Friday, September 29, 2006

Advice To A Prophet -- and the economics of use.

I've been finishing up Joseph Sittler's "The Care of the Earth." The book is really a collection of essays on literature and some reflections on church and society. One essay (which shares the title of the book) has this statement by Sittler who is discussing a poem by Richard Wilbur.

"The substance [of the poem] is this: annihilating power is in nervous and passionate hands. The stuff is really there to incinerate the earth-and the certainty that it will not be used is not there.
"Nor have we anodyne to hush it up or power to run away from it. We can go skiing with it, trot off to Bermuda with it, push it down under accelerated occupation with the daily round, pour bourbon over it, or say our prayers-each according to his tactic and disposition. But it goes along, survives, talks back

And then he quotes the poem: (Advice to a Prophet, Wilbur 1959)

"When you come, as you soon must,
to the streets of our city,
Mad-eyed from stating the obvious,
Not proclaiming our fall but begging us
In God's name to have self-pity,

Spare us all word of the weapons, their

force and range,
The long numbers that rocket the mind;
Our slow, unreckoning hearts will be left
Unable to fear what is too strange.

Nor shall you scare us with talk of the death
of the race.
How should we dream of this place without
The sun mere fire, the leaves untroubled
about us,
A stone look one the stone's face?

Speak of the world's own change. Though
we cannot conceive
Of an undreamt thing, we know to our cost
How the dreamt cloud crumbles, the vines
are blackened by frost,
How the view alters. We could believe,

If you told us so, that the white-tailed deer
will slip
Into perfect shade, grown perfectly shy,
The lark avoid the reaches of our eye,
The jack-pine loose its knuckled grip

On the cold ledge, and every torrent burn
As Xanthus once, its gliding trout
Stunned in a twinkling. What should we be
The dolphin's arc, the dove's return,

These things in which we have seen
ourselves and spoken?
Ask us, prophet, how we shall call
Our natures forth when that live tongue is
Dispelled, that glass obscured or broken,

In which we have said the rose of our

love and the clean
Horse of our courage, in which beheld
The singing locust of the soul unshelled,
And all we mean or wish to mean.

Ask us, ask us whether with the wordless
Our hearts shall fail us; come demanding
Whether there shall be lofty or long
When the bronze annals of the oak-tree
close. "

After this lengthy poem Sittler replies with his usual ability to relate literature to the real world:

"By sheer force of these lines my mind was pushed back against the wall and forced to ask: is there anything in our western religious tradition as diagnostically penetrating as that problem, as salvatory as that predicament?"

Sittler was an environmentalist -- and so was Richard Wilbur. Throughout his work, and especially in this poetic essay, Sittler is relating the environmental/ecological cause and the cause of usefulness to that of the cause of the Christian. We seek Redemption.

"God is useful. But not if he is sought for use. Ivan, in The Brothers Karamazov, saw that, and Dostoevski meant it as a witness to the holy and joy-begetting God whom he saw turned into an ecclesiastical club to frighten impoverished peasants with, when he had his character say, "I deny God for God's sake!

"All of this has, I think, something to say to us as teachers and students to whom this university is ever freshly available for enjoyment and use. For consider this: the basis of discovery is curiosity, and what is curiosity but the peculiar joy of the mind in its own given nature? Sheer curiosity, without immediate anticipation of ends and uses, has done most to envision new ends and fresh uses. But curiosity does this in virtue of a strange counterpoint of use and enjoyment. Bacon declared that "studies are for delight," the secular counterpart of "glorify God and enjoy him forever." The Creator who is the fountain of joy, and the creation which is the material of university study, are here brought together in an ultimate way. It is significant that the university, the institutional solidification of the fact that studies are for delight, is an idea and a creation of a culture that once affirmed that men should glorify God and enjoy him forever. Use is blessed when enjoyment is honored.

"Piety is deepest practicality, for it properly relates use and enjoyment. And a world sacramentally received in joy is a world sanely used. There is an economics of use only; it moves toward the destruction of both use and joy. And there is a economics of joy; it moves toward the intelligence of use and the enhancement of joy. That this vision involves a radical new understanding of the clean and fruitful earth is certainly so. But this vision, deeply religious in its genesis, is not so very absurd now that natural damnation is in orbit, and man's befouling of his ancient home has spread his death and dirt among the stars. "

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

John Berryman - Address To The Lord.

