Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Catholic Carnival 98

Well, it's my turn to host the illustrious Catholic Carnival, and I must say, considering I'm a no-name blogger, a surprisingly large number of respondents sent in submissions. Without further ado and in no particular order:

Past readers know I have a bit of a beef with Richard Dawkins. I saw recently while visiting my local bookstore that the "esteemed" Dr. Dawkins has a new book out. Now, ordinarily, before casting stones I prefer to read my opponent's writings, so as to better steel myself for the coming battle. But when I saw the title of Dawkins' latest screed, The God Delusion, I realized that it would be a complete waste of my time. Fortunately, John Bambenek has written a rather scathing review at his blog Part-Time Pundit. Thanks, John, for taking a bullet for the rest of us.

Catholic education is of course a goal of any blog which titles itself Theological Calculus, so here's a link courtesy of Allan Wallace to his new carnival on school choice.

The redoubtable Professor Bainbridge continues to expound on Andrew Sullivan's use of the term "christianist", calling Sullivan a Whig Inclusivist. Frankly, I consider Sullivan to be a self-important pretentious blowhard, so any post that punctures his "mystique" is a good thing by me.

It's important to remember that as Catholics we should above all be concerned with spiritual concerns, so here's Sarah R at Just Another Day of Catholic Pondering with a timely update on that perennial debate -- the old church vs the new church.

SFO Mom has some thoughts about how to increase the length of Christmas from one day to eight. Hey, if the Jews can do it, why not us?

Christine at Domestic Vocation makes the seemingly bizarre yet quite profound comparison of God with potted plants. I've never thought to consider God as a ficus, but she makes some interesting points. Read for yourself. (And there was that one bush...)

Like SFO Mom, John Gedbaw wants us to remember that Christmas is not just a single day, but a whole season. Sometimes I think modern society has lost touch that religion is not merely about an hour on Sundays, but should inform one's whole life. In line with that, the Church has helpfully layed out seasons of spiritual thought. As we head into the Christmas Season, we pass through the Season of Anticipation into the Season of Rejoice, as Christ enters the world anew.

Jay at Living Catholicism discusses a painting he saw on the wall of his local Spaghetti Factory (we have them in Seattle too!) and how all things serve God, whether we intend them to or not.

I'm not entirely sure whether these are different Jays, but Jay at Deo Omnis Gloria discusses the Lutheran doctrine of "faith alone" and counterpoints it with faith and works. To be honest, I've never understood the distinction. If you're a man of faith, won't you perforce do good works? At any rate, Jay gets a good post out of it.

Moneybags at A Catholic Life reviews "The Nativity Story". I'm always leery of religious films, in part because in attempting to reach a broader audience they often water down the most essential parts of the dogma. I have to give kudos to Mel Gibson for not falling into this trap. I like to see the religious interacting with secular culture, but I'll probably wait until "The Nativity Story" comes out on video.

I've often compared today's secular culture with nihilism, so I don't know how sympathetic I am to comparisons of liberalism with gnosticism, which at least acknowledges there is such a thing as truth, even if the truth is hidden. But Madcap at Global Conservative makes just such a comparison. I'll leave it up to you to determine whether he's right or not. Hey--I write, you decide.

I find Jared Diamond's arguments about the development of human cultures to be persuasive--to a degree. I don't necessarily believe that the development of nations is a biodiversity crapshoot, and I definitely don't believe that Papua New Guineans are more intelligent than modern people (Okay, some modern people), as Diamond claims. But here's SWP at CatholicLand! (His exclamation point, not mine) with a discussion on how God may have utilized the oh-so-convenient placement of Israel to further his message.

Kevin Miller of Heart Mind & Strength discusses the meaning of this week's Lenten reading, namely the importance of rejoicing that Christ will come to us to baptize us and give us the hope of salvation. He reminds us that salvation is only possible when combined with judgment. No one can be saved if no one is judged. Yet Christ loves us, and gives us all the chance to repent, so that when we are judged, we may pass through the fire unburned.

There are times when we feel as though there is little we can do to save ourselves--that life is just too hard. Joel at On the Other Foot makes the excellent point that even in those black times, the Church gives us the motions we must perform. Man floats in a great black ocean, but it makes a world of difference for his survival if he floats alone or if he has a piece of wreckage, no matter how feeble, to cling to.

Elena LaVictoire gives us more on the Faith vs. Works debate, as she follows bickering over at a Protestant blog (Oh, those wacky Protestants!) on whether Christ's sacrifice constitutes full payment of our debt to God, or merely squares away some of the principal.

Our lives are fraught with moral dilemmas, so fortunately we have good Catholic bloggers like Penitens at A Penitent Blogger to point out that others have gone the road before us: namely, St. Joseph, God's foster father. What would you do if your fiancee came home and informed you that she was pregnant and it was another man's? A good question, one I think a lot of people would struggle with. Fortunately for us Christians, Joseph made the right choice.

