Weapons for Recreation

Darwin Catholic defends them. I'm something of a peacenik, so perhaps it's strange that I basically agree with his point. I've no experience shooting a gun on a range, but I love the sport of swordplay—learning to fence is one of my lifelong ambitions—and if I get to Heaven, I'm going to ask God to hook me up with a light-saber. Or Andúril.

Beyond Politics and Philosophy

M. Z. Forrest takes a moment to overview the various political leanings of the contributors to Vox Nova, a Catholic blog that has received its share of ad hominem dismissals (and valid criticism, to be sure). Vox Nova features political and social viewpoints from Burkean conservatism to democratic socialism and even to Catholic anarchism, yet its contributors are all faithfully Catholic. Despite its occasional failings (failings we all share being comment-making humans), the blog succeeds in concretely showing that Catholicism and the Church's social teaching transcend political philosophies and policy prescriptions.

Thought for a Sunday

"Man has the right to live. He has the right to bodily integrity and to the means necessary for the proper development of life, particularly food, clothing, shelter, medical care, rest, and, finally, the necessary social services. In consequence, he has the right to be looked after in the event of ill health; disability stemming from his work; widowhood; old age; enforced unemployment; or whenever through no fault of his own he is deprived of the means of livelihood."

- From Pacem in Terris by Pope John XXIII

Family Feast Day

Today is the Feast of St. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, Father of the Church, and deconstructor of heresies. It is a special feast day in the Cupp home, for we named our son after him, inspired mostly by the coolness of the name.

Scattered Thoughts on Justice and Dignity

Back in February I posted on my pet criteria for selecting political candidates and followed up with a development of one of those criteria. Since then, two major candidates for the presidency have emerged victorious on field in the war for the White House. We could have done better, but then we could also have done much worse. Who will take the prize is anyone's guess. I don't have a preference at this point; both McCain and Obama, despite having some good qualifications, advocate certain evils that prevent me from participating in their pursuit of power. I don't plan to vote for either man, but I speak only for myself: others may, and may do so in good conscience.

I consider a candidate less on an issues-based approach and more on a virtues-based approach. Of course, I consider a candidate's stances on issues, for that is good way to assess his character, but issues change with the times, and, in these troubling times, change frequently. What I look for in a candidate are the particular habits of humility, justice, prudence, hospitality, and erudition. Today I want to look closer at the criteria of justice.

We read in the Catechism:
Justice is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor. Justice toward God is called the "virtue of religion." Justice toward men disposes one to respect the rights of each and to establish in human relationships the harmony that promotes equity with regard to persons and to the common good. The just man, often mentioned in the Sacred Scriptures, is distinguished by habitual right thinking and the uprightness of his conduct toward his neighbor.
In our political climate today, marked by constant fear of nuclear-armed tyrants and terrorists, the will to give one his due is often understood primarily in its punitive meaning. Being tough on criminals and even tougher on terrorists are seen as marks of a just leader: consider Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal's signing of a chemical and physical castration bill or the Bush Administration's implementation of torture techniques. This is not the justice I have in mind, though I do not deny the reality of punitive justice.

The justice I seek in our public servants is justice understood as a response to the dignity of others, particularly the dignity of human persons, but also the dignity of the created universe and all things within it (and, let me not forget, the Creator). Whether we are the greatest of saints or the worst of sinners, we are made in the image and likeness of God, and with that we have a dignity that no act of ours or of another's can take away. No matter what our crime, no matter how monstrous we become through a life of vice, we remain always persons in possession of a dignity that cannot be licitly violated.

Justice doesn't mean leaving each person to his own means and devices; it means the other obligates us to give him his due, his due as a human person. The right to life, for instance, implies the right to those things that are necessary for life: food, clothing, healthcare, and shelter to name a few. To my mind, a just leader would work to construct a just society, a society structured in a way that each person in that society is given his due.

