One of my favorite writers, Bill Kauffman, has a new book out: Poetry Night at the Ballpark and Other Scenes from an Alternative America. It's pretty expensive ($49), but reasonably priced on Kindle: $9.99. I bought it last weekend and am greatly enjoying the surface of it that I've scratched.
Go here for a recent interview with Kauffman (where I first heard of the new book). Excerpt:
Peters: You’ve found interesting ways of describing yourself politically: “a blend of Catholic Worker, Old Right libertarian, Yorker transcendentalist, and delirious localist”; you have also described yourself as an “Independent. A Jeffersonian. An anarchist. A (cheerful!) enemy of the state, a reactionary Friend of the Library, a peace-loving football fan.” Get serious for a moment and tell us what kind of political beast you are.
Kauffman: I was being serious. But okay, how about this: I am the illegitimate son of Dorothy Day and H.D. Thoreau, conceived amid the asters and goldenrod of an Upstate NY September.
Random passage from one of the book's earlier chapters:
This story starts with Ty Cobb and the famous “suspension game.” Cobb had gone into the stands in New York on May 15, 1912, to thrash a heckler who was yelling “Your sister screws niggers” and “Your mother is a whore.” The heckler, Claude Lueker, had lost all but two fingers on his hands to an industrial accident, though when told he’d throttled a handless man, truculent Ty replied that he’d have beaten up Lueker even if he had been legless.
A joke from Joseph Epstein's entertaining essay, "You Could Die Laughing: Are Jewish Jokes a Humorous Subject?"
"Walking along the beach, Goldstein finds a bottle, picks it up, and—surprise! surprise!—a genie emerges. The genie instructs Goldstein that he will grant him one wish, and one wish only. Goldstein says he wishes for world peace. The genie tells him he gets that wish a lot, but it is impossible to fulfill, so, if he doesn’t mind, please try another wish. In that case, Goldstein says, he would like more respect from his wife, who maybe would spend less time and money on shopping and prepare a decent home-cooked meal for him every once in a while and possibly make some attempt to satisfy his sexual desires. The genie pauses, then says, 'Goldstein, tell me what, exactly, it is you mean by world peace.'"
From the Gardening Journals
Well, I finally went off the deep end: I spent nearly $90 on a hoe. Yes, a hoe. It's a Dewitt diamond hoe. It's six-feet long, supposedly guaranteed to last a lifetime, and quite nifty.
What is a diamond hoe? It's a hoe meant specifically for weeding. It's more for weed prevention, so I'm a little late in the season to start using it, but I had to do something since my weeds are getting out of control. I've also been diagnosed with a degenerative disk "disease," so bending over and hoeing the weeds with the traditional American square hoe won't work (and never worked well, since the square hoe isn't meant for weeding). The diamond hoe is held and operated like you would a broom: with your back straight. This video is a fair representation (go to 1:05):
It works great.
I have also ordered an oscillating hoe attachment for my wheel hoe.
I'm really hoping it helps me cut through the bigger weeds I'm grappling with. I like my wheel hoe, but the attachments it came with simply aren't great for weeding. I've been assured by numerous sources that, for flat-out weed attack, a wheel hoe with oscillating attachment is the best.
I'm really digging the "Daily Review" at Amazon Kindle:
Daily Review is a tool to help you review and remember the most significant ideas from your books. It shows you flashcards with either your highlights and notes or the Popular Highlights from one of your books.
Only books that you have marked as "read" are eligible for review, and Daily Review will take you through all of your read books, one per day.
The periodic review of ideas makes it easier to remember them. This works better if you space the reviews over increasing time intervals, a "Spacing Effect" that was first identified by German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus.
