I have never waited for the sun to rise
But have always hoped it would come along.
And often found myself beneath dark skies
Wondering where it was; the ruddy dawn
That always swept away the ink black night,
That silent thing so much filled with fright
On either side of my reluctant eyes.
peg April 6, 2020
We voted in the Primary yesterday evening after a visit to the eye doctor and a stop at Aldi’s for some supplies. It was five-ish, already dark, and misty; a kind of London evening. Why not? We live in New England. We vote at Ward 3, and the polls take place in the gym of a school across from Hollman Stadium where The Silver Knights play, and near some tennis courts and a city pool.
In case you don’t know him, the fellow in the picture is a Zombie. You know, a guy who doesn’t know he is dead.
I Will Carry
(A Meditation for Advent)
Above the hills the pale moon
Eyes the ones who travel.
Night comes early and soon
A tree, a sheltering hill
Provides them cover, all they’ll need.
They sleep wrapped in moonlight
By a tiny fire. The dark night
Framing constellations sees
Them sleep; this day’s journey done.
Has He let His hosts look on
Throughout the watching night?
Standing guard against
Hazards beyond our sin dimmed sight?
No matter, the weary must sleep.
Tomorrow they will walk again
The long rocky road to Bethlehem.
I will carry and move to help: reach
Across an age to do. But, “No!” He says,
“Your time will come. Rough wood yours
To lift while raging crowd roars,
Wildlings rip. Sit! Wait! Pray!”
I do as night goes silent west beyond
Hills where waking birds hungry greet the dawn.
They watch the rise of that far off sun
Their first steps in disappearing mist along
The now familiar way walking hand in hand
With all of us. For all of us, a child
Preparing as they go, so tiny, mild,
To enter history. Thus by order grand
From Rome’s great Augustus, the man made god
They pick their way unshod along.
Man made god decreed this time.
God made man breaks time apart!
His infant’s cry shatters, from bare stable small,
Palaces, powerful, man-made gods, all!
The Feast of St. Andrew, 2012
From November 6, two years ago. Is it better or worse, do you think?
“I was in the car a while ago, and I turned on the radio for a few moments to listen to a bit of music. The station was set to the one I have christened , only slightly sarcastically, as the “Communist News”. You are right if you thought, “A PBS station.” I listened briefly as an advertisement/cum program announcement caught my attention.
The bright young voice, a male one, enthusiastically informed the listening public of an upcoming story, announcing an exclusive on a couple somewhere who had arranged for another woman to share custody of their infant child with them. “This,” said the bright voiced young announcer, “is a new thing!” A “cut” from the story itself was next played in which another young male voice enthused about what they had just done, and how it would make life easier, and everyone happier, and life, in so many ways better, and, of course more fun. It is, of course, fun that is the best thing to have.
As an example of the wonderful benefits of this shared custody, he said, he and the mother of this, their child, would now be able to get away more often for lunches at their favorite place and not have to worry about their child.
I wondered what was their primary worry beforehand; the one that precipitated this move:
That they could not “get away” from their child?
That the child, if along with them, would act like a child?
That other couples similarly getting away would be upset by a child nearby?
That the management had rules about bringing a child into a “favorite place”, requiring that children be left outside with the dogs?
And I thought how terribly uncomfortable children were, after the first few minutes of coition; wondered further why we even bothered with them. I went to the library and borrowed a copy of “Brave New World”. I think I shall read it to see what advice it gives about children and favorite places.
I am convinced this couple could benefit from it.
Quite possibly, everyone reading this might benefit.
In one way or another.
There was no such thing as a Government Plan when I was a much, much younger person.
One’s eyes, one’s hopes, were not directed toward the SOG wherein all hope is now supposed, perhaps soon to be required, to be placed. No such thing was bethought as cradle to grave care from it. It all began to change shortly before my arrival when two cars, garages, pots and chickens were first promised us, and it was hinted in speech and song that woe, worry, sickness and ignorance would give way to Heaven here at last.
Happy Days! But, not quite yet. We had not that what? That purity, the “election”for the gifts to be ours ahead; for that thing called Health Insurance, or Auto Insurance, or, for almost every family I knew in my part of The Bronx, Life Insurance. Nor were the thought to be quite needed by most. We still had feet to walk with, hands to work with. But, we would learn. We would learn…and want.
Not that it matters, but I remember as a young fellow first hearing the term Life Insurance and being confused. You may think about my reason for confusion.
Bank accounts, if they existed, rarely amounted to more than a few hundred dollars. Shoe boxes under the bed, or in your mother’s bureau was what mattered most when it came to family finance. And, as far as I knew when compared to now, problems were fewer. I wonder why, sometimes.
