Monday, August 1, 2016

Fire and Water

We had a fire day up here in the Sierras this Saturday.   First, at a memorial for an old church friend, we could hear fire sirens constantly, and the roar of giant fire planes.    Later on, at mass down in the foothills, the church was evacuated due to an entirely different fire.     The fire near our house was quickly controlled, but the one in the foothills has spread and is only partially contained.

Recently I read St Francis's Canticle, and noticed how the praise subtly shifts during the song from the unequivocal praises of natural things, to the blessings through tribulation.    Sister Water and Brother Fire are both praised in the canticle, towards the middle:

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water,
which is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom you light the night and he is beautiful
and playful and robust and strong.

These praises come towards the middle and in my reflections at least almost serve as a hinge.   Water and fire are lifegiving yet also dangerous; sometimes catastrophic.    There are so many things like that.

Apparently, according to the site I linked to, the thematic shifts of the canticle are associated with its composition, as the three different sections were composed at different times in the saint's life.    Even the praises of nature at the beginning, however, are associated with suffering, since Francis apparently composed them when he was undergoing the stigmata, and was reflecting upon how we humans mis-use the gifts we are given by God.

I hadn't noticed the connection until I started writing this, but of course, Pope Francis's exhortation Laudato Si begins with a reference to this very canticle.    The whole thing is in the vein of St Francis's praise/ lament.   We have been given such marvellous gifts.   If we value them the way they should be valued, perhaps we will be careful how we use them.

The friend whom we memorialized this weekend chose hymns for her service that reflected this love for natural things and trust in God who gave us these things:

  • How Great Thou Art
  • Prayer of St Francis
  • Be Not Afraid
  • Because He Lives
One of her grandsons said that she told him to be a "ten percenter".   She had a rather counter-cultural definition of the term -- she told him to leave everything 10 percent better than he found it, and backed it up by instilling in him a habit of bringing a trash bag with him to the lake or forest, so he could pick up the trash left by careless people.   He said that as a kid he thought it was unfair that he had to undo the damage done by other people, but as an adult he realizes that this is more than a habit, it is a way of living.   

I want to remember that about her, and try to live that way too.   In her life, stewardship and concern for others were closely linked, in a very practical and quotidian way.    If every Christian lived like her, I don't think the pope would have had to write his exhortation.   

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Words from Reading

A lot of my reading in the past year or so has been free or inexpensive Kindle books, mostly mysteries.   I think perhaps I should start listing the ones I particularly like, but I haven't done it up till now.   Partly, I think I need a system.   Some indy books are promising but quirky; others are just not good; others are basically equivalent to an old-style printed and published book, but the authors just chose to go the indy route.

Anyway, recently I found a couple of interesting words in a couple of indy police procedurals.

1.  anorak

I knew an anorak was a kind of jacket.   Originally the word meant a hooded polar type jacket like a parka.  But when I went to a British high school in Switzerland, the kids called any weather-resistant jacket an anorak.

But recently, in British slang, the word can mean something like a nerd or geek.    In the book I read, a character said of another that she liked him though he was "a bit of an anorak."   At first I pictured someone like Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club, someone who wears a heavy jacket as a kind of protective barrier during school hours.   But I guess it refers to something more like the way my son AM collects photos of the things people put on the top racks of their SUVs.     You don't need to actually be equipped with an anorak to be a bit of one.

2.  tsundoku

Now here is a word that could be the subheading of my blog.    It's sort of a play on two Japanese words meaning "pile up" and "read".    It basically refers to the habit of bibliophiles of buying books and letting them pile up unread.  Illustration here.   Yep, useful word.

3.   faba

This one is here because 2 words doesn't seem like enough for a list.  It has very specific family context.   My almost 2 year old granddaughter calls little candies "beans".   This  started when I had some starburst jelly beans left over from Easter and would occasionally give her a couple as a treat.    She also has a compact Latin dictionary that she likes to carry around.   Her 13 year old uncle PG took to quizzing the family using the book (when she lets him have it : )).    He quizzed us on "faba" and she seized the book back and said with a magisterial gravity "faba -- BEAN".  

Talking babies are a great addition to any household, especially in adding new richness to common language, and I'm glad my youngest gets the chance to be around one of them.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Interstate Tesseract

And I was just getting up,
hit the road before it's light
Trying to catch an hour on the sun...
(Neil Young)

On Monday, my oldest sons and I drove up the interstate  towards their Oregon habitations, and yesterday I drove back to our California mountain home.  Interstate 5 has become archetypical in our family's life, like Mark Twain's Mississippi.   It has paragraphed major life changes -- the first time I drove down with my future husband to meet his family, which of course was not the first time he had travelled that road; the trips with small children, embarked upon late in the afternoon so they would sleep through the bulk of the 11 hour trip; the first time stopping to meet the Bryan family; the trips laden with spare houswares to set up my oldest's first apartment.

How odd to think about -- all those past selves, "lines in the field of time".     Still there, because how could things that once existed go away completely?

I picture a tesseract, as in Interstellar. ... a hyper-geometric figure of that long, slender, straw-colored corridor of traffic, unfolding to glimpses of those past moments.   I can't communicate with those former versions of family, driving along to their destinations in a Ford Pinto, or a Toyota Corona, or a Chevy Suburban, or a Nissan Quest, or a Dodge Durango, but they can communicate with me, in a way.   At least, they were present to me on this trip.

Maybe it was because we had recently had an extended family reunion, and it was like a time warp to see so many nieces and nephews grown and carrying on their adult lives.  It could have been because this particular family gathering went viral, literally, as one by one we came down with the norovirus.    Being sick for several days has a way of making time eddy strangely, as does travelling.   As do family reunions.

