Monday, June 16, 2008

Monday, June 16th, 2008

Yea! I’m doing cartwheels in my heart and actually dancing around my office. My girlfriend returns from Mexico today.

I just learned of the recent death of a powerful activist for women and babies. I honor her and her co-activists this day after Father’s day. Here is the Chicago Tribune’s obituary for Edwina Froehlich a co-founder of La Leche League in 1956. "We all felt a mother should listen to her body, her nature" said Ms. Froehlich.

“Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski,” writes Nicolas Carr in the article, Is Goggle making Us Stupid? appearing in the July/August issue of the Atlantic Monthly. That is certainly what this blog is! It is kind of fun, but?

In this quote one gets an inkling what the article is about: ““We are not only what we read,” says Maryanne Wolf, a developmental psychologist at Tufts University and the author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. “We are how we read.” Wolf worries that the style of reading promoted by the Net, a style that puts “efficiency” and “immediacy” above all else, may be weakening our capacity for the kind of deep reading that emerged when an earlier technology, the printing press, made long and complex works of prose commonplace.” I wonder if it also means we are losing our ability for “deep thinking,” contemplation.

One thing fascinating to me in this article are the connections drawn between Friedrich Nietzsche and his new typewriter, Frederick Winslow Taylor, the father of “scientific management,” and the Internet. I am familiar with Taylor from my years as a production manager in industry. We are in the age of efficiency; I feel it everyday, every time I engage in a conversation I think I must exchange only the necessary information and get on to the next thing. I experience this mainly at work where half of my job is talking with people. But people are not really considered important, efficiency and production rules so the company gets the most out of my time. It is all about the money.

In a recent film, The Visitor, we see this dynamic in a round-about way in a comment of Zainab, the Senegalese girlfriend of Tarek, an Arab musician and illegal immigrant from Syria when—as Tarek heads out with Walter, the sad and lonely college professor, to play drums in a drumming circle in the park—she demands that Tarek return home on time; “no Arab time” she says (see the movie for more). In this mood Carr quotes Lewis Mumford from Technics and Civilization, a book I read many years ago. “Mumford described how the clock “disassociated time from human events and helped create the belief in an independent world of mathematically measurable sequences.” The “abstract framework of divided time” became “the point of reference for both action and thought.” Maybe we should think of the clock as an evil invention like the atom bomb?

Carr begins his article by recalling that HAL, the malfunctioning computer in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, is sending astronaut Dave Bowman to his death in deep space. He concludes with the suggestion that when, like Bowman in Kubrick's dark prophecy, “we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence.”

Go out and get it! Carrie Newcomer’s, The Gathering of Spirits. The opening song is now one of my all time favorites: Holy as a Day is Spent.

I’m still praying. I had a couple answered prayers this past weekend, but they were high-percentage ones, likely to have happened without my praying. I’m still thankful though. They were important to my mental health, so to speak, and made my day when they occurred. So I said, “Thank you Lord, for hearing my prayer.”

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sunday, June 15th, 2008

A good Sunday. Morning Mass was very good – it always is good even when it isn’t, but it was really good today. How’s that for nonsense? I really love Sundays. It is my first day off work—the beginning of my weekend: I attend Mass, I go to Unity with my girlfriend; it’s just is an all-around fine day.

Today’s New York Times articleIn ’74 Thesis, the Seeds of McCain’s War Views—alerts us to the danger of mixing politics with the training of our soldiers. Foreign policy is always the sole prerogative of our civilian government and because of that it will always be contentious. Our soldiers should be trained to stay out of policy and politics, to be loyal to the Constitution above all. The article and Senator McCain’s experience vividly illustrate why torture is always inhuman and bad policy and why the United States must disavow all torture and expect that other nations do the same. Senator McCain is a genuine American hero but he is wrong on both of these issues.

Political Excommunication is the headline for an article in the current issue of America that considers the experience of Doug Kmiec and discusses a significant issue facing the Catholic Church this election cycle. How is the church to treat Catholic politicians who support abortion rights, the Catholics who support these politicians, and Catholics who support non-Catholic politicians who support abortion rights?