Now, the shrill voices of discontent and the fraudsters (and people beaters) of progress, the elevaters, the redeemers, of the race, the species, the world, the cosmos, by God (those among them who believe there is one), like wild horses in a Western (are they still made?), stampede ahead on, to take a line from a once popular Irish song, “on the road to God knows where…” Driven by only God knows what. Though I suspect it is the conviction that they are god. And most of the grimy believers in the dry dust behind plod grimly on.
I read a short thing the other day, a kind of comparison between how two Englishmen thought the world might turn out: the guy who wrote 1984 and the one who wrote Brave Knew World. The one looked into the future and saw what the Soviets were doing; everything in shades of grey, way beyond 50, which has been realized in North Korea, in China. Other forces proceed in their own strange way to their own version of a parousia places like Afghanistan, where that strange and terrible phenomenon called islam has taken hold; and whose thousand years plan is to take over everything, or kill it.
That other was perhaps a bit more correct, seeing into a future like ours, a place where no one matters but “ME”. but with a much more invasive and evil genetic twist, which we seem to have changed into simply medically induced death at both ends of natural life. And that, for no other reason it seems than “Because”.
I am about a third of the way through a book by a little, old and frail German fellow, Joseph Ratzinger. He’s a a good fellow, sharp as a tack, who dresses funny. That may be why a lot of folks don’t take him seriously. But, despite his decidedly Medieval sense of fashion, as is said, “Good things, etc.” This book I mentioned? This little thing is good. It’s full of stuff some people call, “Money Quotes”. Here is one. It’s near the beginning. Hell, everything is near the beginning in this book. You could take a flight across the country and you’d be finished before you reached Illinois. Anyway: “From the very beginning Christianity has understood itself to be the religion of the Logos, to be a religion in keeping with reason. When it identified its forerunners, these were primarily not in the other religions, but in that philosophical enlightenment which cleared the road from the various traditions that cluttered it in order to turn to the search for truth and to turn toward the good, toward the one God who is above all gods. “
This whole thing, this “mishegoss” which is a polite Jewish word for the madness, or better yet silliness, now going on, which most of us think is civilized behavior, began a couple of hundred years ago in France with the Enlightenment and such silliness as that very stupid little slogan about us and how many things we can measure. Every time I think of it I get a picture of five year old boys out behind the barn measuring their “dinkies”.
It is exactly the same thing as is taking place today in DC, and in every other legislative body in the country, at any level, especially the lower ones; but most publicly, and tragically in the SOG because of its influence and effect on the rest of us. And, neither do I wish to pass over the, what were once called for some too long ignored good reasons, the institutions of higher education; and our information sources, all of them which, with the exception of a few dozen Catholic schools and publishing establishments have relocated to Gommora, and are, in the very same way a totally drunk idiot may be said to be doing it, printing junk. And teaching it..
This ain’t a Gloomy Guss talking. Nope, it’s me who has seen and been in the middle of, for my working life, the incredible mess we are in. The only way out is what the little German guy suggests at the end of his book: “Begin with the folly of faith, and you will attain knowledge. This folly is wisdom, this folly is truth.”
The only truly happy, and wise people I have ever met are former drunks, former drug addicts and and former Democrats. They may be best compared to the folks who made it into the lifeboats as the liner went down; or had decided on a walk in the country the day the bomb fell. That kind of happiness is more than happiness. Thankfulness.
Once said, not so long ago, that was done. My father’s son, I much preferred sitting to standing. Well, truth to tell, I never really “sat”. I sprawled. I was made for a sofa, but much preferred an Easy Chair, even one that might have held two of me; one that need climbing, up, into.
That we then. I notice it has become quite an undertaking to sit down recently. First I must gauge the chair’s height to determine if I can indeed sit down on, or into it; and then its depth from front to back. Or, is that not properly the length?
Is it a soft or a hard seat? These are questions of no small importance, my natural padding having gone into retirement several years ago. Sitting on my hands in some instances is the only way open for me.p
If the chair is arm less, poor thing, what are the aids nearby to assist me in a soft landing? My own aids, that is arms and legs, to assist me in a soft and safe one at not as dependable as earlier. I have in the recent past almost completely missed the target. It’s little comfort knowing I cannot miss the floor since I no longer bounce. And, if I am alone, regaining verticality, which may not be a word but you know what I mean, is no small project. I have crawled like a rubber boned infant the width of a room, the length of a hallway, to reach that dangerous posture.
It occurs to me that I should no longer attempt such daring expeditions as sitting down, on my own. That is unless I am met somewhere along my descent by a helping arm, and at its end by a soft landing. Oh, and something for my sore back between mine and the chair’s.
