Thursday, August 15, 2013

New Blog...Maybe?

As you may have noticed, this blog is now defunct. I've "slowed down" before, but this time it is really over. I'm leaving it up for reference and all that, but this line of thought has run its course. 

For all the obfuscating intrapersonal identity-craft that may have been served (in unhealthy and negative ways) over the past four years, even all the petty interpersonal agendas in my life, I'd say this effort at least helped me, eventually, to "creatively disintegrate" into other approaches to thought and life. More private approaches, for one, less self-conscious, less theoretical, more adult.

While I hope to avoid ideological, philosophical, or political discourse, I do think I sometimes need an outlet for poetry, as well as sharing music and film and literary excerpts, and also perhaps cryptic reflections of my own of a highly personal and psychological nature. I do not think readers of this blog will be terribly interested in all this, but I am letting it be known nonetheless that my new blog may be found here.

It may never be updated at all, but at least it provides some opening for a continuity in life. Cheers.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The End

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Most people have heard of the "tangible" World Heritage Sites program. But UNESCO also has an effort to preserve the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

My only point in mentioning this is that, while the Confucian Rites and such are on this list, the Old Latin Liturgy (and, perhaps "in urgent need of protection," the other surviving traditional Western Rites) and the various Eastern Liturgies are not on this list.

While the Novus Ordo isn't really anyone's heritage, and while maybe the Byzantine Rite (especially in its Slavic recension) is still widely enough used to not require any particular "heritage" protection (though "in need of protection" is not one of the criteria for the broader list)...the Traditional Roman Rite, the other surviving Western Rites such as the Ambrosian and Mozarabic (in their unreformed forms), as well as the various Coptic and Syriac rites, are at this point "threatened" enough in their homelands and/or "vestigial" enough, I'd think, to warrant a designation to make sure they are recognized and respected as part of humanity's intangible cultural heritage, and not just some sort of obscure fundamentalist concern that can just be meddled with and discarded or allowed to fade away. One might also consider specifically designating various forms of Christian liturgical chant and music, as well as the tradition of ikon writing.

Anyone want to start an effort to suggest this?

Monday, June 17, 2013


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Making Peace

In spite of initial aesthetic horror, I've come to really like Pope Francis for his down-to-earth style and his accessible preaching that isn't afraid to challenge us with the truth either. He speaks so powerfully, and yet almost nonchalantly, of the existence of the devil and immorality and the necessity traditional practices like confession and popular piety, seemingly just taking for granted the rightness of it all; there is not so much a sense of self-conscious defensiveness in his words.

Yes, he speaks to a world that he knows does not believe, but to me it seems like more than many bishops, indeed more than many recent popes, he speaks with authority to the Church rather than with an eye to convincing or answering our imagined observers and interlocutors. He doesn't seem too concerned with that phenomenon, that magisterial style of speaking as much (or more) to the Church's enemies than to Her own children, which started with the Counter-Reformation, continued through the Enlightenment, and was perhaps the hallmark of Vatican II and its subsequent era.

And yet, there is something very much, quintessentially, "Vatican II" about his style too (in a good way), in its lack of Scholastic pretensions or "legalistic" precision. Perhaps Francis reveals an interpretation of the Council's "new tone" that is much more "back to basics," and just "plain-language theology," rather than the (bad/problematic) interpretation of its tone being an indication of loosey-goosey, politically correct, fluffy modernist concession to the World. Perhaps here at last is the real reconciliation of the Council's "spirit" with its "letter."

I have for some time now thought that the arguments demonizing the former wound up incoherent; you can't ignore the clear change in ethos or posture towards the world that the Council adopted and represents. Sure, you can't dogmatize a "tone" or enforce the opinion that it is the most prudent posture to take in this Age, but you can't compartmentalize "spirit" and "letter" either. Perhaps Francis is showing us that the ethos inaugurated by Vatican II is not one of changing ourselves in order to appease the World, but rather can be interpreted as exactly the opposite: an attitude of giving up a reactionary theology that is concerned with "what the World thinks" period.

