Bars and books.

Books do actually start conversations. I was feeling angsty last night, so I went to Barley's and had a Russian Imperial Stout. I was reading Pico della Mirandola's Peroration--a pre-Reformation, anti-schimatic work totally after my own heart. I had Nisbet's Quest for Community lying on the bar. And I was puffing away. So this guy from Xenos comes up to me and asks about Nisbet, because he's heard of him somewhere. And we end up having a two-hour conversation about the nature of the Church and history. It was unexpectly refreshing. (JNW just doesn't get enough social interaction. Will probably lead to his commitment in another 5 years or so.)

Now if only some beautiful goddess would look down upon me reading speculative philosophy in bars and dance clubs and ask about my other books. :( LOL.



He drew me close again, embracing me and pointing to the statue of the Virgin. "You must be introduced to the immaculate love. There is she in whom feminimity is sublimated. This is why you call her beautiful, like the beloved in the Song of Songs. In her," he said, his face carried away by an inner rapture, like the abbot's the day before when he spoke of gems and the gold of his vessels, "in her, even the body's grace is a sign of the beauties of heaven, and this is why the sculptor has portrayed her with all the graces that should adorn a woman." He pointed to the Virgin's slender bust, held high and tight by a cross-laced bodice, which the Child's tiny hands fondled. "You see? As the doctors have said: Beautiful also are the breasts, which protrude slightly, only faintly tumescent, and do not swell licentiously, supressed but not depressed. . . . What do you feel before this sweetest of all visions?"

I blushed violently, feeling myself stirred as if by an inner fire. Umbertino must have realized it, or perhaps he glimpsed my flushed cheeks, for he promptly added, "But you must learn to distinguish the fires of supernatural love from the ravings of the senses. It is difficult even for the saints."

The Name of the Rose, p. 230.

"When I talk with Umbertino I have the impression that hell is heaven seen from the other side."

Ibid., p. 65.
More precious Percy.

There is no joy on this earth like falling in love with a woman and managing at the same time the trick of keeping just enough perspective to see her fall in love too, to her begin to see you in a different way, to see her color change, eyes soften, her hand of itself reach for you. Your saints say, Yes but the love of God is even better, but Jesus how could this be so? Well? Your eyes go distant as if you were thinking of a time long ago. Does that mean that you are no longer a believer or that nowadays not even believers understand these such things? Doesn't your own Jewish Bible say that there is nothing under the sun like the way of a man with a maid?

And there is no pain on this earth like seeing the same woman look at another man the way she once looked at you.

Lancelot, p. 111.

My brother suggested that I look into Kevin Smith films so I started with Clerks. Hilarious. Then I saw Chasing Amy and it totally floored me. Almost certainly the single best film I have seen for a long time. (I've also seen it about 3x in the past 10 days.) It isn't as metaphysical as Soderbergh's recent Solaris or as rompy as that golden Amelie, yet for me it resonated very deeply. Chasing Amy is a brutally honest film about what people today call "relationships." It's vaguely reminiscent of a Walker Percy novel, minus the Catholicism and the psycho-theology. It so perfectly describes the tragedy of growing up, as an alienated Gen-X'er, amidst the wreckage of the post-'68 moral universe (of which, for better or worse, we are all really part). I should blog something by way of a more substantial review sometime.


Free the art!

There's a very good piece, "Creation Myths," by Douglas Clement, in the March issue of Reason which argues that intellectual property rights are not necessary to sustain artistic and technological development. You can read an earlier version of the article here. The articles give one example which I hadn't thought of before: the fashion industry. "An Armani knock-off is just that: a knock-off." Indeed.


The Big Snow II

The snow is over. I measured 13 inches in the front yard. Shovelling was a regular workout. I need to make more productive use of my Monday. :)


The Big Snow

Columbus has about 12" of snow as of midnight Sunday. I drove back from Warsaw under rather nasty conditions Sunday morning. It took me over 3 hours. 25 mph on a fairly trackless SR 60 to SR 16. Then about 40 mph into Newark on a really dead SR 16, then 45 mph or so into Columbus. Columbus is actually pretty passable, except for the side streets. The Ohio State University has cancelled classes for tomorrow, so I'll probably play in the snow in between reading.


Valentine's Day

In the spirit of some of my friends' posts, I should note that I'm beginning to wonder if some central planning agency, maybe a big board of elders of the gate, should just randomly match young people from a pool of qualified eligibles. This whole go-out-and-try-to-find-someone-compatible-and-make-it-up-as-you-go-along thing really sucks. LOL. Seriously, why do we love the Other? Okay, wrong Q. Sum, ergo amo Deum. But why do we love this other and not that other? Is it sheer accident? It's certainly irrational. And yet we devote such weight and effort to massaging our appetite for sentimentality, for an echo of some mystical union with the One. Who is really only just another. Who can, especially once sex and children have raised conflicts of interest, never fully be our friend. Is this just narcissim? I love myself so I can only be satisfied with the illusion that the One wants me because I, and only, I have this magic, because only through me can they have the necessary leap in being?

