Saturday, February 7, 2009

The more things change....

G.K. Chesterton died before WW II but one might have thought he wrote a weekly column for Townhall or some other soon to be outlawed conservative outlet from this passage:

For the whole  modern world is absolutely based on the assumption, not that the rich are necessary (which is tenable), but that the rich are trustworthy, which (for a Christian) is not tenable. You will hear everlastingly, in all discussions about newspapers, companies, aristocracies, or party politics, this argument that the rich man cannot be bribed. The fact is, of course, that the rich man is bribed; he has been bribed already. That is why he is a rich man. The whole case for Christianity is that a man who is dependent upon the luxuries of this life is a corrupt man, spiritually corrupt, politically corrupt, financially corrupt. There is one thing that Christ and all the Christian saints have said with a sort of savage monotony. They have said simply that to be rich is to be in peculiar danger of moral wreck. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Saturday @5. 

Happy birthday, dude!

Today is Tom's 18th birthday! We are planning a family birthday party on Friday at P.F. Changs. Mom has made reservations, but I don't remember what time they are for. Call her. 

Anya and I counted her worldly cash collection yesterday: $69. She is insistent on buying a "very good" present for Tom with her own money, along with Valentine Day presents for her sisters, whom she adores whether they know it or not. Thank goodness there are 3 Walmarts within a 6 mile radius of our house. 

I finished Chesterton's book on St. Thomas Aquinas. Someday I'll have to go back and reread the last chapter because I didn't understand a word of it. 

Having mastered that, I'm now halfway through "Orthodoxy", Chesterton's spiritual autobiography and opus. It is not an easy read, and I realize why he is not as popular an author as the more-accessible C.S. Lewis. 

Here is a striking quote from the book:

Paganism declared that virtue was in a balance; Christianity declared it was in a conflict: the collision of two passions apparently opposite. Of course they were not really inconsistent; but they were such that it was hard to hold simultaneously. Let us follow for a moment the clue of the martyr and the suicide; and take the case of courage. No quality has ever so much addled the brains and tangled the definitions of merely rational sages. Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die. "He that will lose his life, the same shall save it," is not a piece of mysticism for saints and heroes. It is a piece of everyday advice for sailors or mountaineers. It might be printed in an Alpine guide or a drill book. This paradox is the whole principle of courage; even of quite earthly or quite brutal courage. A man cut off by the sea may save his life if he will rick it on the precipice. He can only get away from death by continually stepping within an inch of it. A soldier surrounded by enemies if he is to cut his way out, needs to combine a strong desire for living with a strange carelessness about dying. He must not merely cling to life,  for then he will be a coward, and will not escape. He must not merely wait for death, for then he will be a suicide, and will not escape. He must seek his life in a spirit of furious indifference to it; he must desire life like water and yet drink death like wine. No philosopher, I fancy, has ever expressed this romantic riddle with adequate lucidity, and I certainly have not done so. But Christianity has done more: it has marked the limits of it in the awful graves of the suicide and the hero, showing the distance between him who dies for the sake of living and him who dies for the sake of dying. And it has held up ever since above the European lances the banner of the mystery of chivalry: the Christian courage, which is a disdain of death; not the Chinese courage, which is a disdain of life. 

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Back in the house

Our power came on last night although we didn't move back to our home until this morning. Almost miraculously we came upon an enterprising arborist from Cincinnati who is in the area helping with the clean-up effort. He is clearing out the yard even as we speak, at a fraction at what the local arborists were going to charge. I'm proud of how Karin has been able to orhestrate this process. 

Two nights ago we watched "Fireproof". It's a great little movie. As Katy said, it won't be nominated for any Oscars (many of the actors were local volunteers, and the movie had a low-budget feel to it) but it was a good-hearted film that made me think about my own marital behavior. 

Just don't tell my wife or she'll expect me to be nice to her. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Winter wonderland

Last night Kentuckiana was hit by an ice storm for the ages. I'm a sound sleeper and was oblivious to it all, but my son stayed up all night listening to cracks and crashes as our trees were covered with two inches of ice and then collapsed under the weight. To make matters worse, we woke up to no electricity. Fortunately Katy and Mike invited us over to their nice toasty warm house. 