The treatment of Doug Kmiec is evidence of an ill wind blowing. A former appointee of the Reagan and Bush I administrations and currently a professor of law at Pepperdine University Kmiec is a longtime pro-life activist. He recently came out in support of Barack Obama for president. In response he was denied communion at a special Mass held to open a meeting in which he was scheduled to speak.

In a similar circumstance Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, my home diocese, has criticized Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas for her abortion position and requested that she not take communion. She is a prominent supporter of Obama. Also, in New York, Cardinal Edward Egan has requested that former mayor and presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani refrain from communion. And, as this article from the National Catholic Reporter—Church and Politics: The Return of the Communion Wars—indicates, these actions are anything but a smattering of isolated incidents. It has the feel of a concerted effort. The America article aptly suggests, “One must in all honesty ask whether a hard-line pro-life position within the church serves as a Trojan horse for other, more partisan political goals.” It certainly seems to.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

It is now Saturday the 14th, 2008

Friday the 13th, June 2008

I am not superstitious but I do pray. Is that the same thing?

Anyway, I heartily agree with the headline in this NYT editorial: Justice 5, Brutality 4

Quote: “It is sobering to think that habeas hangs by a single vote in the Supreme Court of the United States — a reminder that the composition of the court could depend on the outcome of this year’s presidential election. The ruling is a major victory for civil liberties — but a timely reminder of how fragile they are.” Sobering indeed. We need to elect Obama and hope for something different.

In light of the editorial note how important the coming Presidential election is in the struggle for justice read this article from the New York Times also. McCain and Obama Split on Justices’ Guantánamo Ruling

For some thoughts today, Saturday the 14th:

When does obsession become unhealthy?
I have this situation I think about almost all the time. It is an important one to attend to but I need some faith in the situation as well. I will pray about it more.

Prayer: I have always prayed, even during my most agnostic phase—I am still very much an agnostic, so maybe I should say “my conscientiously agnostic phase”—so it seems to me to pray is a deep aspect of my being. It is part of my struggle to understand the mystery inherent in the paradox of the beauty and brutality of the world. It is my effort to hope for the best. Just yesterday I read this quote in Richard Sennett’s new book The Craftsman: “ seems more realistic to explore how concrete behavior might change or be regulated than to counsel a change of heart.” I agree. But I still pray.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Monday, June 2nd, 2008

Summer seems to be here. The weather has been warm and humid, and unusually wet. We have had numerous storms, some severe. Everything is so green and lush. This morning has been a relief so far: cool, cloudy, breezy. We are getting thunder, some lighting, and occasional light rain. A thunderstorm is approaching. It might get wild for a while then sunny and hot this afternoon. As I am typing this the wind is rising. We’ll see.

The following quote is from an article in the Guardian by Ian McEwan. Apocalyptic thinking distorts much of our politics and social behavior. We need to learn to learn to think for the long haul. As far as Christian apocalyptic thinking goes, we have been expecting the end of the world-as-we-know-it for a couple thousand years. It hasn’t happened yet. It is about time we learn to love this old world that is ever renewing itself and remains young.

But, as McEwan observes, apocalyptic thinking is immune to contrary data, such as two thousand years of life as usual. Catastrophe thinking is, indeed, prevalent in these United States of America. And its not just the weird fringe that believes it. We have a President who, apparently, is one, as is much of what we have taken to calling the religious right. Since this world is going to be destroyed by fire in the near future and a new heavens and new earth established I guess it is okay to destroy the one we have.

“Contemporary apocalyptic movements, Christian or Islamic, some violent, some not, all appear to share fantasies of a violent end, and they affect our politics profoundly. The apocalyptic mind can be demonising - that is to say, there are other groups, other faiths, that it despises for worshipping false gods, and these believers of course will not be saved from the fires of hell. And the apocalyptic mind tends to be totalitarian - which is to say that these are intact, all-encompassing ideas founded in longing and supernatural belief, immune to evidence or its lack, and well-protected against the implications of fresh data. Consequently, moments of unintentional pathos, even comedy, arise - and perhaps something in our nature is revealed - as the future is constantly having to be rewritten, new anti-Christs, new Beasts, new Babylons, new Whores located, and the old appointments with doom and redemption quickly replaced by the next.”

