Vomit the Lukewarm
My Waiting Antinomy
Thesis: The people of Iraq can govern themselves and live in freedom, for the natural desire for freedom is sufficient to ensure the success of a free people.
Antithesis: The People of Iraq will never govern themselves, because the natural desire for freedom is not sufficient to ensure the success of a free people, rather what is required is some public commitment to Christianity.
1.) The government fails. Evidence for antithesis.
2.) The government succeeds. Evidence for thesis.
a.) the government succeeds to the extent it is
ruled by Muslims (ev. for neither)
b.) or to the extent it is ruled by non-Muslims.
(potentially, ev. for either)
The Spirit and the Flesh
The distiction between the spirit and the flesh is one the most significant and lovely contributions of the Christian religion to the understanding of the human person. Both the spirit and the flesh have a claim to being what man is
and both have their points. The two exist simultaneously "the flesh desires against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh" "the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak". And both stand at the root of our actions and desires. Each one in me makes a claim to being myself
, which might make sense of certain paradoxes like "loose yourself, and you will find yourself" "love yourself" and "deny yourself".
A Few random Observations
1.) The words "spirit" and "flesh" are used in highly technial and derivative senses. To confuse the "flesh" that the scripture talks about with the first or second things we understand "flesh" to mean would be as disastrous as confusing "right" as understood by the supreme court with the first thing that "right" means (a side of the body).
2.) The distinction between the two, and the technical meaning of both words, is common to every new testament author except James. In James, however, there is enough material to make it clear that he understands this distinction, and works with it.
3.) Both flesh and spirit can be understood (in different ways) to mean "the self".
4.) There are many other confusing and subtle distinctions in the new testament that are related to this one: "the spirit and the letter", "the inner man and the outer man", "the law and grace".
5.) The distinction seems to come directly from the mouth of God. It would seem next to impossible to make any kind of historical development doctrine when the distinction shows up fully formed in Mark's Gospel, and in Paul.
6.) Doesn't this doctrine explain our own lives? Why do we hear about it so little in psychology?
The father of the bride (and others who are in certain ways like him) often have a thousand yard, tired, I-know- something- that- I'm-not- saying- stare at weddings. What is it?
(pick one or more)
1.) These men, like all men, feel awkward at weddings, since weddings are girl parties that men are forced to attend. Wedding receptions are as feminine as Dionysian baccanals or bridal showers. The old guy is more aware of this, and tries to keep quiet.
2.) The man is relating to the whole event in terms of "how much it is costing". This depresses him, but he is not about to bring it up.
3.) The older married guy knows that the couple is woefully ignorant about marriage, and his many years of dealing with kids has told him that he should just keep his mouth shut about what is coming up.
4.) The married guy sees in this marriage his own marriage, and he recalls all his original hopes, but sees them in light of all his failures.
5.) The older married guy doen't really think that anyone is good enough to be with his little girl, and so he is depressed that someone is with her.
6.) He is acting that way in order to counter-balance the emotions of his wife, who like all the women at weddings, is an ecstatic basket case.
7.) The wedding overwhelms him, and men respond to being overwhelmed by retreating into themselves.
8.) He is trying to teach by example, since he knows the groom is watching him. The lesson is something like "the next time your wife wants to do something like this, put this look on"
9.) The man is exhausted, and simply looks exhausted. His attempt to look wise is a mere pretence.
Another Blind Side of Progressive Knowledge
No one has ever claimed that poetry is progressive. If poetry were in any way tied to history, it would not be through poetry getting better and better over time, but rather it would be man's continual attempt to regain the glory of the first poem our race ever produced: The Iliad.
The gulf between Virgil and Homer on the one hand, and any modern poet on the other is so wide that one might wonder if they can even be said to be doing the same thing. Comparing these two groups is like comparing a Hummer to a stone wheel, or the Space Shuttle to a bottle rocket.
The love of poetry cannot exist with progressivism: either one will end up marginalizing the other, or qualifying it. The lover of poetry cannot help venerating his ancestors, and standing in awe of them. And yet it is not quite right to call Virgil or Homer "ancestors"- they are not seen primarily as being "back then" but rather as authors who have "always been". Their work has always been the companion of the human race. Of all the men who have ever lived, the vast majority have had Homer and Virgil as The
Poets. Their work has always been lofty, without equal, and (most importantly) beautiful.
God and the Sentence.
There are parts of me which are not the same as myself. The most obvious are physical parts: my hand is not me, my eyes are not me, my right side is not who I am. All this can also be said about my immaterial parts: my soul is not me, neither is my will. So too are none of the parts dealt with in metaphysics are the same as myself: I share existence with all things, I share essence with all knowable things, I share my bodily nature with all the cosmos.
