Wednesday, August 30, 2006

New post at "Das Leben liebenswert"

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It's about St. Augustine.

On the road again

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Or the air currents, as it were.

I need to make a visa run, my first ever, to Hong Kong this Wednesday night. I'll apply for a visitor visa Thursday and, God willing, in all likelihood will pick it up that afternoon. Then I should be back in Taichung eeaarrrly Friday morning. My work permit application has been a headache, but it will work out. I write this notice because some people don't read FCA for the F or the C but simply for the A in my life.

As for any evildoers out there, seeing this as your opportunity to plunder my house, robbing me of my dirty laundry, dust bunnies, and mounds of old receipts, be warned that in my apartment I have a horde of tiny roaches, completely subject to my will, waiting to maul any intruders.

Oh, and please pray for me about this visa stuff; short trips can be a headache. (If prayer isn't your thing, you are encouraged to send generous checks and/or large sums of cash to my home as soona s possible.)

In walks Pluto

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Pluto shuffles into a bar, sits down next to Saturn.

"I, uh, heard the news," mumbled Saturn, averting his eyes slowly.

"Yeah...," answers Pluto, letting out a nasal sigh.

"It's...not right, I mean...they never even gave you a chance. Less than a century, what is that?" Saturn continues, swallowing hard every few words.

"Oh hell," roars a guy across the way. "Quit being so saturnine! So he lost his planet status, big deal."

"Hey, pal, was I talkin' to you?" Pluto chirped back.

"Aw, take it easy, man," muttered Saturn.

"It's not so bad being a dwarf planet," Mars consoled with a wagging tongue. "At least you keep the name, sort of."

"If you knew anything, you'd know the proper term is 'orbitally challenged'," huffed Pluto. "Stupid cretin."

"Hey," answered Mars with a shrug and a grin, "I'm not a Cretan -- I'm Martian!"

Here's where you laugh the hardest.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

El bailar del mundo

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(based on Palabra y Vida 2006)

A good friend recently told me he's fed up with the weakness, hypocrisy and apathy in the Catholic Church. The scourge of "fat priests" is so acute for him that he's even considering withdrawing from that fellowship. Surely he can find people elsewhere who will at least "do something". I didn't say it at the time, but what I now realize I should have said is, "Good luck – tell me what prophetic valor you find out there."

There's no denying the Church is often, in fact more often than not, embarrassing and disappointing. (In fact, dogmatically speaking, there's NO denying this proposition -- human fallenness -- about the Church in her human dimensions!) But there is also no denying that the Church, rooted in the Scriptures and the living witness of Christ, maintains an amazingly prophetic edge. As God said to Jeremiah (chapter 1),

17 But you, gird up your loins; arise, and say to them everything that I command you. Do not be dismayed by them, lest I dismay you before them. 18 And I, behold, I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls, against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its princes, its priests, and the people of the land. 19 They will fight against you; but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, says the LORD, to deliver you.

Few if any groups in history have lived under such an explicit and far-ranging prophetic mandate as that of the Catholic Church. Paradoxically, this mandate becomes all the more clear and compelling when it's turned against the Church herself in light of her failures. Yet, lest we reify "the Church" as some massive "bad apple", we must ask, "Am I any better for any longer?" Ultimately, the balance of "judging the Church" must tip in favor of God's mercy and God's power as lived authentically and incandescently in her saints, doctors, martyrs and mystics. For the truth is the Church's failures are in fact the failures or sins of this or that particular priest or lay person or deacon or child. God's mercy and power are, by contrast, that unseen but unmistakable dynamism that maintains the Church as one living Body in all ages "walking in righteous deeds" ("For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Eph 2:10) (To gain some perspective, consider other "movements" in history. Marxist socialism, for example, has been around for approximately a century and a half, and in that time has spawned incalculable damage [Stalin and Mao, to name the two "biggies"]). Can one really wag a finger at THIS WHOLE massive reality? Or is one in fact not more guilty of wagging a finger at this or that "worthless" believer? Before wagging, never fail to ask: "Am I any better for any longer?"

And so, if my friend were to leave for "greener pastures" of activism and uprightness, I genuinely wonder what he'd find. After all, his whole complaint is premised on the fact that life in the world has grave problems in need of fixing. How does it make sense to hike into the world, expecting it to be a pasture of goodness, when the whole issue is that the Church fails to adequately tend the pasture of inqiuity we call "the world" and "modern life"?