President Bush has said, "My most important duty, and the most important duty of those of us who serve you in government, is to protect the innocent from attack." This is wrong, and dangerously so. If protecting the innocent from attack is the most important duty of our public servants, if safety of the innocent is at the top of our public servant's hierarchy of values, then any means can be justified in order to keep the innocent safe. If safety is higher than justice, then justice can be sacrificed for safety. I think it's fair to say we've seen that become a reality. Safety is near the top among the duties of our leaders, but justice should be held at a higher place.

Elephant Dreams

Having a child does allow one to relive his childhood and experience the child-like wonder at seeing strange and marvelous tales on the screen. I wondered then, and I wonder now, at what is with the psychedelic elephant dreams in Dumbo and Winnie the Pooh?

Answers could get very fun if one took a creative interpretation of the elephants as symbolic of the Republican Party. I better not go there.

A Statement and an Inquiry

"I'll have to watch my P's and Q's. Why do we call them P's and Q's? Perhaps because the letters are similar, but then why do we not call them B's and D's?"

- My friend and colleague, Tracy.

Go Stand by the Cheese Poster

I have stolen an idea from a friend:

When my son gets a little older I shall be buying a particular poster. This poster will picture cheese (yes, such posters exist), and when the boy whines about homework or chores or whatever, he will be made to stand by that poster of cheese.

If I had the power to make blog posters stand by cheese posters, I would be tempted to make this blogger at The Huffington Post face the cheese. He writes:
Jon Stewart and The Daily Show should be mindful whenever Obama is the target of their satire that they don't end up regurgitating Republican talking points. The Daily Show is far more influential than it was four years ago when Bush still had millions of people duped. The producers should be careful when poking fun at Obama not to provide fuel for the right-wing slime machine. Poke fun at Obama all you want, but do it in a way that also reveals the Republicans' mendacity and hypocrisy.
Stewart didn't take the advice:



H/T: The Anchoress

Bombadil's Ancient Song

A trace of language as it was meant to be:
It was a merry journey with Tom Bombadil trotting gaily beside them, or before them, on Fatty Lumpkin, who could move much faster than his girth promised. Tom sang most of the time, but it was chiefly nonsense, or else perhaps a strange language unknown to hobbits, an ancient language whose words were mainly those of wonder and delight.
Take it from Tolkien: he was a wizard among wordsmiths.

Politicizing Life

The National Right to Life Committee will feature political architect, advisor, and analyst Karl Rove at its 2008 convention. According to Peter Steinfels, Rove's paper is titled "Renewing Life in America — An Old-Fashioned Political Rally."

As if life issues were not hyper-politicized enough.

H/T: Morning's Minion

Rooted in History

The story of humanity chronicles our search to understand what it means to be human.

The Why Question

Over at Neil McKenty Weblog in a conversation about whether or not premarital sex is wrong, commentator Chimera asked why religious authorities invent rules and regulations about sex.

As I understand Chimera, a central premise of his inquiry is that the rules concerning human sexual behavior proclaimed by some religions are made up by the religious authorities and do not really correspond to the reality of the human condition. Inapplicable fictions, one might call them. His premise comes as no surprise, as he doesn't buy into religion itself and has a view of human sexuality at odds with, say, the view of the Catholic Church.

Followers of religion see the matter differently, of course. Perhaps the best way to answer his core question of “WHY” is to seek to understand religious believers as they understand themselves: understanding religious believers as they understand themselves is a perquisite for understanding why they teach and follow certain rules concerning human behavior.

For religious believers--at least those who agree with their religion's teachings--religion is often understood as a response to a God who reveals. Religious believers see their faith not as a fictional making up of and following of teachings and rules, but as an appropriate response to an event of divine revelation. As a Catholic, I believe that God exists, created the universe from nothing, made creatures capable of participating in his divinity, and revealed himself to said creatures—human beings—through various men and women in history, and most importantly, by becoming man. (Why I believe this is the subject of another post). I believe that God, in revealing himself to us, also reveals to us the meaning of creation, and more to the point, what it means to be a human being.

