep it in mind. Every single thing that is potentially a variable out there comes at you every single second, and there are always twenty or more of them. Now I think some of those can be eliminated with a little forethought and practice. Surely I could have reduced mine if I had thought of doing NaNo even a couple of days before November 1st and not the night of Halloween!

Even then your story may not go the way you anticipated. I had no idea what I was doing at all except for this idea that a Dark Lord of sorts who lives outside of time in a (outside of, that is) cyclical universe. It was an idea I toyed with briefly five or so years ago and then forgot about. He keeps killing a recurring iteration of this person who lives multiple lives (so think Shirley McClain meets The Matrix).

That’s it. And… write! And I have wrote some stupendous piles of crap in the last twenty days (and perhaps a few decent passages that would be alright with a little tweaking). It is scramble writing, I’m scrambling to a finish line. So yesterday I wrote this one scene where this Dark Lord (he’s actually now referred to as the Dark Surfer but that is just a placeholder as that name is already taken) kills this man yet again but this time as a newborn – he breaks the newborn’s neck.

I was very displeased with myself for having written such a thing as I do not like writing something that is evil merely to be evil. But then I thought, “well, I’ve been looking for a way to extricate the main character from this cycle of being murdered, and as long as the main character never remembers his prior life and demise there is no way out. How about make the Dark Surfer’s heinous act of murdering a child be the way out? That, somehow (and right now I don’t know even though I’m right in the middle of writing the scene) it causes his next self to recollect his past deaths and lives. I got this from listening to Father Mitch Pacwa on his call in show on EWTN answer a question about the souls of aborted children and whether or not they get to see the Beatific Vision. Pacwa answered in the affirmative.

Problem – Answer – Muse – QED.

That started a snowball where I wrote in three separate parts of the story tonight. I finished a meta-fictional piece (the novel is littered with such things that hint at the overall cosmology by the use of questionable sages and the esoteric writings of biographers without having to be explicit and dry – R.A. Lafferty uses this technique all the time and I’ve always wanted to do it myself)

– I also started what I thought was the final segment and the penultimate segment, then switched them, and then wrote a little back and forth in each section as one would make the other clearer the farther I went until I petered out (and my back as well!).

The switch occured when I was writing what I thought was the final segment when the character, (named in this iteration Dobromir Danneskjold – I like it!) who has gained the memory of his past lives in a dream, asks his priest what is eternal. The priest answers – Love. Ah, and what is love? And how has this man died up to now? Fearfully and cowardly and selfishly. There is only one way to end the cycle and that is to die by love, die in an act of love, and love is self-sacrifice.

And in Scrivener switching scenes around is easier than flipping a pancake.

Wala.

And the important lesson here, for me, is that even though I could have planned some of this, I do not think I could have got all the way there (at least not at first – maybe not at all?) without first actually writing. I don’t think I would have got to the riddle to even come up with the answers. But that last, to die in an act of love, is a bonafide story solution, a thematic solution even. I was just hoping to have a coherent series of decently written events with some sort of physical resolution for my first try.

Well, I won’t have a coherent series of decently written events on November 30th. If I were the Demiurge (and I certainly was for this story) you would all have asses where your heads are supposed to be and you’d all have wings for feet and genitals for ears. But I solved a story problem through writing it. And in a much bigger fashion than I gave myself credit for being able to come with. Also I think there might be a few short stories in germ form sitting in that muck of chaos.

On December 1st I will have the material necessary for writing an actual novel.

I’d like to also write down the observation that in all the time I was an Objectivist I was never able to solve one story problem. It was always like trying to jam a fist down a dime-sized hole. But now that I am of Catholic mind, the story solution literally fell into my lap. Actually a priest on the radio dropped the first part right into my ear on the very day I was considering one of the problems. Plink!


Graves, Balls and Crosses

Finished Lafferty’s The Elliptical Grave on Tuesday. The whole focus of the book seems to even come at you elliptically – and at the last minute. It wasn’t until the final two chapters that it all came together. Before that I slogged through it for three weeks.

