Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The rightness of dancing, and the wrongness of forcing it

I heard the interpretation of the tune by Copeland on Radio 3 today, announced as Lord of the Dance. As I prepared to cringe I was pleasantly surprised to hear the following words of Simple Gifts instead of the trite and childish hymn lyrics:

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right.
Simple Gifts was written by Elder Joseph while he was at the Shaker community in Alfred, Maine in 1848.

It reminded me of the sentiment in Yeats's poem The Fiddler of Dooney:

...When we come at the end of time,
To Peter sitting in state,
He will smile on the three old spirits,
But call me first through the gate;

For the good are always the merry,
Save by an evil chance,
And the merry love the fiddle
And the merry love to dance:

And when the folk there spy me,
They will all come up to me,
With ‘Here is the fiddler of Dooney!’
And dance like a wave of the sea.
"Lord of the Dance is a hymn with words written by English songwriter Sydney Carter in 1967" I've just learned from Wikipedia. Yup, I guessed the date within a year; it reeks of post-Vat 2 sandalism! And don't get me started on Michael Flatley's narcissistic cancan.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A poem to our ectopic child

"'til in heaven we take our place" - a poem to our ectopic child, 11 November 2010

("Ectopic: Occurring in an abnormal position or place.")

You began, unsuspected,
held within your mother;
only when you declared yourself in pain,
bursting your small confines,
we guessed
...then medical procedure took its sway.

We glimpsed you in the scan
"a live ectopic", the doctor said
and that was all we knew.

Your mother in theatre unconscious, I in darkness praying;
only dry dark groping thoughts; the moment of death unknown;
then quite sudden, inspiration: now you hold us, all is in its place.

A double loss: no body to see, to grieve;
nothing to bury, no liturgy of passage
only, lost in your mother's blood, anonymous cremation.

How name you, child, boy or girl?
No clue to sex or face, till, all reborn in that final place,
our earthly ectopia ended,
we hold you and hear from your lips
the name He gave you
when we too were but a yearning in the divine heart.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Baby steps towards thrift and wise living in a non-distributist world

A list I came across provides a helpful summary of “practical distributism” that may be implemented by families and individuals on a personal level. The list is below.

When I first published this post with the title "baby steps towards a distributist world", someone wisely pointed out that not one of these points is effective at bringing about distributism without systemic changes, requiring radical political work which no one yet knows how to effect. So I changed the title and removed the tag "distributism". I still love the list, maybe because I am at heart a bit of a hippy utopian and so it all looks like a lot of fun to practise, but I think chiefly because it tends to move us in the right direction, whether or not hippy frugality is our thing.

Connections: in a future post - perhaps, if I find the time and energy - thoughts on the life journey of Chris McCandless, thoughtfully portrayed in the film Into the Wild.

1) Create your own job.

2) If you cannot create your own job, join with others to create a cooperative or worker-owned business.

3) If you must work for a company, persuade it to allow you to telecommute.

4) Try to convert part-time employment for wages into a part-time consultancy.

5) Instead of putting all your eggs in one employment basket, ‘keep the day job’ while seeking to create multiple income streams using your own equipment and working with family members in home-based activities, preparing for the day when you can leave the corporate job behind.

6) Bank with a credit union.

7) Avoid corporation debt (borrow from credit unions); tear up your credit cards.

8) Patronize locally-owned stores, microenterprises, cooperatives, and worker-owned businesses.

9) Avoid sweatshop clothing and products.

10) Grow some of your own food.

11) Patronize a farmers’ market, or purchase food directly from farmers/producers.

12) Home school.

13) Avoid commoditized entertainment in favor entertainment such as local baseball, picnics, dances, social events, quilting bees, fairs, etc.

14) Start moving towards alternative, non-centrally generated power.

15) Shop at flea-markets, swap meets and garage sales.

16) Kill your TV, or at least grievously wound it (apologies for the violent language). If you have a TV, don't watch it - study it.

17) Make your own bread. Eat real food, and avoid like the plague the ersatz, mass-produced capitalist food that has ruined the health of millions, including children.

