"Look not too long in the face of the fire, O man! Never dream with thy hand on the helm! Turn not thy back to the compass; accept the first hint of the hitching tiller; believe not the artificial fire, when its redness makes all things look ghastly. To-morrow, in the natural sun, the skies will be bright; those who glared like devils in the forking flames, the morn will show in far other, at least gentler, relief; the glorious, golden, glad sun, the only true lamp - all others but liars!
Nevertheless the sun hides not Virginia's Dismal Swamp, nor Rome's accursed Campagna, nor wide Sahara, nor all the millions of miles of deserts and of griefs beneath the moon. The sun hides not the ocean, which is the dark side of this earth, and which is two thirds of this earth. So, therefore, that mortal man who hath more of joy than sorrow in him, that mortal man cannot be true - not true, or undeveloped. With books the same. The truest of all men was the Man of Sorrows, and the truest of all books is Solomon's, and Ecclesiastes is the fine hammered steel of woe. "All is vanity". ALL. This willful world hath not got hold of unchristian Solomon's wisdom yet. But he who dodges hospitals and jails, and walks fast crossing grave- yards, and would rather talk of operas than hell; calls Cowper, Young, Pascal, Rousseau, poor devils all of sick men; and throughout a care-free lifetime swears by Rabelais as passing wise, and therefore jolly; - not that man is fitted to sit down on tomb-stones, and break the green damp mould with unfathomably wondrous Solomon.
But even Solomon, he says, "the man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain" (i. e. even while living) "in the congregation of the dead". Give not thyself up, then, to fire, lest it invert thee, deaden thee; as for the time it did me.
There is a wisdom that is woe; but there is a woe that is madness. And there is a Catskill eagle in some souls that can alike dive down into the blackest gorges, and soar out of them again and become invisible in the sunny spaces. And even if he for ever flies within the gorge, that gorge is in the mountains; so that even in his lowest swoop the mountain eagle is still higher than other birds upon the plain, even though they soar."
Miraculously, Pi survives, both physically and spiritually. His comment on reaching the soft sands of the Mexican shore is that the beach is “like the cheek of God, and somewhere two eyes were glittering with pleasure and a mouth was smiling at having me there.” The novel, to be sure, is filled with Martel’s beautiful descriptions of people, places, and emotions, and his characterization of the modern reaction to zoos and confinement nicely parallels Pi’s marine confinement with a carnivorous cat, but I think that Martel does his best work in the chapters that bookend the ocean narrative. The novel is broken into three parts, with the opening chapters describing Pi’s life in India, his family zoo, and the way in which people tend to feel pity for animals in artificial environments. Pi’s passionate defense of zoos inevitably leads to one of the most integral quotations of this first part of the book: “I know zoos are no longer in people’s good graces. Religion faces the same problem. Certain illusions about freedom plague them both” (19). The message is that agnostics and atheists look at people practicing religion as animals in a cage, lacking the ability to move about freely in a world with innumerable choices. The existence of a choice, however, does not make it a viable and healthy option, and Pi’s assertion that a properly maintained zoo enclosure is ultimately a liberating experience for an animal (because it frees them from lives of compulsion and necessity in the wild) parallels his defense of religion, freeing human lives by emancipating them from enslavement to baser (animal) passions.
In the third part of the novel, Pi, after washing upon Mexican shores, is visited by two Japanese businessmen from the company who owned the cargo ship. They are interested solely in hearing Pi’s tale so they can determine the cause for the sinking of the ship. After hearing Pi’s version of the events, they bristle with confusion and doubt over the “believability” of the events related to them. They call his tale a “story,” and ask again to know “what really happened” to the boy. Pi assumes they want another story, but the men say no, because Japanese stories have an element of “invention” in them, and these businessmen want only the facts. Pi argues that life can be deemed a “story” while still reflecting factual reality. In fact, the word story is derived from the Latin historia, essentially meaning a record of events. It is the Japanese businessmen who give Pi’s tale the epithet of “untrue” or “unbelievable” simply because they cannot fathom that such a series of events would happen. Isn’t the same true of scientists, who tell of their own experiences with the natural world, precluding the occurrence or existence of a possibility that has not yet been tested within the confines of this “story?” Like the Japanese businessmen, scientists too often hear the word “story” when a person begins to speak of religion; the two terms become conflated, and both are deemed at odds with “fact.” Pi is saying that a story need not be seen as anathema to truth.