Anyway, for some reason, maybe because I was driving with only my two oldest sons and thus not as distracted as usual, I started blogging in my head, for the first time in forever.    I used to blog in my head often, but I rarely have done in the past couple of years.  Not sure why.  It wasn't a conscious decision.    It would go like this, at intervals of every few months:

--Self, do you have anything to blog about?
--Not really.
--Okay, then.
 But on this trip, the posts kept composing themselves.    I don't want to ignore them.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

New Physics and Old Metaphysics, reprise

I tried to discuss Stephen Hawkings' book The Grand Design back here. I wasn't that thrilled with my post but wanted to get my thoughts out in writing.  I wrote

I do not know if the authors are making this assumption, but I have seen some scientistis and even some theologians assume that the word "God" is a way for people to explain physical mysteries.   So when there are no more physical mysteries, there is no more need for God. 

I have never quite understood that line of thinking, but apparently it came about in the Enlightenment, when philosophy took a post-Cartesian credibility hit and physical science came to the fore as a presumably more realistic substitute given the terms of the Cartesian approach.   Most of the scientists of the time were still Deists, though many of them weren't orthodox.   And the same was true of many theologians.  So God did begin to become for them a way to explain what couldn't be explained by empirical methods of the time.   In that approach, God became a component of our thinking, a kind of placeholder, so as our thinking became more scientific, the place for God  in our heads got smaller and smaller.  
 Well, over here is a lecture called The New Physics and the Old Metaphysics by Br. Guy Consolmagno, S.J., Ph.D.   He says it much more elegantly and Chestertonianly (: )) by saying that Hawkings was absolutely right, he did eliminate the need for God to explain the universe, and rightly so, because that kind of deist God, designed as an explanation for what can't be explained otherwise, needs to be done away with.

The real God, Consolmagno says (I can't past his words directly because of the format of the lecture text), the God of Abraham, is not bound within the cosmos.   Quoting Wittgenstein, he says, "the sense of the world must lie outside the world." 

This may sound a bit Kantian, but it does not have to be that way.  While Kant would say that God can't be known, Consolmagno says that God indeed can be known experientially.    We cannot "derive" God from analysis, but we CAN know Him; in fact, we know all things BY Him, whether we happen to know that or not. 

I'm not updating this blog regularly anymore but this doesn't quite seem to belong to Take Up and Read so I'm putting it here!

HT for the link to the talk:  Michael Baruzzini in the newsletter.  

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Where the Moose Go

The moose have been hungry in Alaska this winter.  This doesn't have much to do with anything that follows in this post, but it does give me a chance to post this photo of my Mom's cute window hanger (and the moose-hungry-making winter landscape behind it) and also, when else am I ever going to get a chance to write a line like that with credibility?

 I am thinking of opening a novel with the line, though, "The moose were hungry that winter...."   Now I have a head start for next November's novel writing! 

Ever since the New Year I have been trying to figure out my plans for this blog.   In November I started a new blog and though that one hasn't quite hit its natural stride yet, it overlaps so much with this one that I don't really need to keep this one going.   In the past I have managed to keep two or more blogs alive at the same time, but recently I just haven't been keeping up that pace.   I used to think I was addicted, and maybe I was, but nowadays I almost have to make "blog every day" a Lenten resolution! (not quite a penance, because it IS after all something I enjoy and am by no means obligated to do).   Anyway, most of the posts I write on here can just as easily go on the other one. 

So I am thinking that  default posting will be on Take Up and Read.    We have lots of plans for that blog.  It is Catholic in emphasis as a quick look will show, but it is also about literary homeschooling and large family logistics and that sort of thing, and non-Catholics are very welcome.    Chari and I are both converts with many non-Catholic friends and family members.

As for the moose, I feel sort of sorry for them.   I see them lope past outside quite often.   I heard from Mom's neighbor that the deep snow really tires them out and also makes it hard for them to find food, so they have been gravitating towards roads and railroad tracks because it is easier to walk there.  But of course, that isn't a great survival strategy.    Come to think of it, that is a good Lenten parable.... I too often gravitate towards the wide easy road where engines of destruction can easily sweep me into their path and toss me aside.   

I am not planning to close down this blog -- I like to leave my old posts up so I can link to them in future -- and I may still post randomly when I want to draw attention to something -- but I just wanted you all to know where I had gone and what is going on.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Index of Planning Posts

I'm importing these from my older blog.

I'm trying to predate them so they don't show up on readers but if it doesn't work, sorry about that.  Blogger used to let me predate but apparently not so easily nowadays.  So this is just housekeeping!

2007 Planning Posts

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Kindle Book: The Life and Writings of Saint Augustine

I know I haven't blogged here for a while!  The little blogging I have been doing is over at Take Up and Read.

I am up at Wasilla visiting my mom and though I probably have more time in the day than I do at home, it somehow doesn't feel that way, so I have sort of gotten out of the blogging rhythm.

But I wanted to mention....

I found a good book for free for the Amazon Kindle (I'm guessing you can find it for the Nook, too).

It is The Life and Writings of Saint Augustine. 

It is a collection of some of his major works like Confessions, City of God, and On Christian Doctrine (and more as well, those are just the ones I can remember offhand) and there is also a section with some quotes of his.

Though the works are in public domain, this is an actual collection made by someone Wyatt North Publishing so there is a hyperlinked table of contents, and Kindle-specific formatting, which makes collections like this way more useable.  I don't know how long it will stay free, so I wanted to mention it!