Finally, let's close out with a nice (if rather dark) prayer from Owen at Luminous Miseries, in which he prays for those stuck in Purgatory at the moment.

(What, you're still here? It's over. Go home!)

Friday, December 08, 2006

Fear My Outrage!

I am outraged, outraged I tell you! The Weblog Awards has no religion category! For shame, Pete Holliday, designer of polls, for shame! Where will I go to vote for my friend the Anchoress? Or my correligionists at Luminous Miseries? Oh, now I am sore with anger!

Anyway, vote for the Anchoress for best individual blog.

"I wept because I had no printer, until I met a man with no computer."

Up too late tonight. Staying at the library waiting for the copy center to reopen so I can print some documents I need to hand in tomorrow. Too much on my mind. Must sleep. God is telling me to hit the sack.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Spell Checker

I find it interesting that my spellchecker knows the proper spelling for Helmholtz, Lorentz, Foucault, and J. J. Thomson. MS Word must secretly be a physics geek.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Pope Bizzenedict

"Big shout out to all my peepz!"

Benny in Turkey

Pope Benedict is leaving Turkey right now, and al-Qaeda (hey, I remember those guys!) attempted to remain even remotely relevant by claiming that the Pope's visit to Constantinople was a "crusader campaign", designed to "extinguish the burning ember of Islam" in Turkey.

God, I wish.

The Beta and The Omega

I'm not a huge fan of this Blogger Beta. I switched over last week, and discovered that I could no longer log in with my old browser. I use a Linux box, and apparently the Linux-based browser I use is incompatible with Blogger Beta. So now I've installed Firefox, and got that problem solved. Now I can update and all that. But still, not a fan.

Friday, November 24, 2006

"There Is No Such Thing As A Religion Called "Christianity"'

"There is and always has been the Church, and various heresies proceeding from a rejection of some of the Church's doctrines by men who still desire to retain the rest of her teaching and morals. But there never has been and never can be or will be a general Christian religion professed by men who all accept some central important doctrines, while agreeing to differ about others. There has always been from the beginning and will always be the Church, and sundry heresies either doomed to decay, or, like Mohammedanism, to grow into a separate religion. Of a common Christianity there never has been and never can be a definition, for it has never existed." --Hillaire Belloc

An interesting point, and one that is followed up at realclearreligion.com.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanks Giving

Thanks be to God for all the myriad blessings we have received throughout the past year, and praise to Lord Jesus Christ, who, in His infinite wisdom, saw fit to die on the cross to redeem our sins.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Addicted to Life

In gaming theory, there is the concept of the martingale. Imagine you are sitting at a roulette table. The initial bet is 1 dollar, and you bet on black. Now, if it comes up black you win a dollar, but if it comes up red you lose a dollar. The martingale theory states that the only effective way to win is to double your bet every time you lose. If N is the amount you bet when you win, then the sum of your losses is 1 + 2 + 4 + 8 + ...+ N/2. If we factor out N, then we get 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 + .... 1/N. Now, the infinite sum Sigma(i=1, infinity) 1/(2^i) is equal to 1. Since N is a finite number, the finite sum Sigma(i=1, N) 1/(2^i) is less than 1. This means that since your losses are equal to N(1/2 + 1/4 + ... + 1/N), this number is slightly less than N. As long as you obey this strategy, you will always come out ahead.

Hence, doubling down.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to double down at life. A hard lesson, but one I've learned all too well the last few days. You can't keep losing and losing, and tell yourself that you'll make it up later, and hope to win. Sometimes you lose, and sometimes you can't make it up. Sometimes things are for keeps, and you have to admit that you can't make things just like they were. Or would have been.

But you can make things better than they are now. I, like a lot of people, have the unfortunate habit of being addicted to life. "High on life" is such an oft-used statement that it's now a cliche. But life can be a drug, like any drug, and it can be addictive. A person gets caught up in life and allows it to run him, rather than the other way around. Little things suddenly become big things, and unimportant matters come to dominate your life. Every little thing becomes a crisis, and eventually comes paralysis. Overdose.

Like smashing your head against a wall. Why do you do that? Because it feels so good when I stop. And you want to stop. You double down, again and again, telling yourself that this time you'll win, that this will be the win that takes you out of the red and into the black, and life keeps calling you back. Here, it says. Take a little more of what I have to sell you. It hurts so good, doesn't it?

What causes it? Who knows. The devil, maybe. Or maybe it's simply that rotten little flaw deep inside you, the one you hear as that little voice. The one that says, "Eat all the brownies." The one that says, "Run this red light." The one that says, "Cheat on your wife." The one that says, "Pull the trigger."

We live in the House of Destruction now. It's an opera house, and we stand where the acoustics are perfect to pick up that little voice. To amplify him and reflect him off every surface, so that we are buffeted on all sides. We hear that voice, and more and more are listening. Everyday, that whispering little voice gains more and more disciples.

Bet again. You'll win it back. Double down. Bet it all.