Pi, ever polite, obliges the men with a rendition of the facts in which the animals aboard the lifeboat are actually humans from the cargo ship. This story is far more gruesome, with murder and cannibalism, a picture of human nature at its lowest point. At the tale’s conclusion, Pi offers the Japanese men the choice of two stories, “with animals or without.” It is interesting that these are the options named, not a story with animals or a story with humans. The Japanese businessmen, the “scientists” who search Pi’s story for facts, assume that the tale of cannibalism and barbary must be true because it aligns with their experience of human nature, of life as “nasty, brutish, and short.” But the men know, in their hearts, that the narrative of Pi taming the tiger, overcoming that base and primitive portion of the human soul, is more palatable. This does not necessarily automatically exclude it from reality. It is the better story, the two men decide, and Pi replies “So it goes with God.” Perhaps the idea is that men, like animals, prefer the civilizing and morally elevating effects of religious “confinement,” a cage that ironically allows men to be freer than a life of sin ever could. The reluctance to enter this cage is expressed as the desire to equate a religious life with the unbelievable, with something that is essentially at odds with human nature, as something that requires more of men than they are able to give. “If you stumble at mere believability,” Pi had asked the Japanese businessman earlier in the interview, “what are you living for?...Love is hard to believe, ask any lover. Life is hard to believe, ask any scientist. God is hard to believe, ask any believer. What is your problem with hard to believe?” (297).
That is Pi’s query posed to the businessmen, and that is the question posed to the reader by Life of Pi. Although more spiritual than religious, the book is a welcome respite from the hackneyed tale of the unrequited wanderings of modern youth. Despite initial misgivings, I did enjoy the book. However, I found it to be more palatable in the digestion of its message rather than during actual reading.
"'This,' said she, 'is nearly the sense, or rather the meaning of the words, for certainly the sense of an Italian love-song must not be talked of, - but it is as nearly the meaning as I can give; for I do not pretend to understand the language. I am a very poor Italian scholar.
'Yes, yes, I see you are. I see you know nothing of the matter. You have only knowledge enough of the language, to translate at sight these inverted, transposed, curtailed Italian lines, into clear, comprehensible, elegant English. You need not say anything more of your ignorance. - Here is complete proof.'"
'I will not oppose such kind politeness; but I should be sorry to be examined by a real proficient.'
'I have not had the pleasure of visiting in Camdenplace so long,' replied he, 'without knowing something of Miss Anne Elliot; and I do regard her as one who is too modest, for the world in general to be aware of half her accomplishments, and too highly accomplished for modesty to be natural in any other woman.'
'For shame! for shame! - this is too much of flattery. I forget what we are to have next,' turning to the bill..
“One of the problems encountered by socialist societies is the drabness of social realism [by which he means the condition of socialist societies]. To counter this threat, the British socialist Anthony Crosland imaged a new socialism ofI don't think this is a tremendously powerful argument or anything, but very funny and useful to keep in mind.more open-air cafes, brighter and gayer streets at night, later closing hours for public houses, more local repertory theaters, better and more hospitable hoteliers and restaurateurs, brighter and cleaner eating houses, more riverside cafes, more pleasure-gardens on the Battersea model, more murals and pictures in public places, better designs for furniture and pottery and women’s clothes, statues in the centre of new housing estates, better-designed street lamps and telephone kiosks, and so on ad infinitum…In a brilliant review of Crosland’s work, Colin Welch notes that this “enlivening prospect: Paris rather than Moscow, more Toulouse-Lautrec than socialist realism,” depends in practice upon private means and private tastes to ensure ‘the survival, ambience and prosperity of many of these charming amenities. That riverside restaurant which we can afford to go to once and a while, on special occasions, is in fact kept going by those who can afford to eat out there often and well: no rich, alas, no restaurant.’ Crosland’s neglect of such facts of life ‘may in part explain the fearful contrast between the enlivening prospects he offers and the shabby, decaying slum, the haunted house, in which we have been condemned… by his egalitarian fervor to live.’(pg. 212-213)”
Greenpeace member: "Are you an environmentalist?"
Me: "Yeah, sure." (wearing a Red Sox hat)
Greenpeace member: "Did you know that in 30 years Fenway will be underwater if we don't do anything about it?"
Me: "I'll take that bet."
Greenpeace member: "oh, what?"
Hence the young man is not a fit student of Moral Philosophy, for he has no experience in the actions of life, while all that is said presupposes and is concerned with these: and in the next place, since he is apt to follow the impulses of his passions, he will hear as though he heard not, and to no profit, the end in view being practice and not mere knowledge.
