“no longer did immediate this-worldly success have to be decisive”

From “God’s Gamble: The Gravitational Power of Crucified Love” by Gil Bailie:

The Resurrection delivers men from the fear of death,” writes John Meyendorff, “and, therefore, also from the necessity of struggling for existence.” Such a struggle for existence is spiritually deadening precisely inasmuch as it inevitably becomes a struggle against others for preeminence, material advantage, power, or survival. To the extent that it has been sacramentally instantiated in the life of the believer, the Resurrection of Christ provides the wherewithal required to live responsibly and nobly. Thus it is that the Resurrection has opened up history in a way never before known.

As Raymund Schwager observed: Through the resurrection of Christ . . . it became possible . . . to see conflicts, persecutions, and defeats in a different way. No longer did immediate this-worldly success have to be decisive. History as the history of victors was, at least in principle, overcome. . . . Truth and immediate this-worldly success were separated.

Though the responsibility for proclaiming the truth and struggling for its triumph in this world is in no way diminished, the Resurrection relieves those on whom the Easter Sun has shone of the desperate project of trying to achieve in history what can be fulfilled only eschatologically—a fool’s errand that has turned the late-modern period into a crematoria like no other in history.


Robert Sardello on the many types of Silence

from “Silence: The Mystery of Wholeness” by Robert Sardello:

Everything, it seems, has its own quality of silence. It is a unified but many-qualitied phenomenon. The Silence of high, rocky mountains can be felt as an immensity of Silence that contacts us in such a way that we feel ourselves as one with its immensity, its immovability, and its vastness. In such moments, these spiritual qualities are alive and animated. A dense forest has another kind of Silence. It’s darker, deeper, and more inward; we feel our experience much more from within our body. There are also the happy silences of the wandering stream, the radiant but oppressive silence of the pyramids, the magical silence of the stars casting spells over the whole of the earth, the vast interior silence of the cathedral whose walls seem built around the silence, and the silence of a leaf falling into the Silence that enfolds it. We can imagine assembling a vast catalogue of such qualities of Silence. The great Silence of the sky stretches over all silences; beneath all silences lies the great Silence of the earth.

More random quotes from WikiQuote

A while ago I posted 10 random quotes from WikiQuote. I don’t make any great claims for this, perhaps some juxtapositions thrown up by this method may be interesting, perhaps not. I followed the same procedure as the previous post.

Egoism and altruism are ideas we have about human nature. Historically, one has tended to arise in response to the other. In the ancient world,for example, it is generally in the times and places that one sees the emergence of money and markets that one also sees the rise of world religions—Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. If one sets aside a space and says, “Here you shall think only about acquiring material things for yourself,” then it is hardly surprising that before long someone else will set aside a countervailing space and declare, in effect: “Yes, but here we must contemplate the fact that the self, and material things, are ultimately unimportant.”

Not weird weird, but like exciting weird.

When a mixture of 1,3-butadiene and ethene is heated in the gas phase, a remarkable reaction takes place in which cyclohexene is formed by the simultaneous generation of two new carbon – carbon bonds. This is the simplest example of the Diels-Alder reaction, in which a conjugated diene adds to an alkene to yield cyclohexene derivatives. The Diels-Alder reaction is in turn a special case of the more general class of cycloaddition reactions between psystems, the products of which are called cycloadducts.

Public administration is the use of managerial, political, and legal theories and processes to fulfill legislative, executive, and judicial governmental mandates for the provision of regulatory and service functions for the society as a whole or for some segments of it.

And most importantly, they showed us that no matter whom we choose to love, be they heterosexual, homosexual, asexual, bisexual, trisexual, quadrisexual, pansexual, transexual, omnisexual or that thing where the chick ties the belt around your neck and tinkles on a ballon, it has absolutely nothing to do with who we are as people.

You don’t really want my heart No, you just like to know you can Still be the one who gets it breaking You only want me when I’m taken.

Art thou the bird whom Man loves best,
The pious bird with the scarlet breast,
Our little English Robin;
The bird that comes about our doors
When autumn winds are sobbing?

Ich glaube ihm das, und ich bin davon überzeugt, dass er das ist. (I believe him, and I’m convinced that he is.)

Slow down, Thomas! You’re spilling my bubble liquid!

Shapin’s admirable essay misses, however, the point of Mara Beller’s piece in Physics Today (1998). Beller is not urging a more thoughtful attitude on physicists by pointing out that the wisdom of Bohr would sound like nonsense if it came from sociology or cultural studies. Quite the opposite. She is denouncing the great icons of quantum physics for uttering what she takes to be nonsense, and she is urging scientists to clean up their own act before they get on with the business of mocking others.

“The puzzle which God had flung to me consisted of elements which needed for their solution not the head only, but the heart, the imagination, the intuitions; in fact, the entire human character had to deal with it.”

