Month: May 2012


Letters to Children

Living in the Present I

The nineteenth-century Scottish fantasy writer, George MacDonald, lived in intense poverty. He wrote fairy tales in order to eke out a living for his family. Yet he had a peaceful mind. Said C.S. Lewis about him: “His peace of mind came not from building on the future but from resting in what he called ‘the Holy Present’.”

The Holy Present is a mode of living in which you don’t about the past or the future. You think about the job at hand, or the priest’s words, or an old tree that you see in a park. You think about the game you’re playing with your children, or the conversation you’re having with your friend, or the consultation you’re having with your customer or client. Or you might just think about God. You don’t think about the time that such activities are taking and how you may not have enough time later to get other things done. You also should not think about things that have happened in the past that have no bearing on the present moment.

You should strive to live in the Holy Present because, quite simply, it’s how we’re meant to live. We have no power over the past and precious little control over the future. Here’s how C.S. Lewis described it in The Screwtape Letters: God wants men to attend chiefly to two things: “to eternity itself, and to that point of time which they call the Present. For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity. Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience which … Read the rest


Email picReceived in an Email Newsletter

Nearly half of all Americans live in a household getting a government check, according to the Census Bureau. Of course, it’s not quite as bad as it sounds, since many of the households are elderly. Here’s the breakdown:

15% of Americans live in a household on food stamps
26% of households have someone enrolled in Medicaid
2% have someone getting unemployment benefits
16% have someone receiving Social Security benefits
15% have someone in Medicare.

But still: 50% living off the government, wholly or partially? That’s hardly the necessary fodder for a healthy republic.

Freaky Violence

In Florida, a man attacks a guy and eats his face (and the police say they’ve seen three or four other cases exactly like this). In New Jersey, a man rips out his intestines and throws it at the police. A few months ago, a van full of blacks in Texas grabbed a random elderly Mexican off the street and gang raped him.

What the hell is going on? Is stuff getting freakier and freakier, am I just getting old, or is the Internet just bringing this crap to our attention more? Yeah, I know: Jeffrey Dahlmer, Ted Bundy, the going-postal phenom. The violent freaks will always be with us (then again, history, though sprinkled with violent freaks, didn’t bring them out nearly as frequently as the 20th century and the first years of the 21st century). These days, the violent freaks seem to be coming in waves.

I don’t know. I just don’t know.

But my gut tells me there’s a relationship between the first story in today’s post and this … Read the rest



I’ve installed a rain barrel. Okay, not really, but I did position four plastic containers on top of my garden closet, just under the eaves of my shed. Collectively, they probably hold seven gallons or so. Of course, we haven’t had rain for so long, it doesn’t matter what mechanism I use. No rain=zero collection. * * * * * * * But don’t tell anyone I have those rain-collection gizmos. The government might charge me a fee, like the town in Ohio that charges people a fee to put in a rain barrel. * * * * * * * I added cocoa shell mulch to my garden this weekend. My garden runs a little high on the PH side. The cocoa will lower the PH, help immensely with moisture retention (could be very important this hot summer), and keep weeds down. It also looks great. The only drawback: It costs a lot of money, too much for me to cover my entire garden, so I just covered the parts that prefer a little more acid (peppers and tomatoes).

Over the weekend, I found this interesting sentence in Nock’s Henry George about the 19th century: “Conditions were bad in London, and as bad if not a trifle worse in the great industrial towns which William Cobbett, years before, had bluntly called Hell-holes.” This passage interests me for two reasons: (1) Did Cobbett coin that term? (2) Was Nock a Cobbett fan? The latter greatly interests me, because I maintain that there is a strong link between Chesterton and libertarianism, properly understood (or, more precisely, understood the way I use it). Was … Read the rest