Time to kick the pusher out the door, to shut that little voice up. To live and not be lived.

Time to break the habit.

Graffiti Blogging

I am strangely fascinated by graffiti. I often am intrigued by the messages--or lack thereof--people choose to scrawl on walls. So I photograph them. Note that I do not condone vandalism. I just find it fascinating the sorts of things people are willing to risk hefty fines for.

Graffiti comes in all shapes and sizes.
Some is optimistic:


Some is political:


Some merely inexplicable:


Nature leaves her own graffiti:


"We don't want our children viewing any of this trash!":


This is a rather detailed painting on a brick outside the Physics Building:


The text reads: "If you were a candy bar, you would be a Mars-Bar, because U would be out of this world!"
"Is your refridgerator [sic] running?"

Interesting sentiments.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Selfish Geneticist

Dr. Richard Dawkins is once again in the news. I am sure that Prof. Dawkins is the paragon of wit, substance, and bonhomie, but nevertheless I cannot help but suspect that he is a terrible bore at cocktail parties. He strikes me as the sort of man who only ever speaks on one subject, and invariably (and subconsciously) works all conversations back to that subject, which once on one can never get him to change. That subject is of course the complete and total denial of God.

Dr. Dawkins is an atheist of the rather more militant sort, and therefore deserves keeping an eye on, just as we keep an eye on crackpots and fascists. When not watched, atheists have a tendency to get up to mischief, which, historically speaking, tends to be vastly more harmful than the mischief perpetrated by the religious, at least on any absolute scale.

The universe stripped of God is a very bleak and cold place indeed, and I think it tragic that a man considered as great a thinker as Dawkins is should be led so far astray. However, I feel no sympathy for him, as Dawkins would remove all meaning and purpose from our lives in the name of his nihilistic beliefs. I for one would point to the fact that nearly all great art has been created by believers, that Christianity in particular has been a great force for good in this world, but I doubt any of my arguments would hold much truck with a man who has described religion as a mental illness.

This is of course the great difficulty in dealing with a man like Dawkins, in that militant atheists are invariably intractable. I note with great interest that Dawkins came into his atheism at the ripe old age of 16, which is when the vast majority of us do our deepest theological speculation. I remember that I believed quite a lot of things when I was 16, most of which I do not believe in now. There is the air of the adolescent in the man who absolutely will not admit any possibility of his being wrong.

And, of course, there is the smugness. Anyone of a religious inclination can usually identify the various attitudes adopted by those of differing faiths. The evangelicals are earnest, the fundamentalists are filled with a kind of stern rage, the Episcopalians and other mainline churches have apathy, and we Catholics have the iron bedrock of tradition and the comforting knowledge that we've been around forever. The atheists have smugness. No vicar or priest, descending upon the benighted heathen, has done so with the sheer infuriating smugness of an atheist attacking a believer. Now, all religion is fundamentally about revelation. But most religions are not gnostic cults, which based on their behavior, is what many atheists regard their system as, in which "enlightened ones" shall be set free due to their understanding of secret knowledge that tragically the rest of the swelling mass of sheep what calls themselves "humanity" are unable to comprehend. They carefully and patronizingly nod their heads while listening to you, and then proceed to ignore whatever you have said, in favor of points which you and no reasoning person could ever rebut, because what do you know, you sheep you?

Personally, I think most atheists agree with Dr. Dawkins, and regard believers as not merely fellow humans with differing views from their own, but as insane. Thus they fall into the CSE trap (Crazy-Stupid-Evil). In fact, as fond as they are of Crazy, they're also pretty darn fond of Stupid and Evil too:

"Without religion you have good people doing good things, and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, it takes religion." - Richard Dawkins

"Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence." - Richard Dawkins

I find it ironic that Dawkins, a man who almost certainly would shoot himself before admitting he had a soul, would attribute more corporeality to ideas than he would to human consciousness. I also find it ironic that Dawkins works at a university which owes its existence to religion, in a field that owes its existence to religion, in a nation that for better or worse (primarily for the better) has been shaped by its idiosyncratic ideas about religion into a world power, after being born into a nation that would not have existed if that selfsame world power hadn't felt itself to be on a divinely inspired mission to conquer the world in the name of Britannia.

I also think that geneticists should get down on their knees every day and thank the Catholic Church for giving Mendel all that time with his peas.

Dr. Dawkins should remember that in denying the existence of God simply because he has no proof of God's existence, he is arguing from ignorance, and generally speaking in science that is a no-no.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Cruel Nation

It is an undeniable fact that we Americans love "nice." We want to be thought of as nice, both at home and abroad. Americans hate to give offense. Americans live under a code of etiquette more strict than that of Emily Post and the code of chivalry, combined. We go out of our way to enforce inoffensiveness, through speech codes, Political Correctness, and simple snubbing. Because of this, shows of strong emotion--which might offend!--are to be avoided. One result of this is the species of patriotism that could be dubbed "Modern American". The fundamental sentiment of this patriotism is "America is a nice country."