18) Bring forth life abundantly, trusting in God.

19) Breast-feed your babies.

20) Practice the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, and the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance. The crisis of our civilization is a crisis in virtue.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Obama: Yes we can but I need more time

Yes, keep hoping for that change, guys. Keep up your faith in science, technology, the human will, the human intellect, the sexual revolution, the this revolution, the that revolution... Utopia is just around the corner.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The spending cuts in the UK: a grim warning

If G K Chesterton has been alive now, he might have written about these cuts the way Paul Danon has in his blog: The cuts: a grim warning

"If the government spends less of our money for us, there is a grave risk that we shall spend it on what we need and want, rather than on what other people think is best for us. Cuts could mean less superfluous administration in public services and, perhaps, a better attitude on the part of otherwise surly public servants who have slight worries about their job-security."

Read the whole text here.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

The fundamental questions in Thomas More's trial... and Britain today

The fundamental questions at stake in Thomas More’s trial continue to present themselves in ever-changing terms as new social conditions emerge. Each generation, as it seeks to advance the common good, must ask anew: what are the requirements that governments may reasonably impose upon citizens, and how far do they extend? By appeal to what authority can moral dilemmas be resolved? These questions take us directly to the ethical foundations of civil discourse. If the moral principles underpinning the democratic process are themselves determined by nothing more solid than social consensus, then the fragility of the process becomes all too evident - herein lies the real challenge for democracy.

words of Pope Benedict XVI in Westminster Hall, 2010

Acknowledgment to Joanna Bogle

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of your Child - by Anthony Esolen

We’re extinguishing the minds (and souls) of our children
Play dates, “helicopter parenting,” No Child Left Behind, video games, political correctness: these and other insidious trends in child rearing and education are now the hallmarks of childhood. As author Anthony Esolen demonstrates in this elegantly written, often wickedly funny new book, almost everything we are doing to children now constricts their imaginations, usually to serve the ulterior motives of the constrictors.

Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child takes square aim at these accelerating trends, while offering parents—and children—hopeful alternatives. Esolen shows how imagination is snuffed out at practically every turn: in the rearing of children almost exclusively indoors; in the flattening of love to sex education, and sex education to prurience and hygiene; in the loss of traditional childhood games; in the refusal to allow children to organize themselves into teams; in the effacing of the glorious differences between the sexes; in the dismissal of the power of memory, which creates the worst of all possible worlds in school—drudgery without even the merit of imparting facts; in the strict separation of the child’s world from the adult’s; and in the denial of the transcendent, which places a low ceiling on the child’s developing spirit and mind.
Much like The Wonder of Boys and The Wonder of Girls, and The Dangerous Book for Boys and The Daring Book for Girls, Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child confronts contemporary trends in parenting and schooling by reclaiming lost traditions. This practical, insightful book is essential reading for any parent who cares about the paltry thing that childhood has become.

About the Author

Anthony Esolen is the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization and Ironies of Faith, and the translator and editor of the celebrated three-volume Modern Library edition of Dante’s Divine Comedy. He is a professor of English at Providence College and a senior editor of Touchstone magazine. Esolen lives in Rhode Island.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Be prepared: Woldingham scouts do adult comedy

Yes, I also did a double take when I saw the poster.

The Scouts' motto is "be prepared"; I was certainly not prepared for smut propagated in the name of an organisation which I had always believed stands for virtue.

I first saw this event advertised last year, and thought I'd ignore it: perhaps somebody with strange ideas and too much power on the committee (or however they organise these things) carried the day, and it would be a one-off. But seeing that it seems to be an annual event, I could not let it pass without comment.

Baden Powell wrote in Scouting for Boys:

The Scout Motto is: BE PREPARED which means you are always in a state of readiness in mind and body to do your DUTY.

    * Be Prepared in Mind by having disciplined yourself to be obedient to every order, and also by having thought out beforehand any accident or situation that might occur, so that you know the right thing to do at the right moment, and are willing to do it.

