Life threatened by consciousnessPlants can grow only when their roots are in the dark. They emerge from the dark into the light. That is the direction of life. The plant and its direction die when the root is exposed to the light. All life must be grounded in what is not conscious and from that root emerge into the brightness of consciousness. Yet I see consciousness becoming more and more deeply the root of our life. A relation to other lives is seen, one event is brought under the same law as others, and we get closer and closer in our scrutiny to the beginnings, the origins of life. The root of life itself, what is innermost to it, is lit up. Can life sustain this? Can it become consciousness and at the same time remain alive?
Letters from Lake Como
Jul. 14, 2012, at 10:38am
The other day, in response to my post on St. Benedict and phenomenology, member Kevin asked whether what he had heard was true: viz, that von Hildebrand had been a third order Franciscan. I thought it wasn't true, but just to be sure, I asked his widow. She said Kevin was right. Listen to her elaborate in her own words and voice.
NB: "Gogo" or "Gogi" was von Hildebrand's nickname from childhood. It's what all his friends called him.
Jul. 12, 2012, at 10:47am
According to my habit of mind, the discussion about unprincipled forgiveness has given rise to several spin-off trails of thought. I have been busy mentally composing several further posts on the theme, or related themes.
One has to do with the often unrecognized gap between what we profess with our minds and how we live in practice.
The fact that we see an error on the theoretical level is no proof that we're not guilty of it in fact, though we often imagine it is.
So, for instance, I know men who grant that women are equal in dignity, but behave or speak in a way that plainly reveals chauvanistic tendencies. If I were to say of a particular instance of it, "That's male-chauvanism", …continue reading
Jul. 11, 2012, at 11:29am
The key to the kind of phenomenology Jules and I studied, which is sometimes called "realist phenomenology" or "von Hildebrandian phenomenology" is a reverent, attentive listening to the voice of Reality, to "things in themselves." It sees "the art of living" as a matter of "receiving" what we find in reality, and responding to it faithfully. It stands in contrast to a way of philosophizing that is more concerned with constructing conceptual systems, or with studying texts.
One of the key features and contributions of von Hildeband's thought, in particular, is a rehabilitation of the role of the heart, not only in human relations, but in our apprehension of Reality. The heart is not just …continue reading
Jul. 9, 2012, at 2:28am
A couple months ago, I posted on God’s fondness for diversity. How else to explain His making us male and female (“as different as possible without being separate species”), different colors, shapes, and sizes, with different temperaments, talents, and senses of humor?
It would be surprising, then, if His dealings with us had a generic, one-size-fits-all kind of tone. Yet that is what we can fall into imagining.
In the back of our minds, even if we know better, may lurk the sense that what God really wants is for us to familiarize ourselves with His objective rules and regulations, calculate how they apply to our case, and conform our wills and behavior to them until we die. Then …continue reading
Jul. 8, 2012, at 8:04pm
I figured there was no way this response would fit in the 200 word Comment section, so I may as well just do a new post.
(That does not mean I intend to be extra wordy. Tomorrow I start three intensive summer courses, so I’ll actually have to cut back on my PP responses. Hopefully, a few will miss me; others no doubt will rejoice! C’est la vie!)
First, of course, Katie elaborates on many “good” examples of dysfunctional “forgiveness”—the Penn State mess, the priestly abuse scandals, some approaches of Covenant Communities in the past, the priest’s book (which has been mentioned before), and Nora in A Doll’s House. I too in both my comments and my posts have agreed with her examples …continue reading
Jul. 8, 2012, at 1:21pm
My post on “unprincipled forgiveness” led to a lively exchange with Mike Healy that has further persuaded me of the confusion surrounding the mystery of forgiveness, and the great difficulty many Christians have not only in realizing it in practice, but understanding it in theory. And since I believe that understanding it rightly is crucial to the task of achieving it and helping others achieve it, I’m going to keep pressing.
