Yes, two straight days of "Miscellaneous Rambling." Though perhaps I should've ran this one as "Autobiographical Reflections" . . . * * * * * * * When I first read Josef Pieper's Leisure, the Basis of Culture, I was sold on Pieper's argument: The modern world is a world of total work, where everything is devoted to labor. Even hours that aren't spent at the office are dedicated to some form of productive enterprise, and even those few hours that are set aside for strict relaxation have to be justified as "down time" to "recharge" for one's work. It's not a good thing since the best things come to those who have leisure, but it's the state I've found myself in for the past seven month and I can't break out. How does a wage earner put aside relentless labor without being disloyal to that primary vocation? Nearing age 50, I find myself with fewer and fewer answers to such fundamental questions. In this, I suspect I'm not alone for people my age. Maybe that's why "the highest suicide rate [is] among people 45 to 59 years old." * * * * * * * By the way, don't cry for me. I'm bummed out about this, but not remotely suicidal. Inclined to grab a bottle more often? Yes, but not suicidal, and even the bottle comes off the shelf only once or twice a week. I just keep waiting for this work pattern to "cycle out" and things will return to normal. Besides, my work requirements haven't exactly reached coolie levels. I'm still watching about two hours of TV per week (while I eat), take Sundays off completely, and even do a little bit of gardening (more on that later). * * * * * * * Maybe I need to heed that old Zen koan: “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.” * * * * * * * I really like paradox, which is the essence of the Zen koan, I believe. It's also the literary device that Chesterton is most known for. I wonder if there's a "Zen Chesterton" work out there. A few quick searches yielded nothing.
Back in the 1990s, I bought a lot of books from Eighth Day Books. I've always wanted to take a pilgimmage to that famed Wichita bookstore. In the meantime, I'll just enjoy Rod Dreher's description that I found last weekend:
I was reminded of something a conference attendee from Wichita told me about Warren and Chris Farha and their Eighth Day Books, which has been there for almost three decades, I believe. “If you go to the Orthodox cathedral here, just about any non-Lebanese person who is Orthodox is a convert who came into the church because of the work those two have done with the bookstore,” the conferee said. You can find lots of Orthodox books and icons at Eighth Day, but it’s not really an Orthodox bookstore. There are lots of Christian books there, but it’s not really a Christian bookstore. What it is is a place where people who love books can come and browse, and sit and talk, in a space that (as one aficionado puts it) “smells like a book store should smell.” Nobody’s trying to evangelize you there. If I were to wander into a place like that as an unbelieving twentysomething (as I once more or less was), I would be so drawn in by the eclecticism of the place. It is a place of wonder, by which I mean you go there, and start browsing the shelves, and getting the vibe, and you may find yourself wanting to know what kind of religious and cultural vision creates a place like this. If Tolkien or Lewis were to come back to life and live in Wichita, they would be found there. In fact, they are found there, in spirit.
My three oldest children and brother urged me to watch "Breaking Bad." They all love it. I've dedicated almost all of my TV-watching time to it over the past ten days and have squeezed in the first three episodes. I find it disagreeable. Very gory, a fair amount of sex, slow-moving plot. Great acting and some hilarious lines, yes, but overall, I give it a "4" out of ten. One of my sons tells me it gets better after episode four, but that strikes me as a replay of those (well-intended) people who tell me, "This Catholic retreat will be great, unlike the first three you attended that all absolutely sucked." I'm sorry, but after three tries, it's time to conclude that there are different strokes for different folks and this stroke ain't for me. I might give it another try, but I'm leaning against it. * * * * * * * If you hadn't heard about it, check out this story about Gordie Howe's amazing recovery from stroke . . . using adult stem cells. I heard about it on Catholic radio two weeks ago and then a TDE reader sent me the link. * * * * * * * Speaking of hockey, check out this amazing goal:
Another sports item: "Watch every shot of Klay Thompson's record-breaking 37-point quarter." Amazing performance. * * * * * * * I'm not much of a NBA fan, though if the Pistons are good, I start watching more. That hadn't been an issue this year because the Pistons started off 5-23. But then they got rid of one of their highest-paid players and went 12-3. A classic case of "addition by subtraction," though this weekend's loss of Brandon Jennings is really going to hurt. * * * * * * * And heck, as long as I'm on the topic of sports, check out this neat story about street-football in Harlem: The Carver Mobb.
This Pope has given me some pause, but the rabbit comment didn't bother me. I think he basically said what everyone (well, every informed Catholic) already knows: You can use NFP to help regulate the size of your family if you have legitimate reasons for using it. The "legitimate" reasons don't need to be compelling. They just have to be legitimately "good reasons" and not rationalizations.
Vatican on Francis' "rabbit" remark: "The Pope is truly sorry that it created such disorientation." More: http://t.co/AZtQPt5o4s
Corroborative evidence about the innate goodness of natural family planning:
"Men who find themselves in the company of fertile women are more likely to make creative attempts at sentence structure to signify their mating fitness, a study has found. Researchers discovered that when young men talk with a woman who is in the fertile period of her menstrual cycle, they react to small changes in her facial skin tone, vocal pitch and scent. The changes activate their mating goals and cause them to shift the way they speak." Link.
"The Lamps are Going Out." Pretty good piece by Theodore Dalrymple. Almost as an aside, he summarizes the socio-political problems with fiat money. There's a lot to think about packed into this passage:
Fiat money has accustomed governments to the idea that they can go on borrowing and spending money forever without ever having to pay it back. This alters their attitude to deficit spending, which is not as the occasion requires (as Keynes envisaged), but permanent, the way we live now. And it alters the whole character of the citizenry as well. For them prudence becomes foolishness and foolishness prudence; speculation is necessary for all who do not want to end up impoverished, and there can be no such thing as enough, even for those who are not greedy by nature, for money is no longer a store of value. More, more, more is necessary, if you want to keep what little you already have.
Brews You Can Use
There's been some pretty good BYCU material out there this year. If your garden, like mine, has volunteer borage all over the place, consider this: borage fizz. My youngest son, Max, really likes to cook. I might turn him loose on making borage syrup, I will then take over by adding the gin and drinking the drink. * * * * * * * For years I've wanted to read Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine. It strikes me as one of those books that will give me a good idea about what it was like to grow up in (much) simpler times. Alas, something else is always topping it in my attention index. Besides, who drinks dandelion wine anymore? * * * * * * * A few people, it turns out, and one Ohio winery is actually manufacturing it, using, an Ohio TDE reader tells me, Amish children as coolies to pick the dandelions. * * * * * * * In case you take that last phrase too seriously, the winery isn't forcing Amish kids into labor. The kids, I'm led to believe, like to pick the dandelions and sell them to the winery, the way urban kids search for returnable cans. Let's not call the Department of Labor on this one. * * * * * * * My oldest son, Alex, turned me onto Comedy Central's "Drunk History." It's pretty funny. The show is pretty simple: get a real historian real drunk, then have that person narrate an episode of history. I've only watched a few episodes, but it's one of those things I'd watch more often if I had time. You can find a decent sample here (PG content).
A Random Passage
This HLM passage cracked me up for some reason: "Once, in a Madrid café, the two of us encountered a Spanish marquis who wore celluloid cuffs, suffered from pediculosis and had been drunk for sixteen years." Teachout, ed., The Second Mencken Chrestomathy.
Great book, btw:
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.
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