And I draw no distinction between young in years, and youthful in temper and disposition: the defect to which I allude being no direct result of the time, but of living at the beck and call of passion, and following each object as it arises. For to them that are such the knowledge comes to be unprofitable, as to those of imperfect self-control: but, to those who form their desires and act in accordance with reason , to have knowledge on these points must be very profitable.
Ethics Book I
Greg Mitchell ridicules Bill Kristol for insinuating that Barack Obama was a Marxist for saying that residents of economically depressed small towns "cling to guns or religion ... as a way to explain their [economic] frustrations." But of course it was a Marxist thing to say, wasn't it? If Democrats had delivered on the economy, Obama suggests, all those GOP cultural "wedge" issues would lose traction. This idea--that the economy trumps culture--isn't new. It's "materialism." The economic "base," Marxists would argue, determines the cultural "superstructure." If the economy changes (i.e. if small town Pennsylvanians get well-paying jobs) then the superstructure will change (Pennsylvanians will feel less intensely about their religion).His whole rant was interesting to me, although I'm not entirely sure why.
Actually this isn't simply Marxism--it's what, when I was in college at least, was called Vulgar Marxism. More sophisticated Marxists hypothesized various ways the cultural "superstructure" could interact with the economy or take on a life of its own. Less supple Marxists (Engels, if I remember) hew to the crude base/superstructure idea--with feudalism you get feudal beliefs, which give way to bourgeois beliefs once capitalism takes over.
Anyway, I am reading a great book called Bonfire of the Humanities. One of its authors is Victor Davis Hanson, a professor of Greek and the director of the Classics Program at the California State University in Fresno. You may recognize him as the author of Who Killed Homer? and A War Like No Other. Bonfire of the Humanities is a fantastic book that, at its core, brings the “crisis” of the Classics to the forefront. American society is steadily losing interest in the Classics, the authors claim, and there is diverse debate about the root cause of the problem. The book is comprised of essays by Hanson and two other authors; I found one by Bruce Thornton (hilariously entitled “Cultivating Sophistry” as a jab at Martha Nussbaum’s book Cultivating Humanity) particularly interesting. This essay, essentially a review of Nussbaum’s book, focuses on the irony of her simultaneous derision of “Western hegemony” and assertion that the concept of multiculturalism is its antidote. How, Thornton muses, could Nussbaum miss the fact that to engage in serious study of other cultures is an idea developed solely in Western culture?
At any rate, Thornton’s essay concludes by framing the desire for multiculturalism as the pastime of the elite, people who are “at home only in transit.” He quotes Christopher Lasch as claiming that “multiculturalism provides the… rootless consumer, whether of cuisine or ideas, with a wide variety of lifestyle options and choices, ‘bits and pieces they can try on for a while, taste and enjoy, and throw away’.” Both Thornton and Lasch were characterizing the hypocrisy of university professors, but I find that these quotations apply equally as accurately to the vast majority of my own generation. I have heard, on occasions too numerous to count, friends and acquaintances complain that they find it impossible to imagine staying at a job for longer than a year. Oh, the horror of commitment to a quotidian existence! If only we could all be world travelers, unbounded by zip codes and responding with “Mother Earth” when asked the address of our home. Multiculturalism feeds the perverse desire to crown oneself with the epithet “itinerant,” even if one’s bank account doesn’t allow for such freedoms. I think, too, that multiculturalism’s dramatic rise in popularity (in America, at least) must also be due to the fact that people of my generation lack real interests. As soon as any 20-35 year old I know accomplishes a goal, be it in the realm of career or education, the sheen of glamour fades and a new goal must quickly be established. As Lasch noted, the goal is attained, the lifestyle is tried on and experienced, found to be as superficial and unsatisfying as the previous ends, and the peripatetic twenty something continues his roving. Multiculturalism may superficially gratify our restless hearts, but how many decades must this generation waste before it realizes that no foundation built on sand can ever support a home? It appears, however, that this generation isn’t even interested in locating solid ground.