To be clearer and more complete about what I have in mind with the problem of "unprincipled forgiveness" let me say the following:
When it comes to the social act of reconciliation (which is the natural aim and consummation of forgiveness), to treat an unrepentant …continue reading
Jul. 7, 2012, at 10:22pm
In previous posts and comments, I have given many examples of heroic charity and forgiveness. I frankly look on these in awe. One can never know for sure (because God gives extra graces in these situations), but I can hardly imagine myself living up to this kind of ideal. I have to admit it’s possible (because it’s been done), and I see—theoretically—how and why the saints were motivated, but I don’t find those same levels present in my heart and will. So ultimately I think it becomes a question of grace and whether I would accept or reject God’s supernatural attempt to carry me over these mountains.
Be that as it may, I think we should further elaborate on and give examples of false, …continue reading
Jul. 7, 2012, at 9:04am
Setting aside my standing objections to the ubiquitous "wired" metaphor, Sr. Helena Burns, "media nun," does Catholics proud with this great takedown of a current example of the mainstreaming of pornography: a movie about male strippers called Magic Mike. Really, her review is a summary presentation of the Theology of the Body.
(Pay no attention to the cheesy, Jehovah's Witness style religious art.)
The Sexual Revolution told women that they can now “have sex like a man.” Because, you see, the male paradigm is the only good paradigm! Feminists, in wanting to be just like men, “have what men have,” unwittingly labeled women’s ways as inferior, and set about obliterating the feminine. But …
Jul. 5, 2012, at 4:00pm
In light of revelation, we can certainly conclude that we attain to our deepest understanding of the human situation, and of who we are, as we stand before Christ. This is our real situation; thus, if we are to approach other human beings in truth, we must "arc" through Christ to get to them. We never only stand before another in a direct one-on-one way; Christ always stands with us, before us, in us, and between us.
And how do we stand with Christ? We eat with Him (and of Him) as his friends at the Last Supper (with the hope of the heavenly banquet/wedding feast) and then we stand before Him (dying on the Cross) as His betrayers, mocking and torturing Him. And he forgives us. This is …continue reading
Jul. 4, 2012, at 7:05pm
Concepts like “Golden Oldies,” “Classic Rock,” even “Early Rock’n’Roll” certainly are nebulous and imprecise nowadays. If you look up such titles on radio and TV stations, you often find song collections from the 70’s, 80’s, or 90’s—for cryin’ out loud! But I, who came of age in the days of real classic rock (Elvis and the Beatles), and who lost all track of pop music after 1972 (when I graduated from college) know that genuine “early rock,” real “golden oldies,” means the late 50’s and early 60’s. I reject any other definition as an abuse of the English language.
Now, having settled the historical question (admittedly by subjective “Fiat”), let us go on to see what we can learn from …continue reading
Jul. 2, 2012, at 11:18am
My kids were shocked one day to find me listening to National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.” (My father, who has a penchant for accuracy, calls it “Some Things Considered from a Certain Point of View.”) The children realize that I’m prone to fits of boredom brought on by onion-chopping and cheese-sauce stirring, but they’re used to seeing me cook supper while soaking in the wisdom of Kresta in the Afternoon
or at least getting my info-tainment from someone who’s generally on the pro-life side of the political divide.
They never thought I’d sink so low.
I explained to them that it’s important to keep tabs on what the bad guys are up to.
And that’s true, but it’s …continue reading
Jun. 29, 2012, at 9:41pm
I conceive of the role of the teacher as a helper to the student so that the latter can see some real truth(s) on his own. The classical root of this conception, of course, is Socrates describing himself as a midwife, helping the other to bring to birth in his own mind a genuine understanding of reality. This involves a process of discovery requiring a broad openness to questions, challenges, readiness to make modifications, etc. It requires humility, i.e., an attitude fundamentally acknowledging that reality is transcendent to the mind and that, as Augustine says, the mind is below truth, not above it.
Nevertheless, it is sometimes the case that anyone who claims to know …continue reading
Jun. 27, 2012, at 7:58pm
An article in Crisis magazine, “What’s Behind the Mandate?” by Gerard Bradley unmasks the Obama Administration’s fundamental empiricism on two fronts—the ontological and the existential.
Ontologically Bradley notes that Obama’s asserts that those who want to place limitations on the availability of contraception, abortion and same sex marriage, base their opinion on religious convictions which, as such, are subjective and cannot be validated by objective measures and so consequently are not to be protected by law.