I log into my Amazon Kindle account, then start clicking on the flashcards. Lessons like this one, once easily forgotten, are now foisted back on me: "When self-love no longer receives any nourishment, in the end it can only starve to death." Wilfrid Stinissen, Into Your Hands Father * * * * * * * That Stinissen book, incidentally, is highly recommended. * * * * * * * It's good to know I'm not the only idiot out there: Jim Grant "is also the owner of 'too many gold mining shares' for which he has, 'a great deal of worry for the present but a great deal of conviction for the future.'” Link. I, too, own a lot of mining stocks, much to my monetary detriment. I'm glad to see the financial world's most-respected journalist is sharing my pain. He also owns physical gold, which has gotten hammered. I don't own physical gold, so heck, I'm actually ahead of the game, vis-a-vis Mr. Grant. * * * * * * * The fact-free left: terrible minimum wage laws and other. Vintage Thomas Sowell.
Just returned last night from a ten-day trip to my ancestral vacation home in Alpena, Michigan. Nothing much today. Just this picture of a great rainbow that formed over Lake Huron Monday evening after a rain. It was a full arch, with a double-rainbow forming behind parts of it.
Brews You Can Use
One of the better drinking lists I've seen this year, even if I don't recognize 30% of 'em: "10 Pop Culture Moments that Changed the Way We Drink." I found Number One highly humorous and very interesting:
"No one could have imagined what Paul Giamatti’s single, throwaway line – “I am not drinking f****** merlot!” – in 2004’s Sideways would do to the wine business, particularly the sales of derided merlot and glorified pinot noir varietals. No merlot is consumed in Sideways, and in the decade after its release, it wasn’t consumed much in America, either. One study declared that (although merlot sales were already falling) “virtually all results are consistent with the theory that Sideways had a negative impact on merlot”, but that the positive impact on pinot sales was even greater."
At least, with respect to his relevance as a Catholic political philosopher:
Brownson was the first person to try to offer a complete theory of the role of the Catholic Church in America. He wasn’t willing to concede America to the Church, and he wasn’t willing to concede the Church to America. He wanted both—America’s republic that he thought was Rome Incarnate, and the Catholic Church, which was founded by God Incarnate—to be realized in their fullness on these shores, one day expanding into Canada and Mexico, making the entire continent part of the United States, and all of it a monument to the Catholic Church.
Background: When I was the editor of Gilbert Magazine, I was responsible for the "Tremendous Trifles" column. It was occasionally hard to find a sufficient amount of interesting GKC material to fill the page, so John Peterson sent me a file full of Chesterton ancedotes. They were idiosyncratic, historical, and Chestertonian. He gave me permission to use them here. I hope y'all find them as interesting as I have over the years. Most of them have never been published.
For the 7th Annual Anthony Boucher Memorial Mystery Convention, which was held the weekend of October 1-3, 1976, at the Pacifica Hotel in Culver City, California, the entertainment for Friday evening included a screening of The Detective, a 1954 feature film starring Alec Guinness in the role of Father Brown. [The Armchair Detective, January, 1977, p. 53]
The dating website AshleyMadison.com, which is a site where married people go to find someone to have an affair with, was hacked yesterday and now the hackers are threatening to release information about its users. This is one way to cut down on the number of people running for president.
The reasons for the combination of humility and wisdom are not easy to understand (and almost-certainly beyond the understanding of superficial and arrogant persons—today’s all-too-common flipside of wisdom and humility—who would dismiss the combination as a mere coincidence or result of fanciful speculation by devotees). It lies in a theological problem that starts with the act of creation in Genesis, was first touched upon in the Book of Exodus, and has exercised theologians for centuries.
The book of Genesis teaches that this world is God’s creation. Though the world is not a piece of God, carved out from Him as pantheists believe, it is related to God because it is His creation. Creation bears some resemblance to God; it is like God, bears some likeness to Him, or, in the words of the theologians, is analogous to God. This is especially true of humans, creatures made in His image.
It is crucial to understand that humans are analogous to God in their existnece, not through their essences—characteristics that give form to a thing. If a person is described as six-feet tall, ill-tempered, quick-witted, and a good typist, his existence is not described at all; only his characteristics are described. It would be absurd to attribute these characteristics to God through analogy (the result would be similar to the New Age religion’s insistence that each individual is divine and the resulting belief that all human characteristics, no matter how passionately debased or informed by original sin, are divinely linked).