This sentiment is, like so much of American culture today, quaint, pleasant, inoffensive, and wrong. America is most emphatically not a nice country. America is about the furthest one can get from a "nice nation" and still be on this planet.

America is the cruel nation.

Matthew 10:34 : Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

America is cruel because she forces men to choose. Prior to July 4, 1776, men could quietly vegetate under the enlightened despotism of the Great Father, or the Son of Heaven, or God's Anointed, or whatever the tyrant du jour was. Then, the revolution.

In our own time, Christ has moved from the All-Powerful Godhead into a kind of pleasant "Buddy Christ". Judgment, damnation, suffering, sacrifice--everything enduring about the Christian Faith has been stripped away, leaving only a quietly desperate "Just be nice to people, okay?"

"Master, which is the great commandment in the law?"

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.

And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

All too often we hear the second but forget the first. We emasculate Christ, feminize him and remove all that is virile--and all that is fertile too. But let us never forget that Christ came to baptize us not with water, but with fire.

So it is with America. America is not just a nation, but an idea. In that sense, America is The Nation, forever transforming our notions of nationhood and citizenship. America is cruel, because like Christ, she forces men to choose. After Christ, the spiritual lives of men were changed forever. After America, the political lives of men were changed forever. No longer can any man say, I did not have a choice. No longer can any man claim, I did not know. For ever since her inception, America has asked every man the same question:

Are you true? Will you stand with truth, justice, and liberty? Or are you content to bend your head before your master?

Then she whispers, a soft whisper like a mother's sigh, like a lover's kiss, Come. Come to me, and be fruitful. Leave the night and be free under the sun. Come and know that I own you, and you in turn own me, and our marriage shall be a sweet one, and our children shall be the fruits of your labors.

Will you come? Are you true?

And like a knife, the call of America cuts into the hearts of men, and rives them from their old lives, and makes them anew.

We hold these Truths to be self-evident: that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Oh, you cruel nation.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Mass at St. Mary's

I attended Mass tonight at St. Mary's, my local orthodox. Father Harris, the old-school, stern patrician priest (whom in secret I fondly referred to as Father Kicks-Your-Ass), has left, and been replaced by a younger Vietnamese priest named Vu Tran. Father Tran seems pretty decent; I think it's perhaps too early to say whether he has the cojones to hold the line like Father Harris, but I'm willing to give him the chance.

The sermon was on the concept of giving back to the church, tithing not merely your wealth, but your time. For what is time but wealth? God graces us with a span of hours numbering in the mere thousands, and it is for us to transform those hours into the gold and good works that make us possible to be good Christians.

Exam Results

Well, my exam is over. I think the maximum score I could have gotten would be 810, and the minimum would be 560. Hopefully, God willing, my score will be closer to the higher end.

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Examiner's Prayer

God, tomorrow I have the Graduate Record Examination. Please help me to recall all that I have learned these past three years, and to do well on this test. I understand that my success or failure is ultimately due to you, for you control my dedication, my recall, my concentration. Please, let your will not my will be done, and let me accept whatever result I receive with a happy heart.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Journey into Solitude : Chapter One :: In Through The Out Door 1

The day Christian walked out of the world, it rained for about half an hour and then was quiet. He sat in his cubicle and out of the corner of his eye he could see droplets of water slowly trickling down the windowpane. It was about eleven in the morning. The walls of his cubicle were grey. The carpet was grey. His chair, which squeaked, was a dingy, unwashed grey. The flat screen of his computer flickered momentarily, then continued in its mission of displaying a tangled mess of spreadsheets and browsers, a cumulative projection of grey into the world. My name is Christian. I work for Global Corporation, he thought. I am a Level Three Data Entry Administrator, Second Grade. Then he didn't think again for perhaps five minutes.
The ambient noise of the cubicle farm was central air and the random clickclickclick of keys being pressed. The occasional ring of a telephone broke into the sussurus of data being entered. Fed in here, spat out there. Around and around, like effluvium, the data moved. Most of it was pointless. Or worthless. Some adjective ending in "less" anyway.
At eleven thirty the weekly Morale Meet-Up began. It was important that it was called a meet-up, and not a meeting. Christian went to thirty-seven meetings a week. None of them was called a meeting. Meetings were not done at Global Corporation.
The Morale Meet-Up met up in the conference room. Christian took a seat at a table that had been impressive once. Twenty years of coffee mugs and watches, of donut crumbs and spilled drinks, had put an end to that. At the table sat the other seventeen members of Christian's department, carefully shoehorned in together.
For thirty minutes, they listened while a corporate drone attempted to buck them up by telling them in the vaguest terms possible how important their work was to Global. Christian doodled on a pad of paper: geometric designs at first, then sketches of the people across from him, then finally organically complex squiggles.
Precisely thirty-six minutes nineteen seconds into the drone's spiel--part harangue and part condescension--Christian rebelled. There was no lead-up. He simply thought, as though someone had written on the surface of his brain in bold stark letters:
I Hate My Job.
This thought, while it had previously floated serenely beneath the waves of Christian's subconscious, had never been expressed explicitly. It was soon followed by the following realizations: I am forty-two years old. I have no wife. I have no girlfriend. I have no kids. I have no friends. I live in a shitty little apartment with an unhealthy plant. My apartment is dilapidated and infested with mildew. I have not been happy in a long time. Maybe ever.
I Hate My Life.
Thirty-seven minutes and twelve seconds into the drone's spiel, he was interrupted by a pen flying across the room and impacting the projection screen behind him. The pen had left Christian's hand with no particular force. He had simply thrown it, with the air of a scientist, to see what would happen when he did.
All eyes in the room traced back along the pen's trajectory and fell on Christian. He politely nodded to them and said, "I have more important things to do with my life than listen to this. I quit. Goodbye."
With that, he stood and left the room, his job, and his miserable life.