Master of beauty, craftsman of the snowflake,
inimitable contriver,
endower of Earth so gorgeous & different from the boring Moon,
thank you for such as it is my gift.

I have made up a morning prayer to you
containing with precision everything that most matters.
'According to Thy will' the thing begins.
It took me off & on two days. It does not aim at eloquence.

You have come to my rescue again & again
in my impassable, sometimes despairing years.
You have allowed my brilliant friends to destroy themselves
and I am still here, severely damaged, but functioning.

Unknowable, as I am unknown to my guinea pigs:
How can I 'love' you?
I only as far as gratitude & awe
confidently & absolutely go.

I have no idea whether we live again.
It doesn't seem likely
from either the scientific or the philosophical point of view
but certainly all things are possible to you,

and I believe as fixedly in the Resurrection-appearances to Peter and
to Paul

as I believe I sit in this blue chair.
Only that may have been a special case
to establish their initiatory faith.

Whatever your end may be, accept my amazement.
May I stand until death forever at attention
for any your least instruction or enlightenment.
I even feel sure you will assist me again, Master of insight & beauty.

The Kingdom of Heaven.

"Heaven," he went on, "lies hidden within all of us- here it lies hidden in me now, and if I will it, it will be revealed to me tomorrow and for all time."--The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky.

Each morning as I leave my apartment for work, I pass a man reading from the Koran while he sits on the third floor steps. He is praying the Fajr prayer, or the morning prayer. Even though I am of a different desert religion, I feel a special sense of reverence as I pass by him. Always, I tiptoe by, and try to go through without disturbing him from his prayer.

I have always had a great respect for those people who wake up early to pray or meditate and I admire their ability to do this before the day begins.

I don't seem to have this ability to be meditative for very long--prayer is not my strong point. Because of this seeming lack though, I take comfort in what Mother Teresa said, "If you give your life as a prayer you intensify the prayer beyond all measure." Maybe it's just because I'm young and impatient, but I feel that given the choice to be on my knees in prayer or on my feet in life---I'll choose the latter 9 times of 10.

My grandfather was sort of a hybrid of the two. He was one of the hardest working people I have ever met--a construction foreman and master carpenter until age 80. But I remember him outside at 4 am meditating or praying--starting his hard day off with a softness that made him seem invinceable to me.

So I strive for this life of prayer, whether it be a set aside time to myself, or a walk from the subway down 34th street all the while praising and thanking for this most blessed life.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

NY Times article on Chomsky

The Times had an article about the rise in Chomsky's booksales and included this sample of the text from Hegemony or Survival". Thought it might be useful.

"Those who want to face their responsibilities with a genuine commitment to democracy and freedom — even to decent survival — should recognize the barriers that stand in the way. In violent states these are not concealed. In more democratic societies barriers are more subtle. While methods differ sharply from more brutal to more free societies, the goals are in many ways similar: to ensure that the “great beast,” as Alexander Hamilton called the people, does not stray from its proper confines.

One can discern two trajectories in current history: one aiming toward hegemony, acting rationally within a lunatic doctrinal framework as it threatens survival; the other dedicated to the belief that “another world is possible,” in the words that animate the World Social Forum, challenging the reigning ideological system and seeking to create constructive alternatives of thought, action and institutions. Which trajectory will dominate, no one can foretell."

Friday, September 22, 2006

Seamus Heaney -- In Memoriam M.K.H., 1911-1984

   When all the others were away at Mass
I was all hers as we peeled potatoes.
They broke the silence, let fall one by one
Like solder weeping off the soldering iron:
Cold comforts set between us, things to share
Gleaming in a bucket of clean water.
And again let fall. Little pleasant splashes
From each other's work would bring us to our senses.

So while the parish priest at her bedside
Went hammer and tongs at the prayers for the dying
And some were responding and some crying
I remembered her head bent towards my head,
Her breath in mine, our fluent dipping knives--
Never closer the whole rest of our lives.