As for the Gospel today (Mark 6:17-29), I wrote the following epigram: "El bailar del mundo es la muerta de los santos. (The dancing of the world is the death of the saints.)" (Reading in Spanish is very inspiring for writing in it.)

Both the passages (Jeremiah 1 and Mark 6) have a connection, in my mind at least, with my friend's discontent. How easy it is to wag a finger at "the Church" for not "fixing the world" without taking stock of how persistently the world unfixes itself. "St. John the Baptist -- what a fool! What good could he do with his head cut off! What did he really accomplish? Herod went right on being a sod and the wheels of injustice went right on turning." And that's just the point.

When we look at the world, and the Church in it (although more accurately, since Christ's Ascension, we see the world in/through the "lens of" the Church), what proportion of the mix is the Church's failure to "fix" the world and what proportion is the world's own perfidious willfulness to remain broken? How much of the drama of Mark 6 was St. John's failure to stop the debauched dance and how much was the king's glee to keep the dance going, even at the cost of " a righteous and holy man" (6:20)? The Church "fails" as often as it does largely because the world does all it can to keep dancing; for it knows that to stop dancing is but to join St. John in the dungeon.

There are some who may reply, "But you're just blaming the world in order to save your own ecclesial skin!" Oddly, this brings us full circle, back to the initial complaint that it's the Church's fault for not fixing the world's problems, for being corpulently passive in the face of evil and injustice. But which is it? Does the world need fixing or doesn't it? Is the Church right to resist worldly evil (even if unimpressively at times) as the world's problem, or is it right accommodate human evil (and thus be a corpulent ally to that evil)?

Suddenly emerges another popular canard, namely, "The Church imposes artificial moral strictures on an otherwise healthy human nature. Humans, if left to themselves, will take care of themselves just fine, you paternalistic holy-rolling S.n.O.B." But immediately that small question returns: Which is it? Is the world basically "okay"? Or is it truly fallen and corrupt? If the former, why complain when the Church does nothing (or does too little) about the world's "problems", since they aren't actually "problems" at all? If, however, we affirm the latter – the world's fallenness –, why complain when the Church steps in with its "medieval" strictures? We may deride those strictures as naïve, ineffectual, backwards and any other modern epithet we can dig up, but we certainly can't fault the Church for hypocrisy ("bad faith") when it uses what it has for the good it believes should increase. You simply can't fault the Church for its failures if you also fault her for her ideals. Conversely, you can't bless human nature if you also lament the evils of natural human life. You can't fault the Church for her failed prophetic witness against evil if at the same time you encourage "natural human behavior" as an unqualified good (or at least an "okay"), since human nature as lived is patently the source of today's evils. In the world of the Scriptures, this means Herod could not fault St. John for being a party pooper if he also felt "disgust" at his beheading. If the Church is foolish from the very start to oppose raw "human reality", then we can hardly be upset when she is beheaded by a hypocrisy that enervates her stand against the reality of raw human injustice.

The devil made do

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"It is as soon as men disbelieve in demons that they become them." -- Elliam Fakespeare

My Mental Diet

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I really like movies!

As for books, I am NOW (or still!) READING:

The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution (2007) by Kevin R. C. Gutzman, J.D., Ph.D.
The Technological Society ([1954] 1967) by Jacques Ellul
Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence by Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade
What Color Is Your Parachute? 2012 by Richard N. Bolles
A Husband After God's Own Heart by Jim George
Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II by George Weigel
Summa contra gentiles by St Thomas d'Aquino [AVAILABLE ONLINE]
On Cleaving to God (De adhaerendo Deo) by Albertus Magnus [AVAILABLE ONLINE]
Covenantal Theology: The Eucharistic Order of History by Fr. Donald Keefe, SJ
Salz der Erde (Ein Gespräch mit Peter Seewald) von Joseph Kardinal Ratzinger und Peter Seewald
The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri


