My Sagan Obsession

Once in a while, I fantasize about writing a book called ‘Sagan: Demon in a Candle-lit World’. Continue reading “My Sagan Obsession”


Smart versus Dumb; Right versus Wrong

While I am of the ‘Pox Upon Both Their Houses’ Party – the party of George Washington and other true patriots – this does not prevent me from seeing good in either of them, when that good presents itself. For example, there are and have been any number of very intelligent Democrats – Clinton is brilliant man, as is Barney Frank. FDR and the Kennedy brothers were very intelligent. All these men probably are or were smarter than I am. And demographic reality suggests there are plenty more men and women Democrats who are really, really smart.

Being intelligent is a good thing. But it is a good thing like being beautiful, not a good thing like speaking the truth. For – and this is the part Democrats in particular seem to be unclear on – it is entirely possible to be brilliant, insightful, eloquent, charming, and possess all the other gifts of the intellect – and utterly and completely WRONG. It is also completely possible to be dim-witted, ignorant, provincial – and completely right.

The subtle thing here is that, while intelligence may help you understand a situation more quickly and thoroughly than those who are not as intelligent as you in that particular way, that very same intelligence comes with a set of temptations and pitfalls that are not as big an issue with the less intelligent.  Chief among these is hubris. Closely related is the need to be thought brilliant – it’s very hard for a person whose self image is all tied up in being thought smart to endure the scorn of others who are thought smart. This, I think, explains what has been called ‘the herd of independent thinkers’ phenomenon. Continue reading “Smart versus Dumb; Right versus Wrong”

In other news, Snake Swallows Self

How does one make funny out of the following?

–        Carefully timing the news so that it happens too late to inspire yet more people to go to the polls AND hits the post-election news cycle so that it will get buried, the Fed has announced that it will buy at least $600B in Treasury bonds. That means one arm of the government – the Fed* – is buying debt from another arm of the government – the Treasury. In this case, the Fed is creating money (no, really – the Fed’s job is to create money ex nihilo. You knew that, right?) solely for the purpose of funding our government debt. Continue reading “In other news, Snake Swallows Self”

Songs at Mass Review (10/31/10)

Oh, boy. At the early Mass today at Parish A, got both a winner of a song and shanghaied into singing it.

The long term choir director, who is a very nice guy and a good musician, in whose choirs I and my kids used to sing years ago, saw me in the pews and collared me to help him lead the singing – he had issues with his voice (cold?) and had only one other person in his choir show up, and I’m loud and can read music, So –

I’m standing at his side at a lectern very purposely set so that one’s back is directly to the tabernacle, singing  this beauty:

What Is This Place

  1. What is this place where we are meeting? Only a house, the earth its floor.
    Walls and a roof sheltering people, windows for light, an open door.
    Yet it becomes a body that lives when we are gathered here, and know our God is near.
  2. Words from afar, stars that are falling, sparks that are sown in us like seed:
    names for our God, dreams, signs and wonders sent from the past are all we need.
    We in this place remember and speak again what we have heard:
    God’s free redeeming word.
  3. And we accept bread at this table, broken and shared, a living sign.
    Here in this world, dying and living, we are each other’s bread and wine.
    This is the place where we can receive what we need to increase:
    our justice and God’s peace.

By some act of divine mercy, I have for nigh these many years been spared this, this *thing*. Let’s dig in:

Continue reading “Songs at Mass Review (10/31/10)”

Will the Real Skeptic Please Speak Up? Another Ramble

In college, many years ago, I once read a little pamphlet that contained some exchanges between Martin Luther and Erasmus, occasioned by Luther’s publishing of a paper called ‘On the Bondage of the Will’. It was a fascinating read on several levels, but one item in particular has stuck in my mind all this time. Erasmus makes the point that, if Luther truly believes that the human will is not free, why in the world would he bother talking about it? Learning about the abject slavery of the human will isn’t needed by those Christians who by the sole grace of God and through no merit of their own have gained freedom, and it won’t do any good for those other poor souls, who are utterly enslaved by sin and are incapable of doing anything at all to change that situation.

It seemed like a pretty good point to me at the time, and still does. However, history shows that Luther did not, in fact, stop talking about it. Score 1 for passion, 0 for logical consistency.

But then again, those who think consistency is some sort of hobgoblin must take some comfort in how few people are afflicted with it. Continue reading “Will the Real Skeptic Please Speak Up? Another Ramble”

Music at Mass – road trip – 10/24/10

This past week, was out of town on business, attended Mass at a hip parish near the convention I was attending.

This parish had money – it’s in a resort town full of the kind of people who move some place to retire. (Aside – if I ever am so foolish to move away from where I’ve lived my life in order to retire with a bunch of elderly strangers, just shoot me.) The church building was in the modern ‘talk show set’ form factor, with amphitheater-style seating, huge speakers hung from the ceiling, an orchestra pit to the left for the musicians, and a tabernacle tucked away on the right so that, unless you were really looking, you’d never see it.  The sanctuary was dominated by a huge crucifix that looked like happy-bendy bronze Jesus sitting on the cross-piece of a giant upright X. His limbs were flat and twisted – the theological and artistic reasons for this are just one of the baffling items that we must accept, it seems, as mystery here. The quality of the structure and furnishings was high. Continue reading “Music at Mass – road trip – 10/24/10”

Guess where and when this little quote is from:

Against Homework

“A child who has been boxed up six hours in school might spend the next four hours in study, but it is impossible to develop the child’s intellect in this way. The laws of nature are inexorable. By dint of great and painful labor, the child may succeed in repeating a lot of words, like a parrot, but, with the power of its brain all exhausted, it is out of the question for it to really master and comprehend its lessons. The effect of the system is to enfeeble the intellect even more than the body. We never see a little girl staggering home under a load of books, or knitting her brow over them at eight o’clock in the evening, without wondering that our citizens do not arm themselves at once with carving knives, pokers, clubs, paving stones or any weapons at hand, and chase out the managers of our common schools, as they would wild beasts that were devouring their children.”

Curious? After the break:

Continue reading “Guess where and when this little quote is from:”