This is Sermon delivered a few years ago by Pr. Bruce Allen Heggen for Good Friday. I was reading it this morning and thought I'd like to share.

Sister and Brothers: Grace and Peace, from God who gives us life and longing, and from Jesus Christ, our Centre and our Saviour. Amen.

Andrew Greeley, a Roman Catholic Priest, Sociologist and novelist, speaks of the . . . . "God-haunted." He speaks, for instance, of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. "Amadeus": his name means "lover of God," or "beloved of God." Mozart’s music is music of utter bumptious rollicking creative unpretentious joy; it is the music of a playful heart that knows perhaps as much of perfection as is possible this side of paradise. It is music of confidence in the grace and glory of God. Yet as Mozart drew near the end of his short life, the mood of his music changed. Perhaps it began to reflect more honestly the reality he lived: his father’s loveless exploitation of his talent; the non-support of royal and religious patrons; his poverty; his marriage that was growing steadily more unhappy; his loss of health. At any rate, his cheer gave way to something both more melancholy and more profound. Greeley suggests that Mozart had begun to feel more painfully the discrepancy between the perfection he had almost touched in the music that poured forth from his spirit, and the daily heartbreak of his life in Salzburg; his music began to reflect the strange truth of one who senses himself to be a failure in anything that he thought mattered. His music is not despairing; only deeply, deeply sad: it became the music, Andrew Greeley writes, of "the God-haunted [who] think they are failures all the time.”

Johann Sebastian Bach is another composer with a sense of "God-hauntedness." We count his musical settings of the passion story according to Saints Matthew, Mark, and John among the greatest music ever composed. But Bach was not the only composer to write music for the text of the gospel for Passion Sunday and Good Friday. He lived in a time when it was customary, not to read these long chapters of the New Testament in worship; instead the parish music director composed new settings every year, and the choir sang them. Every parish music director: Bach was simply better than most. Still, there were musical conventions for composers to follow, and people in the congregation expected these conventions and looked for them. One convention was for the words of Jesus always to be accompanied by a string quartet. The string quartet was recognized as a sort of "musical halo" that indicated God’s divine presence around the human voice of Jesus. Bach followed the convention, of course: but he allowed his creative genius to change one thing. The words of Jesus from the cross are sung without accompaniment. The sacred string quartet is silent. When the soloist sings, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me," he has no support: he sings it alone. It is as though Bach wants us to recognize that at this moment Jesus, the one who came in blessing – Jesus, the presence of God in the world to heal and to save – Jesus, Immanuel, God with us, takes his place with all the God-forsaken: with the failures, the misbegotten, the disappointed, the ones who have had a taste of perfection once and then live in desolate reality – the God-haunted. It is as though the one who came to negotiate our release from the trap of human existence has himself gotten caught in the trap: and so he prays, alone on the cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" A cry of failure. But he is not alone: he is there in the company of all failures: the poor, the victims, everyone who lives without power: he is with the sick, with the dying, with everyone who grieves, with each prisoner on death row, with each who struggles for justice against enormous oppression and unthinkable odds, with the starving, with the loveless, with those terrified by unemployment, with the homeless, the estranged, the desolate. On the cross Jesus is no longer God in the world for these: now Jesus is here with us in hells of our own making and in the hells not of our making. He takes his place in a God-haunted world, haunted the more for those who once have had a touch of the presence of God and had a sense of what might have been. And he takes his place with us in this singularly God-haunted time: haunted the more because we have had a sense only a few years, or months, or even days ago, that things might take a different course, that a cup might be allowed to pass from us. What lies ahead? Who knows ...

But theologian Walter Brueggeman tells us that if there is any truth at all to the biblical account of the crucifixion and death and resurrection of Jesus, it must mean this: that in the darkest of times, there is something afoot in the darkness that the prince of darkness himself knows nothing about.

Jane Kenyon was a god-haunted poet. Racked most of her life by profound depression, she struggled some days simply to move from the bed where she hid under blankets to the living room sofa where she hid under other blankets. Her husband, Donald Hall, said, "She was unreachable." He could only wait with her and watch. One medication offered new promise; the promise failed. Another medication would give way to the same cycle. And yet she knew moments of respite from hell: in one of those moments a poem came, each word almost immediately in place. The poem was a gift from the Holy Spirit, she said, and she called it, "Let Evening Come:"

Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.
Let the cricket take up her chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn. Let evening come.
Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned

in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.
Let the fox go back to its sandy den.

Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.
To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop

in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come.
Let it come as it will, and don’t

be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.

I was aghast at noon today when I first heard of the Israeli tanks at Ramallah: is this the final showdown, the beginning of a darkness with no morning to hope for? We don’t know. But the last word of Jesus from the cross, St. John the evangelist tells us, was, "Into your hands I commend my spirit." The God-haunted, God-forsaken son of God abandoned himself to his only source of confidence: we can not do otherwise. Perhaps once again something is afoot in this darkness that no one, not even the prince of darkness knows about. Who knows? We only go like Frodo the Hobbit into Mordar, not certain of the outcome of the mission, certain only of the mission itself. On the journey we commend ourselves to God, and we rest.

Let evening come.. . . . Let evening come: to the Israeli and the Palestinian in Ramallah, to the Hindu and the Muslim in India, to the American and the Taliban in Afghanistan, let evening come. To the sick and to the dying, to the grieving and the desolate, let evening come. To the parched earth and to the orchard-keeper who waits for rain, to the starving and to those who have keys to the granaries, let evening come. Let evening come to the homeless and the jobless. And let evening come to those who celebrate new birth, and to the newly baptized. And to the composer with manuscript and pen, to the maker of music, to the singer, to the dancer, to the harpist at her strings, let evening come. And let evening come to the God-haunted ringer of bells who waits to herald the dawn:

Let it come as it will, and don’t
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.


Philip Larkin's "The Whitsun Weddings"

That Whitsun, I was late getting away:
Not till about
One-twenty on the sunlit Saturday
Did my three-quarters-empty train pull out,
All windows down, all cushions hot, all sense
Of being in a hurry gone. We ran
Behind the backs of houses, crossed a street
Of blinding windscreens, smelt the fish-dock; thence
The river's level drifting breadth began,
Where sky and Lincolnshire and water meet.

All afternoon, through the tall heat that slept
For miles inland,
A slow and stopping curve southwards we kept.
Wide farms went by, short-shadowed cattle, and
Canals with floatings of industrial froth;
A hothouse flashed uniquely: hedges dipped
And rose: and now and then a smell of grass
Displaced the reek of buttoned carriage-cloth
Until the next town, new and nondescript,
Approached with acres of dismantled cars.

At first, I didn't notice what a noise
The weddings made
Each station that we stopped at: sun destroys
The interest of what's happening in the shade,
And down the long cool platforms whoops and skirls
I took for porters larking with the mails,
And went on reading. Once we started, though,
We passed them, grinning and pomaded, girls
In parodies of fashion, heels and veils,
All posed irresolutely, watching us go,

As if out on the end of an event
Waving goodbye
To something that survived it. Struck, I leant
More promptly out next time, more curiously,
And saw it all again in different terms:
The fathers with broad belts under their suits
And seamy foreheads; mothers loud and fat;
An uncle shouting smut; and then the perms,
The nylon gloves and jewellery-substitutes,
The lemons, mauves, and olive-ochres that

Marked off the girls unreally from the rest.
Yes, from cafés
And banquet-halls up yards, and bunting-dressed
Coach-party annexes, the wedding-days
Were coming to an end. All down the line
Fresh couples climbed aboard: the rest stood round;
The last confetti and advice were thrown,
And, as we moved, each face seemed to define
Just what it saw departing: children frowned
At something dull; fathers had never known

Success so huge and wholly farcical;
The women shared
The secret like a happy funeral;
While girls, gripping their handbags tighter, stared
At a religious wounding. Free at last,
And loaded with the sum of all they saw,
We hurried towards London, shuffling gouts of steam.
Now fields were building-plots, and poplars cast
Long shadows over major roads, and for
Some fifty minutes, that in time would seem

Just long enough to settle hats and say
I nearly died,
A dozen marriages got under way.
They watched the landscape, sitting side by side
- An Odeon went past, a cooling tower, And
someone running up to bowl - and none
Thought of the others they would never meet
Or how their lives would all contain this hour.
I thought of London spread out in the sun,
Its postal districts packed like squares of wheat:

There we were aimed. And as we raced across
Bright knots of rail
Past standing Pullmans, walls of blackened moss
Came close, and it was nearly done, this frail
Travelling coincidence; and what it held
stood ready to be loosed with all the power
That being changed can give. We slowed again,
And as the tightened brakes took hold, there swelled
A sense of falling, like an arrow-shower
Sent out of sight, somewhere becoming rain.