Friday the 6th of June

St. Thérèse, the Little Flower, had it absolutely right: it is in the practice of love in the small details that we really begin to redirect the world to God’s purposes.

“Jesus does not demand great actions from us by simply surrender and gratitude.”
St. Thérèse of Lisieux

From a blog on the on-line edition of America

“Last night was about more than politics. It was history. Clinton was not the only one to lose last night. Bigotry received a mortal blow. Last winter, many of my black friends cautioned that there was no way a black man could win, that anti-black bigotry was still too strong, too deep. That concern lies in rubble today.”

With Barack the nominee I feel like we, as a nation, have made a tremendous stride towards justice and the transformation of our national shame of slavery, prejudice, and segregation. It was a mere 44 years ago that we finally guaranteed the vote to black Americans and in 1965 we put an end to that odious recipe for oppression: separate but equal. This turn of events got me to thinking about Walt Whitman. Here is a bit from a poem he wrote around 1850, before our bloody Civil War that ended slavery. He was hopeful even then that something like Barack would eventually arrive.

Not a grave of those slaughtered ones,
But is growing its seeds of freedom,
In its turn to bear seed,
Which the winds carry afar and resow,
And the rains nourish.

Barack is the nourished seed of these slaughtered ones bearing its fruit.

Indeed, it is unique and new.

I hope that Hillary is his VP choice. I think she will be. She has earned it if she wants it. And it will make the Democratic ticket even more historic.

From an article in the Times (not the New York version) titled Nassim Nicholas Taleb: the prophet of boom and doom

“The only way you can say ‘Fuck you’ to fate is by saying it’s not going to affect how I live. So if somebody puts you to death, make sure you shave.”

Taleb is a former “trader” and currently a best selling author with his book The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. I guess he predicted the current economic decline, was pooh-poohed for it, and is now commanding 60-grand from Wall Street, corporate types for his lectures. He has an MBA from Wharton, and a Ph.D. from the University of Paris.

Here is the best part of the article:

Taleb's top life tips

1 Scepticism is effortful and costly. It is better to be sceptical about matters of large consequences, and be imperfect, foolish and human in the small and the aesthetic.
2 Go to parties. You can’t even start to know what you may find on the envelope of serendipity. If you suffer from agoraphobia, send colleagues.
3 It’s not a good idea to take a forecast from someone wearing a tie. If possible, tease people who take themselves and their knowledge too seriously.
4 Wear your best for your execution and stand dignified. Your last recourse against randomness is how you act — if you can’t control outcomes, you can control the elegance of your behavior. You will always have the last word.
5 Don’t disturb complicated systems that have been around for a very long time. We don’t understand their logic. Don’t pollute the planet. Leave it the way we found it, regardless of scientific ‘evidence’.
6 Learn to fail with pride — and do so fast and cleanly. Maximize trial and error — by mastering the error part.
7 Avoid losers. If you hear someone use the words ‘impossible’, ‘never’, ‘too difficult’ too often, drop him or her from your social network. Never take ‘no’ for an answer (conversely, take most ‘yeses’ as ‘most probably’). (I haven’t been real good with this lately, I used to always say – Never say never.)
8 Don’t read newspapers for the news (just for the gossip and, of course, profiles of authors). The best filter to know if the news matters is if you hear it in cafes, restaurants... or (again) parties.
9 Hard work will get you a professorship or a BMW. You need both work and luck for a Booker, a Nobel or a private jet.
10 Answer e-mails from junior people before more senior ones. Junior people have further to go and tend to remember who slighted them.

The evidence just grows and grows. From the New York Times: Bush Overstated Evidence on Iraq, Senators Report

Go Jayhawks ...err... I mean Celtics. Celtics 98, Lakers 88