From “Confessions of a Convert”, R H Benson


This, then, I began to see more and more overwhelmingly: that it is possible, from the huge complications of history, philosophy, exegesis, natural law, and the rest—and, in fact, every single method of God’s indications of His Will—to make out a case for almost any theory under the sun. The materials from which I was obliged, all incompetent, to judge, were as a vast kaleidoscope of colours. I might say that the main scheme was red and that the rest were accidental, or that it was blue or green or white. Each man, I perceived, had a natural inclination to one theory and tended to select it. It was certainly possible to make out a claim for Anglicanism or the Papacy or Judaism or the system of the Quakers. And on this, almost despairing, I had to set to work. One thing, however, began to emerge ever so slowly; namely, that intellect alone could prove very little. The puzzle which God had flung to me consisted of elements which needed for their solution not the head only, but the heart, the imagination, the intuitions; in fact, the entire human character had to deal with it. It was impossible to escape wholly from natural prejudice, but I must do my best. I must step back a little from the canvas and regard the affair as a whole, not bend over it with a measuring-rod and seek to test the elusive ethereal whole by but one faculty of my nature.

Simon Jacobson on “honouring thy father and thy mother”

The commandment to “honour thy father and thy mother” is one that, one would like to hope, is usually relatively straightforward. Many of us (most of us?) can fairly easily point to evidence our parents are or were nurturing, supportive and loving … but one must always acknowledge those who cannot. Indeed, examples of not merely inadvertent but deliberate harm done by parents are not hard to come by in the headlines.

From the radio show of Rabbi Simon Jacobson:

When I was thinking about what to talk about this evening, a friend mentioned to me that he had a question that someone had asked him about how one honors parents who don’t seem to deserve honor. Then later in the day another friend asked me the same question, completely unrelated. So I guess that’s a sign that that’s the topic that should be addressed. I know it’s a very painful one, but at the same time a very relevant one to many people.

It made me think about the discussion we had last week with Mr. Dubner, about the issue of imperfect parents. Parents really do get a real bad rap, especially in our generation with everyone baring their souls in confessionals and the healing and recovery movement, but there’s a very good reason for it: parents definitely do shape their children.

At the same time, if you look into the Torah, for Jews particularly (yesterday was the Torah reading that included the Ten Commandments), the fifth of the Ten Commandments is “Honor Your Parents, i.e., honor your father and mother.” The Torah goes even further and promises that in the merit of doing that, you will have a long life. As a matter of fact, when the Ten Commandments are repeated a second time, in the final book (Deuteronomy), it even adds another element there: that you will not just have a long life, but you will also live in peace, and have a good life.

So tonight we’re going to address this issue of honoring parents. Every one of us has been a child, continues to be a child (hopefully our parents are alive), so it’s a very relevant topic and I welcome calls on all issues related to this topic (1-212-244-2050). I must say that many of us are very angry about this issue, so anger also relates to it because people have a lot of anger against their parents, against their childhood, the way they were hurt when they were still vulnerable and impressionable.

So what exactly are our obligations to our parents and what is this whole concept of honoring them anyway—particularly in a situation where on one end of the spectrum you don’t really feel that they deserve it, and on the other end there was even severe abuse; parents who have hurt their children in very profound ways. Issues that children have with parents who continue to haunt them, the scars that we pick up on different levels of abuse, whether it’s overt or subtle. How do we address that and what exactly is this fifth of the Ten Commandments of honoring parents?

I especially would like to hear from people who are very angry with their parents and also of course people who are very loving toward their parents. It will be interesting to hear from you the different dynamics in our relationship with our parents.

Last week I asked Mr. Dubner the following question, which we all have to ask ourselves: On the one hand, you look to your parents as your source of nurturing, a source of comfort, which even unhealthy parents definitely provide somewhat (I’m not talking about extreme cases of course) and at the same time, how do you separate the two feelings of love and hurt? The same parents who love you, have, on the other hand also hurt you?

For a child, even for an adult, it’s very confusing, and it becomes a very snowball type of combination of the good and the bad. As adults, we have the intelligence, the discretion to be able to distinguish.

But as children, that distinction isn’t that obvious and that’s a big quandary, because if you got from your parents healthy nurturing, and on the other hand they may have given you certain values that you really can’t embrace, or values that you see real faults in (you know, “the lies my father told me”), it’s the first time you realize that your parents aren’t perfect.

This is a serious issue. I’d like to begin by giving some perspective here, namely, the anatomy of what exactly the commandment “honor your parent” means.

Now, the real question that’s asked in Jewish thought, in Jewish philosophy, is a more fundamental one. Judaism does not believe in any intermediaries. In other words, we have a direct relationship with G-d. There are no partnerships, no intermediaries, no hired guns; each of us prays to G-d. G-d gave us a soul and empowered us with the ability to overcome our challenges in life. We have a mission. As I very often say on this show (Toward a Meaningful Life), “meaningful life” implies a direct mission that we have, a meaning and purpose in our lives. And that is a direct relationship with G-d.

So the question is asked, “Where is there any room for honoring anyone besides G-d?” It’s true, parents may have provided for us. Of course, if they were healthy they gave us nurturing. Many parents are selfless in their love and in their dedication to their children. But honoring your parents seems in some way to imply that parents have some type of partnership with G-d…but we should be honoring G-d alone who gives us life.