The Music of the Spheres

Music is very important in Christianity, for good reason. Is there any sense as primal and yet as perspicacious as hearing is? From the deep boom of the cannon fire, to the patter of soft summer rain on leaves, from the rising chorus of Gregorian chant to the sigh of a sleeping baby, sounds move us in important and mysterious ways, and none more than music. In our own Christian tradition, we see the notion of chant and song being important components of worship. Why? What is it about music that affects us so deeply?

The answer, I think, is that we glimpse the underlying nature of reality in music: the glissade of the wind instruments mimics the continuous, while the sharp percussion reflects the discrete. Wave and particle, energy and matter. A sea of smooth waveforms flowing effortlessly into one another, but lapping at the shores of the islands formed by packets of notes. A wind born of brass and wood, caressing the sharp upthrusts of a forest of percussive beats. Music inspires because fundamentally music is.

Music exists, fundamental and distinct from ourselves, because God has willed it. Why has God willed it? This, I cannot answer. But I hear the Universe, an endless, ever-varying symphony, playing for all eternity in the heavens. It is a glorious Song, sung together by God, the angels, the planets, and ourselves. For we sing too. We raise our voices, not in rage or hate, but in joy, the never-ending joy of existence. Our voices are small, but the grand Conductor gestures his baton in our direction too, and coaxes ever more pleasing notes from us, and the planets and stars, whose voices far outweigh our own, smile indulgently and encouragingly towards us.

Come. Let us sing together.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

My Letter to Instapundit

On Thursday, I decided to throw my two cents in the ring (pardon my mixed metaphor) on the issue of gay "marriage." I decided to do this in the most subtly smart-alecky way I could, so I sent Glenn Reynolds, of Instapundit fame and a known proponent of gay "marriage," the following email:

Dear Mr. Reynolds,

I greatly enjoy your blog Instapundit. It is very informative, and provides links to a wide variety of commentary, and I wish to thank you for providing this valuable service to the Internet community. However, recently you have been using the term "marriage" in your posts quite frequently. I am not familiar with this term. Could you define it for me?

Thank you for your help,

<*Augustine Aquinas*>

No response as of yet.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Roman Subway Crash

A tragedy in Rome today. A subway train missed a stop light and collided with a stopped train. One person is dead and sixty are injured. They are in my prayers.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

In Dreams

I have just awoken from an interesting dream. In the dream, I am in a restaurant or a club of some kind, clearly a stylish place. Beautiful and charming people are eating and chatting, amongst fashionably modern chairs and tables. And in the middle of the restaurant is an industrial death machine. Not a machine for killing, but for the appropriate treatment and disposal of corpses. A mortuary.

A man has died. Of what, I do not know. A black man, of some age and worth. Younger black men, b-ballers and such, stand around bereft of leadership.

Certain rites must be performed. Proper respect must be shown to this great man who has died. I must perform the rites. Whether I am selected or volunteer, I do not know.

I accompany the corpse. I must be careful. The workers in the mortuary must not know what I am doing. Nevertheless, they do know, and know that they must help me. But they too must avoid detection.

The corpse is moving on a conveyor belt. I get on the belt beside it. At a certain time, I must put pills inside its coffin. Then the corpse will dissolve. This will prevent it from being chopped into tiny pieces by a component in the machine. After this stage, the corpse will reconstitute, and continue on its journey whole.

The workers fret over me. I tell them not to worry, that I have done this before, when my grandfather nearly died. That is true, they say. He did this before.

I move alongside the corpse. At the appropriate juncture, I scatter the pills over the corpse. I roll off the conveyor belt, and land beside the gutted corpse of a seagull. I can see ribs amongst the feathers.

I walk to the other side of the dicing machine. The coffin awaits me. I accompany it further. The corpse inside is whole. Finally I have reached the point where it must go on without me. I put a basketball on the corpse's chest, and say farewell. I leave the conveyor belt and return to the restaurant.