Joseph Sittler "The Care of the Earth"

"God wants people to know the joy and fullness of life in himself--and this joy and fullness is not unrelated to food and health and work to do. And justice, above all." -- from How to read a parable.

Sittler writes this chapter while discussing Luke's story of a great dinner banquet. The invitations have been sent out to the elite, the really successful people--and now the meal is ready--But no one is coming. They all have changed their minds and have something more important to do. One has bought a new field, one has a new wife, one has new cattle and must inspect them. When the rich man who sent out the invitations finds out about their decisions not to come, he commands his servants to go into the streets and fields and "bring in the poor and maimed and blind and lame." But there is still room in the banquet for more. So the master of the house says to his servants, "Go out into the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled."

"If there be a Lord, and if he has requirements of people, and his table of freedom-in-love for the salvation of them involves the earthly needs of their common humanity, then there is a theology of history. And if there is such a structured power and meaning and purpose, then the preoccupations of human history (fields and cattle and wives in marriage) can indeed advance or retard God's purpose for his human family. But they cannot obliterate or change it.
"And more! This parable suggests to us that the first and most natural children of this knowledge of the purpose of God are often the first to deny or evade it. " How to read a parable

Sittler comes to the conclusion that the "punchline" in this parable is at the very end. "God wills many things," he says, "but not just many things in a general heap. There is an order in his will, a priority in his purpose."

"But this story makes very clear that there s a steady growl of anger at the heart of the holy, that the love of God for his human family has a hard and resolute intention. What that is, and certainty about God's will to see it through, comes out in the phrase , '...that my house may be filled.' Not our house, but his house; not according to our specifications, but according to his will; not according to our preferences, but in ways appropriate to the awesome carelousness of his love."

Thursday, September 21, 2006

From T.S. Eliot 's The Wasteland (ll 19-30)

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.


Joshua at Theologoumenon posted these two quotes from Moltmann and Barth:

“The cross of the Son divides God from God to the utmost degree of enmity and distinction”

Jürgen Moltmann, The Crucified God, pg. 152 (originally published in 1972ish)

“But at this point what is meant to be supreme praise of God can in fact become supreme blasphemy. God gives Himself, but he does not give up being God in becoming creature, in becoming man. He does not cease to be God. He does not come into conflict with Himself…A God who found himself in contradiction can obviously only be the image of our own unreconciled humanity projected into deity.”

Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics IV.1, 185-186 (published in 1953)

I look at Moltmann's quote as not so much a comment on Trinitarian thought (or his variation of Trinitarian thought), but about the perspective of Christ. In a sense, Christ was not God. He was man. This is what the cross represents--for death does not come to God.
But at the same time, it is difficult to get away from what Barth says in the end of the quote-"A God who found himself in contradiction can obviously only be the image of our own unreconciled humanity projected into deity.” Maybe by taking Christ as man, we are fashioning a man out of a God, but by seeing the cross as a fissure, as Moltmann does here, we are fashioning God out of a man. Isn't this what Christ is?

I think this discussion goes very well with
yesterday's quote by Moltmann. The cross of Christ, the Crucified God--sets a barrier, changes the viewpoint and brings God down to earth (but in the end raises him up) to his people, of whom he is one.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Alliances with the powerless...