The Catholic Church teaches on human sexuality because human sexuality is a big part of human life and human nature. The Church teaches that there is meaning to human sexuality, a meaning rooted in our biological meaning and also our sociological meaning. Moreover, the Church teaches that God raised human sexuality to the level of a sacrament, i.e., a means of sharing in God’s divine life. It also views the sexual act as a personal gift, and draws conclusions based upon that premise. Put another way, the Church teaches on human sexuality in order to direct human sexuality towards its proper end and the fullness of its meaning. A premise here is that acting in accordance with what it means to be human brings fulfillment and wholeness, whereas acting against what it means to be human ultimately brings misery.

Brothers and Sisters, Not Enemies

Leon Suprenant at the CUF blog hits a note I've been pursuing for some time:
Despite [...] unfavorable treatment, we must continually look for ways to build communion rather than close ranks. We consciously choose to see those who disagree with us as potential allies, indeed brothers and sisters, not as enemies. We rightly work to develop coalitions and friendships whenever possible, building upon points of agreement and common interest. This approach creates an atmosphere conducive to truth, justice, and love.

As Christians, it is imperative that we build communion within the Church (cf. Jn. 17:20-23). But we also need to build communion within society. This is not merely a matter of political expediency, but our duty as citizens to cooperate with all people of good will in promoting the common good. We do not compromise our Christian beliefs or fundamental principles, but our approach, particularly in light of Vatican II, is one of prudent engagement, not retreat.

On Burke's Conservative Philosophy

Jonathan at Vox Nova offers a concise explanation of Edmund Burke's anti-ideology:
What is conservatism? I believe it to be an approach, a style, a sentiment, a bias: against efforts of utopianism, against ideology, and against the promise of a bright new future casting aside considerations of human nature. If a policy, a custom, a norm, a tradition, an institution does not violate the natural rights and has suited the past – if these belonged to your father and grandfather and great grandfather – it is to be granted, across the generations, a high status of received wisdom worthy of commitment against movements that would seek to alter them so as to pursue ideological aims.

[...]

A “Burkean” philosophy of civil order, then, is not as devoted to particular policy outcomes as to the necessity of protection and a skeptical humility about the ability to effectuate change. A priori abstraction and reasoning are not to be trusted, given the possibility of unintended, unpredictable, and unforeseen consequence.

Language as a Structure of Sin

In his encyclical letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, Pope John Paul II wrote of what he called “structures of sin,” which he said “are rooted in personal sin, and thus always linked to the concrete acts of individuals, who introduce these structures, consolidate them, and make them difficult to remove.” He continued, “And thus they grow stronger, spread, and become the source of other sins, and so influence people’s behavior.”

Language can become a structure of sin, particularly when the hermeneutic frameworks established by the use of language are grounded in concrete, personal sins, such as slander and deception. Words signify; they established boundaries distinguishing the signified from everything else. The boundaries thus established form a framework by which we perceive the world around us. When these frameworks are rooted in deception, say an intellectual violence whereby the signified is demeaned, then they blind us, they confuse us, and they deceive us. Such blindness, confusion, and deception influence our behavior towards others in no little degree.

Consider our response to another when we contain the other within the boundaries set by such words as fetus, illegal, collateral damage, or terrorist, and when we fail to see beyond those words. The words themselves may even be accurate, but they are not exhaustive, and to stop at their boundaries and to go no further is to be ensnared in a structure of sin.

Grave consequences follow.

Channeling Adorno

"It takes an indescribably authoritarian mind to believe that one's own Government should have the power to put people in cages for life without having to provide them any meaningful opportunity to prove that they did not do what they are accused of. And it takes a deeply dishonest advocate to claim that the Supreme Court's ruling was designed to protect 'Al Qaeda terrorists' who were 'captured fighting against the U.S,' given that large numbers of our detainees are not 'Al Qaeda terrorists' and were not 'captured fighting against the U.S.'"

- Glenn Greenwald

Jump

After practicing on steps, the trampoline, and the edge of the swimming pool, the boy has mastered jumping without any of those aids. Yay! I'll make a professional athlete out of him yet—one who can quote Ricoeur on the football field. Yep, the young lad is my key to having a philosophy degree and yet retiring well.