One of the books I am reading is written by a fellow I would love to meet, but probably never will. This is the third of his books which I have read, and I am almost finished with this one. Each of them have been both educational and enjoyable. I both learn and am entertained at the same time. Reading the books is the best thing next to sitting with him in a quiet room with a glass or two of wine, or beer or some other adult beverage, and simply asking questions and listening to his answers.
He is an old man now, the author, and might not give me the time or attention I would like. But a fellow can dream, can he not?
My author is Fr.John V. Schall, S.J. I heard he has retired, and now he lives somewhere west of here, as far west as one can go and not get wet; somewhere in California. From his writing, I get the feeling he is the kind of man St. Ignatius had in mind when he founded the Society of Jesus, the kind of fellow whom Jesus himself might consider good company. He’s smart, and has a sense of humor; both things go together nicely. And, both of his feet are firmly on the ground; nor is his head in the clouds. I was told a long time ago that Fr. Schall taught at Fordham University for a number of years. I was accepted to Fordham, but hadn’t the money for it. Else I would have gone; and probably have had more than one chance at the conversation I want to have. Alas, I’ll have to settle for the books.
That’s not bad. Books teach a fellow how to listen, and not to keep asking questions. That might distract the guy up in front. They also leave plenty of room to stop and think. Of course, asking questions is a pretty good thing to do if one is only interested in distracting the guy up in front; a trick I learned, and probably everyone else, somewhere in the first semester of Freshman year.
In this one, “Another Sort of Learning“, he mentions what might be called the second best thing. One of his chapters, entitled “What Is A Lecture?” deals in a way, with a kind of missing the train, and reading about the trip later on. Sort of what I am doing now reading the book, consisting of essays and articles he’s written during his long career.
I have rounded the clubhouse turn and am near the end with only one or two chapters left. Presently, I am reading my way through a very interesting little thing called “On Devotion”. I started it wondering if it was the title of something written by one of the Big Three. You know Aristotle, Plato and Aquinas; or Augustine, or any number of them. Maybe, maybe not. I am not far enough into the chapter, which isn’t very long at all. But, I had to stop and pause, and think a little bit; a thing I do not do well.
You see, Father is talking about devotion, on one page, as being centered on the higher, the Highest?, things, where our “being is directed out of ourselves”. He even mentions God somewhere along the line, the Highest thing. I get that about devotion and being other directed. Even if it’s only “Puppy Love”. But that’s not what he’s talking about, you know. And it certainly isn’t what those fellows in the paragraph above mean. I figure it is devotion in the sense of being devoted to finding and knowing the truth; not sort of like being devoted to climbing Everest. Or, like being devoted to having the biggest biceps.
Here is the sentence: “The nature of devotion, then, implied not merely our awareness of our powers and capacities, but also the fact that our own very being is directed out of ourselves, that our own being is insufficient for the sort of reality that we are constituted for and directed to by what we are.”
Well, what’s wrong with that..if you’re a Catholic, and about my age. Sit back and figure out whether it will be steak or something else tonight. BUT DON’T TURN THE PAGE!
I did. And this is what I read:
“The modern notion of pluralism has come to mean not nearly the fact that there is a wide variety of ways to embody the real virtues we can incorporate within ourselves, but that there are no “ends” no “happinesses”, other than the ones we choose on the basis of, ultimately, the love of ourselves.”
I stop there and can’t help thinking of that Greek guy staring into the water in the pond. And, all of the ponds I can remember and think of are shallow, slimy, bug covered things. Shaking my head to get rid of that horrible truth, I continue…
“Modern society is an arrangement, an order, whose very purpose is to declare the impossibility of arriving at any morally or metaphysically binding truth.”
As I read this I am thinking of a guy I know who tells me one day he has left the third wife. “Are you looking for another one now?” “No,” he says, ” I feel like being a bee; me and all of those flowers out there.” We have parted company. Anyway… back to the nice Jesuit:
“This means that society becomes an area of ultimate indifferences, where each “life-style”, each sort of “choice” plays, plays itself out with right and dignity just because it is chosen. The modern idea is that “You have your end and I have mine and, in the end isn’t all that variety nice?”
Me again.. Pardon the interruption. I am about finished. But here I couldn’t help thinking of the first time I heard the phrase, “Whatever makes your boat float.” We were just finishing a case involving a bunch of fools who were spending most of their waking moments selling drugs of one sort or another to bunches of other fools who spent most of their time using them, or taking money from other folks to buy the drugs they used. I made the mistake of asking one of them, “Why???” and received that as an answer. As an “apologia por vita mea” it falls far short of the mark I thought. But, I suppose it beats spending years in school, trying to find out “Why?”
Anyway, “Back to the text!” as the saying goes:
“Truth, in fact, has come to be looked upon as an enemy of modern society because it hints that there is something wrong in our world if truth does in fact exist, something that we can define and act for or against.”
