You Deal with Brute Nature!




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“When we hear, ‘Your faith has saved you,’ we do not understand the Lord to say simply that they will be saved who have believed in whatever manner, even if works have not followed. To begin with, it was to the Jews alone that he spoke this phrase, who had lived in accord with the law and blamelessly and who had lacked only faith in the Lord.” – Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis or Miscellanies 

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We’ve had Friday the 13th’s two months in a row now and, so far, no dire consequences, even with me doing another post here on the old blog. 

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I HATE this Daylight Savings Time thing we all have to go through twice a year, this year has been especially brutal on the old body for some reason.  Besides, the whole project is based several fictions designed to cover up some nefarious plot by some government official somewhere back in time.  It was probably an experiment just to see who would be gullible enough to fall for the plan, never expecting anyone really would.  In any case, it’s time to wake up and get back to living in accord with nature.

What Daylight Saving Time isn’t is saving time.  Any cursory exercise of the mind will show that, for example in the case of my burgh in Colorado, we had 12 hours and 30 minutes of visible daylight on Sunday, the day of this year’s time change, and the setting of our clocks had no impact on that whatsoever.  Whether sunrise was at 6:21 AM or 7:21 AM makes no difference, actual sunset still occurs 11 hours and 37 minutes later either way.  The fiction of “saving time” is nonsense and it’s high time we do away with it.

There are other fictions associated with Daylight “Savings” Time proponents that should also be brought to light and carefully considered.  The argument that was made most often when I was young and the country first began to experiment seriously with the time change is that it helped farmers be more productive during planting season.  According to an article in the Washington Post on Sunday, that’s a flat out lie; farmers absolutely hate the idea of the time change; it means that the timing of harvesting and getting crops to market was screwed up.  And dairy farmers hate it because cows can’t read a clock and tend to stay on one schedule regardless of what Congress says.

Another argument being made, and this was the basis for the last time change legislation in Congress in 2005, is that it saves energy.  Once again, nonsense.  A study, in California of all places, showed that energy savings are negligible and, in fact, energy usage might actually have increased after DST was implemented each year, either for more driving or using more air conditioning.  

The argument that it is good for people and increases safety and health has also shown to be pure contrivance.  Studies have shown that, in people with mental health issues especially, suicide rates increase after these time changes.  Also, with the change in daily habits, there is an increase in cluster headaches from the disruption.

I just say, if DST is so good, why not leave it on all year round and be done with.  There, that’s my rant for the week.

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Thoreau once wrote, “Take long walks in stormy weather or through deep snows in the fields and woods, if you would keep your spirits up. Deal with brute nature. Be cold and hungry and weary.”  

Personally, I think he was nuts and I’m happy to report that my fair city has finally experienced a break in our dealings with “brute nature.”  The snow has stopped and (mostly) melted after a week of warm temperatures.  While it may be a real character builder to take any kind of walks through deep snows, it will  be quite pleasurable for me to sit on the back deck on Sunday, watch a couple of burgers grill on the barbi and maybe look for the first signs that the Robins are making their way back to Colorado for Spring. Life is good.

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The clarinet practice is proceeding a pace, even though my instructor has taken a couple of weeks off to head to Florida (the scoundrel).  It gives me a bit of time to try to catch up on some practice for the band.  At my stage of playing, it’s still somewhat overwhelming, not only the tempo at which most pieces are played, but also the sheer volume of music we’re playing.  Anyway, as I told the fellow who runs the band, “You get what you pay for!”  So, I’ll plug away and do the best I can and learn as much as I can; this ain’t the Boston Symphony.

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One of the blogs I most enjoy reading is David Warren’s “Essays in Idleness”, there’s always some fresh point of view on offer at his site.  Today, in a self-confessed attempt to gain attention from narrow gauge railroad fans, he writes about railway gauges.  He writes:

“George Stephenson, who did not design the first steam locomotive (that was the Cornishman, Richard Trevithick), did build the Liverpool and Manchester, which when it opened in 1830 was the world’s first inter-city railway. I believe he is credited with establishing the standard gauge, through his many early works; and that he was also on record expressing his regret. If he’d had it all to do again, he would have added an extra couple of inches to the space between the insides of the rails. There was a “sweet point” that he had slightly underestimated.
Thousands of lives might have been saved on unnecessary derailments of the fast steam trains, from a slightly wider gauge and the moderation of the railbed curves that would have necessitated. Ah well. One engineer copies another, and most of the world’s railways are now “1435 mm,” as most of the world likes to put it. (Which is to say, Stephenson rounded by one-tenth of a millimetre.)”