Not Helping the Unborn

I think the U.S. Government needs Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover. Snowball those depts!



More here. H/T: Sullivan.

Marcel on Fatherhood


"The father, as we have seen, is almost irresistibly inclined to treat his child as a being for him, as a being obliged to fill the place which he is reserving for him in a scheme of which one can easily say he is still the centre, since it is he who claims to establish its principles. A mortifying experience teaches him, however, in so far as he is capable of learning the lesson, that this scheme is as precarious as his own existence, if only because his son has the advantage of being likely, in the normal course of things, to outlive him and to have the power one day to upset the plan which he himself has worked out. Under these conditions, the father can reach such an excessive degree of humility that he treats himself as the mere means to an end, which he persuades himself lies beyond him and is incarnated in the autonomous will of the heir. Better thinking, however, leads him to transcend this double relationship, and to discern an organic unity where the imperfect and deceptive sequence which takes shape in the succession of generations is no more than the phenomenal and misleading expression of a substantial union which itself can only be consummated in eternity. In the last analysis it is in relation to this constitution of an organism, spiritual no doubt, but carnally rooted in the eternity of God, and in relation to this alone, that the voeu créateur can be defined, in so far as thereby a fidelity which is itself creative, the fidelity to a hope which transcends all ambition and all personal claims, takes a body."

- From "The Creative Vow as the Essence of Fatherhood" in Gabriel Marcel's Homo Viator: Introduction to a Metaphysic of Hope. Translated by Emma Craufurd.

The Unpurchasable World

“Man simply does not live by radio, automobiles, and refridgerators alone, but by the whole unpurchasable world beyond the market and turnover figures, the world of dignity, beauty, poetry, grace, chivalry, love, and friendship, the world of community, variety of life, freedom, and fullness of personality.”

[…]

“Let us beware of that caricature of an economist who, watching people cheerfully deporting themselves in their suburban allotments, thinks he has said everything there is to say when he observes that this is not a rational way of producing vegetables—forgetting that it may be an eminently rational way of producing happiness, which alone matters in the last resort.”

- From A Humane Economy by Wilhelm Röpke

Boumediene v. Bush: Reactions

Scott Horton remarks:
In Boumediene and a series of companion cases, the Court was asked to decide whether the ultimate guarantor of the rule of law—the writ of habeas corpus–was available to persons in detention in Guantánamo. In the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 and the Military Commissions Act of 2006, Congress had stripped the Great Writ. Congress did not do so explicitly, through the specific mechanism envisioned in the Constitution. Rather, it took a backdoor approach, providing a highly qualified and limited right of appeal as a substitute for habeas corpus. The Supreme Court’s majority found this to be unconstitutional.
Horton views the Supreme Court decisions as setback for “the state of exception”:
For the past seven years, Americans have witnessed an effort to engineer a “state of exception” to the American constitution. Its key element has been a new definition of war—the “war on terror”–which has neither territorial nor temporal boundaries. This war, as the Bush Administration crafted and advanced it, never served the security interests of the United States. Military analysts and advisors were firm from the outset in opposing it. They argued that any war needed to have clearly defined achievable objectives so that America could quickly and decisively win it. The lessons of modern warfare are plain enough. A great power must win quickly and clearly, or it will be viewed in the eyes of the world as having lost. Indeed, the current President Bush’s father was the president who most convincingly and prudently advanced this view, backed by a sober group of national security advisors that included Brent Scowcroft, Colin Powell and Dick Cheney (the pre-microstroke Dick Cheney). The military strategist knows that modern warfare is very much a matter of perceptions.

But the Bush Administration’s conceptualization served a different agenda. It was designed to bolster an assertion of unprecedented executive power, a reshuffling of the political cards at home. The executive was to emerge as the paramount power in the nation’s government, relegating the other branches to the status of constitutional hood ornaments. The Republican Party was to be anchored in to a generation of rule.