Because I thought there was nothing behind the curtain. Oh, there was something behind the curtain alright. A bet. That was what was behind that curtain. A bet of ultimate consequences.

This is one of those Lafferty books that I find slightly annoying in that, although I will want to reread it anyway, I have to reread it because I am sure I missed 99% of the fruit’s juice. He can throw so much indirection and misdirection at you (to say nothing of the constant word play) it is like coming into a joke at the punchline. You thought you were in a joke or a jest but only opaquely – and then the drum snap and the crowd laughter. Hold on! Back to the beginning.

If Lafferty were instructed to write the plain fact that a cat is on a mat, he’d entertain us for 40 pages and we still wouldn’t have a simple fact, but a multiplicity… a multiplicity that may involve a cat (a feline of some sort at least) and some derivative form of dorsal support. But the cat would have died and resurrected, or simply continued to decompose, or assumed a chair at the Institute for Impure Science and the mat would be constructed by St. Joseph himself (bonus points to whomever can guess the Lafferty reference there).

But once I got the hook. What a story! His stories are like the Spanish Inquisition – no one expects it!

Now to the balls and the crosses.

I was talking to suspected android/writing machine author (or time traveller, or possessor of the 48 hour day) John C. Wright the other day (actually he was talking, me and a few others were listening) about religion in science fiction (talk about an untapped field) and he mentioned G.K. Chesterton’s The Ball and the Cross.

Few authors will get a pass to the front of the line. G.K. Chesterton is one of the few. I already own and am a HUGE fan of his books Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man, and I love his Father Brown stories. So when I heard mention this book about a duel (and one supposes debate) between a fledging secular atheist at the dawn of the 20th century and a Christian (I suppose a stand-in for Chesterton himself although I haven’t got that far yet) well, how can one resist that?

Think of it though. That was a new creature (pretty new, anyway) in 1905. Fresh and full of vigor, and full of utopian answers that were yet to kill millions upon millions of people. Although the French had the news.

Over a century before he and his brethren whittled down the edifice of Western Civilization enough where we can start to see the prayer mats our grandchildren will be kneeling – or bleeding – upon.

This should be a fascinating read.


Father Elijah

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Father Elijah

This is my first overtly Christian (actually Catholic) novel. Although I have always considered Crime and Punishment to be overtly Christian.

It was a great read. I had been afraid I was going to be in for a corny Left Behind type book. Well, I’ve been told the Left Behind series is corny.  I’ve never read it.

One thing off the bat. I have a pretty sharp eye for proofreading errors. I have never read a cleaner book in my life – not even close. My eye did not catch a single error, not one. And errors usually jump out at me in size 48 font like a loud honking car horn. So kudos to Ignatius Press for that job. Sometimes it is hard to take books at all seriously when it seems it was brought to me by the second grade class of Gump Elementary. No offense to those kids, just to the adults who should go buy some red pencils and get to work!

Going with my usual policy of giving away no spoilers:

The book is surprising deep on both a moral and theological level. It is very dialogue heavy (one drawback of the book is the dialogue can go back and forth without narrative for such a length that you can lose track of who is speaking to whom) but most of these discussions are discussing eschatology or some point of theology or a character’s struggle with temptation., etc.

There is a long conversion scene of a wicked old man that takes place in a dank apartment in Warsaw that was so finely done it etched itself upon my mind.

The book is a thriller but not an action and flimsy quip style thriller.

You are traveling in the world of Catholic priests, bishops and cardinals, and one Pope who practically stole the show. I looked around, “where is this guy at?”

You will enter a world that is pretty foreign unless you are a Catholic, and even then (given some Catholics I have heard about) probably altogether unfamiliar. I learned more theology in this book than in most of my other reading. Although I had read it elsewhere, this book made it clear what accepting Christ and picking up one’s cross means.

You accept your cross even unto death.

Needless to say, there are not many Catholics let alone Christians out there. Not at that level at least.

In Father Elijah you will be traveling with men that take their cross even unto death. And some that do not or will not – they serve a different god.