I have been thinking along similar lines recently, only not about railroad tracks but about eyeglasses.  On Wednesday, my dermatologist burned a“pre-cancerous” lesion off the bridge of my nose, one most probably caused by abrasion from my eyeglass frames.  That procedure surely smarted a good deal.  I got to thinking that eyeglasses, most particularly their frames, have been pretty much the same since old Ben Franklin came up with his first set of bifocals.  Surely by now, someone would have come up with a better, more comfortable design for things. Surely there’s some “sweet point” for eyeglass design that, over all these centuries has been missed, but all we have is one designer copying another and no innovation on the horizon.  Eyeglass engineers should be ashamed of themselves.

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That’s it for this week, I’m going to brush up on NFL free agency and the Broncos prospects for next season.  It’s sort of my penance for Lent.

This is a 7 Quick Takes Post as hosted at This Ain’t the Lyceum blog.

Angels Resigned and Sullen


A 7 Quick Takes post as hosted by Jennifer Fulwiler at her Conversion Diary blog.

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“Those who, to please their listeners, avoid giving a forthright declaration of the will of God become the slaves of those they would please, and abandon the service of God.” — St. Basil the Great

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This week my former Presbyterian denomination voted to allow their pastors to perform same sex “weddings” in states where such activity is legal. I’m sure there are a large number of those who remain affiliated with the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) who are strongly opposed to this move and are doing a lot of anguished soul searching regarding their future journey in faith. I personally went through that same experience at a much earlier stage in the PCUSAs self-destructive process and I sympathize greatly. I’m also grateful that, as a Catholic, my faith isn’t something held up to a vote every two years with all the uncertainty and instability associated with such practice. Please pray for those faithful Christians adversely affected by this sadly misguided vote.

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“There is one more thing: I may be interested in Oriental religions, etc., but there can be no obscuring the essential difference—this personal communion with Christ at the center and heart of all reality, as a source of grace and life.” Thomas Merton

As much as he was involved with the peace movement and Oriental spiritualities, especially in the last years of his life, a careful reading of Merton will nearly always provide a reminder that he never forgot or abandoned “the essential difference” between Catholicism and those other paths. I think that’s forgotten far too often and allows Merton to be used as an excuse for almost any diversion from the truth. That’s a shame.

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The work with the clarinet is proceeding apace. I’ve now had the third or fourth lesson and am learning to produce a more or less real clarinet sound and refreshing my memories on how to read music. There have been times over the last week when the last thing I wanted to do was spend 45 minutes to an hour practicing on the horn, but I am beginning to make a bit of progress and enjoying the challenge.

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“We cannot pass our guardian angel’s bounds, resigned or sullen; he will hear our sighs.” — Saint Augustine

Happened to catch Mike Aquilina on The Journey Home program this week and he talked for a couple of minutes during the program about the importance of angels in our lives and how little the average Catholic knows about them. It was sort of a jolt because I don’t give a lot of thought to the topic of angels and the role they play in being Catholic. I realized I’d like to know more since I figure I need all the help I can get and it’s also a very beautiful and even Scriptural aspect of our faith. I’m not sure there are many books on the topic but I think I’ll begin looking into the subject. I wonder if my neglect makes my guardian angel resigned or sullen. I hope not.

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I’ve been thinking about the role church architecture plays in the celebration of the Mass. Our local parish church is a left over from the late 1950s to early 1960s in terms of design and atmosphere. In other words it’s very sterile and a Presbyterian entering the place would feel quite at home. I think it’s been having an effect on me lately, even to the point of my not being able to keep my thoughts wandering far and wide during the Liturgy. I don’t normally have the problem in such a severe form and the only factor I can attribute is the design of church building itself. I know that attending Mass in our local Cathedral, a building now over 100 years old, offers a very different and more awe inspiring experience. Another topic I need to investigate.