The "Tridentine style" (perhaps going back even to Scholasticism itself) seemingly sought to argue the World into submission intellectually. That's what the "traditional tone" since Trent has been, really: an attempted "answer" in a debate with the Protestants and their philosophical successors. Even when preaching to a church full of Catholics, the expected language was this sort of exaggerated apologetics and strict precision of categories taking place under the imaginary spectre of scrutiny by Outsiders. It was not "preaching to the choir" at all really, but rather, as it were, the vain and disingenuous affectation of raising ones voice and speaking loudly in hopes that others will "overhear" your "private" conversation, "*Cough* I 'hope' no one is listening in on us *cough* because I'll add that..."

Perhaps it was imagined that Catholics needed to be exposed to and armed with this sort of rhetoric inside the Church so that their Faith would not be shattered when they did encounter Others and their arguments out in the World; this was the fortress mentality. But the opposite of that, the "razing of the bastions," is not necessarily whoring ourselves in order to appease or "entice" the World either (sucking up pathetically at the expense of our own integrity to cajole rather than conquer), as if in some sort of surrender. Instead, it may mean just focusing on believing what we believe in a manner that is not so self-conscious, all our "observers" be darned (if not damned): "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."

Perhaps because he has risen up from Latin American roots (where Catholicism may still embedded as a huge component of the popular folk culture) rather than decadent Europe, Francis simply isn't as worried about convincing those who don't believe with clever arguments or a trendy philosophical couching of the faith. I always felt like that approach betrayed a lack of confidence and a desperation regarding Christian belief, as if the proponents were mainly trying to convince themselves in a world where the truth was, socially speaking, no longer self-evident or taken for granted. Perhaps in the Third World, though, they are not as haunted by the "shaming" of arrogant Unbelievers.  

This explains, I think, why Francis can speak so casually and yet with a deadly seriousness about, say, the devil, while still coming across as someone rather liberal (I equivocate here, meaning both the virtue of liberality, and the side of the political spectrum which has appropriated its name) and tolerant and compassionate, instead of some evangelical fundamentalist. And I suppose this is where the emphasis on the poor is so crucial to Christianity: you are "allowed" to be moralistic and dogmatic only if your agenda is not some self-referential abstraction, but rather the "agenda" of the victims and oppressed and exploited of the world and if your spirituality is truly theirs, not in theory but in living practice.

It feels really authentic; why Popes have not been able to be straight-shooters in the past has baffled and frustrated me, and perhaps Francis's style is finally breaking through some of those weird affectations. I feel silly now for being put off by something as trivial as not wearing a mozzetta (not that I "agree" with that decision, mind you). Although, some traditionalists are up in arms again about the comment warning about the excesses of "rosary accounting" restorationists in the recent off-the-cuff "gay lobby" conversation that was published, the truth is that Francis doesn't seem to have any intention to overturn Summorum Pontificum, is entirely bland but not at all radical in his "beige Novus Ordo" style (certainly he is no worse than John Paul liturgically, mozzettae aside), and I was reassured by this on New Liturgical Movement:
"Then it was the turn of the bishop of Conversano and Monopoli, Domenico Padovano, who recounted to the clergy of his diocese how the priority of the bishops of the region of Tavoliere had been that of explaining to the Pope that the mass in the old rite was creating great divisions within the Church. The underlying message: Summorum Pontificum should be cancelled, or at least strongly limited. But Francis said no.