Socialist apologists criticize the supposed selfish principles that underlie our economic order. They note that several theorists of capitalism look to a crude motive of "self-interest" in formulating their economic system. But what do they mean when they use the term "self-interest"? Is it what the socialists say - crude? Michael Novak elaborates for us, speaking about the family in this context
“... each individual life being short, the most profound of economic motives is almost always – and must necessarily be – family oriented. Economic laborers seldom work only for themselves. It is no doubt true that those who do not have families of their own do work rather more for themselves; but even in such cases one often observes the help generously given by such persons to the elderly, sick, or very young members of their extended families of birth. For those men and women who have chosen to establish families of their own, there can be no doubt whatever that much of their economic conduct makes no sense apart from the benefits they are trying to accrue for their children. The fundamental motive of all economic activity seems clearly to be, far more than economists commonly suggest, family-regarding.” (pg. 162)This corresponds, I think, with most peoples experience. He follows this datum to its conclusion with regards to self-interest on the next page
“Insofar as democratic capitalism depends for its economic vitality upon deferred gratification, savings, and long-term investment, no motive for such behavior is the equivalent of regard for the future welfare of one’s own progeny. Self-interest is not a felicitous name for this regard for the welfare of one’s children and one’s children’s children. Yet it is just this extended motivation which cuts to the quick. This is the motivation that adequately explains herculean economic activities. This is the only rational motivation for long-range economic decisions. For, in the long run, the individual economic agent is dead. Only his progeny survive to enjoy the fruits of his labors, intelligence, and concern.Novak is right on. From this, we can say confidently that capitalism, in theory, needs and supports the family. This is in contrast to socialism, which, since its original formulation in Plato's Republic, has sought to abolish the family for the sake of the common good. Indeed, the family is at odds with any collectivist system by design - a family necessarily creates strong loyalties that are at odds with loyalty to the state. The more intelligent socialists have recognized this from the beginning.
Through this regard for family, the isolated individual escapes mere self-interest or self-regard. Through it, “charity begins at home.” Through it, human solidarity achieves its normal full development, in the very territory cloest to the knowledge and wise concern of the individual agent. Indeed, until the collectivist state began to take over more and more of its economic functions, it was through familial socialism that most highly developed cultures cared for the poor, the sick, the retarded, the needy, and the very young and very old in their midst. Their religious traditions, meanwhile, taught them as well to care for those most unfortunate of all, the widows and orphans and those who were “homeless.”
But if the family is a form of socialism which corrects the exaggerated individualism of capitalist economists, it is also a form of liberty which corrects the exaggerated collectivism of statists. …”(pg. 163)
Consequences of pulling out of Iraq
Five years after the start of the Iraq war, and a year after Blue's death on April 16, I feel we are obligated to the Iraqi people and the rest of the world to not hastily abandon what we have invested so much in. I truly believe America can be an agent for change. I have often asked myself: If we pull out, what type of future would we be allowing to come about?
Sometimes I feel alone in my reasoning. That day in Munster I did not. That day I was proud to be a marine and proud to be an American.
I like to think that if the streets of heaven are guarded by marines, as the Marines' hymn suggests, that 1st Lieutenant Shaun Blue is now forever walking the lines of the perimeter checking on the marines defending their eternal post.
Seemed plausible though, given the state of things.
The story was here:Yale in 2008
Art major Aliza Shvarts '08 wants to make a statement.Honestly though thank God!
Beginning next Tuesday, Shvarts will be displaying her senior art project, a documentation of a nine-month process during which she artificially inseminated herself "as often as possible" while periodically taking abortifacient drugs to induce miscarriages. Her exhibition will feature video recordings of these forced miscarriages as well as preserved collections of the blood from the process.
The goal in creating the art exhibition, Shvarts said, was to spark conversation and debate on the relationship between art and the human body. But her project has already provoked more than just debate, inciting, for instance, outcry at a forum for fellow senior art majors held last week. And when told about Shvarts' project, students on both ends of the abortion debate have expressed shock . saying the project does everything from violate moral code to trivialize abortion.Beginning next Tuesday, Shvarts will be displaying her senior art project, a documentation of a nine-month process during which she artificially inseminated herself "as often as possible" while periodically taking abortifacient drugs to induce miscarriages. Her exhibition will feature video recordings of these forced miscarriages as well as preserved collections of the blood from the process.
The goal in creating the art exhibition, Shvarts said, was to spark conversation and debate on the relationship between art and the human body. But her project has already provoked more than just debate, inciting, for instance, outcry at a forum for fellow senior art majors held last week. And when told about Shvarts' project, students on both ends of the abortion debate have expressed shock . saying the project does everything from violate moral code to trivialize abortion.