Existentially the Administration asserts that the value of such institutions as Catholic Charities and Hospitals solely in terms of the material benefits they afford for the …continue reading
Jun. 27, 2012, at 12:24pm
An ongoing topic of background meditation for me is the problem of forgiveness, and the way it is badly misunderstood, mis-preached, and mis-applied in Christian circles. So, I perked up over an item in the Corner today, making a point I have often tried to make myself, though less successfully. John O'Sullivan quotes a column by Kevin Myers in the Irish Independent, speaking of the bloody "Troubles" in Northern Ireland.
Now contrary to what those creepy moral apologists for the IRA insist, Christian teaching does not demand that one forgives one’s uncontrite assailant as one forgives the repentant ones. The entire sacrament of absolution depends on unconditional repentance and a “firm …
Jun. 27, 2012, at 9:09am
The United States bishops have asked for our participation in a "Fortnight for Freedom." Here's the announcement at the USCCB:
The fourteen days from June 21—the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More—to July 4, Independence Day, are dedicated to this “fortnight for freedom”—a great hymn of prayer for our country. Our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power—St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, St. John the Baptist, SS. Peter and Paul, and the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome. Culminating on Independence Day, this special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action will …
Jun. 24, 2012, at 9:51am
My teaching style is somewhat old school. I lecture. I do this on the theory that I know more than my students and they come to me in order to learn. (Indeed, that’s what they pay for.) And by learn, I do not just mean about “process” and "how" to communicate. I mean learning about reality, about what to communicate: content, substance. I believe that I was exceedingly fortunate (blessed) as both an undergraduate and a graduate student to have a number of wonderful and wise professors who introduced me to the great tradition (Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Bonaventure, Pascal, etc.) as well as to certain modern thinkers—and critics of modernity—who showed how that great …continue reading
Jun. 23, 2012, at 4:59pm
David Blankenhorn has been among our nation's staunchest and most prominent marriage boosters for years. Now, just days after a major new study is released confirming that tradtional marriage is better for children, he's changed his mind. His reasoning reinforces my growing impression that defenders of marriage will have to shift gears if we hope to succeed in persuading a majority to oppose the legalization of SSM. It won't be enough to prove that traditional marriage is better for kids. If it were, then Blankenhorn would still be on our side. He articulates the gist of that argument as well as anyone.
Marriage is the planet’s only institution whose core purpose is to unite the …
Jun. 20, 2012, at 2:29pm
Dr. Josef Seifert (himself an Austrian) once told us this joke:
In the heat of battle, an Austrian and a German are reporting back to their respective generals.
“Sir,” the German says, “The situation is serious, but not hopeless.”
“Sir,” the Austrian says, “The situation is hopeless, but not serious.”
I thought of that at Planned Parenthood the other day, where (being something of a second-rate prayer warrior, just subbing for a friend) I found myself without a single sign to wave or leaflet to hand out.
Well, no problem: the idea was to be a prayerful presence, not a one-woman demonstration. But during my weekly Forty Days for Life Hour, I’d been kept supplied, and kept company, by more …continue reading
Jun. 19, 2012, at 4:58pm
Again, as indicated in the previous post Population Problems (even in the Islamic World), sometimes I come away from reading “the news” with the vague impression that the western world is overwhelmed with problems relating to drugs, sex, a pleasure-centered lifestyle, and a loss of religious faith while the Islamic world is filled with individuals ready to sacrifice their lives for the cause of Allah and to rid the world of these profligate western excesses. However, as in the previous discussion, such impressions do not tell the underlying story.
David Goldman, in his recent book How Civilizations Die (and Why Islam is Dying Too), offers disturbing evidence that “[t]he underside of …continue reading
Jun. 18, 2012, at 11:20am
A former atheist describes her conversion.
It happened through a conversation with a friend; through a recognition that the moral truths she acknowledged had the attriutes of a Person, and then, through the Liturgy.
(Hat tip Barbara Nicolosi.)
I believed that the Moral Law wasn’t just a Platonic truth, abstract and distant. It turns out I actually believed it was some kind of Person, as well as Truth. And there was one religion that seemed like the most promising way to reach back to that living Truth. I asked my friend what he suggest we do now, and we prayed the night office of the Liturgy of the Hours together (I’ve kept up with that since).