The skies around Alpena were incessantly filled with the buzz of fighter jets, presumably coming from the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center. I've been vacationing in the same spot for 48 years and I never recall hearing so much activity, even in the summers leading up to the Iraqi wars. An occasional jet, yes, but these were multiple jets and incessant. I asked locals about it, and they confirmed that it's never been this bad before. Combine this with Madeleine Albright's observation yesterday, "To put it mildly, the world is a mess." You can reach your own speculative conclusions, but I'm concerned, especially since I lean far more heavily toward the peace position of our recent Popes than I did, say, 15 years ago. * * * * * * * Notwithstanding my moral objections to war, I support our troops. They're no more to blame for the wars than I am, and they're the ones bearing the brunt of the violence (heck, I'm not even inconvenienced by the fighting and, I suspect, my standard of living is higher because of it). That's why I think this commercial is pretty neat (even thought I detest Guinness). * * * * * * * Interesting health development: My knees have been bothering me for the past year or so, especially walking down steps. The mild pain had gotten so routine, I was used to stepping down gingerly and expecting pain. Then while on vacation, I attended three Masses and none of my spots had kneelers, so I had to kneel on the floor. It was uncomfortable, but I noticed right after kneeling that my knee pain disappeared and going down steps didn't bother me much at all. I'm now not using kneelers at church and am kneeling at home on days I don't go to church. I'll see if my knees continue to improve, though I can't imagine why a practice that would seem to damage my knees is, instead, helping them. * * * * * * * Coming up: Sales-Tax-Free Weekends. Go here to get details and see if your state participates (Michigan doesn't).
I returned from my final vacation of the year. This was our annual excursion to Alpena, Michigan.
Northern Michigan is one of the prettiest places on the planet during the summer and, though Alpena doesn't have all the natural beauty of the Lake Michigan coast and it's partly marred by industry, it's still a pretty place with two rivers winding through it and Lake Huron resting all along its east side. One of my sons has referred to it as a "paradise . . . three months out of the year."
President Barack Obama has blasted American multinationals that move to Ireland to cut their tax bill.
In his toughest comments yet on the subject, he accused big US corporations of trying to play “the system” by “magically becoming Irish” through so-called tax inversion deals.
“I don't care if it's legal, it's wrong,” Mr Obama said. “It sticks you for the tab to make up for what they're stashing offshore.”
Here's Judge Learned Hand (probably the most-influential jurist in U.S. history among judges who never made it to the Supreme Court) on the subject:
Over and over again courts have said that there is nothing sinister in so arranging one's affairs as to keep taxes as low as possible. Everybody does so, rich or poor; and all do right, for nobody owes any public duty to pay more than the law demands: taxes are enforced exactions, not voluntary contributions. To demand more in the name of morals is mere cant.
I read the Hand quote back in law school. Apparently, they don't teach such things at Harvard Law School.
Even though I converted in 1991, which, I think, was the height of Mother Angelica's popularity, I never listened to her. Partly, it's because I rarely watched any TV back then, but partly out of arrogance. Mother Angelica, I vaguely felt, was for the Catholic pedestrians.
Anyway, I regret that attitude now. I have taken to listening to her old shows on my iPhone. And, even though she's not a highfalutin thinker, she was clearly a wise and intelligent nun, with much to offer any person who sits on the wrong side of sainthood.
I've enjoyed her enough to purchase Raymond Arroyo's biography of her. I primarily bought it because I wanted to read about the founding and building of EWTN, but reading about Mother Angelica's hard early life has proven interesting.
And occasionally entertaining, like this passage about her when she was age six or so:
Prohibition, which hit Canton on January 16, 1920, and would not be repealed until February 1933. Mother Angelica vividly recalled one event that happened in either 1929 or 1930. “I couldn’t have been more than four or five, and my grandfather didn’t want me in the saloon. He gave me a small mug of beer with a big collar on it. I had four or five pretzels, and he said, ‘Go outside and sit on the curb and enjoy yourself.’ So I’m out there on the curb drinking this beer and eating pretzels when the Salvation Army Band shows up. Well, they’re praying all kinds of psalms in front of me and praying for my salvation. They must have been shocked to see this kid drinking beer. I remember yelling up to my grandfather, ‘There’s a big band down here.
