Walls of realityWe live between two solid walls of reality: our responsibility to act and our awareness that our power to act is limited.
Jennifer Roback Morse
Love and Economics
Jun. 12, 2012, at 4:24pm
Amor y Autoestima, the book that inspired this post on how to reconcile rightly ordered self-love with Reality-respecting humility, will soon be available in English. I'll be translating it from the Spanish this summer, and it will be available from Scepter sometime thereafter.
As I was flipping through it before my first reading, I couldn't help noticing the footnotes. Listen to this: C.S. Lewis, Edith Stein, Dietrich von Hildebrand, Leo Tolstoy, Bl. John Paul II, Gabriel Marcel, St. Josemaria Escriva, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Paul Vitz, Sigrid Undset, John of the Cross, and Victor Frankl.
I hope that whets your personalist appetite as much as it did mine!
Jun. 12, 2012, at 10:01am
From a 1961 journal entry.
Hoffer had been musing on the man he had worked with that day on the docks:
As I said, the man looked extremely delicate—almost ethereal. He was late for work because he got the order wrong. I am working with him tomorrow and shall try to find out something about him.
And then this:
During the day it occurred to me that if it were true that all my life I have had but a single train of thought then it must be the problem of the uniqueness of man.
Jun. 8, 2012, at 11:21am
My internet habit seems to have decimated my ability (never very marked) to finish books. I begin them; put them down; pick them up; read a few pages; put them down...
Among the many lying half-read around the house is Tom Bethell's biography of Eric Hoffer, The Longshoreman Philosopher. Hoffer is a mysterious character who emerged from complete obscurity to become a major intellectual influence in Cold War America, beginning with his 1951 best-selling book on the nature of mass movements, The True Believer.
I picked it up again (I mean the biography) this morning while I drank my coffee. These lines so arrested my attention that I put the book down again—to think, and write a post …continue reading
Jun. 7, 2012, at 11:55pm
I've never lived in the Third World, unless you count that one-year stint in Jerusalem when I was three (a subject for another day).
I have very little first-hand experience of real poverty.
I did live in and around Barcelona for ten years—not conditions of misery by a long shot. Coming from America, though, I imagined I was enduring hardship. Only a few stores had fresh milk. My American pizza pan wouldn’t fit inside my little Spanish oven. Apartments were tiny, by my standards, and so were refrigerators, washing machines and cars (not to mention people, and families). Life was lived on a small (if much more elegant) scale.
I got used to that.
But what really struck me, every …continue reading
Jun. 3, 2012, at 7:44pm
I do think we have to address core issues of human experience, human psychology, and human intimacy when discussing the ethics of homosexual attraction and SSM. It is not enough to leave it at the level of politics and the legitimate interests of the state in giving special status to heterosexual marriage and family, though this latter approach is certainly valuable and important.
Now the difficulty with this approach based in human experience is that we will have to acknowledge homosexual experience from within (without accepting it as normative), not only judge it from without. If we just say that “homosexual acts are not and cannot be acts of love and union—they are acts of use and …continue reading
Jun. 3, 2012, at 5:47pm
I'm sure it wasn't only because the Personalist Project is based here. :) Even so, it was great to hear that the 2015 World Meeting of Families will take place in the City of Brotherly Love. I can see this becoming ground zero in the battle to preserve traditional marriage in America, especially in the face of growing pressure from the SSM lobby.
The Pope also stressed the importance of family life built upon a man and woman who are married to each other. This is because God “created us male and female, equal in dignity, but also with respective and complementary characteristics, so that the two might be a gift for each other, might value each other and might bring into being a community …
Jun. 1, 2012, at 10:19am
A Victor Davis Hansen post at NRO about Massachusetts Senatorial Candidate Elizabeth Warren and her risible claim of minority status as a Cherokee Indian neatly captures the truth-denial at the heart of post-modernism.
