Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Gods of Independence

Caveat Lector: vulgar language.

It gets harder and harder to be emotional about my country. I mean, all the patriotic drivel gets old, and I can only hold on to the nostalgia for so long. "God shed His grace on thee..." Seriously, how presumptuous can you get? Twice the whole lawn stood up for some old people playing dress up and carrying flags. I felt like an Irishman asked to stand for the Union Jack when the civil war reenactors marched up. So I stayed sitting. Think about it, what if a Eucharistic procession came through there. How many people would drop on their knees? Yet we'll stand out of respect for a flag that symbolizes... what exactly? Freedom, I guess... yeah, horse shit.

And then they played a song with lyrics about how good it is to be American, and serve America, and share your blessings (a clever euphemism for dropping bombs on civilians) and how when the writer died, he hoped they said of him he gave his best to America, or some such tripe.

Sure, share your blessings, but only if they don't go "boom!" Serve God, and pray that when you die, people say "he loved greatly" and then proceed to pray your soul through purgatory as fast as they can. That's what I want said of and done for me. I wouldn't give two Centimes for the sentiments in that song.

It strikes me that America is just a replacement for the Church. The president is the Pope, and Abraham Lincoln was Jesus, the founding fathers were the patriarchs. It's sick, but we are happy this way. So we continue to worship the gods of independence, we stand for their banner and cry at their hymns, and we kill in their name, and our crusades are good, because, you know, it is for us the living.... Because we are the people chosen by God to... I don't know, be... America... fuck yeah.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Reflections on Intelligence and Emotion

The speaker at Frassati last night, sort of in passing, mentioned that girls are usually smarter than men give them credit for, because girls tend to react with emotion and that confuses men who over time begin to assume the girl isn't as intelligent.

It is interesting to note that just because men react to a situation with pragmatism and reason does not mean they are devoid of emotion. We are not cold, heartless bastards, we are merely more inclined to analyze a situation than feel about it.

If not taken to an extreme, these traits are not faults. Over-emotionalism and over-analysis both create problems in human interaction, but the default first reaction, if moderate and devoid neither of thought nor of care, is a good way in which men and women counterpoint (it's a verb, I say so) one another.

Violence as Pornography

It occurs to me that relations are sometimes symmetric. Sometime after this post, while I was watching the film Crank, I realized that violence can be pornographic, and I don't mean in the sense of a strange fetish. Of course this has been said before, and may be nothing new to you. It was new to me, to really understand what was meant by the phrase. The stripping away of all meaning, of any spiritual dimension, from death and gore and reducing them to mere spectacles of animal behavior. There is no redemption, there is no Charity, there is only hatred and blackness. It is as if they are trying to undo the St. John's Gospel.

In other news, this is going to be a shitty day, hence why I'm posting reflections on sin when I should be reading header files. I need a break. And prayers, those are good, too.

Ab hoste maligno, defende me.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Joy of the Cross

The following piece appeared in The Catholic Moment, the newspaper of the Diocese of Lafayette in Indiana.

As Lent draws to a close, the beauty of these early spring days may hide the sorrow that we are celebrating. Yes, we are celebrating sorrow; we are rejoicing in suffering and burning in love.

There is a song by the band Shinedown called “Walk Through Fire.” The song, as far as I know, is not meant to have a Christian message, but I have always been struck by the lyric, “I dare you to tell me to walk through fire.” Whenever I hear this song, my mind fills with images of Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael as they walk about in the Babylonian furnaces, and of the poor souls being purified in the fires of purgatory, and of the martyrs who walked through fire and blood, and in the midst of this my Lenten penance seems so small, so insignificant. I am not burning in flames, nor swimming in blood; I suffer only the papercuts that I choose for myself. They remind me of my weakness, and in the midst of Lent they sting, but only a little. Is it enough?

Lenten penance is not about giving up chocolate because we have to (though often it may feel that way). It is not about making ourselves better people through our efforts and self-denial. We do penance, we engage in voluntary suffering, we endure the papercuts, so that in some small way we may unite ourselves to the suffering of Our Blessed Lord on the Cross, for it is in this way, by uniting ourselves to the sufferings of the crucified Christ, that we hope to share also in the glory of the risen Christ.