"Mgr Padovano explained that Francis replied to them saying that they should be vigilant over the extremism of certain traditionalist groups but also suggesting that they should treasure tradition and create the necessary conditions so that tradition might be able to live alongside innovation."
Though much of what I have come to appreciate about the new Pope's style suddenly crystallized and clarified in the process, I actually began writing this post to question for myself just how much the descriptor "trad" even makes for myself anymore. The truth is that I have recently just stopped caring as much about many of the things I used to feel passionately about. Though some of this may just be a sort of low-grade anhedonic depression from a rut I'm in practically (regarding career, living situation, general sense of loss of discipline or structure or independence, being a loafer) and on account of stress I've felt from the threat of instability always hanging over certain personal matters and the frustration of human flakiness therein, I also think that this development is to large degree a good thing. One cannot live ones life with ones head in the clouds, obsessed with abstract theory and philosophical fantasy, deeply emotionally invested in ideas which have little practical effect or which, on the other hand, exist mainly as an elaborate edifice for sustaining ones own psychological comfort zone.

That's not to say I've lost my Faith. In many ways I'd like to think what has happened is that I've "made my peace with God," surrendering to grace under the weight of the pelagian futility of human efforts at saving ourselves. But at the same time that does mean a certain spiritual malaise or sense of, if not stagnation, then wandering, a purposelessness. Where do I go from here? What are my goals? Having achieved a certain wisdom from the very failure of old projects, to what new project am I to apply this wisdom? Having attained a certain inner freedom, what is it a freedom for? My old "drive," religiously (but also in some other personal areas, I'm now realizing) may have been fueled largely by fantasy or, rather, symbolic conflicts in my own head. But one needs purpose in life, needs meaning, needs projects, needs a vision to guide further self-growth and (self-)creative activity. I'm no entrepreneur, I have no business to build. But it's quite likely now I'll never be a priest with some ministry to accomplish by creating a community or saving souls or founding schools or whatever.

But that's really a navel-gazing aside. The point of this post was not to lament my aimlessness or drifting (which can be good and profitable) but rather to try to take stock of the continuity I still do have with my past, and to remind myself of the values that I do still hold, which I take for granted even, even though I may now be much less defensive or self-conscious about them, much less concerned with Crusading for their triumph against the sneering or sniggering of the disagreeing and dismissive Other. Certainly, I can't wait for the implementation of The Good Polis in order to strive after the Good Life myself personally, and indeed fighting for the former (if only against invisible enemies) can become very much a distraction from pursuing the latter.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

And Frustrated!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Who Is This Man??

My dad took this picture in downtown Chicago today. Some sort of prelate wearing the capello of a Cardinal, according to New Liturgical Movement. But it's the "new" capello of a Cardinal, according to the reforms of Paul VI. And yet, wearing any capello with tassels in the US seems rather "traddie," nonetheless!

Yet this isn't our Cardinal. And I don't recognize him, though I combed through galleries of all the Cardinals. Maybe it is some sort of Old/Polish National/Sedevacantist/Independent Catholic, an anachronistic impersonator, or some grade of monsignor I don't know about (or who just got his tassels wrong). 

Does anyone know who/what this could be?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

June Is Here

Friday, May 31, 2013


A cat must feel so loved.

Someone recently mentioned to me a frog, sitting on the bank of a pond in the sun, it has no worries because it has no future.

Do you ever fear listening to a piece of music because it will recall the past? I can recall for almost any song in my collection just how I came to find it, and most are pegged to a specific time for me, when it was new and fresh and I listened to it a hundred times in a row. Sometimes we do not want to go back so soon to the scene of the crime.

Not the distant past, mind you. The more distant past is usually more benign; we've had time to process, to fit it into a greater arc, we've seen what became of its narrative threads, and we know everything worked out. No, the most recent prior chapter is usually the most awkward to revisit.

Well, not the most recent, not yesterday or last week, those are still in some sense this chapter, even if some official page has been turned, graduated; rather, as I said, the most recent prior chapter, when truly enough time has past to make it then rather than "now." There's a meme going around somewhere (so fragmented my thoughts, our lives now): a college freshman back for winter break is so excited to see high school friends in their hometown; a college senior covers her face or ducks down another aisle in the grocery store.