This dark calculus drove a reckless decision to breach centuries-old traditions concerning the humane treatment of prisoners and to craft the concentration camps at Guantánamo. Now the Supreme Court has condemned its lawlessness for the third time. Unlike the prior two efforts, however, this time the Court strikes at the dark Schmittian heart of the Executive’s claims to unconstitutional power. The ruling therefore has broad ramifications for future issues arising out of the war on terror, including many aspects of the Administration’s program for dealing with detainees.
The editors of National Review perceive the decision as an act of an imperial court:
In a bitterly divided 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday in Boumediene v. Bush that alien enemy prisoners, waging a jihad against the American people and captured by our military in a war authorized by Congress, have a right — under our Constitution — to petition our courts for their release. So doing, the Court invalidated laws it had only recently implored Congress to enact, laws that provided these prisoners with generous protections never previously extended to enemy operatives in American history.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer, dictates that Americans must regard enemies as if they were mere criminal defendants, entitled to an exacting legal process — access to discovery, witnesses, counsel, etc. — that will, as a practical matter, make it impossible to detain them without shutting down interrogations prematurely and informing the enemy of our national-defense secrets.

There can be no justification for this stunning conclusion. Habeas corpus is the right to have the lawfulness of one’s detention tested before a judge. It is enshrined in the Suspension Clause (Art. I, Sec. 9) of the Constitution — the compact between the American people and the government they created — in order to protect Americans from arbitrary arrest and adhesive conditions of confinement. As a judicial remedy, it extends only where the federal courts have jurisdiction.

Thus, as Justice Scalia elaborated (joined in dissent by Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito), habeas has never been thought to extend to the benefit of aliens outside the United States — much less those who are at war with the United States, and less still those who wage such a war by mass-murdering civilians, using women and children as human shields, and perpetrating other depravities that flout the laws of civilized warfare.
Read the primary text in question here.

Son Stories

I smell a plot.

My wife has checked out from the library a board book called Man's Work, and she gently encourages me to read it each evening to our son before bedtime. It's a picture book, no words, depicting a father and son putting away toys, polishing furniture, vacuuming, dusting, doing dishes and laundry, polishing shoes, and scrubbing bathtubs.

I definitely smell a plot.

In other father/son news, while giving a bath to the boy after swimming, I proceeded to teach him how to spell the word bath. "How do you spell bath?" I asked, and I continued, "By using the letters B, A, T, H." We successfully repeated the succession of letters a few times. Then I reintroduced the initial question: "How do you spell bath?"

"Using letters," he said, smiling.

As Dubbed Voices Go By

The voice actors of SpongeBob SquarePants apply their vocal talent to a few classic films. Cracked me up.

Opus Solidaritatis Pax

"Surmounting every type of imperialism and determination to preserve their own hegemony, the stronger and richer nations must have a sense of moral responsibility for the other nations, so that a real international system may be established which will rest on the foundation of the equality of all peoples and on the necessary respect for their legitimate differences. The economically weaker countries, or those still at subsistence level, must be enabled, with the assistance of other peoples and of the international community, to make a contribution of their own to the common good with their treasures of humanity and culture, which otherwise would be lost for ever.

Solidarity helps us to see the "other"-whether a person, people or nation-not just as some kind of instrument, with a work capacity and physical strength to be exploited at low cost and then discarded when no longer useful, but as our "neighbor," a "helper" (cf. Gen 2:18-20), to be made a sharer, on a par with ourselves, in the banquet of life to which all are equally invited by God. Hence the importance of reawakening the religious awareness of individuals and peoples."

[...]

"In this way, the solidarity which we propose is the path to peace and at the same time to development. For world peace is inconceivable unless the world's leaders come to recognize that interdependence in itself demands the abandonment of the politics of blocs, the sacrifice of all forms of economic, military or political imperialism, and the transformation of mutual distrust into collaboration. This is precisely the act proper to solidarity among individuals and nations.