"In a civilization that glorifies success and happiness and is blind for the suffering of others, people’s eyes may be opened to the truth, if they remember that at the center of the Christian Faith stands the assailed, tormented Christ, dying in forsakenness. The recollection that God raised the Crucified one and made him the “Hope of the world” must lead churches to break their alliances with the powerful and enter into solidarity with the humiliated."
—Jürgen Moltmann

Like Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus, we have scales over our eyes. We are all in need of having those removed--in need of our eyes being opened to the truth. In Moltmann's imagery, we must remember a horrific scene--Christ on the Cross--what Moltmann calls the "center of the Christian Faith." That image, Christ dying in forsakeness--should help us remember that Christ was no earthly king, he was not a powerful person. He was one of the humiliated, those (of which all of us come from, but some of us forget) whom Christ lived among and lived for. Christ's ressurection is our Hope--the Church must not forget the powerless and the humiliated.

This Christ-centered viewpoint has always appealed to me. When the Church loses Christ as its center and replaces him with anything (scripture, a minister, a on), we fail. Like Christ we must live in solidarity with the other.

Martin Luther to the Diet of Worms

"Unless I am convinced by Scripture and by plain reason and not by Popes and councils who have so often contradicted themselves, my conscience is captive to the word of God. To go against conscience is neither right nor safe. I cannot and I will not recant. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me."

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Robert Frost -- The Oven Bird

There is a singer everyone has heard,
Loud, a mid-summer and a mid-wood bird,
Who makes the solid tree trunks sound again.
He says that leaves are old and that for flowers
Mid-summer is to spring as one to ten.
He says the early petal-fall is past
When pear and cherry bloom went down in showers
On sunny days a moment overcast;
And comes that other fall we name the fall.
He says the highway dust is over all.
The bird would cease and be as other birds
But that he knows in singing not to sing.
The question that he frames in all but words
Is what to make of a diminished thing.

S'il n' existait pas Dieu, il faudrait l'inventer.

I've been reading the Brothers Karamazov again and this section of text keeps coming back to me. It brings to mind Jurgen Moltmann's Christology and Dietrich Bonhoeffer's life when I read this. The essence of Christianity is hope. But hope and doubt go hand in hand. One cannot be human without doubt. I feel alot like Ivan lately. Doubtful, but full of Hope.

One cannot help but notice this trend in the church today of leaning a little too much on the everlasting arms--we see evangelicals ignoring the world around them and focusing on the end. But, one thing that doubt enables us to do is to make this statement: "I don't understand God." And with this the ability to exist in the present--live a life of Hope and change.

Ivan to Alyosha-- "And I advise you never to think about it either, my dearAlyosha, especially about God, whether He exists or not. All such questions are utterly inappropriate for a mind created with an idea ofonly three dimensions. And so I accept God and am glad to, andwhat's more, I accept His wisdom, His purpose which are utterly beyond our ken; I believe in the underlying order and the meaning of life;I believe in the eternal harmony in which they say we shall one day be blended. I believe in the Word to Which the universe is striving, and Which Itself was 'with God,' and Which Itself is God and so on, and so on, to infinity. There are all sorts of phrases for it. I seem to be on the right path, don't I'? Yet would you believe it, in the final result I don't accept this world of God's, and, although I know it exists, I don't accept it at all. It's not that I don't accept God, you must understand, it's the world created by Him I don't and cannot accept. Let me make it plain. I believe like a child that suffering will be healed and made up for, that all the humiliating absurdity of human contradictions will vanish like a pitiful mirage, like the despicable fabrication of the impotent and infinitely small Euclidian mind of man, that in the world's finale, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice for all hearts, for the comforting of all resentments, for the atonement of all the crimes of humanity, of all the blood they've shed; that it will make it not only possible to forgive but to justify all that has happened with men- but thought all that may come to pass, I don't accept it. I won't accept it. Even if parallel lines do meet and I see it myself, I shall see it and say that they've met, but still I won't accept it. That's what's at the root of me, Alyosha; that's my creed. I am in earnest in what I say."


I wish to make the point that the majority of Americans are a lazy and easily fooled lot. And I wish to make this point by refering to last nights riot protest in Budapest, Hungary. Why the people of a small European country can take to the streets and demand their president resign after he admitted to lying and we Americans can't even get out bed on a Saturday to protest an unjust war or a president who is becoming more and more full of himself and power hungry, is beyond me.