As Easter draws near we anticipate the glory of Christ risen. We anxiously await the splendor of his triumph. Until then we may experience the joy and consolation of looking forward to the resurrection. Even in suffering, indeed perhaps especially in suffering, we find joy in drawing closer to Him Whom we love, Who first loved us.

This season of Lent is not merely a pause in our worldly lives, though so often it becomes no more than that (if we even do pause at all). It is also a reminder of what our entire life on this earth is, as strangers and sojourners, a season of sorrow, trial, and loving sacrifice marked by the joy of hope. As we celebrate this Easter season, let us look forward with hope to the glory of the Resurrection, but let us never forget our Lenten life.

We may not die martyrs, but we can die to ourselves each day, even when the priest is not wearing violet. We can love, and sacrifice ourselves in love and for Love. In these little martyrdoms we make our way forward, striving for holiness, begging for purification, sharing in the fire and the blood.

Rejoice in the glory of Easter, for therein we find a small taste of the glory to come. Rejoice in the sacrifice of the Mass, for here we encounter heaven on earth. Remember always that we are strangers and sojourners in this land, and in this life let us struggle, each in our own small way, to become holy. Let us dare to walk through fire.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

No, We Can't

A conversation today raised the topic of asking forgiveness versus asking permission. The old proposition "it is easier to ask forgiveness than permission" was trotted out in defense of preventive action by the state, the situation under consideration being Child Protective Services in general and the incident with the FLDS kids back in 2008 in particular. This logic encompasses also the preemptive military strike, for if the primary consideration is, "bad might happen, let us do bad first," then as Rodion Romanovich might say, "all is permitted."

I say, however, that this is exactly the wrong attitude for government to have. I say that, insofar as our Constitution has value, it's value is in telling the government that it can't do anything without permission. I say, therefore, that the operative principle of our government ought to be, "no, we can't." To say that it is easier to ask forgiveness than for permission is the defense of one who wishes to do that which violates another's rights. Indeed, the moment that we pass from this default response (no we can't) to the other (it is easier to ask forgiveness than for permission) we have passed from freedom to tyranny.

Can you take children away from their parents without evidence of a crime and due process of law?

No, we can't.

Can you fight a war against a nation that, as a nation, offers no possible danger to your country?

No, we can't.

Can you take money from citizens at the point of a gun in order to give it over to those things that are intrinsically evil?

No, we can't.

Can you take money from citizens at the point of a gun in order to better kill women and children in foreign countries because they are foreigners, and "hate America"? (Let me ask you, if a foreign nation, say Russia, had predator drones dropping bombs on American civilians in the name of killing some Americans that killed their citizens, would you hate Russia? Damn right you would. Just sayin'.)

No, we can't.

Imagine a world where "Yes, we can," is forgotten, a world where the government's default respons to a question is, "No, we can't do that, Dave."

I like saying no, so I'll volunteer for that job. I'll vet any proposed legislation before it comes before congress. I'll sit there with a copy of the constitution in my hand, and if the constitution doesn't say they can do it, I'll send that proposition back with "No, we can't!" written in bright, red ink, because I don't give a rat's chocolate-covered hindquarters whether people who want the government to butt in have high self esteem or not.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Something New

I've started a new project. There is still some work to do on the sight, but I've at least been adding content. It's a story blog, a place where I can focus on more literary and less random, philosophical, religious, political pursuits. I will still keep this one going, at least until I run out of things to say (probably never) or find a way to say everything through short fiction (still not likely).

Check it out. Crosses and Cradles is the blog, and the most recent posting is inspired a little bit by the story of Benedict and Scholastica: Prayers Without Words. I hope you like it.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

You Are not as Strong as You Think You Are

'Tis the off-season for battle, or so it seems. Perhaps I am merely weakened too much to fight, and don't know it. Maybe I'm just being a REMF.

Remember, if you go toe to toe with the evil one, he will beat you every time. You think you're strong; you think you're cunning; you think you're wise; he is stronger, more cunning, and his deceit will match your wisdom and more.

When it all comes crashing down, what will you do?