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I’ve struggled with the post this week and done much editing to avoid descending into rant mode. Never a good thing. I hope next week will see an improvement in attitude on my part.

Love is Worth More Than Intelligence


A 7 Quick Takes on Friday post, hosted by Jennifer Fulwiler at Conversion Diary

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“Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. There may be legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not… with regard to abortion and euthanasia.” Pope Benedict XVI

This quote highlights one of the surprises I had in store for me coming into the Church. My misconception centers around an idea common to most Protestants, that the Catholic Church defines, in detail, everything a Catholic must mindlessly believe. The surprise was how relatively little the Church holds as infallible dogma; there are a great many areas where Catholics are free, with a well formed conscience, to make up their own minds.

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“Christianity taught men that love is worth more than intelligence.” Jacques Maritain

Some times a person can be too smart for their own good, and the good of those around them. We’re seeing amble evidence of it in the newspapers and TV news shows this week, for sure.

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Got the first clarinet lesson in this week, and boy, do I have a lot of work to do. I’m having to relearn everything from putting the horn together to preparing the reed before playing and a whole host of other good stuff. My main problem, and I’m not sure why it is so, is keeping good time, as the music is written. Another surprise this week, I’m not squeaking and squealing as much as I expected. My instructor plays in a couple of local symphony orchestras and teaches classical clarinet, so it’s not surprising he’ BIG on details. I’m going to be doing a lot of exercises, but I’m using the very same book I used when I first started playing.
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image“Life is what happens when we’re busy making other plans.” John Lennon

Another thing my clarinet instructor insists on is 45 minutes per day of practice, at least. I thought that wouldn’t be any problem at all. Turns out, that’s hard work! Also, I’m practicing during the time I used to do writing, so I’m having to rearrange my routine. One of the nice things about Benedictine spirituality is that it’s built for situations like this; if you have something planned you needn’t get upset when your nicely conceived plans fall down around your ears. John Lennon would have been a very good Benedictine.

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“One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak.” Gilbert K. Chesterton

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“Be proud that you are helping God to bear the cross, and don’t grasp at comforts. It is only mercenaries who expect to be paid by the day. Serve Him without pay.” — St. Teresa of Ávila

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imageToday is the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings during World War II.  These landings were crucial to the defeat of Nazi Germany and I ask you all to take a moment today to remember the incredible heroism of those American, British and allied soldiers who took part in those landings.  We owe our freedom to them.

Locus Communis – Commonplace Book


Locus Communis – a theme or argument of general application. A commonplace book is a scrapbook or compilation of information the author of which deems important. They became popular in 15th century England and included quotes, tables of weights and measures, recipes, recipes for making medicines, prayers, what have you. I look at it as more of a journal of things I think worth notice and from time to time, I’ll be sharing some things from it.

The Order of Things

As part of my on-going reading project, I’ve read a bit from a book called, The Order of Things, by Fr. James Schall. Sometimes I think most anything written by Fr. Schall is worth reading. This quote reminds us to ask the important questions of ourselves, and really consider the answers we give; I think we should do so frequently.

By contrast, I have always particularly liked the practical common sense of an Aristotle, a Samuel Johnson, a G. K. Chesterton in these matters. “We must not think that the man who is to be happy will need many things or great things, merely because he cannot be supremely happy without external goods”, Aristotle told us. “For self-sufficiency and action do not involve excess, and we can do noble acts without ruling earth and sea; for even with moderate advantages one can act virtuously” (Ethics I 179a16). This passage is the great defense of the common man not merely in his daily affairs but in his own personal orientation to what is beyond himself. And if we can act virtuously at all, we already find ourselves subsequently oriented to things of truth that are, as it were, beyond virtue, wherein we begin to wonder about the whole order of things: How is it? Why is it? What is it for? How do I stand within it? — Fr James Schall, The Order of Things

Back at the turn of the century (at my age, I default to thinking about the turn of the 20th century, not the 21st), I had a blog in which I tried to write about the virtues. In my reading, I came across Steven Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I was impressed with that book, I thought it one of the few “time management” type books worth reading and I worked out that the 7 habits could be loosely compared to the 7 virtues: faith, hope, charity, prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude. I was always undecided just where the best fit was for beginning with the end in mind but felt hope was the best fit. In any case, no matter what you do in life, it’s always good to begin with the true end in mind, as Fr Schall mentions in this quote:

