Saturday, March 31, 2007
Monday, March 26, 2007
In this last part of [The Star of Redemption, Franz Rosenzweig] enquires about truth, this innermost chamber of revelation, of the name of God. Yet this truth has to be “different from the truth of the philosophers . . . it has to be truth for everybody.” Truth has to become our truth. “Truth is no longer what is true, but becomes that which has been proved [bewährt] to be true.” This is the continuous task of synagogue and church, to prove the one truth of God, truth which is given to them only as divided earthly truth. And they do this in prayer and commandment, with which they keep the thirst for the eternal kingdom of redemption unquenched in the midst of the unredeemed kingdoms of this world. Each prays and lives according to truth as each receives and understands.
— Rüdiger Lux, Franz Rosenzweig (1886-1929)
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Friday, March 23, 2007
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Read to Ted the Hawthorne short story. An excerpt:
Day after day, as I walked the streets of Vanity, my manners and deportment became more and more like those of the inhabitants. The place began to seem like home; the idea of pursuing my travels to the Celestial City was almost obliterated from my mind. I was reminded of it, however, by the sight of the same pair of simple pilgrims at whom we had laughed so heartily, when Apollyon puffed smoke and steam into their faces, at the commencement of our journey. There they stood amid the densest bustle of Vanity — the dealers offering them their purple, and fine linen, and jewels; the men of wit and humor gibing at them; a pair of buxom ladies ogling them askance; while the benevolent Mr. Smooth-it-away whispered some of his wisdom at their elbows, and pointed to a newly-erected temple — but there were these worthy simpletons, making the scene look wild and monstrous, merely by their sturdy repudiation of all part in its business or pleasures.
One of them — his name was Stick-to-the-right —perceived in my face, I suppose, a species of sympathy and almost admiration, which, to my own great surprise, I could not help feeling for this pragmatic couple. It prompted him to address me.
“Sir,” inquired he, with a sad, yet mild and kindly voice, “do you call yourself a pilgrim?”
“Yes,” I replied, “my right to that appellation is indubitable. I am merely a sojourner here in Vanity Fair, being bound to the Celestial City by the new rail-road.”
“Alas, friend,” rejoined Mr. Stick-to-the-right, “I do assure you, and beseech you to receive the truth of my words, that that whole concern is a bubble. You may travel on it all your lifetime, were you to live thousands of years, and yet never get beyond the limits of Vanity Fair! Yea; though you should deem yourself entering the gates of the Blessed City, it will be nothing but a miserable delusion.”
“The Lord of the Celestial City,” began the other pilgrim, whose name was Mr. Foot-it-to-Heaven, “has refused, and will ever refuse, to grant an act of incorporation for this rail-road; and unless that be obtained, no passenger can ever hope to enter his dominions. Wherefore, every man, who buys a ticket, must lay his account with losing the purchase-money — which is the value of his own soul.”
“Poh, nonsense!” said Mr. Smooth-it-away, taking my arm and leading me off, “these fellows ought to be indicted for a libel. If the law stood as it once did in Vanity Fair, we should see them grinning through the iron bars of the prison window.”
This incident made a considerable impression on my mind, and contributed with other circumstances to indispose me to a permanent residence in the city of Vanity; although, of course, I was not simple enough to give up my original plan of gliding along easily and commodiously by railroad. Still, I grew anxious to be gone. There was one strange thing that troubled me; amid the occupations or amusements of the fair, nothing was more common than for a person — whether at a feast, theatre, or church, or trafficking for wealth and honors, or whatever he might be doing, and however unseasonable the interruption — suddenly to vanish like a soap-bubble, and be never more seen of his fellows; and so accustomed were the latter to such little accidents, that they went on with their business, as quietly as if nothing had happened.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
J Thomas wrote:
I once wrote something he enjoyed:
On Mar 12, 11:49 am, castanaly...@gmail.com wrote:
> Julian Noble died on 11 March 2007, his funeral will
> be in Charlottesville, Va. at the Hill & Woods on
> 1st & Market Street at 11 am 13 of March 2007.