Warren’s statement is simply untenable and will have to be withdrawn, because if it is not, then we are essentially saying facts are what we choose to say facts are, and we can write or say anything we want and claim it as truth by reason of rumor, or serial insistence, or good intentions. Warren says all this is a distraction from her otherwise sterling academic record, but an academic career is nothing without allegiance to facts and honest scholarship; in fact this weird …
Jun. 1, 2012, at 1:26am
New York wants to outlaw the Slurpee. School bake sales and homemade lunches have fallen under suspicion. Exorbitant fines have been levied on a peace-loving Idaho couple for moving some dirt onto a dry plot of ground that--sure enough--turned out not to be a wetland after all. Rules and regulations are sprouting faster than the weeds on our lawn since the three-year-old has learned to turn on the sprinkler.
But I fondly remember an institution that took a very different approach.
On my first day of college, President Peter V. Sampo (center, below) of the Thomas More Institute of Liberal Arts sat us down to lay out the rules.
There were three of them.
Number One: No hanging out in …continue reading
May. 29, 2012, at 11:09pm
This started out as a brief response in discussion of my earlier post on SSM, but developed into a further article. I think what Katie and Jules worry about in terms of the corrosion of the natural moral sense, the impairing of ethical judgment, and the destructive effect on the moral imagination of having to deal openly with “unthinkable” evils (abortion, infanticide, homosexual relations, SSM), expresses existentially the reason why not only martyrs and virgins, but doctors of the church have special feasts and a special office in the Breviary—they have to deal with all the "unthinkables" because somebody has to refute them.
This is their crown of thorns but it is a special work of …continue reading
May. 29, 2012, at 7:20pm
Janet Smith links a Vatican Insider article on facebook revealing the shocking extent to which Karol Wojtyla was spied on for decades, by priests and others close to him in Poland, until he was elected Pope.
There were questions about his habits in the office, which documents he took home with him, whether he took the keys to his desk with him, what he talked about at lunch, whether he “liked playing bridge or other card games, or chess” and with whom he played, whether he smoked or whether he liked alcoholic drinks (“how much does he drink and how often”). The secret police even wanted to know “who supplied his underwear,” who “washed his underwear, socks etc.,” whether “he possessed a …
May. 29, 2012, at 10:43am
In regard to Katie’s question, “To speak or not to speak” about same sex marriage, it does seem to me that we have to speak up despite the delicacies—and crudities—involved. Otherwise, we abandon the field to the propagandists who are already veritably overrunning us. As was mentioned in the article, we can hardly shield our children (at least not for very long) from these realities in our culture—and even home-schoolers are part of mass society. Eventually, by the teen-age years at the least if not before, they will be exposed to all that goes on in America despite restrictions on TV, movies, etc.
It takes real heroism to speak up against the homosexual lobby. People who do so and …continue reading
May. 23, 2012, at 11:19pm
What word is more overused than “love”? Well, maybe none, but I'll wager “self-esteem” runs a respectable second, especially in America.
Or there was that class my daughter once took in which she was asked to describe herself in a poem. One classmate’s effort began:
"I love me. / I'm cool as can be."
It went on in that vein, and it didn’t get better, either. It became a sort of anti-legend in our house, an archetype of How You Kids Must Not Turn Out.
And yet, there’s clearly such a thing as healthy self-esteem, or …continue reading
May. 23, 2012, at 10:00am
NRO has an article by Kevin Williamson today that exhibits some basic confusions in the SSM debate.
He begins with a bit of Eisenhower lore.
One of my favorite political fables concerns Dwight D. Eisenhower and his tenure as president of Columbia University. The campus was undergoing an expansion, and Ike was presented with two very different plans for laying out new sidewalks. The architects were irreconcilable, each insisting that his plan was the only way to go and that the other guy had it all wrong. Ike, sensible fellow that he was, had grass planted instead, telling the architects to wait a year and see where the students trod paths in the turf, and then to put the sidewalks there. …
May. 21, 2012, at 4:12pm
President Obama's announced support of "same-sex marriage" (SSM) has put the issue in the center of public attention. Articles and blogs on the subject are proliferating all over the internet. It's become the stuff of casual conversation even among home-schooled teenagers. It is practially impossible to keep young children from hearing about homosexuality and asking questions.