The young black men are there. They are distraught from the loss of their leadership, but they do not know that he is gone yet. One of them, not particularly big, with whom I have apparently had words, comes towards me.

When he reaches me, he punches me in the mouth. I can feel the blood, taste it. I look him in the eye. I say, "I would shed my blood for you."

He punches me again and again, always in the mouth. "I would die for you," I say. Again and again, he strikes me. It is important that he does this. I can sense the sadness behind his hate and his anger, and I know that he needs this.

"I would shed my blood for you," I say again. My mouth is a mass of blood and broken teeth. As important as it is for him to hit me, it is important that I say this. As often as necessary, until he hears it.

Finally, the beating stops. "I'm sorry," I say. "He's gone." The young black man's face blanches, and he turns to one of his companions and clasps him in a strong embrace, his body shaking and unbalanced with grief. The other man holds him, consoles his pain. I am no longer needed.

Now I am on another level of the restaurant, one above the last. A kitchen, but one that is flooded. Japanese women work cooking food whilst their babies and little children swim around. Some of the babies have been caught by their mothers and are being scrubbed, their little voices raised in outrage over this indignity. I walk, chest deep in water, amongst them. They do not see me.

I walk through the water. Now it is chin deep. My blood rills down my face and into the water. I look back, and see a trail of diffusing blood in the water. I step out of the water and prepare to return to the restaurant/club below.

A small, blown tulip of glass is in my hand. It appears to be a light fixture of some kind. The long tapered stem is broken. I walk down a flight of stairs to the club below. I am no longer wet.

My face is a mask of blood beneath the nose. I can feel my loosened and broken teeth rattling around in my mouth. The patrons of the club say nothing. They ignore me. I am not sure whether they can see me but simply do not wish to see me. They do not acknowledge my presence.

I cut a path through the room. Finally, I find my father. "There you are," he says, and then sees my face. "What happened to you?" The first thought I have is how I am going to explain the destruction of four thousand dollars worth of orthodontia. At last, I simply say, "I got the shit beaten out of me."

Then I awake. I have had this dream twice tonight.

Friday, October 13, 2006

An Ever Increasing Circle

Imagine for example, a two-dimensional surface such as a plane. This plane extends off to infinity in every direction. To a being living in the plane, there is nothing beyond the plane, and indeed the notion of a third dimension is inconceivable. A mathematician of the University of Squash or theologian amongst the First Flat Church of Christ, Polygon, might be able to imagine the idea of a third dimension, by simple extrapolation. They may see the two dimensions of their own universe, and speculate a third. But they are incapable of truly imagining the reality of a third dimension, as we are incapable of imagining a fourth or a fifth dimension. We can say, "Oh, another dimension, what an excellent and original idea!" But we are incapable of imagining what life would truly be like in a universe of four dimensions.

Suddenly, to the inhabitants of the plane, a strange and unusual apparition appears. At first a point, then an ever increasing circle, then a diminishing circle, then a point again. Then the apparition vanishes. Truly they have never seen anything like this before. A creature which changes shape, and vanishes into nothing? And then they tell their family and friends, but the other Planers merely laugh. "There is no room for your crazy beliefs," they say. "They are not rational!" And so only the memory remains, kept alive by those poor Planers who had the misfortune of witnessing the miraculous: the passing of the almighty Sphere through the plane.

We are as tiny scratches of ink upon a piece of paper. Once in an age, a Sphere of great worth passes through the page. And we scoff. And we laugh. The page is all there is, we say. Black ink on white paper. Color is a thing of three dimensions. We scoff. We go about our lives. And inside our black outlines, all is white. All is empty.

The Sphere floats on. Floats on to other realms, and other pages, where we cannot follow.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Holy Music

My local record store is having a going-out-of-business sale, so I purchased Handel's Messiah and J.S. Bach's Magnificat and Easter Oratorio. I haven't had a chance to listen to them yet. Once I do, I may post something on the connections between music and mathematics; many mathematicians are excellent musicians, and vice versa. And of course, music is a profound method of connecting to the Divine, as is arithmetic.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Let He Who Is Without Sin

Yet more evidence that Islam is in fact a perversion of the one true faith introduced into the world by Satan.

Thank you to Venomous Kate for the link.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Ghost in the Machine

The Amish school shooting is indeed a great tragedy. Five small children died. Or rather, their bodies died. For it is important to remember that while we are of these things, we are not these things. We are but a small portion of a great iceberg of being, the tip which shows above the waterline, while beneath it great things are hidden. How proud and how sad we have become, that we think this be all there is. But our bodies, crude puppets that can barely do our bidding, that weigh us down with earthly affairs, are like roughly hewn stone axes compared to the great celestial machinery that is our souls. Let us never neglect our bodies. But God himself must have mercy on us should we neglect our souls.