The Road of Science and the Ways to God by Stanley L. Jaki
Very Special Relativity by Sander Bais
Behind the Mirror: A Search for a Natural History of Human Knowledge by Konrad Lorenz (tr. Ronald Taylor)
Thought and World - The Hidden Necessities by James Ross
Why Think? Evolution and the Rational Mind by Ronald de Sousa
Theology in the Age of Scientific Reasoning by Nancey Murphy
Peripatetikos #6
A Gilson Reader: Selections from the Writings of Etienne Gilson (ed., with intro.) by Anton C. Pegis
放屁!名利雙收的捷徑 Harry G. Frankfurt/著 (譯者:南方朔)
Philosophical Theology (1969) by James F. Ross
A Maritain Reader: Selected Writings of Jacques Maritain (ed., w/ intro.) by Donald and Idella Gallagher
Faith and Freedom: An Interfaith Perspective by David Burrell, C.S.C.
Ihn will ich suchen, den meine Seele liebt: Gebete und Betrachtungen von Johannes vom Kreuz
The Return of History and the End of Dreams by Robert Kagan
Fewer: How the New Demography of Depopulation Will Shape Our Future by Ben J. Wattenberg
Natural Symbols: Explorations in Cosmology by Mary Douglas
The Empty Cradle: How Falling Birthrates Threaten World Prosperity and What to Do About It by Phillip Longman
The Pigeon by Patrick Süskind
The Retreat of the Elephants: An Environmental History of China by Mark Elvin
God's Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations for Modern Science by James Hannam
The Lady and the Monk: Four Seasons in Kyoto by Pico Iyer
A Crisis of Saints: The Call to Heroic Faith in an Unheroic World by Fr. George Rutler
The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom
Religion in the Making by A. N. Whitehead
Wittgenstein: Lectures and Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology, and Religious Belief (ed.) by Cyril Barrett
Introducing Radical Orthodoxy: Mapping a Post-Secular Theology by James K. A. Smith
The Man Who Loved China: The Fantastic Story of the Eccentric Scientist Who Unlocked the Mysteries of the Middle Kingdom by Simon Winchester
Walking the Tightrope of Reason: The Precarious Life of a Rational Animal by Robert Fogelin
The Curious History of Relativity: How Einstein's Theory of Gravity Was Lost and Found Again by Jean Eisenstaedt
Hitler's Private Library: The Books That Shaped Him by Timothy W. Ryback
Wittgenstein Reads Weininger (ed.) by David G. Stern & Béla Szabados
Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder by Arnold Schwarzenegger with Douglas Hall Kent
Natural Right and History by Leo Strauss
Wittgenstein and Modern Philosophy by Justus Hartnack
Wittgenstein Reads Freud: The Myth of the Unconscious by Jacques Bouveresse
Essays on Wittgenstein's Tractatus (ed.) by Irving M. Copi & Robert W. Beard
Hegel's Dialectic and Its Criticism by Michael Rosen
The Rediscovery of the Mind by John Searle
The Danger of Words and Writings on Wittgenstein by Maurice O'Connor Drury, David Berman (ed.), Michael Fitzgerald (ed.), John Hayes (ed.)
From Religion to Philosophy: A Study in the Origins of Western Speculation by Francis M. Cornford
How to Solve the Mind-Body Problem by Nicholas Humphrey
The Evolving Brain: The Mind and the Neural Control of Behavior by C. H. Vanderwolf
Neuroscience and Philosophy: Brain, Mind and Language by Maxwell Bennett, Daniel Dennett, Peter Hacker, John Searle
Thomas Aquinas: Selected Philosophical Writings (ed.) by Timothy McDermott
Cultural Movements and Collective History: Christopher Columbus and the Rewriting of the National Origin Myth by Timothy Kubal
A Very Private Gentleman by Martin Booth
The Reality of Time and the Existence of God: The Project of Proving God's Existence (1989) David Braine
Contemporary Philosophy: Studies of Logical Positivism and Existentialism by Frederick Copleston
Powers: A Study in Metaphysics (2001) by George Molnar
Necessity, Cause and Blame: Perspectives on Aristotle's Theory (1980) by Richard Sorabji
Labyrinth: A Search for the Hidden Meaning of Science (2001) by Peter Pesic
"Gavagai!" Or the Future History of the Animal Language Controversy (1986) by David Premack
Darwin Among the Machines (1997) by George Dyson
The Grand Design (2010) by Stephen Hawking & Leonard Mlodinow
Are Quanta Real? A Galilean Dialogue (1973) by Josef M. Jauch
Galileo in Rome: The Rise and Fall of a Troublesome Genius (2004) by William R. Shea & Mariano Artigas
Einstein 1905: The Standard of Greatness (2005) by John S. Rigden
Scientist and Catholic: Pierre Duhem (1990) by Stanley L. Jaki
What Distinguishes Human Understanding? (2002) by John Deely
The Logical Leap: Induction in Physics (2010) by David Harriman, Leonard Peikoff (Introduction)
A Contemporary Introduction to Free Will (2005) by Robert Kane