“In thinking of socialism as a kind of political religion, or perhaps more exactly as a political-economic expression of Jewish-Christian ideals, I tended to give socialists credit for pure idealism. Capitalism might be justified because it works better, but – I tended to agree – it represents an inferior ideal.Now, someone who is particularly picky about their logic will tell you this is not necessarily true (the idea could have been implemented incorrectly), and they would be right, but that is to miss Novak's point. Novak would argue that the horrors of 20th century socialism were not entirely unrelated to socialist ideas. I think this is basically right. All ideas have consequences, and not all of those consequences are necessarily intended.
The notion that an unworkable ideal is a morally acceptable ideal, however, troubled me. If an ideal doesn’t work, isn’t that evidence that it is out of touch with human reality? Isn’t that a sign that it is a false ideal?”(pg. 172)
You can find it here.
As much as I may disagree with him about this or that, I think it is clear that the President is an honest man of good will who is trying to live according to his conscience. I have always found that those who accuse him of being a liar or taking pleasure in war or whatever to be grossly out of touch with the character of the man; I would cite this interview as evidence for this claim.
I thought a good place to start would be Novak’s own summary of his work. Speaking of democratic capitalism, he writes
“…my fundamental conviction has only been deepened by experience: no other system is as capable of raising the world’s poor out of poverty. The traditional agrarian economy is bankrupt; to escape from rural misery scores of millions are already fleeing from the backward countryside to the sprawling cities. The suddenly exposed grimness of socialism in Eastern Europe has dashed many illusions about socialism as a hope for the world’s poor. Meanwhile, the poor of the world, seeking opportunity, stream toward democratic capitalist lands. Thus, the strongest moral claim for democratic capitalism is that it is the most practical hope of the world’s poor: no magic wand, but the best hope. Its task will not be complete until a firm material base has been placed under every family in the planet.”(pg. 421)Thus he ultimately stakes the argument on results, not theory. Thus, the argument overall should be empirically verifiable. A good thing for those who prefer a scientific mode of inquiry!
AMHERST, Mass. — Once they discover that she is Dr. Kate, the supplicants line up to approach at dinner parties and ballet recitals. Surely, they suggest to Dr. Katherine J. Atkinson, a family physician here, she might find a way to move them up her lengthy waiting list for new patients.I'll bet this is the only problem too!
Those fortunate enough to make it soon learn they face another long wait: Dr. Atkinson’s next opening for a physical is not until early May — of 2009.
In pockets of the United States, rural and urban, a confluence of market and medical forces has been widening the gap between the supply of primary care physicians and the demand for their services. Modest pay, medical school debt, an aging population and the prevalence of chronic disease have each played a role.
Now in Massachusetts, in an unintended consequence of universal coverage, the imbalance is being exacerbated by the state’s new law requiring residents to have health insurance.
Since last year, when the landmark law took effect, about 340,000 of Massachusetts’ estimated 600,000 uninsured have gained coverage. Many are now searching for doctors and scheduling appointments for long-deferred care.
At bottom, the disagreements concerning the American political tradition were disagreements concerning the nature of the human soul. And it did not take any argument to convince Bill Buckley that, when you came to the human soul, you did not fool around. Bill never forgot that my first book was on Aristotle and Aquinas.Elsewhere he notes that we cannot begin to philosophize without
knowing why certain self-evident truths were the basis, not only of justice, but of sanity. [And that] there is no ground for human rights in positive law unless there is a prior ground in natural law recognizing that human beings are neither beasts nor God.He concludes with yet another example of WFBs famed generosity
One final note. In 1974 my younger son — the same who had driven Bill from Riverside to Claremont — graduated from Yale. To see him through, we had scraped the bottom of the family barrel until there was no bottom to the barrel. We simply had no money to go to the graduation. How Bill found out about this, I have no idea. But his check for one thousand dollars arrived, with instructions to go to the graduation, and later to stop at his New York home for dinner! I cannot begin to express how moving the experience was to attend my son’s graduation from Yale, thirty five years after my own. During the weekend there was a strange bonding of classmates who had been close friends and their families, the memory of which shines ever brighter through the years. To have missed that occasion seems now inconceivable. Once again, and forever, many thanks, Bill. And may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.
I hold with certainty and sincerely confess that faith is not a blind sentiment of religion welling up from the depths of the subconscious under the impulse of the heart and the motion of a will trained to morality; but faith is a genuine assent of the intellect to truth received by hearing from an external source. By this assent, because of the authority of the supremely truthful God, we believe to be true that which has been revealed and attested to by a personal God, our Creator and Lord.