nothing but an unformed gaze

There is an interesting article in this month's First Things that argues there is no such thing as natural desires. Every desire, he contends, is not natural in that it has been deformed by original sin. A discussion of this contention forms the main part of the article. Desires, the author contends are infinite, of every variety and can take any form. This largely rings true to experience, but I think the language he employs overreaches. He seems to suggest that natural law theory does not recognize or account for this sense in which all desires are "unnatural," and this is not true. Despite this petty criticism of mine, the author demonstrates deep wisdom and learning throughout.

My favorite part comes at the end and is a distillation of his argument into a neat anthropological/psychological insight:
Among the strongest currents of thought these days is one that encourages us to discover who we are and to act accordingly - to gaze with the inward eye on our glassy essence and respond to what we find there. That gaze yields a vast range of identities: of gender and sex and ethnicity, of trait and temperment and passion. If what I have argued is right, when we attempt to discover who we are in that way, we find only phantasms - creatures of the imagination that wither when we turn our imaginations away from them.

This rejection of the language of natural desire opens us, instead, to the truth that we are creatures - inchoate, unformed, and hovering over the void from which were made - who must seek either to return to that void or to find happiness in the arms of the one who brought us forth from it. There is no glassy essence to discover; there is nothing but an unformed gaze that receives form only by looking away from itself and receiving the gift of being looked at by God.

- Paul J. Griffiths, "The Nature of Desire"
The last image is an especially beautiful one, and one that is entirely true. Philosophy agrees. Socrates devoted his life to answering the Oracle's riddle: Know thyself - his somewhat paradoxical answer was that one can only know oneself by looking outside oneself, by asking questions and practicing the virtue of humility. Humility is openness to the truth. This is another way of saying one can only find oneself by looking outside oneself; we must look at God.


Would a Catholic political party be a good thing?

My short answer is no, and what follows is a brief justification of this answer.

Christ's Kingdom is, as He says in today's Gospel, "not of this world." We are called to build Christ's Kingdom on earth not by ruling the secular realm and enforcing Christian morality and charity with the force of law, but by living out of vocation as Christians and winning hearts and minds by word and deed. Christians are called to transform society from within - we are "the salt of the earth," ideally bringing out the best in all of our various communities. In this way, Christians do not need the secular law to be successful. I do not mean to imply that the secular law is not necessary for social order; it is clearly a fundamental component of the common good. Catholics do and ought to work for the common good in our political life, but we should not seek this good in the name of Jesus. He Himself did not establish a political party or an Earthly kingdom. His Kingdom is "not of this world," and it is our task as Christians to build this Heavenly kingdom here on Earth. The Heavenly kingdom is not one of coercive political force, but freely given sacrificial Love.


Individualism is not a political philosophy

Individualism is not a political philosophy but a tendency of persons. Persons isolate themselves from one another; a government limited in its powers does not necessarily produce isolation, nor does a government expansive in it's powers produce isolation.

In other words: the absence of the legal enforcement of communities does not mean the absence of communities in general, but only the absence of government-mandated communities.

Morning's Minion of Vox Nova
seems to think that advocacy of limited government entails support for "individualism" and that limited government means the rejection of solidarity. Neither of these things are true. You can have solidarity without big government (or with it, for that matter). And in fact, the attempt to apply the principle of subsidiarity to politics entails a concern for solidarity. The health of the community, which is an expression of our solidarity, is dependent on the proper application of subsidiarity.


The Best Explanation of the Church's Teaching on Capital Punishment

Is available in this paper here. Here is a taste, which happens to be the major thrust of the argument:
Throughout the history of the Church, Catholic philosophers and theologians have said that capital punishment is licit. But they have done this without ever denying that, in a more abstract sense, any such killing goes against what is favored even by nature. Given certain conditions, capital punishment is a perfectly reasonable political expedient. Since reasonableness determines morality, this expedient found its way into human law in a relatively permanent way; indeed, there are very few Christian (or formerly Christian) nations in existence today that have not had some form of capital punishment in their legal history. But, even still, few of these nations (or their legal experts) would have resisted the argument that there is something foul or disordered about the practice. In itself killing is bad, but allowed. Mercy, in itself, is good and invoked whenever possible and appropriate.


Reaching for the levers of the law

What's the point of the struggle for same-sex marriage?
It is a fable drugging the mind to suggest that the activists are seeking simply to be left alone in their “personal” relations. When they seek the levers of the law, they are moving beyond things merely “personal.”

They are seeking the public and moral approval that the law bestows, along with the moral condemnation of those who will not share their views. The purpose now is to use the law to withdraw that freedom of others to object; to punish people who would dare speak or act in ways that honor a moral understanding at odds with same-sex marriage or the homosexual life; and to make it finally unrespectable, even legally perilous, to express certain moral sentiments, in settings public or private. For the media, the story line is of people in love, now hurt and bewildered. But serenely unnoticed are the accounts of the repression, in things large and small, all offered in the cause of “love.” Surely it is 1984 once more with the inversion of words: Under the banner of love there is loosed a barrage of hatred, and in the name of freedom, repression.
- Hadley Arkes


The End of Art

There's a band I rather enjoy called Attica! Attica! Here I note the lyrics to one of their songs titled "The End of Art" It's important to mention that the vocalist sings almost entirely in a tongue-in-cheek manner, so the lyrics seem cliche but it's ok because the vocalist is aware of it. Download the entire album HERE (free download)
When I was pretty lean on cash, I was alone, no place to crash
Music flowed out of me like faucets spouting tasty melodies
Now there’s a love that’s in my life, I sleep the same place every night
Comforts of industry are happily surrounding me

And nowadays, I have no complaints
Nothing more to say
Nothing more to say

Is this the end of art? is this the end of passion?
Is this the end of grief? Are all our feelings has-beens?
Is this the end of pain creatively imagined?
Is this the end of art? Is this the end of art?

It’s cool to like the President so there’s no reason for dissent
Everyone put down their guns and all that pesky violence is done
Our nukes are sleeping with the fish and everybody’s birthday wish comes true
And children sing and fairies dance on sparrow wings

And no complaints, no one wants a change
Nothing left to say
Nothing left to say

Is that the end of art? Is that the end of passion?
Is that the end of grief? Are all our feelings has-beens?
Is that the end of pain crafted in abstraction?
Is that the end of art? Is that the end?

Is anything here more depraved than a country singer who just raves about how swell his country is, just shilling for the government?
Sit down my friend and let me bore you while we sit here on the porch with cocktails as I bloviate about how life’s so f’in great
I’m not happy unless I’m pissed but that reveals my privilege: no matter who’s in charge today, my life is pretty much the same
So with no reason to protest, I’ll whine about how art is best when we know sadness, anguish and distress

Is this the end of art? Is this the end of passion?
Is this the end of grief? Are all our feelings has-beens?
Is this the end of pain creatively imagined?
Is this the end of art?

Is this the end of art? Is this the end of passion?
Is this the end of grief? Are all our feelings has-beens?
Is this the end of pain all crafted in abstraction?
Is this the end of art? Is this the end of art?
It's a good synopsis of leftist sentiments in the aftermath of the election of President Barack Obama.


Little known fact: The Devil fears the Confessional

swine flu scam?

This seems interesting

Is this nun crazy?

BELL TOLLING for the Swine Flu (CAMPANAS por la gripe A) subtitled from ALISH on Vimeo.