He told me stories about economics from Herodotus. I probably wouldn’t have gotten around to reading Herodotus except for him.
I went to a Rochester convention and slept in the dorm. John Noble was in the next room, alone. My roommate was asleep, and woke up when the noise started. “We have to call maintenance. That machine is tearing itself apart.” I tried to remember. “People told me about John Noble's snoring. That must be it.” It was surprisingly loud through a cinderblock wall. Later Larry Forsley explained that they never ever gave John a roommate even if he asked for one. After that year they gave him an end room and filled the room next to him last. And he started coming to conventions with his wife and they got a hotel room.
He was not only a gentleman. He was a warm-hearted, friendly gentleman.
I once wrote something he enjoyed:
Professor Julian V. Noble
Had a vision global:
Wouldn't it be terrific,
If Forth were Scientific?
— Forth Clerihews (read, hear)
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Received a reassessment notice from the Albany Office of Assessment and Taxation, City Hall, Room 302. From last year to this, our assessment went up 235%. In a city of failing public schools and poor public services, this reassessment is a good way of driving people out of town.
See also Assessments causing concern, Albany Times Union, March 3, 2007
See also Assessments causing concern, Albany Times Union, March 3, 2007
Friday, March 16, 2007
Iannone: This may be more than a little personal but the subject of your spiritual beliefs came up in short piece Fr. Richard John Neuhaus wrote in First Things. What it seems to boil down to is, do you believe in the transcendent, something higher than man to which man is responsive? Would you care to comment further?
Barzun: With this set of questions you have presented me with a copy of a comment on my book From Dawn to Decadence, in which Neuhaus complains that, although it satisfies many of his expectations, it gives no clue to what I believe. That remark is a shocking sign of the times. Everyone, it seems, must be tagged, must belong to some gang. And the personal note must be struck to command attention: subject matter is not enough. It used to be that only the famous put forward their ego; now not an article or a review fails to start with “I.” What follows may have nothing to do with the owner of the pronoun. “I was under my car greasing the differential, when it struck me that Article V of the Constitution . . . .” It is an even worse misconception to expect that a work of history shall give a clue to the writer’s belief. It is to require partisanship in his treatment, it is to ask that he violate the historian’s obligation to treat all figures and parties with an even hand. I take it as a compliment that I failed in that duty. But I venture to offer the opinion that the writing of history, by its very nature, rules out one type of belief, materialism. The materialist refers event, action, and character back to some physical element in man or the external world. It’s a faith, not a testable theory. According to it, human beings have no will of their own, only the illusion of it. Now, when such a believer undertakes to write history, he faces a stern necessity: he is bound to relate to their supposed material cause all the picturesque things that he presents, for example the range and wildness of individuality, the pivotal force of trifles, the manifestations of greatness, the failures of unquestioned talent. But he cannot point to the pattern of matter that underlies these appearances and determines them and that fools the human agents into thinking that they are carrying out purposes of their own. Some will answer: Wait! Science, wonderful science, is making great progress in locating functions in the brain, and when complete will explain it all. This is an old fallacy. The jump from brain to mind is not bridged by such discoveries. No matter what portion of it is agitated by — let’s say — solving a crossword puzzle, that motion of molecules does not account for the creation of the pastime. It was not locked up in that group of neurons and one day released to the New York Times. In short, mind exists as a part in the material universe, in it but not of it.
— Carol Iannone, “A Conversation with Jacques Barzun,” Academic Questions, Volume 19, Number 4 / Fall 2006, Pages 19 - 27
See also History the opposite of reductionism.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Wednesday seems to have again become reading-aloud day for me. At noon mass at St. Mary’s Chapel I was lector, and this evening I read to Ted Adams “Rappaccini’s Daughter” by “Aubépine.”
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Devotions are belittled compared with liturgy, but are not devotions a way of praying always?
Sunday, March 11, 2007
. . . it would be hard to imagine . . . . communitarian values emerging from a similar discussion [among community leaders] in San Antonio, or in most other American cities, 40 or 50 years ago, when the trend of thinking was just the opposite.