In the Book of Exodus, Moses asked God His name. God gave the puzzing reply: “I am Who Am.” The full meaning of this revelation was not fully understood until the thirteenth century, 2,500 years later, when St. Thomas Aquinas explained that God’s name articulates the fundamental nature of God—He is a being that has no form, no characteristic, other than to exist. His essence is existence. His essence is simply to exist.
This is the key to understanding why the humble man becomes the wise man. We are analogous to God through our simple act of existence, not through our forms. Our forms are, in fact, can cloud our understanding of existence to the extent the forms, like greed and ambition, emanate from original sin rather than our existence as created by God. Humility strips away the forms. As a person becomes increasingly humble, he sheds the various forms that gratify the self, such as ambition and passion, because, as a humble person, he doesn’t care his self.
To the extent a person sheds the forms, he becomes simpler. As the humble person sheds the forms, he increasingly becomes a being that just exists, thus making him more similar to God, a being with no forms. This, in turn, makes the humble person wise because he is more analogous to God, the source of all things and fount of wisdom.
The humble person lives daily life in a simple existence, cultivating deep understanding as he lives without the clamor of sin and self-regard that stultifies comprehension, as he lives a life as analogous to God as possible. That simple life eventually issues forth in a stream of wisdom. Earthly limitations will not stop it. A person with low intelligence—like St. John Vianney—is merely a being with the characteristic of a low intelligence quotient, but, because wisdom issues from being (not characteristics), raw intelligence becomes a secondary concern and wisdom can shine forth even in an otherwise-unintelligent person.
The humble person’s daily life is analogous to a child who plays in the same countryside day-after-day. Eventually, the child knows the landscape like the back of his hand, even though he was not intentionally trying to learn it. If a group of intelligent adults gets lost in the region, the child can give them instructions, telling them of traps and explaining the best way through the terrain during that time of year.
The humble person plays in simple existence day-after-day. He is not caught-up in exercising the various forms; not caught-up in the pursuit of money and fame. He simply lives with himself without all the make-up, just looking at existence as created by God. And he thereby obtains intense wisdom as he dwells in the image of He Who knows all.
If the reader hasn’t figured it out yet, I have heavy existentialist leanings. But, then again, so does creation, as pointed out in the above account of Socrates, God, and St. John Vianney.
As discussed above, God is a being who has no form, no characteristic, other than to exist, to be. His essence is existence; His act is to exist. And we imitate Him, strengthen our analogy to Him, in so far as we simply exist without the appendages of excess essences.
And it is man’s essence that is stained with Original Sin. We don’t know exactly how Satan tempted Adam and Eve, but we know what he tempted them with: The prospect that, if they disobeyed God, they would become like gods. Through disobedience, our first parents sought to add something to God’s image, to make themselves more than beings most analogous to God by simply existing.
Before the first sin, man’s forms worked harmoniously with man’s existence, the forms, in a sense, obeyed man’s highest attribute as a being who participates in God through the act of existence. The forms, endowed with perfect virtue, did not disrupt that participation, but rather furthered it, like a pair of legs furthers virtue today by kneeling in prayer (though the form can also act despicably, like a knee painfully kneeing a neighbor in the crotch).
But, as a result of our first parents’ sin, we became fallen creatures, creatures with their goodness (our existence bestowed by God) splattered with a cancerous growth, excess essence, like water heavily doused with oil. Man’s essence and existence are inextricably intertwined, and the two influence each other. After the Fall, it became tricky for existence to work with essence, for at times essence works for the good (as in kneeling or obeying or acting virtuously) at times it works for the bad (as in kneeing, disobeying, or acting despicably). The latter adds layers to the self and disrupts the self further, hurtling the individual further from simple existence. The former helps the self return to its state as a simple being approximates God through the simple act of existence.
Catholic Men's Quarterly, a one-of-a-kind general interest men's magazine written by Catholic men for Catholic men. Makes a great Father's Day gift.
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