I'm spending a week away from the blog; I need to not be on the webnet all the gorram time (yes, that was a Firefly reference, and you're welcome), if only because not disciplining myself to sometimes not get on the webnet has resulted in my having the attention span of a coked-up squirrel -- and also in the belief, which I have found by experiment is not generally true but have not yet successfully ceased to believe, that if I just refresh cracked.com's cover page enough times, there will be new articles there that were not there forty seconds ago. This week, being an Ember Week, seemed peculiarly appropriate to observe such a fast, as it were. I hope these quick takes tide you all over, so that you don't despair of all wisdom and start coking yourselves up in my absence.
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I've been rereading some of the Hitchhiker's books lately. I was raised on Douglas Adams, whom I associate vaguely with the nonsense tradition in English literature -- the seminal example is, of course, Alice, but touches of the same thing can be found in Peter Pan, the Seuss books, Kafka, and some of Roald Dahl's stories. (Wikipedia claims that Joyce is also regarded as a nonsense author, but, since I like nonsense while detesting Joyce, I try not to think about that.) Anyway, I've been mulling over the sort of agnostic/atheist scientific materialism that seems increasingly popular in the twenty-first century, of which Adams was an exponent. However, he had a good deal more sense, both as a man and as a philosopher, than many of that crowd enjoy,* and I was arrested by the following passage from So Long, And Thanks for All the Fish:
"I'm afraid I can't comment on the name of the Rain God at this present time, and we are calling him an example of a Spontaneous Para-Causal Meteorological Phenomenon."
"Can you tell us what that means?"
"I'm not altogether sure. Let's be straight here. If we find something we can't understand we like to call it something you can't understand, or indeed pronounce. I mean if we just let you go around calling him a Rain God, then that suggests that you know something we don't, and I'm afraid we couldn't have that.
"No, first we have to call it something which says it's ours, not yours, then we set about finding some way of proving it's not what you said it is, but something we say it is.
"And if it turns out that you're right, you'll still be wrong, because we will simply call him a ... er, 'Supernormal' -- not paranormal or supernatural because you think you know what those mean now, no, a 'Supernormal Incremental Precipitation Inducer.' We'll probably want to shove a 'Quasi' in there somewhere to protect ourselves. Rain God! Huh, never heard such nonsense in my life."
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I've never been able to settle with myself whether I actually want to get married, quite apart from any question of having a vocation to it. I know I did. I wanted a big family, actually. But I don't know how to sort out the sorts of desires that are just the baseline of being an ordinary human being, so to speak, and the sort that God is using to tell you something about what He wants for you. I know that the desire to be a father, and even a husband, has not faded the way my desire to be a priest has faded; but then, my desire to be a religious brother hasn't faded either, even though that's probably out of the question. Not knowing is becoming much more familiar territory than it was when I was younger and the world, and God, were so much smaller.
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I've been toying lately with the idea of writing a little book, and I already have a title: Anarchist Aphorisms. A few afternoons ago, it came to me, after -- I don't know how -- I suddenly thought up, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but why it's gotten handsier than a drunk frat boy."
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I did tell Victor, once, that I loved him. I had been half-hoping that he would respond with a profession of love himself, even though I was sure he wouldn't. He didn't, of course. I can't remember exactly how the conversation went after that, except that at one point I said something about perhaps becoming a teacher.
"Are you sure that's a good idea?" he asked gently.
I stared at him for a second or two, putting the pieces together in my head, and then replied angrily, "I'm not a pedophile, if that's what you mean."
It was. Victor apologized and backed off, and the conversation went elsewhere.
It wasn't until years later that I realized that -- incredibly wrong though his conflation of homosexuality and pedophilia was -- he showed, in that moment, that he cared for me as a friend and a brother so unconditionally that he would have gone on caring for me even if I had been a pedophile.
*For the record, my own interactions with atheists and agnostics, whether they were scientific materialists or not, have been almost entirely pleasant, and indeed I've not infrequently found them to be better company than some of my fellow Christians. Nor have I often found them to be anything other than intelligent, honest thinkers. The trouble is that every crowd, whatever its creed, has its share of stupid people who are also loud, and I feel that there has been an abundance of loud, stupid atheists in the public square of late.
Introit for the Third Sunday in Lent
Mine eyes are ever looking unto the Lord, for he shall pluck my feet out of the net: look thou upon me, and have mercy upon me, for I am desolate and in misery.
Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul: my God, in thee have I trusted; let me not be confounded.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.