This raises a serious dilemma for me, and all of us. On the one hand, the SSM lobby relies on and takes advantage of a natural reluctance on the part of most to think and talk about what homosexuality is. They prefer to keep the discussion focussed on subjective feelings and individual rights: "I love my …continue reading
May. 21, 2012, at 10:21am
A fourth option for dealing with the miseries and pains of life is that of genuine hope. How does this differ from mere optimism? How does is compare to pessimism? Well, it is an attempt to face the evils of life realistically while not succumbing to them as the last word (vs. pessimism); but, in order to do so, hope must break the bounds of just this world of space and time (vs. mere optimism) where “death comes as the end.” Hope must find a genuine foundation on which to acknowledge misery without despair, but rather with a realistic possibility of breaking through to genuine happiness.
That true foundation is ultimately the power and goodness of God; therefore, hope is based on …continue reading
May. 18, 2012, at 12:28pm
This is not a book review. I haven't yet read the new book by one Arlie Russell Hochschild. But I want to address the same subject: the striking trend toward paying strangers to do things once thought too personal to entrust to another: what she calls "outsourcing the self."
Just how personal are these things? That depends. On the more prosaic side, there's the unremarkable delegation of tasks that are too onerous or time-consuming to attend to oneself: you could call it "outsourcing" when an assemblage of villagers would arrange a division of labor to avoid duplication of everyone's efforts. Nothing revolutionary here.
At the other extreme is the futile attempt to pay someone to do …continue reading
May. 15, 2012, at 10:21am
An online friend pointed me to a sobering article in Business Insider on Cardinal George's warnings about the HHS mandate.
George wrote in his column that the "The State was making itself into a Church" and said he longed for "the separation of Church and State" that Americans enjoyed recently, "when the government couldn’t tell us which of our ministries are Catholic and which not."
George compared the Obama's vision of "religious liberty" of the United States to that of the Soviet Union in a passage worth quoting at length:
Liberty of religion is more than freedom of worship. Freedom of worship was guaranteed in the Constitution of the former Soviet Union. You could go to church, if …
May. 14, 2012, at 2:43pm
One of the lines that stays with me from the high-flying years of the charismatic renewal in the '80s came from a homily or a talk by (I think) Fr. Michael Scanlon at FUS. He recounted the day when a fellow-traveler in the renewal asked him, "How are you doing, Father?" He replied, "Pretty well, under the circumstances." Then came the robust retort: "What are you doing under the circumstances?"
It was a great laugh line for spiritual pep talk. And it captures an important personalist truth. We're meant to take charge of ourselves; to master our circumstances, not to be mastered by them. We are self-determining moral agents, not just undergoers-of-experience.
On the other hand, too …continue reading
May. 13, 2012, at 6:58pm
Pessimism is an attempt at an “honest” solution to the problem of the miseries of life. It tries to face squarely the reality of evil, pain, death, change, catastrophe, etc., and then offers a way to shield oneself from these inevitable facts of life by steeling oneself against them, not letting oneself be touched by them, by showing an enduring toughness and self-sufficiency in accepting them. It espouses only a negative definition of happiness, relief from misery, without any positive components. The problem with all this “realism” and “honesty” is the underlying assumption that evil, pain, and misery ultimately win out in life and in being. But is this true? Is it honest? Is it …continue reading
May. 10, 2012, at 9:07pm
A couple of weeks ago, in a post on our member forum, Rhett Segal criticized Søren Kierkegaard for “his categorical rejection of any mixed motives relative to the pursuit of the good. To call for the elimination of any desire for reward or the elimination of any fear of punishment is to deny human nature.”
I just found a great passage in Romano Guardini’s The Lord that confirms and amplifies Rhett’s point.
Guardini notices that whereas Christ often emphasizes the rewards we gain and punishments we avoid by being good, modern ethicists commonly disapprove of such ulterior and mercenary motives. Genuine morality, they insist, does not need to be threatened or beguiled into goodness; it …continue reading