What’s a Fellah Got to Do to Get Impeached These Days?

Here’s the Oath of Office for the President of the United States:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

The Constitution, Article II, section 3, laying out the duties of the President, lists:

he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed

Apparently, lurking in a penumbra of an emanation someplace invisible to all but Constitutional law professors, it adds: ‘unless he or she really, really doesn’t like the law, in which case he or she needn’t bother either with trying to get Congress to change the law like any other citizen, or letting the Supreme Court do its job and rule on the constitutionality of the law, but can just, you know, decide to uphold the law in the sense of pretending it doesn’t exist and having the Justice Department do likewise.’

My primary beef with the gay rights movement is that there’s an express assumption that if you take an ax to the root of our current civilization, what will spring up in its place will be a bouquet of surpassing sweetness and light, not, say, the Reign of Terror or the Cultural Revolution. Do the gay rights advocates not realize that, like Robespierre, their own personal Committee of Public Safety is going to put *their* necks on the block just as soon as it is expedient to do so? Do they think those seeking political power and using them as tools to get it really owe them any allegiance? If the power-hungry manage to get power in a world clear-cut of any of the cultural restraints that have grown up over the centuries to reign power in – such as rule of law, and the ideas that human life is sacred, and it is worthy and even expected that a good Christian citizen would lay down his life to defend his fellow citizens, even when his fellow citizen is a gay man – do gay rights advocates think they will be safe? The moment they cease to be useful to the power hungry, they will become just another irrelevant and annoying squeaky wheel – and, in the brave new world, squeaky wheels get the ax.

So, be careful about striking at the rule of law – it’s an annoyance when it keeps you from doing what you want, but it’s a literal life-saver when it keeps your opponents from doing what they want.

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Scary Prayer

I’m bad at prayer.  Distracted, bored, falling asleep, rote – the usual. However, I do keep after it, nudged by who knows what heavenly patrons and the example of my beloved wife – no credit to me, that’s for sure. I’m counting on maybe getting points for effort. In fact, I’m hoping I get a chance to forgive somebody totally undeserving at some point before I die, so that I can plead that whole ‘as we forgive those who trespass against us’ defense before the judgment seat of God. I have no back-up plan.

So, a while back, I’m being blessed with upwards of 30 whole seconds of being able to direct my attention to listening to God. ‘O.K., God – your will be done. What You want, not what I want. But you’re going to have to do it” when the thought forms instantly in my mind: kids? And just as instantly, faster than thought, I answer: No!

Come on, God can be a bit of a goof. Have you seen some of His favorite saints? Can’t my kids just grow up to be good parents and spouses? Do we have to be open to the whole over-the-top martyr business? I finally get my mind calmed for a few seconds, and I get THIS?

I’m not the deal-maker kind of suppliant – I get that all we can reasonable ask of God is that His will be done. We lay out our problems, concerns and questions, ask God’s blessings and help, but always wrap up with ‘Your will, not mine, be done.” Right? But this kid thing – please, God, be reasonable here. I have to love and raise them, do I also have to hand them over to you? So that you can make a St. Catherine of Siena or a St. Francis or a St. Phillip Neri out of them? Can’t we cut a deal? No? Really? That’s kind of tough – You ask a lot, you know.

Thy Will be done.

The Gift of Fast Typing…

I don’t have it. Even a short post takes time. I’m a little cowed and awed by those folks out there who throw up half a dozen (or more) posts per day, or – I’m talking to you, John C. Wright – spit out a several page essay in an hour or two that would take me all day or more to write.

Got a backlog here at the Yard Sale of the Mind. Had to, you know, *work* for a living last couple weeks, and there’s no slowdown in sight. Several more christian iconography bits, some notes on the news, music at Mass reviews – stuff like that.

While there is no point whatsoever to this post, I feel a little better because, hey, look! It’s done!

Christian Iconography: The Basics

Iconographical symbols are natural object and colors with deep, pre-logical meaning. Signs are more conventional carries of meaning, which may or may not use symbols to help bolster the clarity of their message. Christian iconography uses both symbols and signs to get across deep, pre-verbal messages and the specific identity of the persons and events portrayed.