An ordered soul, therefore, will carefully examine each object or power within it and seek to rule it, that is, impose its prudential intellect on the act. This act is seen in the light of the soul’s end. It is to be noted that if we choose the wrong end, which we can, all our “virtues” will be conceived as guiding our particular acts of whatever area—courage, temperance, justice, anger—to this end, according to which we define our happiness. In this paradoxical sense, virtues can aid the effective accomplishment of vices. In other words, we can learn to rob a bank well—something that actually makes the fault or sin worse. — Fr James Schall, The Order of Things

Jesus of Nazareth

I’ve also been reading Pope Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth.It seems, in light of current events, that our participation in God’s knowing is struggling against stronger and stronger forces trying to snuff it out.

But what is “God’s will”? How do we recognize it? How can we do it? The Holy Scriptures work on the premise that man has knowledge of God’s will in his inmost heart, that anchored deeply within us there is a participation in God’s knowing, which we call conscience (cf., for example, Rom 2:15). But the Scriptures also know that this participation in the Creator’s knowledge, which he gave us in the context of our creation “according to his likeness,” became buried in the course of history. It can never be completely extinguished, but it has been covered over in many ways, like a barely flickering flame, all too often at risk of being smothered under the ash of all the prejudices that have piled up within us. And that is why God has spoken to us anew, uttering words in history that come to us from outside and complete the interior knowledge that has become all too hidden. Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, From the Baptism to the Transfiguration.

And finally, a little poetry from Sir Walter Ralegh —

Even such is Time

Even such is time that takes in trust
Our youth, our joys, our all we have,
And pays us but with age and dust,
Who in the dark and silent grave,
When we have wandered all our ways,
Shuts up the story of our days.
But from this earth, this grave, this dust,
My God shall raise me up, I trust.

Sir Walter Ralegh (1554—1618)

Payback’s a B**ch!


Pope FrancisI’m beginning to like Pope Francis more every day.  Here’s what he said this morning about Satan and his works (from the Catholic News Agency):

Christians who buy into Satan’s temptation to live selfishly get swindled, while those who live life as a “gift” to others are immersed in love and the Church community, Pope Francis said.

“And, we must say, with Satan the payback is rotten. He always rips us off, always!” the Pope emphasized as he contrasted the kind of selfish living that the devil promotes with the generous way of living Jesus exemplified.

Im a Catholic because Im a screw-up – Telegraph Blogs


A Kranz (wreath) of Kölsch beer.

I think “screw up” wasn’t the term used originally by Max Lindenmen (whose blog I thoroughly enjoy and, for what it’s worth, recommend BTW) but it’s hard not to like what this columnist wrote in the Telegraph about the Church.  It is, first and foremost, a community of sinners, it can’t be any other way.  And it’s honest about it, so honest, it’s made a sacrament of it, to help us remember that our human journey on this earth isn’t a bad thing, just not the final thing.

Im a Catholic because Im a screw-up – Telegraph Blogs.

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Retired


I am now retired. I thought the reality of retiring had sunk in a long time ago, but I'm not sure it has. Not that I would change anything, I wouldn't; I'm quite happy not to have to follow a schedule not my own, and I'm extraordinarily happy not to 1) be defined by a job, 2) to have time to do some truly important things.

Like what, you may ask?

Like spending time in silence and a semblance of solitude. Like reading and, maybe, writing, poetry. Like reading other good, even great books, like going around Colorado taking pictures of what I see. Like spending some quantity time in prayer each day. I'm not talking about hours, but maybe an hour or so, each day, on a regular basis, what a luxury that will be. I'm going to do important things for a change.

It was remarkable to me that the first thing anyone said to me when I told them of my impending retirement was, “What do you plan to do?” As if I had to do something to be a real person or to be happy. My constant rejoiner was, offered with a laugh, soto voce, “As little as freaking possible.” They all thought I was joking, I wasn't, I was deadly serious. All the hard work, with little play time, I've put in over the last 40 years wasn't my real life, this new time of adventure (really, adventure) is my real life, it's not an ending, it's a true beginning. I plan to live it to the full.