From the Gardening Journals
"[L]et us cultivate our garden." That's how Voltaire ends his novella, Candide. It's great advice. It's one of smallness and resignation.
But academics argue that, instead of a peaceful resignation, Voltaire was instead using "gardening" as a metaphor for improving the world.
That kind of interpretation strikes me as absurd, but I'm no Voltaire scholar, nor do I want to be. I mean, heck, the guy supposedly once engaged in anal intercourse with another guy in order to see what it was like. When his partner eagerly suggested later that they do it again, Voltaire declined, saying, "Once, a philosopher. Twice, a sodomite."
That line is pretty funny, but the background hugely gross, hence my lack of eagerness to study Voltaire and form an educated opinion about whether Candide suggested that people cultivate their garden literally or "cultivate the garden of the world" (metaphorically). Though it seems worth nothing that Voltaire himself was, literally, a gardener.
I've adopted the literal meaning of Candide's words. The world hasn't been cruel to me like it was to Candide. Far from it. But I'm increasingly living in a world that makes no sense to me, and I'm done trying to figure it out.
Political discourse rarely interests me. Hollywood gossip bores me. Sporting events hold my attention as well as any pop culture occasion, but when I see the monstrosity that has become athletics, the entire arena baffles me, prompting me to go into shutdown mode, unable to muster much excitement. New technology is awfully cool, but the constant tinkering of the Apple nerds frustrates me. The stock market has become a fool's game that no one can figure out, with strong evidence that it's rigged ("flash crash" What the hell!?). Popular economics is driven by belief that printing money produces prosperity, yet not a single popular journalist asks the obvious question: "Then why don't we print a bunch of money and eliminate poverty?" Newspapers can't be trusted: Whether they're covering up for Tiger Woods or neglecting to ask basic questions about Manti Te'o or engaging in gross misconduct (the apple alar scare) or simply regurgitating what they've heard or publishing articles written by a 24-year-old with an attitude, it's almost all junk and can't be trusted.
Then there's the garden. My plot of land, my efforts, my food. I can touch it, I can pick it, I can trust it. I can't touch my money in a mutual fund statement, and I can't even get it without giving 72 hours notice, and I can't even know for sure that it's there. Just ask the Madoff investors.
In the garden, I am reduced to my proper size. I can sense (touch, see, smell) as much as is proper to my station in life as a man: a single unit in a large world that escapes my grasp.
"Let us cultivate our gardens." Wise words indeed, even if spoken by a borderline sodomite.
Background: When I was the editor of Gilbert Magazine, I was responsible for the "Tremendous Trifles" column. It was occasionally hard to find a sufficient amount of interesting GKC material to fill the page, so John Peterson sent me a file full of Chesterton ancedotes. They were idiosyncratic, historical, and Chestertonian. He gave me permission to use them here. I hope y'all find them as interesting as I have over the years. Most of them have never been published.
In a letter dated August 4, 1928, the Irish playwright Sean O'Casey mentioned the manuscript of a play written by G.K. Chesterton, with the title Tragic Women. According to O'Casey the play was written as a joke for some outfit called the Beaconsfield Club. The manuscript is undoubtedly lost or it would have landed in the nets of Denis Conlin, whose tireless research has provided the Chesterton Quarterly and The Collected Works with so many similarly obscure Chesterton writings. [The Letters of Sean O'Casey, 1910--41, New York: Macmillan, 1975, p. 302]
Edward Snowden is back with yet another spying scandal. In a new interview, Snowden revealed that NSA employees regularly pass around nude pictures of people they spy on. It got even weirder when German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, "So, vat do you think?"
Kontent from the Kindle
I was pleased to see an Oscar Wilde crack the Top 25 of most-highlighted passages on Kindle. Here's the passage: "I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their good characters, and my enemies for their good intellects." The Picture of Dorian Gray.