The motto of the pontificate of my esteemed predecessor Pius XII was Opus iustitiae pax, peace as the fruit of justice. Today one could say, with the same exactness and the same power of biblical inspiration (cf. Is 32:17; Jas 3:18): Opus solidaritatis pax, peace as the fruit of solidarity.

The goal of peace, so desired by everyone, will certainly be achieved through the putting into effect of social and international justice, but also through the practice of the virtues which favor togetherness, and which teach us to live in unity, so as to build in unity, by giving and receiving, a new society and a better world.

Solidarity is undoubtedly a Christian virtue. In what has been said so far it has been possible to identify many points of contact between solidarity and charity, which is the distinguishing mark of Christ's disciples (cf. Jn 13:35). In the light of faith, solidarity seeks to go beyond itself, to take on the specifically Christian dimension of total gratuity, forgiveness and reconciliation. One's neighbor is then not only a human being with his or her own rights and a fundamental equality with everyone else, but becomes the living image of God the Father, redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ and placed under the permanent action of the Holy Spirit. One's neighbor must therefore be loved, even if an enemy, with the same love with which the Lord loves him or her; and for that person's sake one must be ready for sacrifice, even the ultimate one: to lay down one's life for the brethren (cf. 1 Jn 3:16)."

- Pope John Paul II, From the encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 1987

Coercive Dictionary

Recently proposed measures aimed at protecting the unborn and preserving a traditional meaning of marriage would grant the government dreadful and dangerous powers: the power to define the meaning of words and the power to enforce its definitions upon society.

We hear lately, on both the state and federal levels, talk of constitutional amendments that would define marriage as between one man and one woman or that would define the word person so as to include the unborn. Such amendments sound good to those working to save lives and defend a fundamental institution, but such amendments would establish precedents whereby the meaning of those words would, in our society, be subject to those in power or who command a majority.

Even though constitutional amendments require the will of the people, the instrument used to define and defend the established meaning would nevertheless be political. The meanings of person and marriage, even if viewed as social constructs, are nevertheless rooted in history, culture, custom, prescription, and convention. To use the law of the land to define those terms uproots them from the human story in which their meanings have developed. Amending the constitution in this manner, while meant to stabilize the meaning of marriage and person, would do the opposite.

There is a difference, or course, between the constitution acknowledging the meaning of words and it defining the meaning of words. Prohibitions against murder or theft are based largely on some understanding of personal dignity. Certain constitutional rights point to basic human rights. It is the precise operation of defining meaning to which I object as a political act.

Personally, I would oppose adamantly and unhesitatingly any constitutional amendments that would define the meaning of those or any other words. If an amendment were acknowledging meaning, rather than defining meaning, then I could consider it. My opposition to these means, of course, does not translate into opposition to the objectives for which such measures are taken.

And Now for a Moment of Dark Comedy

A hitman played by John Cusack has been invited to his ten year high school reunion, and he's feeling uneasy. Here's the scene in which he visits with his psychologist, played by Alan Arkin. The movie is Gross Pointe Blank.

Global Babies

This week’s selection of board books from the library includes one titled Global Babies, each page of which contains a few words and a picture of a baby from around the globe. We see babies from Greenland, Mali, Guatemala, Afghanistan, Iraq, Peru, Spain, the USA, and a few other countries.

Reading the book to my son triggered an immediate awareness of my own cultural conditioning, so to speak. I thought: this children’s book has a multiculturalist agenda! Does Mike Gallagher know about this? Reading the back cover confirmed my suspicions: the book was developed by a nonprofit committed to “advancing the dignity of young people around the world.”

Now this is an agenda I can get behind. Very much in keeping with Catholic social teaching. You know, the whole solidarity with all peoples thing. Still, it was not a little disquieting to have experienced a knee-jerk reaction to a board book, even if the reflex hammer was an agenda for which I have an affinity. Makes me wonder if all my attitudes and thoughts are really my own.

The Lord of the Texts

Part II

Read Part I, which begins in medias res, here.

The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it.