Combatting Nihilism

While I do not have the time to get into specifics, allow me to say that combatting nihilism is perhaps the greatest purpose in life, indeed, the supreme purpose of man in this universe. God has created us to be His soldiers, an Infinite Army to be a branch of His Infinite Creation, whose sole purpose is to combat the forces of anti-creation. In that sense, to worship and obey God is to fight for Him, and to fight for Him is to worship and obey. But it is not easy. Many are called, but few are chosen. To fight the good fight, the just war, the Glorious Conflict which, neverending, provides the meaning to our lives! And, with supreme irony, the very act of making war upon us ensures nihilism's defeat, for our lives gain the transcendent, gain purpose and meaning through our struggle.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Hierarchy of Nihilism

It is a grievous error to believe that Satan is the greatest enemy of mankind. Satan, while truly a formidable opponent and mankind's tempter, nevertheless pales in comparison with man's true enemy: nihilism. Satan's goal is to rule in Heaven. Nihilism's goal is the total destruction of the universe.

By nihilism I mean, of course, an acceptance of the destructive impulses in humanity. Three things compose nihilism: a rejection of all standards, objective or otherwise; a dull hatred for reality, due to reality's continued evidence of objective standards; and finally, a violence against those standards, reality, and God Himself.

There are very few who espouse pure nihilism, but many more who express some small part of the nihilistic agenda. In America, at the dawn of the twenty-first century, we can find nihilists across the entire political spectrum, but the party of nihilism today is primarily the Left. We can see this in the hierarchy of nihilism, which is the method by which nihilists advance their agenda.

The first stage of the hierarchy can be called "anti-transcendentalism", but is more generally known by the name utilitarianism. All concepts, from the most sacred to the most mundane, include a transcendental element. For example, a chair is both the substance that composes it and also the idea of a chair. This idea of a chair is the concept, and it contains a transcendental element--the idea that chairs should be comfortable, the vast history of chairs, famous chairs both real and fictional, God's Throne, etc. The non-transcendental element is the function of the chair, that is to say, the idea that a chair is something one sits upon. The goal of utilitarianism is to strip out the transcendental and leave only the functional. For example, the military has a long and glorious tradition, a warrior ethic, and a certain concept of itself as being a pale shadow of some true Military. Under utilitarianism, the military is merely an organized force of men for killing other men. The appeal of utilitarianist thought is that in the short-term, it can be used to increase efficiency and make a structure more productive or useful. Unfortunately, in the long-term, utilitarianism strips out the transcendental, which is that which appeals to men. To continue using the example of the military, certain changes made during the late twentieth century may have in the short-term increased the effectiveness of the military by, say, increasing the number of available recruits, but at the cost of destroying the transcendental element and cutting off the modern military from its glorious heritage and its link to the pure Military. Joining the military is no longer special. It contains no honor. There is no particular reason to join, because it is just a job like any other, with the exception that one can die doing it. Is it any wonder that enlistment levels fall off, year after year?

After utilitarianism comes cynicism. By redefining concepts to exclude the transcendental, the utilitarian wing has opened the door for the cynical wing to enter. Old institutions lose their effectiveness, because they have lost the transcendental. New institutions cannot arise, because the very notion of an institution is under siege. All concepts are rated by their utility. God is no longer the holy source of the Divine, but instead something dragged out to demonstrate one's "trustworthiness" or "virtue" (Trust and Virtue are, of course, also under attack, particularly by those who lack either). Courts ask witnesses to swear to tell the truth, "so help you God", when no one in the court believes in the Deity in question. Right and wrong become simply words, useful in describing actions that may hinder or help one's agenda, but containing no special meaning. Marriage is just a contract to receive benefits from the state. Parenthood is merely the guardianship of a child until adulthood. The press is simply a vehicle for dispensing information, true or not, so long as it boosts the ratings. "Is" does not mean "is."

The people become cynical. Old words and concepts are attached to things which no lonmger function the way they are supposed to. And functionality is the central organizing principle of the New World Order. God alone can help you if you are not "functional." The people become disillusioned with the old concepts, and react against them. God is no longer simply a useful concept, but becomes an object of active ridicule. Those who believe in virtue are mocked for being "prudes", "goody-two-shoes," and worst of all, "hypocrites." The elite sniff, "So-and-so has issues," or "hang-ups" or whatever the word du jour is. Witness William Bennett.

The final stage of the hierarchy is nihilism itself. The old concepts are jettisoned. No new ones emerge. All is "free," free of the stultifying oppression of standards. All is "equal," equally squalid and meaningless. All is chaos. Marriage is gone, washed away in a orgiastic flood of perpetually shifting domestic arrangements. The priesthood is gone, for God is dead, don'tchaknow, and well, when God is dead, all is permitted. Political parties are gone--that quaint old notion of showing loyalty to those who share your principles and opinions? That'll never get you elected. Heck, principles will never get you elected; they stand in the way of old Number One. The military is gone, because the nation is gone, and everything it stood for, its hopes and its dreams, principles and policies, glories and failures, history and traditions, those are gone too, and no longer need defending. Truth is gone, because what matters is Spin. Beauty is gone, because it is so unfair that some are born beautiful, or with artistic talent, and who are you anyway to say that my feces-stained Madonna isn't beautiful? Liberty is gone, because your Liberty gets in the way of my Libertinism, especially your judgment of me, and your democratic processes that block me from doing what I want to do, so I'll just get some "judges" to declare your laws unconstitutional, and then I'll do what I want anyway.