I realize it's not exactly an edifying passage, and it was written well before Wilde's deathbed conversion to Catholicism, but when you consider that 19 of the remaining Top 25 highlighted passage come from The Hunger Games series, it was good to see Wilde sneak into the Number 25 slot. * * * * * * * Number Two, incidentally, comes from Jane Austen. You can probably guess what it is: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." But I attribute the popularity of that passage to Keira Knightley more than a love for the classics. * * * * * * * Opening line from a spoof of the Austen classic: "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains." Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
From the Notebooks
“Our lives as philosophers cannot be radically divorced from what we do when we are not doing philosophy.” Gerard Casey.
Indeed, I have heard the same thing said about theologians: theologians must be saints.
Nassim Taleb makes a similar point in Antifragile when he writes, “Never listen to a leftist who does not give away his fortune or does not live the exact lifestyle he wants others to follow. . . . It is not too different from the womanizing popes, such as John XII, or the Borgias.”
“Saints,” Taleb points out in the same passage, “have soul in their game.”
Amen to that. Quite frankly, if you don’t have your own house in order, you have no business suggesting, much less requiring, people to put their own house in order or how to go about doing it.
If our voting electorate applied such premises to their elected representatives, our country would leap forward in virtue. It’s fitting that the NFL be filled with reprobates and criminals. It is, after all, a game of violence. But for our statesmen to be rogues, such as the rogues that fill the Congress? Truly disturbing.
Unless, of course, government action is violence, in which case it’d made sense that rogues run the government, just as rogues run the football field.
And there, I fear, we really put our finger on the crux of today’s political problem. Government has grown to a size that makes everything it does tinged with the touch of violence, with the result that we just expect rogues to run that field.
A Random Passage
"In the hall outside the Rothschild offices in nineteenth-century Paris, it was claimed that a man took off his hat when the Baron de Rothschild's chamber pot went past. Prestige can have that kind of effect on people." Joseph Epstein, Snobbery.
Body and Soul
"Bodies are mutually attracted by nearness, knowledge, and pleasure but souls by distance, mystery, and suffering."
Such thinking could trend into Cartesian dualism, which undermines the sacramental nature of existence, but it's always important to reassert that the soul and body are not the same. They're friends. They're even allies . . . in the war against the flesh and the devil. But the body is the weaker ally, so it's important to nourish the soul so it can do its job of strengthening the person.
It's interesting to think about what KL's words imply about modern forms of "worship," which emphasize nearness ("come together and hold hands"), knowledge ("make sure everything is 100% accessible to the average guy in the pew"), and pleasure ("we must entertain the congregation and make it more fun").
Even though both Israel and Hamas fired on one another during the five-hour humanitarian period yesterday, the U.N. secretary general said both sides "mostly respected" the cease-fire. That's like leaving the house without pants and saying you're "mostly dressed."
Catholic Men's Quarterly, a one-of-a-kind general interest men's magazine written by Catholic men for Catholic men. Makes a great Father's Day gift.
"The Daily Eudemon is the sort of thing
that Chesterton or Mencken would be doing, if they were
alive today. It's what, in saner times, was called journalism.
In the writing and in the reading, it's exactly the sort
of leisure we should want at the basis of culture."Mike
Aquilina, Author of The Fathers of the Church
and TV Talk Show Host.
Catholicism-urbane, witty, engaged-is alive and well!
If you can read, you should be reading The Daily Eudemon!"David
Scott, author of A Revolution of Love: The Meaning
of Mother Teresa
you like your blogs pithy, nimble, pointed, high-spirited,
and waggish, then bookmmark Eric Scheske's The Daily
Eudemon. Ooops! You want prolixity, density, meandering,
dull, and sober? Then run (do not walk!) to the blogs
of the major news outlets. They have just what you want.
Honestly they do." John
Peterson, Editor, G.K. Chesterton: Collected Works,
Volumes 12 and 13.
Scheske's web site is full of information and insight.
Always worth a read."James
V. Schall, Author of Another Sort of Learning.