I'm afraid we might be seeing our summer vacation landing on the ground as we contemplate how we're going to get this mess cleaned up. Unless one of the teetering limbs falls on our house, we're thankful that we didn't sustain any structural damage. 

I'm also thankful that I'm getting to spend time with my grand-daughter and commiserate with my son-in-law Mike, the businessman, who is pondering just how I might make a living in our current reimbursement climate. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Team in Training

I've signed up to do the Fletcher-Flyer century ride in June. This will involve propelling myself one hundred miles on my bike over treacherous and mountainous terrain in Asheville, N.C. I will be raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Foundation. Would you, O reader, consider checking out my Team in Training page and donating and small yet tidy sum?

Monday, January 26, 2009

O happy day!

Today we learned that Tom has been accepted early decision to Moody Bible Institute. We are proud of you, dude!

That is quite a record, btw: Three children apply to college early decision, and three get accepted. I can't tell you how thankful we are!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A few of my favorite things

It's hard to stay in a bad mood when you look at these pictures. I could look at them all day. They're even better in person.

Clare (AKA Clare-bear):
Here's my memory work, along with corrections if I miss any.

Therefore I tell you not to worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air. They do not sow or reap or store away in barns, yet your heavenly father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

And why do you worry about clothes?  See how (And look at) the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin and yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was (not) dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass, which is here today and tomorrow thrown into the fire, (is clothed), will (your heavenly father) he (even) not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying "What shall we eat?" or "What shall we drink?" or "What shall we wear?" (about what you will eat or drink or what you will wear.) For The pagans all run after these things, and you heavenly father knows that you need them. (Instead) But seek first (the) his kingdom and its righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well. Do not worry about tomorrow, (because) for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Bible stories

Dr. John Patrick says that it is the duty of all men to teach their children "all the major stories and parables of the Bible" before they reach 7 years old. 

I didn't do that. All my native borne children turned out pretty well anyway.

But I still think it's a good idea. 

Maybe my married daughters would do that with their children. It's up to them. Maybe they could help me come up with a list of stories to teach our Ukrainian daughter Anya. 

We made it through Charlotte's Web, but she has no interest in any of the Narnia books.

I think I'll make her suffer through one Bible story a night until I get them all covered. 

Here's my list so far:

1. Creation and the Fall of man.

2. Cain and Able. 

3. Noah's Ark and the Flood.

4. The Tower of Babel. 

5. The call of Abraham.

6. Sarah, Hagar, Ishmael and Isaac. 

7. Abraham and Isaac and the mount. 

After that I'd have to scan through Genesis. There are a few stories I might not get around to covering, like Judah and Onan, but I think that's a good start. 

Feel free to make suggestions. 

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Before my Saturday morning spin

Once again I can't figure out how to manipulate images once I've uploaded them to the blog. Oh well. 

Here is Kendra, whom we are babysitting this morning. When she comes to our house she is the perfect child, and I mean PERFECT. She plays happily, never cries, and goes right to sleep when it is nap time. Her parents think we're doing them a big favor when we babysit her. Don't tell them it's not so. It'll be our little secret. 

Above is my roadbike mounted to a Kurt Kinetic trainer, right in front of a TV that has Coach Troy discs loaded and ready to go. I'm planning on doing a 1 1/2 hour pukefest as soon as Kendra is picked up. I hope her parents take their time. 

Here is a lucid quote that clears up one of my misunderstandings, again from G.K. Chesterton:

I have never understood why there is supposed to be something crabbed or antique about a syllogism; still less can I understand what anybody means by talking as if induction had somehow taken the place of deduction. The whole point of deduction is that true premises produce a true conclusion. What is called induction seems simply to mean collecting a larger number of true premises, or perhaps, in some physical matters, taking rather more trouble to see that they are true. It may be a fact that a modern man can get more out of a great many premises, concering microbes or asteroids than a medieval man could get out of a very few premises about salamanders and unicorns. But the process of dedutction from the data is the same for the modern mind as for the medieval mind; and what is pompouly called induction is simply collecting more of the data. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Da Man

I'm half-way through G.K. Chesterton's biography of St. Thomas Aquinas. At this point I'm not sure who I admire more, St. Thomas himself or Chesterton, who I suspect to have been a better albeit more demanding writer than C. S. Lewis.  