Thus we see the world end, in a hell of nothingness.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

--William Butler Yeats, from "The Second Coming"

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Be Not Afraid (of sniffles or sneezes)

God, in His infinite and unbounded wisdom, has seen fit to smite me with a plague. Lo, I am taken with sniffling and sneezing and a hoarse, hacking cough. To be quite frank, I am not overly concerned. God giveth and God taketh away, and God hath given me the strength to destroy his bacterial foe! Nay, a pox on the pox! Fear not, humble reader, for I shall prevail. No uppity virus is going to stop me!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Humane Vectors

If we imagine that the Universe is some massive vector space, and in particular imagine that the dominion of men, that is to say, the world that men inhabit, is a vector space, then we can postulate that all men are comprised of a basis set of three vectors; in other words, the space that men inhabit is three dimensional.

Firstly, it is patently apparent that there is such a thing as a body. Matter exists; this is an axiom, it is what matter does, by definition. So we have A) a body.

Secondly, let us postulate a thing called thought. Thought is clearly different than the body, for while the body is physical, thought is purely mental. Even modern day neurology is of no help in pinning down thought. We can image the brain and tell that it is thinking, but we cannot tell what it is thinking. For example, two people may be asked to mentally rotate three dimensional objects, one a cube, the other a sphere. Yet while the two people's brains may both "light up" in the same place, it may not be possible to distinguish which is visualizing the sphere and which the cube. And still, one sees in his mind's eye a cube and the other a sphere. In a sense, these objects exist, not in a corporeal plane, but in a mental plane. They exist but are not detectable physically.

At the same time, an object such as a computer may be said to have thoughts, in that it has an independent, physically unverifiable interior which we have dubbed cyberspace. But the computer, for all that the subject has occurred in fiction, cannot generate independent thought. It is dependent on a user for instructions. So we can describe a computer as an object which thinks, but is not a thinker. But the human clearly is a thinker. There is nothing in nature which speaks "computer," yet man was still able to imagine the computer, indeed, imagined it long before the technology existed to create it. So man is a thinker and a computer is not, for man generates independent thought. Let us therefore postulate a thinker, which guides the creation of thought, and let us call this postulated thinker B) "mind."

Thirdly, let us discuss another aspect of man. Clearly there are men who are unintelligent. Yet these selfsame men, many of whom never generate a thought in their lives, live. They eat, they work, they play with their children. So although these men have a deficiency of thought, they do not have a deficiency of action. Therefore we can say that while the mind may be the generator of thought, it is not the generator of action. And nor can the body be a generator of action, for there is no clear difference between an upright and ambulatory man and a corpse, on purely physical grounds. So let us postulate a third component, which is the generator of action, and let us call this component C) the spirit or soul or the will.

Thusly we have three components of man: the body, the mind, and the spirit. Now, the body is clearly not of the same stuff as the mind, indeed it is distinct from it, for a man lying in bed of a coma, with all semblence of life, but no thought, is completely indistinguishable from, say, Newton. So the body can exist without the mind. Can the mind exist without the body? At this point in the debate it is impossible to determine, yet one does hear stories of men in comas who, exhibiting all the symptoms of brain death, recover and return to a normal life. It is almost as if their minds had left them, only to return at a later date. Please note that I am not saying that this is precisely what has occurred. But it is suggestive.

We can see that the spirit must be of a different stuff than the body, which as I have stated earlier, is physically indistinguishable in either living or dead form--save for the absence of a few critical actions. Yet here too, we hear stories of men revived after aspiration and circulation had ceased. Something has returned, that was missing in the interim. The generator of those actions so critical to life had taken flight.

Is the mind of different stuff than the spirit? A difficult question, perhaps not answerable. To speak of the "substance" of the mind or spirit is to translate metaphysical concepts into physical ones. Let us nevertheless postulate that there is a difference, for we have all known men of will who possess no mind, and also men of the mind who possess no will of their own, but instead follow the will of others.

So let us postulate that the three components are distinct. Since none of the three can be expressed as some combination of the other two, this suggests that they are orthogonal. If we imagine that there is some unit vector for each of these, then we have a set of basis vectors by which every man can be described. Indeed, the set is complete, because it obeys all possible operations. The most critical of these is the cross product. Let us see what the cross product results are:

Spirit X Mind = An Action Taken ( A physical result)
Mind X Body = A Decision ( A spiritual result)
Spirit X Body = A Memory ( A mental result)

So we see that the cross product of two of the humane vectors results in a component in the direction of the third vector, in accordance with the rules of the cross product.

What then does this suggest about the Divine?