Happy Memorial Day. Consistent with past practice, blogging will be light today, since holiday blog traffic is normally very low. * * * * * * * I looked up morning mourning dove on Wikipedia. It appears that they’re a very common bird, so the Jack story (see Saturday) isn’t a great coincidence, but the timing was still remarkable and none of us have seen a mourning dove in our neighborhood (or, to be more precise, on our court, which consists of six houses). I’ve been looking a little more as I walk around town, and there are plenty around here. * * * * * * * Kinda interesting, if a bit odd and lacking Catholic understanding: Glenn Beck on Benedict XVI. * * * * * * * Two great H.L. Mencken quotes: (1) “The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.” (2) “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”
Mencken… Read the rest


Autobiographical Corner

Whew, a great weekend ahead of me. Why? I have the house to myself. Marie and The Seven left for a weekend of bird watching. Yes, bird watching. I might read Etienne Gilson, G.K. Chesterton, and (starting shortly) Karl Popper, but, relative to my birding family, I ain’t a nerd.

I tried “Bird Camp” three times, and I could never figure why exactly I was there . . . or anybody was there, for that matter. Oh well. I’ve become a firm believer in the maxim, “to each their own.” If people want to bird watch, great. Just extend the same generosity of spirit when I retire to my room with a book.

Speaking of birds: Last Saturday, my son Jack (15) was getting confirmed. Before we left for the Confirmation Mass, we took him into the front yard for pictures. During the pictures, a morning dove lit upon a tree branch a little above and behind Jack’s head. None of us had ever seen a morning dove in our neighborhood and, quite frankly, in our town (to the best of our collective memory). Call it coincidence, but wow, whatta coincidence.

Garden Corner

The garden is going very well. I typically pull virtually nothing out of the garden before Memorial Day, but this year I’ve gotten a lot of spinach, a few pints of strawberries, a lot of spices, a few peas, and a little bit of chard. I also think I’ll get kale, blackberries, currants, raspberries, and grape tomatoes before the end of June. … Read the rest


It’s summer time, which means it’s time to get out the gin. I guess gin joints are all the rage these days. New York Magazine has provided a list of these “gin-centric cocktail joints.” Each entry also features one of the joint’s favorites, most of which sound pretty good. . . or interesting: “The menu boasts a hundred gins—from American craft to Indian. Try the No. 3, a gin tipple made with bright sparkling wine and tart-sweet rhubarb jam.”

The same issue has a large section about the drinking scene. I recommend it. Even if you don’t live in NYC, it’ll get you thinking/drinking in the right direction this weekend. . . or not. They have some awfully scary things over there, too, like “The New Bacon Cocktail: Fashioned with bacon-infused bourbon, frothy egg whites, bittersweet Aperol, and bright lemon, and topped with a salty-sweet strip of maple-glazed bacon, it’s creamy and savory and hits all the right carnivorous notes, not to mention a few boozy ones.”

But if you, like me, are staying in Michigan these days, you still have plenty of options. You might hate the micro-brew craze, but it has helped spawn interesting and classy bars. This article from The Detroit Free Press features one beer expert’s top ten. Number 6 is one of my old haunts, Ashley’s in Ann Arbor: “72 taps, always something interesting to try.”… Read the rest


Letters to Children: Being in Love

When your mother and I first started falling in love, she was living in Ypsilanti and I was living down the road in Ann Arbor. After dating for about a year, I found myself calling her every day and making plans to see her two, three, four times a week. She was never far from my mind, even when my studies at the University of Michigan were beckoning, and I was constantly trying to think of little ways to make her happy. I would send her letters and flowers; I would take her little presents; I took her out to eat at all kinds of different places. When I later moved to South Bend (to attend law school at Notre Dame), I wrote to her almost every day (by “snail mail”; this was before e-mail existed) and racked up large telephone charges calling her. When we saw each other on the weekends, I was literally nauseous with sadness when it was time to leave.

Those are the actions of a man in the state of “being in love.” It is a wonderful thing.

But we can’t stay in that state. In C.S. Lewis’ words, “Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years? What would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, your friendships?” Now, as it turns out, I did live in that state for nearly five years due to economic conditions (Grandpa would’ve cut me off from his wallet if I had gotten married), but it was difficult and it got tiresome. The only thing that made it bearable was that your mother … Read the rest