A key to understanding the change might be what one participant wrote about the schools: “Stop supporting false metrics in education.”
The comment was evidently directed against the schools' enslavement to TAKS — the standardized, multiple-choice Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, which several participants condemned by name, for good reason.
In my view, false metrics dominated American thinking in the two generations after World War II, right up to the present.
The good was what could be measured or counted objectively — dollars, square feet, sales, test scores, the number of vehicles per hour that could flee the city — to the sacrifice of human meaning or intrinsic value.
The idea of a community was swamped by an emphasis on the insular family, its insular house and its insular cars — the more cars, the bigger the house the better, because the primary function of the family was to circulate dollars.
—Mike Greenberg, Leaders’ ‘moral vision’ tied to a physical sense of community, San Antonio Express-News, March 10, 2007
See also Cary Clack.
Friday, March 09, 2007
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Priests, Wisemen, Prophets
Then said they, Come and let us devise devices against Jeremiah; for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, and let us smite him with the tongue, and let us not give heed to any of his words.
— Jeremiah 18:18
The world in Jeremiah’s day had its priests, its wise, its prophets, but who knows them?
Monday, March 05, 2007
Politicians not only represent us, they represent the scheme by which our changeable will is expressed. They are, as a group, the hardest working professionals; they must continually learn new masses of facts, make judgments, give help, and continue to please. It is this obligation, of course, that makes them look unprincipled, To please and do another’s will is prositution, but it remains the nub of the representative system.
With these many complex deeds and chaotic demands, American democracy would have little to show the world with pride if it were not for another aspect of our life that Tocqueville observed and admired, that is, our habit of setting up free, spontaneous associations for every conceivable purpose. To this day, anybody with a typewriter and a copying machine can start a league, a club, a think tank, a library, a museum, a hospital, a college, or a center for this and that, and can proceed to raise money, publish a newsletter, and carry on propaganda — all tax exempt, without government permission or interference, and free of the slightest ridicule from the surrounding society. Here is where the habits of American democracy survive in full force. Robert’s Rules of Order are sacred scripture and the treasurer’s report is scanned like a love letter. Committees work with high seriousness, volunteers abound, and the democratic process reaches new heights of refinement (It is not uncommon, for example, that after a strenuous debate in committee, a vote of seven to five will prompt the chairman to say, “This business needs further thought; we shouldn’t go ahead divided as we are.”)
This admirable tradition enables us to accomplish by and for ourselves many things that in other democracies require government action.
— Jacques Barzun, Is Democratic Theory for Export?
Saturday, March 03, 2007
A democracy cannot be fashioned out of whatever people happen to be around in a given region; it cannot be promoted from outside by strangers; and it may still be impossible when attempted from inside by determined natives. Just as life on the earth depended on a particular coming together of unrelated factors, so a cluster of disparate elements and conditions is needed for a democracy to be born viable. Among these conditions one can name tradition, literacy, and a certain kind of training in give-and-take, as well as the sobering effect of national disaster — France in 1870 and Germany in 1945. The most adaptable of peoples, the Japanese, took a century to approximate Western democracy, aided no doubt by the harsh tutelage which followed a grievous defeat. And another people might have taken these same experiences the other way, as spurs to resist change.
— Jacques Barzun, Is Democratic Theory for Export? (1.5MB pdf file)
Friday, March 02, 2007
For many years I have carried on a correspondence with one of my college professors. He is my mentor, a father figure, a friend. I am forever in his debt for what he shared with me and he has continued to share with me in the decades since I graduated from college. I have hundreds of letters that he has written to me over the years. His handwriting, his little cartoons and interlinear musical notations - they are treasures. I read them over and over, following the curve of his hand as he painstakingly wrote to me.
Several years ago, at the age of 81, he began writing email messages to me. While our communication increased and became more convenient, it is not the same. I can pass his letters to my children. But his email messages? They are full of his humor and style. But they print out in Verdana 12 point with a header full of gibberish assigned by servers. He is the same person but it is different. Something is missing. Something important.
— Douglas Yeo, What Happened to the Internet?