A Poem For Sunday

Jan 25 2015 @ 5:05pm

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“Report to the Mother” by Etheridge Knight:

Well, things / be / pretty bad now, Mother—
Got very little to eat.
The kids got no shoes for their tiny feet.
Been fighting with my woman, and one / other
Woe:—Ain’t got a cent to pay the rent.

Been oiling / up / my pistol, too—
Tho I / be / down with the flu,
So what / are / You going to do . . . ?

O Mother don’t sing me
To the Father to fix / it—
He will blow-it. He fails
and kills
His sons—and / you / know it.

(From The Essential Etheridge Knight © 1986 by Etheridge Knight. Used by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press. Photo by Phil Warren)

Mental Health Break

Jan 25 2015 @ 4:20pm

Go full-screen for this, and don’t worry, you don’t have to watch the whole thing:

From the description:

80 Minutes from the Bow of the Gunhilder Maersk as she traverses the South China Sea from Vietnam to China. Shot and assembled in 4K as a single take with no frame-breaks.

(Hat tip: Kottke)

Quote For The Day II

Jan 25 2015 @ 3:28pm

“Faith is sensitiveness to what transcends nature, knowledge and will, awareness of the ultimate, alertness to the holy dimension of all reality. Faith is a force in man, lying deeper than the stratum of reason and its nature cannot be defined in abstract, static terms. To have faith is not to infer the beyond from the wretched here, but to perceive the wonder that is here and to be stirred by the desire to integrate the self into the holy order of living. It is not a deduction but an intuition, not a form of knowledge, of being convinced without proof, but the attitude of mind toward ideas whose scope is wider than its own capacity to grasp.

Such alertness grows from the sense for the meaningful, for the marvel of matter, for the core of thoughts. It is begotten in passionate love for the significance of all reality, in devotion to the ultimate meaning which is only God. By our very existence we are in dire need of meaning, and anything that calls for meaning is always an allusion to Him. We live by the certainty that we are not dust in the wind, that our life is related to the ultimate, the meaning of all meanings. And the system of meanings that permeates the universe is like an endless flight of stairs. Even when the upper stairs are beyond our sight, we constantly rise toward the distant goal,” – Abraham Joshua Heschel, “The Holy Dimension,” in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays.

Remains Of The Day

Jan 25 2015 @ 2:28pm

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Oliver Morton, pausing before a reconstructed gorgosaurus at the Manchester Museum, marvels that “absolutely all that remains of that creature’s life is this scarred skeleton”:

We often think of fossils as being in some way ancestral relatives, if not of humans, then of some other aspect of nature, parts of some great unfolding story. But for the gorgosaurs, the tyrannosaurs and indeed all the dinosaurs of the Cretaceous period, this simply isn’t true. The most fecund of their matriarchs has left no deeper imprint than a hatchling that died fresh out of its shell. No species alive today can be traced back to any of the dinosaur species except those few from which birds descended.

Fair enough; what everyone knows about dinosaurs is that they became extinct. What is not as well appreciated—but which, for some reason, the peculiar individuality of this one specimen brought home with some force—is this:

Read On

Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, offers an answer:

Humanity’s greatest invention is religion, which does not mean necessarily mean belief in gods. Rather, religion is any system of norms and values that is founded on a belief in superhuman laws. Some religions, such as Islam, Christianity and Hinduism, believe that these superhuman laws were created by the gods. Other religions, such as Buddhism, Communism and Nazism believed that these superhuman laws are natural laws. Thus Buddhists believe in the natural laws of karma, Nazis argued that their ideology reflected the laws of natural selection, and Communists believe that they follow the natural laws of economics.

No matter whether they believe in divine laws or in natural laws, all religions have exactly the same function: to give stability to human institutions. Without some kind of religion, it is simply impossible to maintain social order. During the modern era religions that believe in divine laws went into eclipse. But religions that believe in natural laws became ever more powerful. In the future, they are likely to become more powerful yet. Silicon Valley, for example, is today a hot-house of new techno-religions, which promise us paradise on earth with the help of new technologies. From a religious perspective, Silicon Valley is the most interesting place in the world.

Face Of The Day

Jan 25 2015 @ 12:29pm

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Alice Yoo captions:

Photographer Graham McGeorge won multiple awards for the photo above, including the Merit Prize for the 2013 National Geographic Traveler Contest. On his website he has more than a handful of photos that show these eastern screech owls doing what they do best, camoflauging themselves in their natural environment. McGeorge believes that photographers need to have a lot patience to get these shots, he himself visits local swamps and forests on a regular basis to know where and what to look for.