The book harrowingly mirrors certain aspects of the Catholic Church as a whole at this time.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

 

 


New Acquisitions

Someone please stop me!!

First pick-up was:

I love C.S. Lewis’s work in general and his theological work in particular (although do I prefer Chesterton over Lewis? hmmm). And how can I pass up a book that contains an essay titled “Fern Seeds and Elephants.”

Second Pic was:

This is from 1954 and is pre-Vatican Two. It has some lovely (and some rather homely) art in it and a wealth of information on many things Catholic: stations of the cross, extreme unction, baptism, the thingamabobs that make up a priests “uniform”, etc, etc.

In the Missal (a thing I still find hard to penetrate conceptually) they give you the years 1954 thru 1972 instead of using a generic system by which you identity which of the possible fourteen calendars you are in for any possible year, say 2017? Can you imagine someone throwing this set out and getting a new one in 1973 because they ran out of years?

Ah, and the smell of the set. That old book smell. I don’t know what it is. Do books that come out now end up with that smell? Is it the ink? This is a closed box set so the aging of the pages and ink and binding is somewhat preserved in a hermetical atmosphere and the tones are that much more sweet. You can’t get that out of a digital book. And they will always be at a loss for it.

But it proves a nice thing to begin the day looking them over.

But as it is I am four weeks into N.T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God and I am only on page 67. My reading slows to an absolute crawl during allergy season and my waking hours are usually less than sleeping hours.

Of course a crawl is about 200 pages a week, but it has been all fiction as I can’t attain the level of focus required for Wright’s subject at this time. I hope the Cottonwood clears up by next week.

Interestingly, my wife has just recently started to suffer from seasonal allergies and she is hating it. “This is what you have been living under all these years?! I feel as if I’m having a stroke!”

Yeah, love, it sucks big time.


This Catechism is Tough!

A few months ago I restarted my online catechism class after a two year break for school.

These Catholics are real ballbusters! One subject, out of seventy-nine subjects (I think it was the Transfiguration lesson) had seventy-four pages of online reading material. This consisted of sermons from Church fathers such as St. Augustine, sometimes a modern homily around the subject, biblical passages, material from the Catechism of the Catholic Church and its Compendium, The Baltimore Catechism (which I think had to have been for children). And then, usually to top it off, questions from Aquinas’ Summa. And that last ain’t easy reading. And then, for at least the Gospels and Life of Christ module, two chapter’s from Bishop Fulton Sheen’s The Life of Christ.

This last is usually a pleasure for the man wrote as he spoke, which is to say, superbly.

But, moly, you’d be almost an expert after all of this, no? How is any Catholic ignorant after going through all of this?


“The Matrix” (Part 1 of 2) Commentary by Fr. Robert Barron | Word On Fire

Source: “The Matrix” (Part 1 of 2) Commentary by Fr. Robert Barron | Word On Fire

I became a fan of now Bishop Robert Barron several years ago after stumbling upon his commentary on the Matrix and Bob Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower on YouTube. Hell, I even became a Dylan fan. That’s saying a lot because Dylan’s music is not in my usual sphere.

Before that I assumed priests to be quite removed from anything so earthly. Actually I didn’t know anything at all about priests outside of scenes from The Exorcist and The Amityville Horror. This clip is part one of two parts on the Matrix. If you want to see part two or any of his other stuff, he is not hard to find on youtube.

Happy Viewing!


FIRST THINGS talks PAST MASTER

The Christian online (online?) magazine FIRST THINGS, talks PAST MASTER, and DEAD LADY OF CLOWN TOWN, MANSIONS IN SPACE, and a few others.

Hey, they got the essential theme right!


Wizard’s Resources

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I was listing (eh hem, bragging) to someone today of my numerous resources. And I had forgotten this little gem sitting on one of my bookshelves.

It is a beautifully illustrated book covering many mystical and visceral creatures of meadows, forest sand dark corners. It is divided into two sections: part one is elves and part two is goblins and other little creatures.