    * Be Prepared in Body by making yourself strong and active and able to do the right thing at the right moment, and do it.

If adults are supposed to lead by example, and to lead chiefly in virtuous living, how is their organising and attending an "adult comedy night" supposed to help scouts? The only conclusion to be drawn is that somebody thinks the financial gain from selling tickets to this event trumps the core purpose of the movement.

Well, here's one parent - a great supporter of scouting - who won't be sending his son to Woldingham scouts, thanks to this brilliant bit of fund-raising. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot (I hope they were prepared with armoured boots or else lots of first aid dressings)!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Kenyan Popemobiles?

Fr Tim Finigan's tongue-in-cheek proposal reminded me of the religious art and inscriptions often used to decorate matatus (minibus taxis) in my home from home Kenya.

Unlike Fr Tim, I was driving at the time I took the pictures, but then there is a lot more leeway in how road rules are interpreted in Africa. :-)

More leeway in road rules, but on the other hand there would be so little leeway for the irreligious, perverted and irreverent monstrosities commonplace in our "developed" nation that proselytisers for paedophilia (while hogging the media calling the kettle black) and the modernistic kitsch brigade would be laughed out of court or worse (justice is swift, brutal and spontaneous for those who viciously corrupt children or families).

That is not to say that Africa lacks its own religious kitsch, in abudance, and evident in these pictures, but this art at least has the essentials: it is reverent, it has faith, and it is not agitprop. That is more than can be said for much of what is being offered as fare for the papal "pilgrims".

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Undemocratic and biased representation of youth at the UN: you can do something about it!

The UN World Youth Conference has been hijacked by pornographers, radicals and abortionists: the statement now up for approval is not representative of the majority of young people, but imposed by a radical minority using undemocratic tactics. If you care about this and want to make a difference, you can sign the petition here, in support of a statement more truly representative of the world's youth.

Click here to sign the C-Fam petition by the world's young people to redress the unfair and biased representation at the UN and prevent the phony statement becoming part of quasi-legal guidelines for governments.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Lira - Ixesha

After the flood of R&B divas and their crass aggressive posturing, it's refreshing to find a video of African womanhood with haunting beauty and understatement. Here's Lira, recently famous for her performance of Pata Pata at the recent World Cup opening, in a different mode.

Classroom scene: religion in the modern world

A cringingly familiar classroom situation, hilariously executed: Religion in the modern word

Blair and the causes he supports or does not support

Asked whether Blair, who became a Roman Catholic after he was forced out of 10 Downing Street, had contributed to the costs of Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Britain, his spokesman replied, tersely: "No."

He and his wife Cherie Booth do, however, actively support LGBT causes, including ones which are radically and aggressively against the Catholic church and its moral teachings.

Well, Tony, for all your spin doctoring, ultimately whats in the heart reaches the heart; I think it would be safe to drop the "Roman" from the title "Roman Catholic" and replace it with "Cafeteria" in your case.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Newman on liberalism in the Church

 "[O]ne great mischief I have from the first opposed myself. For thirty, forty, fifty years I have resisted to the best of my powers the spirit of liberalism in religion. Never did Holy Church need champions against it more sorely than now, when, alas! it is an error overspreading, as a snare, the whole earth; and on this great occasion, when it is natural for one who is in my place to look out upon the world, and upon Holy Church as in it, and upon her future, it will not, I hope, be considered out of place, if I renew the protest against it which I have made so often." An extract from Newman's famous "Biglietto Speech", the language is different but the thought could be Benedict XVI

Fr Ray Blake comments in his blog: "Liberalism in religion is the doctrine that there is no positive truth in religion, but that one creed is as good as another, and this is the teaching which is gaining substance and force daily. It is inconsistent with any recognition of any religion, as true. It teaches that all are to be tolerated, for all are matters of opinion. Revealed religion is not a truth, but a sentiment and a taste; not an objective fact, not miraculous; and it is the right of each individual to make it say just what strikes his fancy..."  For further quotations from Newman and the rest of  Fr Ray Blake's commentary read here

TIME announces new version of magazine aimed at adults

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Pope's visit to England, the affirmation of marriage

England, the destination of Benedict XVI's Sept. 16-19 trip, is the geopolitical epicenter of the culture of death, says Edmund Adamus, but it is also the "Dowry of Mary."