First, a useful distinction – consider a stop sign:

This is a sign, which communicates meaning via convention and the word ‘Stop’: there is nothing about a red octagon that, in itself, means stop;

The color red, on the other hand, is used in the stop sign symbolically – unlike the word ‘stop’ and the octagon, red has meaning that precedes its use in a road sign. That meaning comes from universal human experiences, not from any conscious choice. Further, the meaning of the color red is at a deeper level than words – saying red represents blood and divinity and burning power, while true, does not mean that anyone *gave* those meanings to red.

A red octagon is a very good choice for a stop sign – easy to recognize, attention-grabbing color, plus the octagon shape is rare in nature, so the sign is unlikely to be mistaken for a natural object – a good thing, given its purpose. It is a convention built on common human experience. A green circle would not be nearly as good a stop sign, because the color and shape conflict with the intended meaning.

Christian iconography is like the stop sign, only much richer. It starts with colors and other natural objects redolent with meaning and uses them to communicate something deeper. It is a subset of the more general presence of symbols in Christianity, many if not most of which come straight out of Scripture: water, bread and wine, the cross, lambs, fish, and so on – it is not only or even primarily that these symbols are used in representational art – they dominate the poetry, the prayers, and the rituals of the Church, and have since the time of the Apostles, who lived the New Testament and were steeped in the Old.

These same symbols are used for icons of the saints, plus a new set of signs and symbols proper to the saints themselves. For example, St. Lawrence, an early deacon and martyr, is always portrayed with a grill, because he was famously grilled to death. St. Catherine is portrayed with a wheel, the means of her martyrdom. Less grim to modern sensibilities, St. Dominic is often portrayed accompanied by a Dalmatian dog holding a flaming torch in its mouth – because the Dominicans wore black and white – the colors of the dog – and Latin phrase ‘Domine Canes’ means ‘dogs of the Lord’ – so the Dominicans were the Lord’s Dogs, spreading the light of the Gospels – thus the torch. Puns and other jokes are embraced by the iconographers, as long as they get the point across.

If the iconographers are doing their job well, a single set of conventions, with a small number of variations, will develop for each traditional subject – no one had to make this happen, apart from the artists efforts to get the image right. The icon is right when the viewers understand it and see the deeper connections clearly. At that point, changing what has now become ‘traditional’ will become merely confusing – it will look wrong. For example, if you portrayed the Blessed Mother dressed in bright green, no one would believe it. The Blessed Mother wears a red or white with gold trim gown, or just maybe a gold gown – but that’s pretty much it. To the viewer, is you portrayed her dressed otherwise, you’d be trying to tell them something – it couldn’t just be ‘because I like green better’. If she’s wearing a cloak, it will be blue – almost always midnight blue – or black. You could just maybe get away with brown, but you’d have some ‘splainin’ to do.

To sum up: Iconographical symbols are natural object and colors with deep, pre-logical meaning. Signs are more conventional carries of meaning, which may or may not use symbols to help bolster the clarity of their message. Christian iconography uses both symbols and signs to get across deep, pre-verbal messages and the specific identity of the persons and events portrayed. Each subject commonly portrayed  – a saint, a biblical story, a martyr’s death – will have quickly developed a set of symbols and signs which become conventional because they strike everybody as ‘correct’. An artist who deviates from these conventional representations risks losing his audience.

What You Need to Know About Sex

We outliers – monogamous faithfully married heterosexual people with families – have a somewhat different view of sex than the one popularly espoused.

Shocking, I know. I hope you were sitting down.

I think one reason this contrary view is largely unknown or, when known, is dismissed is that, to happily married people, sex is something deeply personal, in the sense of being something shared with one and only one other person in the world, in this sense correctly referred to as your ‘lover’. To a married person, sex is not some disembodied abstraction that can be talked about in public like your favorite breed of dog. Sex is something that is shared concretely with one other person, to whom one has become, via sex, linked in a permanent, inseparable and  mysterious way – it’s way, way beyond words. Talking about it casually does violence to the reality.

Nevertheless, I’ll here risk mentioning a few general traits of sex as understood by happily married couples with families, to show why the current view of sex is not rejected out of some prudish defect in thought or emotion, but rather because it rings very false to real experience. Continue reading “What You Need to Know About Sex”

Contemplating Our Mortality at a Young Age…

Ah, yes – it is with grim satisfaction that I note that it is never too young to start pondering our ultimate fate. I was a bit surprised to find this stern warning in the school kitchen – don’t know that I’d advise trying to jump start this sort of grave meditation amidst so many sharp objects.