In thirty years you can laugh at yourself, in three or even five you can't yet disown yourself, there's not been enough time to generate another body so that you can step out of that one, stand back, and look at "him." No, when "he" is still peeling away from "you," this old skin we shed like snakes, it can fill you with that sehnsucht to see it, to realize that change is not merely something that "happened," it happens, happens while you waste the time, fill it with what always seems like not enough water to even begin to wet the sponge. And yet are the people trying to wet theirs trying to wash something away?

I wrote something recently, about the moment when you realize how tall the trees have become, and realize that it hasn't been "then" for a very long time, you just hadn't stopped to "look back" for a long time either, and when you do, all of it happens at once, it all consolidates in your mind, you realize what has receded into the past, and so you startle and shake, like when you've overslept; it's been how many weeks?? It's been half a year since November! How much new content has filled the lives of old friends with whom you used to have the same life (or at least five periods a day together). It's not that you've lost touch; they still fill you in at holidays, even daily or weekly (social networking, texting, they've made "keeping in touch" cheap and "catching up" worthless). But soon you find a shorter and shorter summary is filling you in on larger and larger spans of time not shared. You used to see all the gritty takes, edited out later. Now you get the story through the lens of hindsight, already edited, already interpreted; you're no longer privy to the rough drafts. You used to be one of their biographers, as it were, you could say, "Hey! No, that's now how it happened!" because you were there, could offer another spin on it that might effect the "final cut." Now they have other biographers and you're just waiting in line to have your copy autographed.

I like book titles. Not books, mind you, though some of those are good too. I like titles though, of books I've never read. "East of Eden," "The Unbearable Lightness of Being," "In Search of Lost Time." Has anyone read Proust? I should, I'm sure, but would it ruin what that title, what the idea of his work, has come to stand for, for me, would the concrete ruin the abstraction, the hypothetical everything mystical that book could be. In Search of Lost Time. Then again, perhaps, I flatter myself. What does it mean for me? The only memory I have is standing in line at a Starbucks, looking at the little packaged Madeleines they have and telling my dad, "The episode of the Madeleine is a famous instance of involuntary memory." As my brother has been saying, "So meta." I just read it on Wikipedia, and maybe it's not a good example at all, maybe my memory is entirely forced. Still, there are other Madeleines. His Lady of, of course (that's why I hate Paris, you know; only she deserves Rome indeed, harlots both! Not her, I don't mean! Of course not the Virgin, painted red or not, no I mean other things.) And a little girl (in two straight lines) in a movie (all covered in vines) who makes me cry, invariably.

Has Stream of Consciousness past its prime? Probably. The first person who does it is a genius. I'm just some disaffected (kid? guy? man? young man?) person sitting in his basement in one of those late night reveries because I slept too long, too much, too late. But we were talking about Joyce tonight, my face was sore from laughing just a few hours ago, as (by a confluence of conversational events) my brother did a faux dramatic reading of his famous dirty letters to his (Joyce's) Nora to his (Stephen's) Eryka. And now I could cry. How many years longer will the cat live? 

Such a good cat, hates other cats like my sister hates other women (girls? young women?) but loves me, comes and sits, follows the last one up to bed. Arthritic now, and deaf. Does she remember her youth, when she has lain there in the sun, does she dream? If she does I know they're happy. She's been safe and treated well. When one comes home from college or Canada one can pick up right where one has left off with the cat. Would that people were that way.

A cat must feel so loved.

Saturday, May 25, 2013


Words are never quite enough
to mediate.
We are spiders
and we weave a web
(it has always been a web)
for each and every
omnia et singula
and it's so much fancy silk
(so little really)
until flesh and blood
are caught
and in hours and days
between months or years
no longer a lie, or
truth suspended
the tension of every thread
(each and every: writhing,
sticky fumbling)
is tugged so
We awake,
We feast,
lips and tongue forsaking mediation
Consuming our own loneliness[,
We'll suck him dry.]