It began with the forging of the Great Texts of Power. Three were given to the Logicians, syllogistic, wisest and most rational of all beings. Seven to the Platonists, great sun-seekers of the mountain halls. And nine, nine texts were gifted to the phenomenologists, who, above all else, desire the power of eidetic knowledge. But they were, all of them, deceived, for another Text was made. In the land of France, in the fires of Mount Doom, the Dark Lord Derrida forged in secret a master Text, to unhinge all others. And into this Text he poured his playfulness, his nihilism and his will to tear apart all life. One Text to deconstruct them all.

One by one, the free philosophers fell to the power of the Text. But there were some who resisted. A last alliance of analytic and continental philosophers marched against the armies of Derrida, and on the very slopes of Mount Doom, they fought for the freedom to seek the Truth. Victory was near, but the power of the Text could not be undone.

Derrida himself appeared upon the battlefield, dressed as a diabolical jester, the One Text in hand. He floated, fluxed, and danced around all, deconstructing the distinction between friend and foe, laying waste to any arguments that approached him. A group of Aristotelians attempted to pull Derrida down to earth, but the Dark Lord sent them sailing helplessly through the air. A trio of British Empiricists tried to bring Derrida to his senses, but he undercut their unproven assumptions. Neither the martial might of the mathematicians nor the grand schemes of the German Idealists could arrest the fluxing destruction of the Dark Lord.

It was in this moment, when all hope had faded, that Von Hildenbrandian, son of the king, took up his father's argument. And Derrida, enemy of all true philosophers, was defeated.

The Text passed to Von Hildebrandian, who had this one chance to destroy evil forever, but the hearts of phenomenologists are easily corrupted. And the Text of Derrida has an auto-deconstruction of its own. It betrayed Von Hildebrandian, to his death. And some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. Meta-narrative became small narrative. Small narrative became mini-myth. And for two and a half thousand semesters, the Text passed out of all curriculums. Until, when chance came, the Text ensnared another reader.

The Text came to the creature Librarian, who took it deep into the forbidden section of the University Library, and there it consumed him. The Text gave to Librarian unnatural long life. For five hundred years it poisoned his mind; and with the other tomes of forbidden knowledge, it waited. Darkness crept back into the schools of the world. Rumor grew of a shadow in the West, whispers of a nameless signifier, and the Text of Power perceived. Its time had now come…

Doctoral Candidate tried to focus on his research, but the coughing fits and undistinguishable mutterings of the librarian proved to be too much of a distraction. He stood up, agitated, and walked away from the library table. He wandered aimlessly between the bookshelves, casually glancing at the books. After a few minutes, Doctoral Candidate realized he stood before the library’s forbidden section. He glanced around. The librarian was focused on eating his lunch of fish sticks.

A sign before the forbidden section read “Texts of Pure Evil: Professors Only.”

“Well, I teach a few classes, so you could call me a professor,” Doctoral Candidate mused. He reached to open the door and was surprised to find it unlocked. He entered.

The room was small and dark, lit only by old candles dispersed between bookshelves. Doctoral Candidate perused the shelves. On his left he saw the collected legal theories of David Addington. On his right was a book titled Sorcery and Smurf Reproduction. Then he saw it. At the end of the room, on its own stand, lay a book large and black. On each side of the stand stood a candle that seemed to emanate not light but shadow.

Doctoral Candidate removed a normal candle from the wall behind him and brought it to the ominous text. But he tripped, and the candle flew from his grip, landing upon the black book. The text did not burn. Instead, writing emerged, then faded on its cover:

One Text
To

Deconstruct Them
All,
One Text To
Chain Them,
One
Text To Scat
ter Them All


And In The
Darkness Unbind
Them!

Doctoral Candidate picked up the text and flipped it over. No bar code. Could it be checked out from the library? He opened the book, and gasped in horror. Words playfully danced across the pages, appearing and disappearing as if in a fog. Chains of signifiers swirled and pointed not to ideas but only to themselves before fading into nothingness.

