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
Mar. 27, 2013, at 9:34am
My introduction to philosophy came through a Nature of Love course featuring texts by von Hildebrand and Wojtyla. The insights I gained in it changed everything for me. Lacking the leisure to write a more substantive article, I at least want to share a few of them, as a way of offering some relief from the moral darkness and confusion presently overwhelming our society.
1) Conjugal love is a unique form of love, a form perfectly embodied in the life-giving conjugal act.
2) Conjugal love is not reducible to a commitment of the will; it's not reducible to "feelings"; it's not reducible to the sexual urge; it's not to be confused with "friendship plus sex." It is not the same as eros. It …continue reading
Mar. 22, 2013, at 9:37pm
Papa Francis has cured me—let’s hope it sticks!—of being a political junkie.
The contrast between his heartfelt, fearless convictions and the politicians’ transparent, crowd-pleasing triangulations is just too stark. The triangulators hardly seem worth poking fun at anymore. And belaboring the contrast between his subway rides and their luxury junkets just seems like overkill. The facts speak for themselves.
(Besides, I have an awful suspicion that the point of all this humility is not so much that we should despise the fat cats and fast talkers but that we should try to become what we’re meant to be. As Kierkegaard has pointed out, a little admiration is a dangerous thing. It’s …continue reading
Mar. 22, 2013, at 8:47am
Today I'm ruminating on a fascinating psychological profile of atheists linked by a facebook friend.
I'm thinking about
1) the importance of relationships, especially in families, and the problem of alienation: the shut heart
2) the importance of gender difference, and the particular gift women are supposed to be for men
3) the problem of exaggerated value placed on intelligence, and the under appreciation of the role of the emotions in human life
I'm thinking about all this in relation to Jules' Person class tonight. His subject is the heart and the emotions. We've both been thinking and talking a lot about this passage from Pope Francis' inaugural homily on the Feast of St. Joseph:
Mar. 21, 2013, at 10:04am
Some days it feels as if the best we can manage is not to be overwhelmed by the darkness gathering over our society.
I've been debating a nice bi-sexual guy who favors civil unions for gays, because he thinks they offer a way out of the nihilistic hedonism otherwise prevailing in the homosexual subculture. He thinks legal recognition of their relationships will help them by channeling their sexuality toward monogamy. He is plainly sincere. But to me it is delusional to suppose we can keep the norm of monogamy once the norm of sexual complementarity is abandoned.
Someday I mean to write an article showing that, in its essence and structure, the conjugal union (ordered as it is toward …continue reading
Mar. 18, 2013, at 10:19am
Rabbi Schmuley has an outstanding article at the Huffington Post about the terrible case of the two Steubenville high school football stars convicted yesterday of raping a 16 year old girl at a alcohol-feuled party last year. He discusses it in terms of the perverse values infecting our society, above all
...the attitude of teenage men toward girls. Immanuel Kant wrote that the definition of immorality is treating a fellow human being as a means rather than an end. The abomination of American slavery was that a white child was taught to see a black child as a walking bale of cotton. Slavery trained a white man to see a black woman as lacking the same spark of the divine that lent him his …
Mar. 17, 2013, at 5:09pm
An honest, thoughtful column by Ross Douthat in the NYT today. The task in front of the Church at the moment is to restore her own moral authority.
If Catholicism has a future in the Western world as something more than a foil, an Other and a symbol of the Benighted Past We Have Safely Left Behind, it needs its leaders to set an example that proves these voices wrong. Before anything else, that requires a generation of priests and bishops who hold themselves to a higher standard — higher than their immediate predecessors, and higher than the world.
It also requires more from the new pope than an evocative name and a humble posture. Catholicism needs someone like Pius V, the 16th-century …
Mar. 14, 2013, at 4:04pm
He’s a conservative, but a Jesuit who has compassion on single mothers, and kisses the feet of AIDS patients.
No, wait, he’s a liberal, but he says the idea of “gay marriage” is “a machination of the Father of Lies” and outspokenly defends the right to life even of babies conceived in rape.
Well, but he’s a conservative—but the son of an immigrant railway worker who eschews the episcopal palace for a small apartment, rides the bus,
and cooks his own meals.
Or maybe he’s a liberal—but he puts a premium on doctrinal orthodoxy. And a 76-year-old man with a single lung who radiates peace and strength.
Oh, never mind.
We all understand that the labels “conservative” and …continue reading
Mar. 13, 2013, at 11:36am
I posted this at the Ricochet member feed today:
One among many stunning features of the papal conclave I can't help noting with awe and gratitude is the harmonious marriage of antiquity and modernity it represents. I mean, you've got people all over the world watching for smoke signals from the Cistine Chapel on their TVs and laptops and iPhones. Think about that.
You have the sacred oath of secrecy and you have the electronic sweeps to make sure there are no hidden listening devices. You have remarkable, highly-educated and accomplished men of our own day and age, from all races and cultures and continents, appearing in those black robes with red sashes and gold crosses that have been …
Mar. 11, 2013, at 10:06pm
The Chief Rabbi of France has written an original and perceptive essay called “Homosexual Marriage, Parenting, and Adoption.” Last week, I made an ambitious attempt to compress his main points into this post, and this week (undaunted, for some reason) I propose to address the way he delves into our experience of sexual complementarity, drawing out what it reveals about (no kidding!) our limitedness, transcendence, interpersonal communion, the bonds between man, woman and child, self-discovery through knowledge of the other, and the spuriousness of self-sufficiency.
I’ll do my best. But the wise reader will go straight to the original article, and he won’t be sorry, either.