The imagination gives out when we consider that this sort of distiction is wholly removed from the nature of God. All that we can distinguish in him is God. What our mind distinguishes from the divine substance is not distinguished in the divine substance. He is absolutely simple, and the only distictions possible are ones made in our own account of the divine attributes. By the by, we cannot even make a distiction in account between the divine essence and its existence: Tell them He who is sent you
Without distinction among the thoughts of the sentence (subject and predicate), we have no sentences. What do we understand about God when our thoughts of him must precind even from our own way of signifing thought? What thoughts do we have without conguent
signs to signify them with? This is not meant to be a spur to scepticism, but to distinction- whether we are sceptics, mystics, or thomists makes no difference.
The Fourth Way, (B)
All who come before the government demand
that their rights be recognized.
something of the government is to assert an authority
higher than the government, which binds and limits the government.
requires a being
in which the authority rests.
And this being all call God.
Anyone can speak of "rights" when the word is taken to mean "that which I am legally allowed to do or to have". Such an account of right is clear, straightforward, and easily verifiable. Such rights exist on paper for anyone to see. Governments can churn out such rights in droves, without impediment or scruple. Do you want the right to vote? Here is your paperwork. Want the right to own property? Here it is, written in this book. Want the right to breathe underwater? Just a sec- let me get my pen.
So what about the right to breahe underwater? Or the right of men to flap their arms and fly? Can't we write them down like any other right? Can't we give them to whomever we wish? No. And no politician would ever bother to claim the power to give such rights. There is a limit placed on our ability to give rights.
In fact, no one acts as though governments create
rights at all. Did the slaves who fought for freedom believe they were not entitled to it before the 13th amendment? Did the women who fought for the vote believe they didn't deserve it until it was passed into law? Did those who fought for abortion wait until after
Roe to assert that abortion was something women had a claim to demand? No one acts as though the government creates
rights, only that the government recognizes
But if abortion supporters (and opponents), abolishinist and pro-slavery lobbies, fair-housing reps, and everyone else who has ever fought for a right agrees that the government must recognize rights, what must the government look to to recognize them? Where does it find these rights it must recognize? The government can protect rights, but what exactly is it protecting? The government is something like a library: it can protect the books, it can defend the books, it can allow people access to them, it can place the books in order- but who wrote the books, and what do they say?
Whatever authored our rights is the thing our one nation is under- pace
to Mr. Newdow- with liberty and justice for all. To lose that one thing is to make the very idea of a right completely unintelligible. No one can think of a goverment which does other than recognize rights it did not create. To lose sight of what creates these rights would be as absurd and irrational as confounding the librarian with the author, the sentry with the fort, the offensive line with the quarterback, or any protector with the thing he protects. Come to think of it, since governments do not create rights, whoever says they do (though they cannot think the thought) must be confusing created things with their creator. To lose sight of the creator of rights will make the very idea of rights completely unintelligible. "A right without a higher power than government" It is an unthinkable statement, existing only as sounds and shapes of letters.
A homosexual asked me once if I "had a problem" with homosexuals. I told him "not really" (the question was vague enough to make the response true). The man didn't ask me the question as a challenge to anything I said, he simply assumed that it was the sort of question that he should ask straight men during conversation.
The question was hopelessly vague, of course, and significantly so. If I said I "had a problem" with homosexuals, what would this mean? I certainly don't think what they do is good, and their behavior is disgusting; but the same can be said of drunks, adulterers, porn addicts, masterbators, and in general everyone who sins through weakness and (in some sense) ignorance. The world is flooded with sin, sexual sin especially, and to single out homosexuals as a group I have a particular problem with would be misleading, like a man stuck in a sewer singling out a rat. Homosexuality is just another rotting chunk in the vast dung-heap of human sin. As far as going to hell vs. Going to heaven is concerned, there is no difference between any of the mortal sins. All of them lead to hell- both in this life and the next.
In broad outline, the infernal torments are known to most people: fire and separation from God. Concerning the fire, St. Thomas mentions that souls in hell are joined to corporeal fire in the same way that souls on earth are joined to flesh and bone. Separation from God is somewhat more tricky: it is true that this pain is more intense, but most people take this to mean that the pain of burning must be less extreme than we know it must be. But our souls need God more desperately than our lungs need air- ans so to be separated from him for eternity would be more agonizing than being unable to breathe for all eternity.
The toments of hell on earth are far less known, but quite intense. Darkness of mind, despair, anxiety, irritability, utter inability to love, or even (eventually) to feel pleasure. The homosexual I spoke about above admitted to having over seventy different "lovers" in less than four months. What hell. We treat spitoons and animal corpses with more respect than that man gave to his body. His heart was utterly cut off from an ability to love anything (what could love possibly mean without fidelity to some one, the desire to be with them, and the refusal to cast them off for another after a day?) His mind had little or no ability to see what an impossible wreck he had made of his life. How could he ever love his own body in a meaningful way? How could he ever experience love as a man? How could he ever experience that humiliating, but all-consoling realization that he is a repentant sinner? How could he ever recognize the world for what it was? How could he ever know the joy of knowing God? His life was a long, bland, banal stream of rationalizations, un-thought, and jug-jug-mechanical-have-to-scratch-an-itch sex acts.
The above story might be the story of many sins, but every sin has a story like the one above. Such stories are not seen by most. It is not for sinners to understand sin, only for the repentant- and comparatively few repent. Our lives are largely unknown to ourselves, but until we see them as often rightly regrettable, we can't begin to understand them.