He closed the book, but took it with him as he returned to his research. He stuffed the dark text into his backpack, intent on looking at it more when he would be away from the prying eyes of the librarian. For now he returned to writing his dissertation: There and Back Again: The Narrative of Friedrich Nietzsche’s Eternal Return.

To be continued…

Find Out When You Should Die

The culture war paradigm at work: we are interpreted as enemies of the earth to be destroyed when the time is right.

H/T: Blackadder at Vox Nova

High Quality Education

An English class syllabus at Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi includes my blog post defending sentence diagramming.

Larison on Kmiec

Eunomia's Daniel Larison shares my skepticism:
The most unfortunate thing is that Prof. Kmiec has consistently taken Obama at his word that he respects pro-life views, which has given Kmiec the false hope that Obama will take pro-life arguments seriously to the point of embracing them or implementing pro-lifers’ proposals in the context of retaining legal abortion. What matters in Kmiec’s case is his intent, and clearly he is not supporting Obama in order to promote a grave evil. The mistake that Kmiec has made, which is the same mistake that many pro-life Obama supporters are making, is to believe that Obama has any intention of following through as a matter of policy on his rhetoric of listening to all sides and building consensus.

On Media Interests

Glenn Greenwald challenges a prevalent narrative concerning the media.

Jessica Yellin admits that when she was a reporter for MSNBC, she experienced pressure from news executives to "to make sure that this was a war that was presented in a way that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation and the president's high approval ratings," and "to put on positive stories about the president."

The Anchoress questions media silence on the many gaffes of Senator Barack Obama. She asks, "Can you imagine how the press, the late-night talk shows, the Jon Stewart’s and Steven Colbert’s, the Bill Maher’s the Keith Olbermann’s, the Chris Matthews’, the women on The View, Saturday Night Live and the rest of the news and entertainment media would be reacting to the astounding mindlessness of Barack Obama, if only he had an R after his last name?"

My take: There is no such thing as the media or the interest of the media. The media is a plurality, its interests simple and complex, complementary and competitive. The aims of reporters are not always the designs of executives. Execs within the same network have divergent views and desires. Adjectives used to describe the media, such as liberal, corporate, drive-by, or mainstream may be revealing so far as they go, but they go only so far.

Critical Inconsistencies

Jay Anderson admonishes:
Let's be honest and cut to the chase: Those who decry pro-lifers for an alleged "culture war mentality" and who ask for tolerance and understanding and open dialogue when it comes to addressing those who are (so-called) "pro-choice" advocates NEVER extend the same courtesy to those on the "right" side of the political spectrum when they are seen as being on the wrong side of a moral issue. Be it the war, torture, the death penalty, the minimum wage, the environment, "neocons", free markets, you name it - these issues are treated as sacrosanct matters upon which there can be no legitimate difference of opinion. And the vitriol that is hurled at those who are on the "wrong" side of those debates, especially if they're politically conservative, never merits so much as a "Tsk, tsk" from the same people who will bend over backwards to mollycoddle those who support legalized abortion-on-demand, especially if those being mollycoddled are left-liberal Democrats who "are 'right' on all the other issues".
Never?

Thoughts for a Sunday

"Direct study of the universe there must be, but it will not be the whole of the mind's action or the best part of it. Any living activity will serve. There is, for example, an immense amount to be learned about being, and therefore about God if one knows how to apply it, merely by having a cold plunge on a winter morning."

[...]

"The truth is that no book or statement by someone else can tell us what man is. Only life can do that. Every person one meets can add to our knowledge of what man is, provided that we know how to learn."

- Frank Sheed, Theology and Sanity

Learning to Count, Religiously

Last Sunday at Mass, my son, who will turn two next month, looked at the San Damiano Cross positioned behind the altar and at the San Damiano Cross being carried with procession, pointed at the two crosses, and said, "Two Jesus."

Well, I thought it was cute.

While he knows some prepositions and the concept of three, somehow I think it's still too early to introduce the boy to Trinitarian theology.

Maybe next year.