* …continue reading
Mar. 11, 2013, at 5:21pm
Today Alice von Hildebrand, widow of Dietrich von Hildebrand and philosopher in her own right, turns 90 years old. In honor of the occasion, we asked her permission to republish an article of hers that we first came across about 25 years ago. It's influenced our thinking ever since.
ON THE PSEUDO-OBVIOUS
— by Alice von Hildebrand
It is no rare occurrence in the history of philosophy that a thesis which is neither proven nor evident has nevertheless been accepted by many, without further examination, simply because of its persuasive ring. And this has taken place in spite of the fact that these assertions were false, sometimes evidently false, and even …continue reading
Mar. 7, 2013, at 11:48am
Two small incidents yesterday brought starkly home the society-wide moral inversion that seems to have happened in the blink of an eye, though, in truth, it's the outcome of a decades-long, aggressive propaganda campaign.
Our littlest was home from public school (for a teachers-in-service day, whatever that is), so Jules took him and a couple of friends bowling and then to lunch at Chik-fil-A. One of the friends, a sweet boy from a lovely, dedicated family, was especially excited to be going to Chik-fil-A for the first time in ages. His family never goes there anymore, he said, "because they're anti-gay." It's a matter of principle.
I have cousin born just nine days before me. We …continue reading
Mar. 4, 2013, at 10:34am
Editor's note: This post was moved, with Samewise's permission, from the Member Feed.
A few notes on the book entitled The Pope and I, by Jerzy Kluger:
Before WWII, in Wadowice, Poland, two men grew up in a Catholic/Jewish neighborhood. The most famous of these men is Karol Wojtyla, but the second is his lifelong Jewish friend, Jerzy Kluger. Together, they spent their elementary and highschool years in Wadowice, only to meet again after the War in Rome and in very different states of life.
A widower, Captain Wojtyla (Karol's father), led the Wojtyla family's life in Wadowice. A tailor by trade, Captain Wojtyla later served as a Polish (then Prussian) officer in WWI. …continue reading
Mar. 3, 2013, at 9:23am
A facebook friend pasted a John Allen interview with Cardinal George of Rome. I can't find it elsewhere online. Among lots of good things, I was especially taken by this part: [Italics are John Allen speaking; bold is my emphasis]
Primarily what Benedict wanted to do was to see to it that the teaching of the Second Vatican Council was recast in ways that would make it vital, but would also be faithful to the whole tradition, which he possessed so magnificently, and which he could synthesize around the concept of love. For instance, charity and love … it used to be said that there was some kind of distinction between the two, as if charity were somehow second best, lady bountiful helping …
Mar. 1, 2013, at 5:15pm
The Chief Rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim, has some memorable reflections on marriage and its counterfeits in this month’s First Things. It's a mixture of strikingly expressed common sense and rare personalist insight.
In fact, I hope to whet your appetite sufficiently so you’ll read the whole thing (which is admittedly pretty lengthy). A few rabbis like this and a few more bishops like, say, Dolan,
and things might start looking very different in the West.
I’m going to give away the punch line right away. Here’s his summary of the harm inflicted by declaring same-sex unions to be marriage:
It would mean, he claims, “the irreversible scrambling of three things”:
Feb. 28, 2013, at 10:48am
I always find Holy Saturday an especially imposing day, spiritually. It's the thought of the empty Tabernacles all over the world. The absent Presence.
I'm feeling something similar as I contemplate the sede vacante. How different an empty chair is from other kinds of emptiness! A chair is meant to hold a person. And this is not just any chair, but a very paticular chair—a chair that represents a sacred office, and an unbroken line.
It's emptiness is awesome, in the truest sense of that word, which includes an element of "fear-inducing."
I'm glad it will be filled soon. I'm also grateful for the way its period of emptiness fills out our sense of its fullness of meaning.
Feb. 27, 2013, at 12:05am
We’ve all been exhorted to cultivate self-esteem and nurture a positive self-image. That sounds appealing. But we also know that God calls us to humility. And many well-intentioned Christians have it in the back of their minds that being humble means living their lives in a haze of discouragement, anxiety, and preoccupation with their own sinfulness.
After all, the only alternative our culture seems to offer is a vacuous “I’m OK, you’re OK” relativism: the false peace that this world gives. We …
Feb. 26, 2013, at 11:00am
The changes to the English translation of the Mass were designed to bring it closer to the Latin original. Hence, they draw attention to certain deficits in the former translation.
In his great classic Liturgy and Personality,* Dietrich von Hildebrand wrote of the perfect, divinely-designed adequacy of the Catholic Liturgy to the human personality, so that the more fully we enter into it, the more it shapes us rightly, as persons.
It follows—doesn't it?— that mis-translations pose a serious problem for our spiritual lives, and likewise that better translations serve to help us interiorize and appropriate without deficits the sacred truths at hand.
Having all that in mind, I love to …continue reading
Feb. 23, 2013, at 12:43am
Mama, if God knew Adam and Eve were gonna sin, how come he tested them?
"Jopa" (Johanna Paulina, named after Guess Who) is my seventh child, age seven, heading into the age of reason right on schedule. This was hardly the first time a kid had posed this question to me. I dusted off my usual talking points:
Feb. 22, 2013, at 11:34am
Shirt logos are so commonplace nowadays that I rarely think about them. But sometimes, when I go shopping with my boys for instance, they still bother me. Why is it that we all accept this form of advertising? Why do we allow ourselves to be used in this way? Why, in fact, do we often have to (or want to) pay extra for the ads?
It is not just boys or sports clothing either. Even dressier shirts usually have logos on them, small but instantly recognizable.
I know, I know. It is not a big deal. It may be a subtle form of objectifying ourselves, of allowing ourselves to be used as billboards, but I agree that it is too insignificant to make an issue out of.
But what are we to think about …continue reading