Here are a series of quotes to be contemplated:

"It is not based on documents of faith, but on the reasons and statements of the philosophers themselves." Would that all Orthodox doctors in deliberation were as reasonable as Aquinas in anger!


[I]n the matter of the inspiration of Scripture, he fixed first on the obvious fact, which was forgotten by four furious centuries of sectarian battle, that the meaning of Scripture is very far from self-evident; and that we must often interpret it in the light of other truths. If a literal interpretation is really and flatly contradicted by an obvious fact, why then we can only say that the literal interpretation must be a false interpretation. But the fact must really be an obvious fact.


This last quote is taken at length from page 69 as it seems to dovetail amazing well with Wendell Berry's "Life is a miracle":

[St. Thomas] had won his battle for a wider scope of philosophy and science; he had cleared the ground for a general understanding about faith and enquiry; an understanding that has generally been observed among Catholics, and certainly never deserted without disaster. It was the idea that the scientist should go on exploring and experimenting freely, so long as he did not claim an infallibility and finality which it was against his own principles to claim. Meanwhile the Church should go on developing and defining, about supernatural things, so long as she did not claim a right to alter the deposit of faith, which it was against her own principles to claim. And when he had said this, Siger of Brabant got up and said something so horribly like it, and so horribly unlike, that like Antichrist) he might have deceived the very elect. 

Siger of Brabant said this: the Church must be right theologically, but she can be wrong scientifically. There are two truths; the truth of the supernatural world, and the truth of the natural world, which contradicts the supernatural world. While we are being naturalists, we can suppose that Christianity is all nonsense; but then, when we remember that we are Christians, we must admit that Christianity is true even if it is nonsense. In other words, Siger of Brabant split the human head in two, like the blow in an old legend of battle; and declared that a man has two minds, with one of which he must entirely believe and with the other may utterly disbelieve. To many this would at least seem like a parody of Thomism. As a fact, it was an assassination of Thomism. 

Saturday, January 10, 2009

That dude can write!

G.K. Chesterton knew how to turn a phrase. I don't really know if anything he says is true, but it is certainly well-expressed. 

From his biography of St. Thomas Aquinas:

It will not be possible to conceal much longer from anybody the fact that St. Thomas Aquinas was one of the great liberators of the human intellect... Simply as one of the facts that bulk big in history, it is true to say that Thomas was a very great man who reconciled religion with reason, who expanded it towards experimental science, who insisted that the senses were the window of the soul and that the reason had a divine right to feed upon facts, and that it was the business of the Faith to digest the strong meat of the toughest and most practical of pagan philosophies. 

Friday, January 9, 2009

Never post at bedtime

But I'm going to do it anyway. 

I finished up with Berry's "Life is a Miracle" and started the first chapter of Chesterton's biography on Saint Thomas Aquinas. I've never read anything by Chesterton so I'm looking forward to it.

Chesterton reminds us that God gives us a Saint to correct the imbalance of the age. St. Francis was given to us because, he says, his age lacked romanticism. St. Thomas was given to us because his age lacked (proper) reason. 

To return to Berry, in page 137 he states, "In our public dialogue (such as it is) we are now using many valuable words that are losing their power of reference and have as a consequence become abstract, merely gestures. I have in mind words such as "patriotism, " "freedom," "equality," and "rights," or "nature," "human," "wild," and "sustainable.""

If these gentlemen are right, perhaps the next Saint will someone who can plainly speak the truth, someone who uses words properly with respect to their meaning. 

He (or she) would be an anecdote for our age, this moment in particular, considering we are installing to power someone who used lofty rhetoric that was for the most part utter nonsense. 

Good night. 

Os Guinness

I listened to an old Christian Medical Doctors Association tape interview of Os Guinness. I was intrigued by a haiku he quotes:

the world is dew
the world is dew
and yet......and yet.....

He discusses the three core questions we ask in times of either suffering or evil (or both):

--Why me?
--Where is God?
--How will I endure?

His challenge: if a secularist uses the problem of evil as a stick to attack God, what is their answer for the problem?