Is this related to the problem of being and becoming? Must read more metaphysics.

And if I see anyone comment or respond using the word "covenant" as an adjective, I swear that I'll . . . I'll . . . well, just have to bite my tongue and smile.


Al-Harb (War)

I suppose I should write something re: the impending US expedition to Iraq. I haven't the heart to become enthused, although I was more or less opposed to the 1990 Gulf war and to our 2001-2002 campaign in Afghanistan. I guess I'm just haunted by the idea of a Sicilian expedition. I understand the rationales, both explicit (removing Saddam Hussein and preempting use of WMD) and implicit (protecting Israel, freeing up oil, democratizing the region). Yet the whole thing seems to set dangerous precedents.

On one level, I feel like a stoic observer of human nature in noting that the natural state of states and kings and peoples is war and strategic competition for scarce resources. What would Vitoria say? :)



Here I sit, my brain distracted by the whirl of televised athletics and the aural blur of white noise, attempting to express something of the agon of my sentiments. Why have I been made to apprehend the great and terrible shadow of the past, and what can I or even should I do about it? Why has the Father of lights, the bestower of every good and perfect gift, not given to me to own and be owned of a nice reformed girl with wavy dark tresses, bright eyes, and full hips? Why can't I chew the cud of oblivion with a pious heifer? Does He punish me for some sordid hours clutching claypaper? Does He prepare me for some other work, perhaps a noble death? Does He prepare me for Himself? For why I am I left alone with God to rave into the blank window of this white page at 10:55 p.m. on a Sabbath in a bar on Bethel Rd. alone and yet crammed in a room with more proles than I shall see in class on a Monday. Perche, perche, perche.

Perhaps I shall call a friend at GMU and wallow in self-pity with him. More than anyone else with whom I am intimate, he stands in this position too. But he is also more free from the burden to know, to prognosticate, to publish, what is in the scroll of Fate. And yet he has also read Herbert and knows what it is to know what must be unleashed upon humanity.

Perhaps I should give up my library and my internet connection and buy a little skiff and sail beyond the Western sea and dip my oar beneath the Southern Cross off the Antipodes. Perhaps there I might find virtus and some way of ascent to God and to the love which moves the sun and the other stars.

Tomorrow, I will go to Kirk and stare at the beautiful women and wonder if they're looking at me. Just kidding. I'll hear a long sermon preached by a good and wise man but from a theological orientation which I can't fully share. The tragedy of it seems I shall remain powerless to tell him how this can be. How may I be loyal to a reformation which, although it brought much light to certain issues, nonetheless ruined the city of God in this age of the world?. And maybe I'll partake festively in a snack of grape juice and white bread, on the legal fiction that we are supposed to be giving thanks to the God Who loved the kosmos so much that He gave His only begotten Son so that whosoever will take Him for all that He is shall not be given over to his own fears or the twilight of amor sui, but shall become one with the meaning of life and come to resemble the summum bonum.

In my little non-system of half-baked conclusions, the institutional Church is supposed to be the central organ of a good and just society, the organ which makes legit the goodness and even the clear title of every landowner. Extra ecclesiam nulla salus est. But is such a Church only an idol in my mind? The folks at Tyler sought to transcend the tragedy of the Reformation, and not only did they open the can of worms, but they fell into the can themselves. And now the Moscow circle aims to sequel their adventures. I look at their conferences on websites and think how much they remind me of the old annual Appalachian Conferences to Rebuild America. Vanity. Yes. No. Maybe? How can you expect to change the world if the best you can do is to get a bunch of white trash and frustrated suburbanites packed into a ballroom and read to them a few pages ripped from the end of the Cliffnotes version of the history of ideas.

To rebuild America? --"There are traitors in our midst." ---"Let's just expose them. Call them out." --What if Oliver Cromwell and George Washington are some of them?" What a hard lesson. The mortal enemy of Christendom is not Marx or NOW or even Msr. Foucault. It is the nation-state itself. Yes, not 1917 or 1789, but the American and English constitutions themselves and that peace of greatest price from 1648.

Alas that my natural allies are consumed with their own visions of the past, whether with the final triumph of the SL&C or with the reform of the American experiment secundum scripturas of original intent. To these struggles, of the 16th or of the 18th century, they remain wedded, like Catullus to Lesbia--and yet what a sham marriage this be!