Many a creature one will meet in these pages, some familiar, some obscure. Most of us have heard of Puck, the Drac, sylphs or the will-o’-the-wisps. But there be others not so known, the Asrai, Patupaiarehe

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You get dwarves, goblins, elves, sprites, creatures of the ponds and lakes and the rivers, of the meadows and the garden, the sea and the coast, of the mountains, heaths and hills, and of the shadows and many others besides. And they are from all over the globe and from every culture.

Funny thing to observe. It is observed that religion is ubiquitous to man in all times and all places. And so are these class of creatures. A modernist would shrug off such an observation as man is an idiot in all times and all places. And while I do not discredit wholly that assertion, I do not agree that religion and faerie are the result of idiocy.

I am quite willing to go on record and claim the exact opposite. I am even prepared to go on record and say both are to the glory of man.

But this wasn’t to be about a single book. I wish there was an equivalent book on monsters.

I had laid out (the bragging I had referenced at the beginning) to this person my general reference material: Sisson’s Synonyms (that’s a new acquisition though) complete OED, Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern Usage, and some picture dictionaries that I find indispensable.

But I then dove into my digital reference material which is mainly religious (Catholic really) in nature. It is pretty impressive. And I am leaving out my complete collection of Ante-Nicene, Nicene, and Post-Nicene Fathers collections, my complete Summa Theologica and other related things.

Why am I writing about it though? Because it was shortly, pretty damn shortly too, after acquiring all this that I went into school and haven’t had much occasion to even glance at it until now.

  • Vatican II documents
  • Saints and Feasts of the Liturgical Year
  • The Roman Missal, The Roman Martyrology
  • The Book of Saints, The Book of the Popes
  • Catholic Pocket Dictionary and Cyclopedia, Collins Thesaurus of the Bible
  • Dictionary of Latin Forms
  • Dictionary of the Vulgate New Testament
  • Great Quotations
  • An Introduction to Ecclesiastical Latin
  • Manual of the Councils of the Holy Catholic Church

I left out I don’t know how many pictorial/maps to the ancient biblical world books. Aramaic, Greek and other such dictionaries and bibles. Several books on the Council of Trent, Vat I, etc, etc.

All that and more, plus I still have in my possession the entire Durant history series.

I am going to be playing for a long time now!


How Long? Where are We Going? And When is it Coming?

Jesus Preaching the Sermon on the Mount Gustave Dore

Jesus Preaching the Sermon on the Mount
Gustave Dore

I am on the Beatitudes in my online catechism class now. I am not sure how long I should spend on such a thing. I could spend a day and answer the questions at the end correctly. I could probably answer the questions correctly without needing to read (or reread as I have read the beatitudes and some commentary on them before) the material. But these are things that men have studied and wrote about and applied to life’s various realities for centuries. When is it enough?

Of course just because you cover a subject once does not mean you cannot cover it again. I didn’t really mind finishing up Christ’s baptism in a day or so. A few points are covered in that event, but it is not essential. The beatitudes are quite important and I am not sure what I gain by a day’s study although it has already been more than that.

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I’m on Tales of Chicago of Lafferty’s Argo tale SPOILERS!!! – But not too badly now. I know the general theme, or at least one of them, of the whole tale as it was in the first book. But as far as narrative flow goes, this is a tough Lafferty read. Meaning I am not sure if all the events are going to be linked and sewn together in the end. We get a little taste of each of the characters and their lives after WWII and the second book follows the other life of a John Solli – Finnigan. He is the focus at the end of the first two books, but those endings are open-ended, they are not concluded, but pick up at a different point of a different life.

The third book, Tales of Chicago, that I am now on, so far hasn’t visited Finnigan at all, and I am not even sure if we will see him again. We have to see him again don’t we?

SPOILER!!! For those that may be reading and have travelled this tale (that would be very small window of people) I believe at least one of the themes is expressed by Mr. X to Abselom Stein at the end of Archipelago. I could be wrong, but the statements he make seem significant enough to be thematic.

writing

I also hope to be posting some writing here in the very near future. Huzzah!