McGeorge follows a strict set of self-imposed rules. As he says, “Ethics is a must. There are many wildlife photographers that bait owls in order to fill their photographic needs. Baiting is very harmful to the health of an owl. To photograph owls in the wild and unbaited you must have a lot of patience, a keen eye and a good ear. Look for holes either made by woodpeckers or old decaying cavities. These are good places to start.”

See more of McGeorge’s work at his website, www.grahammcgeorge.com.

Waves Of Grief

Jan 25 2015 @ 11:32am

Andrea Woodhouse, who was in Indonesia when the Indian Ocean tsunami hit a decade ago, reflects on the connection between grief and catastrophe:

In her book Upheavals of Thought, the philosopher Martha Nussbaum argues that emotion is bound up with intelligence: it is not opposed to rationality but rather at its center. Feelings such as love and sorrow are finely tuned responses to judgments about what is true and valuable in the world. As such, our beliefs about the outer world can condition the experience of the inner: they affect not only the way we behave, but how we feel. If I believe in God and an afterlife, for example, I might feel grief differently from someone who does not. The name we give our emotion will be the same, but my grief may contain some hope.

I wondered if this might be true too about grief in the face of catastrophe. Was it that in the face of social expectation people in [the province of] Aceh sought to overcome emotion and control how they behaved? Or did catastrophe overturn something about the emotion itself? I wondered if the vast weight of the tsunami made small the space for grieving. It was as if each person’s grief took the measure of itself and shrank to fit the space left over by the sorrow of others. And so the human spirit flourished instead, and in this there lived a kind of beauty.

“An American Orwell”

Jan 25 2015 @ 10:43am

In a review of Irving Howe’s recently-published collected essays, A Voice Still Heard, Frank Foer appends that label to the critic and longtime editor of Dissent. Foer goes on to assert that Howe was “our most thrilling dissident, a socialist with conservative cultural sympathies, a scything polemicist capable of the most tender, patient literary explication”:

Irving_Howe_(1968)Howe had a heroic conception of the intellectual, and from an early age, he thrust himself into the growing world of little magazines. In his 20s, after his discharge from the Army, he worked as an intern, to use an anachronistic term, for Dwight Macdonald and Hannah Arendt. Both of these early patrons came to somewhat annoy him, but he paid close attention to their methods. Even as he became one of the greatest practicing critics in the country, he was also the sharpest, most observant student of his fellow intellectuals. They were truly his great subject. … Howe wrote about other writers with anthropological detachment, followed by blazing expressions of his disappointment with them. Namely, he flayed them for failing to do the most elemental part of their job, holding society to account.

David Marcus examines the way Howe “considered his literary and political inclinations to be one in the same, two sidesutopian and ironic, committed and criticalof the same intellectual vocation”:

[Lionel] Trilling remarked in this period that this choice between commitment and literary complexity was a “dark and bloody crossroads.” For Howe it was precisely by remaining between politics and literature that one became an intellectual.

Read On

The View From Your Window

Jan 25 2015 @ 10:10am

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Istanbul, Turkey, 1 pm

In an interview that circles back to the debate on faith and fiction the Dish has covered extensively over the past two years, Gregory Wolfe defends the way contemporary Catholic novelists approach their work:

The mid-twentieth century Catholic writers tended to “shout” rather than “whisper” for several reasons. For one thing, Modernism in literature loved the big gesture. For another, it was an era when the newly ascendant “master narratives” of modernity—Marxism and Freudianism among them—were clashing with the Judeo-Christian narrative in an intense way. Add to this that for the Catholic writer of the time the Church seemed adamantine (no shadows of dissent), a “sign of contradiction” against modernity itself.

Now flash forward to our own time. Postmodernism questions any and all master narratives, favoring smaller-scale, intimate stories over epics and dramas. Secularism, pluralism, and hedonism have brought about a huge loss of trust in authority, not to mention the authority of the Catholic Church (and that includes its adherents). People have lost touch with the teachings and traditions of their faith. Many people are really starting from scratch.

What kind of fiction would someone write out of this experience of reality? Novels about heroic martyrs to Communist totalitarianism? No, they would be writing out of this confused culture—one where God is discerned only in the still small voice: the whisper, not the shout.