College Professors and Prudence
The average college professor walks into class, and everyone listens to him. He does not need to discipline anyone, and he will never run out of willing synchophants to flatter his ego (If none are forthcoming, he can always generate them through grade inflation). Everything he says is accepted, unquestioned, and unquestionable.
How could such a man have the first idea about politics? Is it any wonder that so many College professors are Communist, i.e. feel that one man should be able to tell "the herd" how they should live and think? College professors do not need to confront the frustration of irrationality, and are made irrational. They cannot experience irrationality as an opposing force.
Why can't we solve all our problems though government and reason? Try getting a five year old to brush his teeth, learn latin, or go to bed on time, and you'll know why.
Perhaps A Failure to Get It
If we divide one by three, we can get as many three's as we want. If we divide two by three, we can get as many sixes as we want.
If we divide three by three, we get one- obviously.
Is there any way that division itself forces us to confront a paradox that .9 repeating is either the same or different than one? Given that we got .3 as much as we want from division, why assume that we get .9 as much as we want from division? We don't.
Certainty and Politics
The certainty we experience in political things cannot exist separately from good taste. The politically true refers per se
to right appetite.
...If nothing in life is worth dying for, when did this begin — just in the face of this enemy? Or should Moses have told the children of Israel to live in slavery under the pharaohs? Should Christ have refused the cross? Should the patriots at Concord Bridge have thrown down their guns and refused to fire the shot heard 'round the world? The martyrs of history were not fools, and our honored dead who gave their lives to stop the advance of the Nazis didn't die in vain. Where, then, is the road to peace? Well, it's a simple answer after all.
You and I have the courage to say to our enemies, "There is a price we will not pay." There is a point beyond which they must not advance.
Malaise is a lack of confidence, and the events of the world will always provide an opportunity for it. We will never lack compelling reasons to think things are hopeless and not worth fighting for. In one sense, this is a problem of knowledge, because we fail to take into account the ordering of all things to the good. In another sense, the problem is one of will, for we have little problem being aware of the truth and yet marginalizing it, ignoring it, and not acting in accord with it. Malaise cripples the will and destroys our ability to act- regardless of whether we know that malaise is evil. It is, by definition, something we cannot heal by our own efforts.
Malaise is rarely driven out by abstract arguments. Aguments may help the one who does not suffer from malaise to see more clearly why it is wrong, but it cannot cure the suffering one. What is needed is not an argument, but a man who testifies against malaise by his life- and who thereby gives all men the confidence that hope is possible.
Hope is the confidence that good will come. If we lack either confidence or some good we are hopeless. Carter certainly seemed to know moral goodness, but he showed no confidence that it would ever be realized. Clinton radiated confidence, but he was unable to convince anyone that he did anything for the sake of some good. Both men churned out malaise and self doubt. Both men were loved for various reasons and hated for various reasons, but whether loved or hated the malaise remained, and it was more or less universal in both devotees and critics. Can anyone imagine singing "God Bless the U.S.A" in either 1978 or 1998? Could a movie like "Red Dawn" or "Rocky IV" have been released in 1978? When do you remember having to seriously deal with the argument "political choices can be made well, regardless of the private life of the politician"? (what is this except an attempt to disjoin moral goodness from the political life, which provides the sine qua non
for malaise?) How did we respond to setbacks and dark times in the Carter and Clinton administrations? (think Somalia, the first bombing of the WTC, the failed attempt to save the Iranian hostages, and the energy crisis).
I am aware that some champion malaise as the correct attitude for an American to have. We have no claim to goodness, they say, and therefore should have no confidence that we will be delivered from our ills. This opinion is in some way correct, but it is of no consequence. The world will never lack compelling evidences of decline and immanent ruin. The world, considered in itself, will always abound with irrationality, absurdity, chaos, and evil. But so long as the world also suffers malaise, we will most certainly suffer more greatly at the hands of these evils. Our loftiest vocation is not to a world enjoyed without evil, but to a world where evil is worth fighting against- which will only happen when we live in a world seen as tied to something greater than itself, as seen exemplified through the one in the world
who has that greater vision.
The Eyes of Newport
Newport sells itself from the neck down. The place is uncanny
, fantastical and overwhelming- a premium of magiziney beauty and sculpted "10's".
The eyes tell a different story. It would be hard to find a more absolute boredom. All the eyes wander and flutter around, as though everyone wanted to be somewhere else. Speaking to the women is like looking through a window. I figure I looked like that for a few hours. Speech is awkward, stop-gap, shallow, and largely yelled out.
Let 'em have it. They have their reward.
Self- Medication and Its Opposite
We often use the same thing to reward ourselves in good times, console ourselves in bad times, and pass the time in neutral times. It has to mean more to us than we would admit to anyone, including ourselves.
Perhaps everyone needs some such thing. Perhaps the heart demands a single master. If this is so, that same master determines what we are in truth. Our deepest actual
self is the one we have through that master.