Kant (Blackwell Great Minds) (2005) by Allen W. Wood
The Soul of the Person: A Contemporary Philosophical Psychology (2006) by Adrian Reimers
The Logic Manual (2010) by Volker Holbach (incl. associated webpage!)
Breakfast at Tiffany's: A Short Novel and Three Stories (1958) by Truman Capote
Pure Drivel (1999) by Steve Martin
Outline of Classical Chinese Grammar (1989) by Edwin G. Pulleyblank
The Concept of Mind (1947) by Gilbert Ryle
The Human Touch: Our Part in the Creation of a Universe (2007) by Michael Frayn
Invariances: The Structure of the Objective World (2001) by Robert Nozick
Cosmos in Transition: Studies in the History of Cosmology (1990) by Stanley L. Jaki
War of the Worlds: The Assault on Reality (1996) by Mark Slouka
How Real is Real? Confusion, Disinformation, Communication (1976) by Paul Watzlawick
The Intellectual Life: Its Spirit, Conditions, Methods (1920/1934) by A. G. Sertillanges, O.P.
Aquinas: A Beginner's Guide (2009) by Edward Feser
De Rationibus Fidei (ca. 1264) by St. Thomas Aquinas
Schopenhauer (1967) by Patrick Gardiner
Causation and Laws of Nature in Early Modern Philosophy (2009) by Walter Ott
God's Existence. Can it be Proven? A Logical Commentary on the Five Ways of Thomas Aquinas (2010) by Paul Weingartner
Schopenhauer: A Very Short Introduction (2002) by Christopher Janaway
An Introduction to Philosophical Logic (1982; 1st ed.) by A. C. Grayling
Self, Logic, and Figurative Thinking (2009) by Harwood Fisher
The Development of Logic (1962) by William Kneale & Martha Kneale
Thomas Aquinas: Selected Writings (1998) (ed.) Ralph McInerny
• God Is a Bullet by Boston Teran
The Blue Hour by T. Jefferson Parker
Under the Dome by Stephen King
Duma Key by Stephen King
The Dead Zone by Stephen King
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
The Terror by Dan Simmons
The Talisman by Stephen King & Peter Straub
Point Omega by Don DeLillo
Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor
The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon
The Nature of the Mind by Peter Carruthers
Personal Identity by Harold Noonan
Theory and Truth by Lawrence Sklar
Philosophical Logic by John P. Burgess
Philosophy of Logic by W.V.O. Quine
From a Logical Point of View by W.V.O. Quine
Everywhere and Everywhen by Nick Huggett
Thinking about Physics by Roger G. Newton
Real Essentialism by David Oderberg
Why Marx Was Right (2011) by Terry Eagleton
Logic (1985) by Juan Jose Sanguineti
Nominalism and Realism – Volume 1 of Universals and Scientific Realism (1980) by D. M. Armstrong
A Theory of Universals – Volume 2 of Universals and Scientific Realism (1980) by D. M. Armstrong
Couplehood by Paul Reiser
What Matters? Economics for a Renewed Commonwealth by Wendell Berry
The Politically Incorrect Guide to Capitalism by Robert P. Murphy, Ph.D.
Toward a Truly Free Market: A Distributist Perspective on the Role of Government, Taxes, Health Care, Deficits, and More (2010) by John M. Médaille
Leibniz's Mill: A Challenge to Materialism (2011) by Charles Landesman
The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism by Kevin D. Williamson
In Defence of Global Capitalism (2001) by Johan Norberg
The "Poisoned Spring" of Economic Libertarianism –– Menger, Mises, Hayek, Rothbard: A Critique from Catholic Social Teaching of the 'Austrian School' of Economics (2011) by Angus Sibley
Micro (2012) by Michael Crichton w/ Richard Preston
The Case for Working with Your Hands, Or Why Office Work Is Bad for Us and Fixing Things Feels Good (2010) by Stephen Crawford
The Conscience of a Liberal (2009) by Paul Krugman
Free Lunch: Easily Digestible Economics, Served on a Plate (2003) by David Smith
The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else (2000) by Hernando de Soto
Why Most Things Fail: Evolution, Extinction & Economics (2005) by Paul Ormerod
What's Wrong with the World (1910) by G.K. Chesterton
The Servile State (1912) by Hilaire Belloc
The Sun of Justice: An Essay on the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church (1938) by Harold Robbins
Next (2006) by Michael Crichton
Before I Go to Sleep (2011) by S. J. Watson
A Stab in the Dark (1981) by Lawrence Block
Goliath (2002) by Steve Alten
Now Wait for Last Year (1966) by Philip K. Dick
The Communist Manifesto: A Norton Critical Edition (1848/1988) by Karl Marx, ed. by Frederic L. Bender
From Political Economy to Economics: Method, the Social and the Historical in the Evolution of Economic Theory (2009) by Dimitris Milonakis & Ben Fine
End the Fed (2009) by Ron Paul
The Persistence of the Old Regime: Europe to the Great War ([1981] 2010 2nd ed.) by Arno J. Mayer