Adamus, director of Pastoral Affairs for the Diocese of Westminster, explained to ZENIT how England's unique Christian heritage and its present vanguard anti-Catholic culture make it a highly significant place for the Pope's upcoming visit.

Friday, February 05, 2010

The moralist or the moral being: seeking the real person

"We know not what to do with this small and noisy moralist who is inhabiting one corner of a great and good man"

Chesterton wrote this about Tolstoi in The Common Man; much of it could apply equally to Daddy. There was a side to Daddy all too familiar for being too emphatic, so much so that it tended to mask his tenderness and vulnerability. He was often angry because he cared so much; he was impatient with himself and others, with fierce desire for the good he perceived as wanting.

I am tempted to start speculating about a slavic character, sensitive, intelligent and melancholic, which also tends to the crusading, the grand romantic gesture, the tragic cavalry charge against the enemy with non-existent odds of success, but it would be too easy to fall into caricature. Chesterton makes the point better.

Daddy's moralising and "shoulding", for all their evidence, were only a part of a life whose deepest moral was not in its proclamations but in its very fabric.

I also love Chesterton's point about moralising art, but I'll leave it for another post.

    "...the truth of the matter is that an artist teaches far more by his mere background and properties, his landscape, his costume, his idiom and technique--all the part of his work, in short, of which he is probably entirely unconscious, than by the elaborate and pompous moral dicta which he fondly imagines to be his opinions.

    The real distinction between the ethics of high art and the ethics of manufactured and didactic art lies in the simple fact that the bad fable has a moral, while the good fable is a moral. And the real moral of Tolstoi comes out constantly in his stories, the great moral which lies at the heart of all his work, of which he is probably unconscious, and of which it is quite likely that he would vehemently disapprove. The curious cold white light of morning that shines over all the tales, the folklore simplicity with which "a man or a woman" are spoken of without further identification, the love--one might almost say the lust-- for the qualities of brute materials, the hardness of wood, and the softness of mud, the ingrained belief in a certain ancient kindliness sitting beside the very cradle of the race of man-- these influences are truly moral.

    When we put beside them the trumpeting and tearing nonsense of the didactic Tolstoi, screaming for an obscene purity, shouting for an inhuman peace, hacking up human life into small sins with a chopper, sneering at men, women, and children out of respect to humanity, combining in one chaos of contradictions an unmanly Puritan and an uncivilised prig, then, indeed, we scarcely know whither Tolstoi has vanished. We know not what to do with this small and noisy moralist who is inhabiting one corner of a great and good man.

    It is difficult in every case to reconcile Tolstoi the great artist with Tolstoi the almost venomous reformer. It is difficult to believe that a man who draws in such noble outlines the dignity of the daily life of humanity regards as evil that divine act of procreation by which that dignity is renewed from age to age.

    It is difficult to believe that a man who has painted with so frightful an honesty the heartrending emptiness of the life of the poor can really grudge them every one of their pitiful pleasures from courtship to tobacco.

    It is difficult to believe that a poet in prose who has so powerfully exhibited the earth-born air of man, the essential kinship of a human being with the landscape in which he lives, can deny so elemental a virtue as that which attaches a man to his own ancestors and his own land.

    It is difficult to believe that the man who feels so poignantly the detestable insolence of oppression would not actually, if he had the chance, lay the oppressor flat with his fist.

    All, however, arises from the search after a false simplicity, the aim of being, if I may so express it, more natural than it is natural to be. It would not only be more human, it would be more humble of us to be content to be complex. The truest kinship with humanity would lie in doing as humanity has always done, accepting with a sportsmanlike relish the estate to which we are called, the star of our happiness, and the fortunes of the land of our birth."

From G.K. Chesterton, The Common Man.
I have taken the liberty of adding paragraph breaks and emphasis.