Who are you? What do you want? I feel as if I hardly know anymore. But the alternative seems to be too . . . stupid--that you know that you are the son of some dissolute Straussian ethicist or the creature of some pseudo-rhetorical reformed guru--argh! Or is it that we are all condemned to be men of our own time and that I find it hard to try to live, like a freak, on the point of many knives in history?

Perhaps it would be better to say: I know who I am, but not who I may be if I choose? Is why I have good editions of the Critique of Pure Reason and Al-Ghazali and Empedocles and Jean Bodin on my desk. In piles. Is life, for me at least, partly about just submitting to texts? Or is it that texts are easier to control, to catch, to objectify, on white pages or browser windows. LOL. For he who cannot control himself is not worthy of a god's table or a goddess' bed. Or am I somehow something less Satanic than this will to power?

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundis, misere nobis.

My younger brother, number three, got engaged this evening and expects to marry this summer. That makes two Wiley boys marrying fine intellectuals girls of superior height (5'11). Not only that, but both of my future sister-in-laws have Christian names derived from the old Semitic root beth/bayt (house)--and we do get them mixed up!


More fun lines

horror ubique animo, simul ipsa silentia terrent.


monstrum horrendum, informe, ingens, cui lumen ademptum.


ac, velut annoso validam cum robore quercum
Alpini Boreae nunc hinc nunc flatibus illinc
eruere inter se certant; it stridor, et altae
consternunt terram concusso stipite frondes;
ipsa haeret scopulis, et, quantum vertice ad auras
aetherias, tantum radice in Tartara tendit:
haud secus adsiduis hinc atque hinc vocibus heros
tunditur, et magno persentit pectore curas;
mens immota manet; lacrimae volvuntur inanes.



The S&M paper.

Seriously. My paper topic for the criminal law theory class is sex, violence, and consent. Should the State prohibit consensual sexual violence (my answer: yes) and if so why (my tenative answer: because procreation is the one purpose which legitimates any sexual behavior). This involves several interesting lines of inquiry, all very much on a political theory/ethical level. I expect to interact with feminist legal theorists at some length (who actually serve as a useful "stick" on this issue) and well as to try to pull some sort of natural law argument out of my old friends Vitoria and Aquinas. :) And I'll probably invite Kant, Locke, and Hobbes to the feast. Should be very interesting.


Just what is lust, anyways?

Jacob Allen's comment Seraphim's and Jacob's comments about clothes and purity reminded me of this question. The issue of Matthew 5:27ff has always intrigued me. Is Christ saying what we think he's saying? I wonder. The stock evangelical answer is that it's wrong to look at a girl's legs for too long, or that young ladies ought to wear heavy, formless sacks which belie their forma. But look at the text.

"You've heard it said: Don't commit adultery. But I tell you that anyone watching [blep™n] a wife [gunaika] in order to desire [pros to epithum�sai] her, has committed adultery with her already in his heart."

Please note that gune may be read "wife." There is probably good reason to in this context. Note too that epithumeo is the same verb/root which the desire of our Lord to commune with the disciples is expressed in Luke 22:15 as "With desire I have desired [epithumiai epethum�sa] to eat the supper with you."

So from these passages, is it somehow impure or wrong to desire specifically a sexual, marital relationship with an unmarried, eligible woman? I don't think it is. It would probably be wrong, selfish, and silly to desire her in a depersonalized way. But to desire her, sexually and personally, because she's beautiful, female, and unspoken for--is that really at all inconsistent with what our Lord is saying in the Sermon on the Mount?


Affleck on Lopez

I don't normally follow the celebrity gossip, but this caught my eye and it's symptomatic of our post-1968 culture, of which, for better or worse, we are all part.

"There's a kind of language that's used about her -- the spicy Latina, the tempestuous diva," he said. "She's characterized as oversexed. I mean, the woman's had five boyfriends in her whole life! In the physical sense, she is extremely chaste."
Winter Frolic

Had a wonderful weekend at an OPC college/career outing in PA/WV. Drove out to Morgantown with Eric Eckhart on Friday. Hit the ground running and asked annoying, Rachel Murphy-esque questions (e.g., "When did the West begin to decline?") of two beautiful history majorsÑone a vivacious Byrn Mawr senior and another a Redeemer grad/abortive MBA/future Byzantine historian. Was sumptuously feted by a chef, doctor, elder, and gentleman. Had a blast smoking pipes in the snow with Charlie Monroe and his English-major associate, who had interesting perspectives on the Canon. And I did a bit of snowboarding--enough to be sore. :) The loss of Columbia was the the major distraction, though. :( I spent several hours, when I should have been boarding, glued to a TV, waiting for press conferences.