The rest of the bit I am currently chewing on in Fr. Schall’s book talks about Aristotle, a Greek who probably never looked into a filthy pond and thought he had found truth, beauty and a life led in searching for them. Nope! He also mentions Thomas Aquinas:
“Thomas Aquinas often spoke of activities such as holiness, meditation, religion, and devotion. (Gasp!!!) Clearly these in some sense were intended to imply some relation between ourselves and the highest things.”
And then comes the most comforting two sentences, and perhaps the kindest and most reassuring ones I have read in no little while; so gentle and smiling does the good priest make them:
“Aquinas held that there was much in Aristotle that could be legitimately accepted by a believer once he recognized that this “truth” is somehow active in regard to each of us.”
You may, if you wish, imagine bold letters and capitals between the parentheses surrounding that word.
“Indeed, our own highest activities, which we should learn are within us by self-reflection, ought to be related to this truth or reality revealing itself to us through the world to which we are somehow open in our very being and knowledge.”
So sweet, isn’t it?
I remember some sentences from the Catechism I was given in the First Grade at St. John’s School in the Bronx…not far from Fordham where Fr. Schall taught. They were the first two questions and answers in the book:
Who made me? God made me.
Why did God make me? God made me to know Him, love Him and serve Him here on earth and to be happy with Him forever in heaven.
There is a Harbor Master.
He will see you home. Safely.
It was about a typical New England day, and at almost any time of year, too. I like to write letters:
I spent a little time today thinking about yesterday, re-living the day. Granted the weather could have been more accommodating, but even that we accepted and got through. And you made me happy that things were the way they were for them being so. Not that things weren’t already perfect as far as I was concerned, and, it seemed, every last person there; from the oldest, who might have been me, down to the tiny babies. You were just the right gravy for the roast.
I was happy though that it did not snow; although I suspect that would have been just fine. Everything combined to make it a very Catholic event in the middle of a very Irish day. We lacked only a wandering sheep or two, and a dog welcoming itself among us during Mass to make it a perfect Irish day…a thought which kept running through my mind. Having been there I know such things are not unusual.
The truth is Mariellen and I are in no little way in love with the place and its people, those who come and go, and those who are part of the scenery. There is a balm at Thomas More, don’t you know.
So, please accept our thanks for the wonder of your place, and the people in it, and the Spirit that resides there.
Your mention of your coming upon a flower on a cold day during one of your walks made me think of several similar experiences I’ve had, and the promise those sighting made. I had written little things about them, but alas, they are lost, somewhere. After a long search today I found only this:
The Easy Grace of Flowers
I wonder if they would grow in my yard;
Giant Sequoia trees whose dark green tops
Would pierce a passing cloud
And cause a rain full wind to stop.
But no, they’d stand too tall with trunks too round
And their roots would find no room
In New Hampshire’s granite growing ground.
Where, too, in their deep shade would flowers bloom?
What land is here open to caressing sun
Must receive the grace full gift of flowers
So all who walk or wander by each one
Will join the simple office of their hours.
Each single one a memory and prayer
Is meant, and work by living to that end
Proclaiming themselves and you being there.
And to such ordinary work I bend.
The easy grace of flowers at my feet
Easily brings me to my weathered knees.
PS: A little more than twenty years ago I was following my first grandchild, Mary Catherine, around the yard. She was about two years old. At one point she stopped in her wandering and bent over close to the ground, looking closely at something before her. I stood off and listened as she said, “Oh, little blue flower, I’m so glad you’re here.”
Some folks may not like this. So what.
I sit here, now, imagining
That nothing was or is.
That nothing ever mattered
Nor nothing ever will.
Imagine there’s no people
Nor light, nor darkness too,
No time or anything to do.
Imagine if there’s never
Nor ever will be you!
Just kill yourself then, Brother
And make it all come true!
Oh, ohhh, ohhh, ohhh!
It’s just a dream that’s all
And we’re all imagined
Shadows on some wall.
A wall that’s just a shadow
At the bottom of some cave
Where no light’s ever entered
Nor nothing’s made or saved.
Oh, ohhh, ohhh, ohhh!
Imagine what you cannot do,
Nor never thought, nor never will:
No God, no stars, no planets
No one to love or kill.
It’s just the perfect answer
For all the things we love.
Or hate if that’s your fancy.
Below or high above.
No heaven high or hell below,
No safe earth in between.
Simply nothing! That’s the riddle
And the answer, don’t you see,
The Cheshire’s smile does mean.
Oh, ohhh, ohhh, ohhh!
My song’s about now over;
Well, really not begun.
Never really warbled
And never really sung.
Like a rainstorm in the desert
Or sunshine in the night
Drowning burning devils
In new agonies of fright.
Ah, ahhh, ahhh, Hahhh!