We are a country made from Patriots and great rebel rousers. What happened?
French intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy, in his newest book, American Vertigo, says he "set out to uncover America’s crisis of identity. The most powerful country in the world does not know what it is, it feels itself in a deep trauma, a deep neurosis." Says an interview in New York Magazine, his conclusion is that America is a curious sort of empire—not like Rome at its zenith or decline—with a particular character of individualism that he hopes will cause the country to do the good it could do in the world. He’s disappointed that we aren’t living up to our noblesse oblige responsibilities. “The reason I am so angry against neoconservatives is that they spoiled the very idea of intervention,” says the self-described Wilsonian. And he’s flabbergasted that the American left can be so accommodating to the puritanism of the right.

I wish we would wake up.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Iran and Venezuala.

I'll leave off tonight with this picture from the NYTimes today. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela before the Iranian President headed to New York for meeting at the UN. (Which, by the way, traffic was in gridlock--thank goodness I use the subway) Solidarity!.....?
Also, the title of my blog, "A purpose more obscure", is from a Philip Larkin peom--Church Going

Church Going

Once I am sure there's nothing going on
I step inside, letting the door thud shut.
Another church: matting, seats, and stone,
And little books; sprawlings of flowers, cut
For Sunday, brownish now; some brass and stuff
Up at the holy end; the small neat organ;
And a tense, musty, unignorable silence,
Brewed God knows how long. Hatless, I take off
My cycle-clips in awkward reverence,

Move forward, run my hand around the font.
From where I stand, the roof looks almost new-
Cleaned or restored? Someone would know: I don't.
Mounting the lectern, I peruse a few
Hectoring large-scale verses, and pronounce
"Here endeth" much more loudly than I'd meant.
The echoes snigger briefly. Back at the door
I sign the book, donate an Irish sixpence,
Reflect the place was not worth stopping for.

Yet stop I did: in fact I often do,
And always end much at a loss like this,
Wondering what to look for; wondering, too,
When churches fall completely out of use
What we shall turn them into, if we shall keep
A few cathedrals chronically on show,
Their parchment, plate, and pyx in locked cases,
And let the rest rent-free to rain and sheep.
Shall we avoid them as unlucky places?

Or, after dark, will dubious women come
To make their children touch a particular stone;
Pick simples for a cancer; or on some
Advised night see walking a dead one?
Power of some sort or other will go on
In games, in riddles, seemingly at random;
But superstition, like belief, must die,
And what remains when disbelief has gone?
Grass, weedy pavement, brambles, buttress, sky,

A shape less recognizable each week,
A purpose more obscure. I wonder who
Will be the last, the very last, to seek
This place for what it was; one of the crew
That tap and jot and know what rood-lofts were?
Some ruin-bibber, randy for antique,
Or Christmas-addict, counting on a whiff
Of gown-and-bands and organ-pipes and myrrh?
Or will he be my representative,

Bored, uninformed, knowing the ghostly silt
Dispersed, yet tending to this cross of ground
Through suburb scrub because it held unspilt
So long and equably what since is found
Only in separation - marriage, and birth,
And death, and thoughts of these - for whom was built
This special shell? For, though I've no idea
What this accoutred frowsty barn is worth,
It pleases me to stand in silence here;

A serious house on serious earth it is,
In whose blent air all our compulsions meet,
Are recognised, and robed as destinies.
And that much never can be obsolete,
Since someone will forever be surprising
A hunger in himself to be more serious,
And gravitating with it to this ground,
Which, he once heard, was proper to grow wise in,
If only that so many dead lie round.

Islam, the Pope and anger.

I know we've all heard about this by now, but I can't help but wonder why two of the world's major religions (both have aspoused violence at one time or another) can't coexist. But that brings me to a point I'd like to hear from you about. My thoughts seem to always be different when thinking about Islam. Is it possible for it to be patient, loving, and slow to anger---and for that matter, can Christianity be either?

New Blog

Hi there. I started this blog today, Monday September the 19th. I'll be working things out for a week or so before I start updating daily. Most of my posts will deal with existential thoughts--ramblings on theology, poetry, religion, politics and literature. I'm excited to throw my hat into the ring and hope to make a few new friends along the way. Talk to you soon.--Andrew