Eloquence is not my thing tonight, but a warning is. Take care, because when you play heads up with him, he'll switch the cards on you. You can't beat him on your own. All you can do is offer yourself to Our Blessed Lord; cast yourself upon His strength and His grace, and there you will find refuge.

Video bonus:

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Pornography as Violence

Sin is NP-Complete. For those who don't care to read Wikipedia's article, NP is a space of problems in mathematics that are very difficult to solve. For a problem to be NP-Complete, it must be shown to be equivalent to another NP-Complete problem (the Travelling Salesman Problem is an example).

So what I'm saying, really, is that a given sin, or at least a given mortal sin, can in someway be traced back to another mortal sin. Of course, the root sin is Pride, and all others can be linked through this, if we were actually interested in Mathematical Sin Space, which we aren't. I'm merely giving an example of how my mind works... mathematics is a disease that infects everything.

Briefly considered, lest we dwell too long on this darkness: violence is about power and destruction, it is about incinerating the beautiful, beating it beyond recognition. People like to quote John Paul II, who said that the problem with pornography is not that it shows too much, but rather that it shows too little, that it is merely a hollow shell of the love that should be present in the sexual act. This is fine as far as it goes, but something is missing, and that is an understanding of the way evil works. One would think, from the way this is quoted, that satan's one desire is to replace the Beauty and Love God gives us with a counterfeit. I think this is a distortion in its own right. It credits the devil's insidiousness without making clear his maliciousness.

Much like our current government, which has replaced real money with its own counterfeit and then, by distorting it beyond any resemblance to the original, has, through perversion and violence, gained power of life and death over us, so does the evil one seek, not merely the replacement of the good, but its destruction.

The counterfeit is not the goal; it is the initial means to the goal; it is the deception. The goal is power; the goal is the rape of beauty, the bloody murder of innocence. The goal is unspeakable violence. I am not speaking here of snuff, though that is clearly an example of the most perverse depths. No, I am speaking here of the mere desire to see innocence lost, to see the pure defiled. In this, pornography is the bedmate of violence, for both seek the desecration of the sacred. The power to take, the power to destroy, the both are different manifestations of the same oily sickness with which the evil one would poison all, a sickness that reeks with the stench of damnation.

The Enemy of My Enemy Is not My Friend

The demons quarrel. They argue amongst themselves, how best to effect the damnation of a soul. Or at least, so it would seem, for evil never presents a consistent face. We feed on power: the power to destroy, the power of life and death, whether it be held over a foreigner, a child, a Jew, a Christian, a criminal suspect, this is what nourishes us; this is what poisons us. In one sentence you may earn my respect by denouncing the needless deaths of women and children killed by remote control, and in the next you tell me that a woman has power of life and death over her child. You say the government has no business sticking its nose into healthcare, or taxing private citizens (directly or, through inflation, indirectly) to bail out large corporations, but you will accept those same taxes as long as the revenue is paid out to large corporations that make implements of destruction in order that the government that took your money may bomb some weddings and birthday parties on the other side of the world.

Yes, indeed, throw rocks at the nest and see if you are not stung. But never mind, they're brown, they're Muslim, they haven't been born yet, they're a future drain on society and the environment, hence they are not worthy of life.

The enemy of my enemy is very often my enemy. We denounce the crimes of those who hold power over us, then we are given the Gift of power, and the wrongs we mean to right are forgotten for the wrongs we mean to do.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The People Who Wear Jeans

Some of the other people in our building actually refer to us that way.

Standing in the elevator
Cursing those who wake up later
Than you do
Wishing your clothes were as comfortable
Wishing your life was as manageable
As those people who wear jeans

Yeah, they live on the eighth floor
And it's a cave up there
Life's just not fair
You wish you were one of
The people who wear jeans

When Friday finally rolls around
You think at last you can dress down
So do they
And you hate that they wear t-shirts
And you wish that you could play with dirt
Isn't that what they do up there?

Yeah, they live on the eighth floor
And it's a cave up there
Life's just not fair
You wish you were one of
The people who wear jeans

'Cause your job's not as cool as theirs
You'll never get to wrestle bears
You don't really like your coworkers
You just want to drink a few beers
With those people who wear jeans