[The complete list of all the books I've read in the past 18 years or so is, I think––I hope, still!––mostly on an old hard drive and on a file in my laptop. Let me know if you want it, for some odd reason. -- 6 Dez 09]

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The header that should be there

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You can email me at fidescogitactio at gmail dot com. Also, donations are most welcome! Check out my Amazon Wish List and remember, Amazon Gift Certificates make me smile every time! (Enh, a little blegging never hurt anyone. Least of all me.)

What black bars? And why a duck?

Roman Liturgical Calendar (2007)


-- Christ the Pantocrator, the Almighty (Sinaitic icon style), Lord of the Universe, this Blog, and its Lowly Blogger. His severe left eye above his hand of truth pierces us and whose tender right eye above his hand of blessing comforts us. With this look, He reminds us always to "consider the kindness and sternness of God" (Romans 11:22).

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Milord Earl Elliot the Carnivorous of Piddletrenthide on the Carpet
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Thursday, August 10, 2006


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"Travis Bickle is a modern, urban Don Quixote; his taxi is his Sancho Panza. Vice is his windmill, Iris his damsel, and the gun his joust. Both knights errant live in fantasy worlds driven by popular 'romantic' fictions."

This is, anyways, something Fakespeare has been piping my way recently. I'm not sure what to make of it. Genius? Tenable? Obvious? Preposterous?

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Monday, August 7, 2006

Supposed virtue

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"It is only a supposed virtue to stand up to face the truth. True virtue, by contrast, is to stand before the truth without condemnation." -- Elliam Fakespeare

I suppose he means just because you admit the truth about yourself, free of diplomatic sugar-coating and rationalizing stultification, doesn't mean you are exonerated by that truth.

How often people take it as badge of honor to "tell it like it is", without really facing the goodness of badness of how it is. As St. Josemaria Escriva said, "You say you cannot change. 'That's just my character,' you say. No, it's your lack of character!" By subjugating knowledge of the truth to conformity to it, we have subjugated goodness to bluntness, virtue to "being real". A show like "The Real World", for example -- even aside from its preposterously unreal "hiptopia" of affluence -- is not about people "being real"; it's about people choosing to let a series of edited "encounters" justify their behavior at any moment in that series, as if the sheer reality of an action explains or justifies that action. Yet, the stark reality of immorality as "human nature" is itself a lie as to what human nature is. Affirming who we really are is probably the easiest way to erase who we should or could be. "Being real" while still being corrupt is as good as framing a perfect photograph of a counterfeit. Declaring the truth of such and such a case of wickedness is leagues away from the virtue of declaring the truth of goodness in any case. Let us dare utter the truth only when it is an expression of a deeper goodness -- in the words of St. Paul, to "speak the truth in love" (Eph 4:15). After all, the same Apostle urges us in the same epistle:

[4:22] Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts, [4:23] and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, [4:24] and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. ... [4:29] Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for edifying, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear. ... [5:11] Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. [5:12] For it is a shame even to speak of the things that they do in secret; [5:13] but when anything is exposed by the light it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light.

We are not to speak of wickedness neutrally, objectively, journalistically as "hard facts of life". Rather, we must speak -- and in fact let our lives bespeak -- the truth of goodness found in Christ; and the truth of goodness will by its very nature shed light on "the reality of evil" as detergent impinges on dirt. Why scare-quote "evil"? Because evil is a metaphysical unreality, an illusion of freedom pretending to stand independently in defiance of the only reality we possess: God's goodness imputed to us as beings and His goodness infused in us as His children.

We mustn't face the truth about ourselves as an excuse for ourselves. Rather, we must seek the truth about ourselves, among our neighbors and before God, as a means to attain the fecund, relational and ultimately sacrificial goodness that truth articulates in so many ways (ie., language, philosophy, art, liturgy, literature, music, poetry, art, dance, exercise, etc.).

At bottom, I believe Fakespeare is exhorting us not simply to speak the truth, but to speak goodness truthfully.

But that's just my take on it.

Amazing what a summer will do

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June '06, in class, seeing through spectacles who's up to no good

August '06, in my bedroom, staring through contacts, amazed I'm still alive