The Talmud does say that there are three partners in the birth of a child: the mother, father and G-d. The parents provide, so to speak, the stuff of which the body is made. G-d provides the soul. That’s why you can have a relationship between a man and a woman, a potential father and mother, husband and wife, and it doesn’t bear a child. So G-d is the third partner — the Creator of life.

So seemingly, birth should be honoring G-d, not the parents. We don’t recognize any form of “partnership” with G-d in creation. And one of the fascinating answers to this is that when we honor our parents, even healthy parents, we’re not honoring our parents, we’re honoring G-d who gave us life through our parents.

So, in essence, it’s really a recognition of G-d. For instance, there is a distinct law in Judaism that if parents tell a child to do something that transgresses G-d’s law, meaning the ethical laws of how we behave with each or other or any type of Divine law, any law that G-d dictates, the child does not have to comply with that request of the parents, even though there’s a commandment to honor your parents. But the commandment to honor your parents does not supercede the commandment of G-d because you honor your parents not because they have power or because they think they’re important, or because they provided for us, you honor them because G-d gave life to us through them.

And that’s a major distinction. That’s why if one has to choose between following a parent’s request and following G-d’s law, we defer to G-d. Honoring your parents is not an end in itself: there’s a meaning there, a significance, a spirit behind it — it is a means to honor G-d.

Now the interesting distinction that I’d like to make as well is that the commandment says, “honor your parents”; it doesn’t say “love your parents.” The Torah doesn’t tell us to love our parents. That means the commandment doesn’t include that. Honor can include that, but that’s an optional thing. There is a commandment to love G-d. There is a commandment to love your fellow. Why isn’t there a commandment to love our parents? Because they don’t always deserve our love. But if we dishonor the life that G-d gave us through our parents, then it’s not that we’re dishonoring our parents, we’re dishonoring ourselves, we’re dishonoring our own personal life.

Magheragallon Poem #1

Here, the edge of the edge of Europa,
Ocean winds shoot through me, around me.
Here, the edge of a brief archipelago,
Stones stretching into the Atlantic,
Here, at the edge of a great renunciation –
No, the greatest renunciation.

What is it that is renounced?
What is it that is not rejected?
What is it that is accepted?

An island in name only.
A tree blind to its forest.

A forest everywhere, invisible, Nowhere.

The panorama of jagged Errigal, softer hills,
White houses, marram, bogland, the sea, the sea.
And closer to – a panorama of memorial, of invocations, of supplications.

A landscape drawn by lines of silence.

The big other, inescapable.
Closer than close, far away.

Walls of heaped stone enclose
That undiscovered country
You have discovered.
The sky above boundless, free.

Our ending is everywhere, nowhere, invisible, inescapable,

Drawn by lines of silence.

In July my father went to take the waters: The Key

A while back I posted a text I had written, or rather constructed, which had been published online in the now defunct Shelf Life Magazine.

To recap the methodology:

Take a bookshelf (perhaps you can do this with a Kindle or the like as well, but an old fashioned shelf of old fashioned books has a certain physical reality to it). Take the first book on the left. Copy the first sentence. Then, copy the second sentence from the second book. Then, the third sentence from the third book. Then, the fourth sentence from the fourth book. I’m sure you are getting the picture. You can either confine yourself to fiction (I did) or not. On our shelves, as well as the volumes already there, there are infinitely many other possible narratives waiting to be combined. I imagine a perfect library in which this method can be used to compose an entirely fresh and coherent new story.

In July my father went to take the waters and left me, with my mother and elder brother, a prey to the blinding white heat of the summer days. Just as in the struggles against Napoleon and, later, Hitler, it was a war that Britain had to fight and had to win. ‘Held close in his arms, her head against his breast,’ began the last paragraph, ‘Nicole no longer felt any anger against him … everything that happened in the past was suddenly of no importance.’ The initials stamped on it in Gothic characters were not Father Rothschild’s, for he had borrowed it that morning from the valet-de-chambre of his hotel. Today, spaceflight is almost commonplace.

In medieval Europe until the end of the eleventh century we learn of the feudal aristocracy largely from clerical sources which naturally reflect ecclesiastical attitudes: the knights do not speak for themselves. If you had wealth, you could work out precisely how much interest it would earn you every year, while civil servants and officers were reliably able to consult the calendar and see the year they would be promoted and the year they would retire. We can trace back the devotion to the Seven Last Words of Jesus on the Cross to the Twelfth Century. But this book uses it just to introduce philosophy.

A meadow mouse, startled by my approach, darts damply across the skunk track.

Books used:

The Street of Crocodiles, Bruno Schulz
Forgotten Victory, Gary Sheffield
Fat, Bald and Worthless: The Curious Stories Behind Noble Names, Rev. Robert Easton
Vile Bodies, Evelyn Waugh
How to Build a Time Machine, Paul Davies.
Medieval Technology and Social Change, Lynn White JR.
The World of Yesterday, Stefan Zweig
Seven Last Words, Timothy Radcliffe
Philosophy 101 by Socrates, Peter Kreeft
A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold