Charlie's Blog: August 2016

8.31.2016

Pure Dumb Luck


Ringo isn't even the best drummer in The Beatles.
JOHN LENNON

When I think of someone who made it on pure dumb luck, Ringo Starr springs to mind. I like Ringo, and I think most people in the world like Ringo. He is the most likable Beatle. But his fame and fortune are due primarily to the Beatles firing Pete Best and hiring Ringo to replace him. Had that event not happened, the world would never have known Richard Starkey. He would have played in a few more bands and probably returned to his working class roots. Even as a Beatle, Ringo never felt secure in his job.

Ringo is humble which is why he is so likable. He played his role in the band and never let his ego create friction. The band already had three egos to contend with and a fourth would have blown it apart. Ringo Starr caught one of the luckiest breaks in musical history. His talents as a drummer are debatable which explains John Lennon's snarky quote about him. Paul McCartney was probably the best drummer and best musician in the band, but you can only play one instrument at a time. As for singing, Ringo is good as a singer and did some memorable songs with the Beatles.


The antithesis to the pure dumb luck of Ringo Starr was the pure bad luck of Pete Best. There is debate about Pete Best's drumming abilities, but he was the most solid of the Beatles eschewing drugs and grinding it out with the band for over two years. But seeing a picture of Best with the Beatles tells the real story. Pete Best was the best looking guy in the group. The girls swooned over him. But when you see a picture of Ringo with the band, you can see why he got the job after they fired Pete Best.


My personal opinion is that Pete Best got the heave-ho for being pleasant to the female eye while Ringo got the job for being ugly. Normally, being good looking would be a stroke of good fortune but not for Pete Best. Best would return to his life of relative obscurity. People only know him today as the guy who got sacked by the Beatles.

The fact is that the rest of the Beatles owed much of their success to the same dumb luck that plucked Ringo Starr from obscurity and put Pete Best back into obscurity. What makes it harder to make that case is the undeniable talent of the band members as singers and songwriters. We feel that McCartney and Lennon are somehow deserving of the fame and fortune that came to them. The problem with that argument is the vast abundance of talent that exists in obscurity. If you doubt this, peruse the YouTube channel of this fellow. Thanks to the internet, we can witness people playing in their bedrooms or on the street in performances that are simply mind blowing. Why aren't these people megastars bringing down millions of dollars? Who can doubt that this guy playing his PVC pipe techno solo has more talent than Ringo Starr? Instead, the millions go to subpar talents producing hip hop albums.

The only real difference between Ringo and the other Beatles was that humility. Ringo knew he made it on dumb luck. The real agonizing thing is to decide which is better--talent or dumb luck? Is it better to be the best at what you do? Or, is it better merely to be lucky? The simple and undeniable fact is that dumb luck beats talent every time. That is a sobering reflection.


Moving to the world of art, we have the most potent example of the delinking of fame and talent in the artwork of Jackson Pollock. Pollock became a rockstar in the artworld for producing works that could be painted by any small child let loose with a bucket of paint. This period of drip painting as masterpiece shows that the artworld is akin to the emperor's new clothes. Here is a critical analysis of Pollock's work:
Pollock’s finest paintings… reveal that his all-over line does not give rise to positive or negative areas: we are not made to feel that one part of the canvas demands to be read as figure, whether abstract or representational, against another part of the canvas read as ground. There is not inside or outside to Pollock’s line or the space through which it moves…. Pollock has managed to free line not only from its function of representing objects in the world, but also from its task of describing or bounding shapes or figures, whether abstract or representational, on the surface of the canvas. (Hans Namuth)
Pollock had zero talent who lucked into a period of utter stupidity on the part of the artworld. In the world of pure dumb luck, Pollock's luck was the dumbest of all time. Pollock remains controversial to this day, and he suffered from a lingering doubt that he was just a phony. Let me end the debate now. Jackson Pollock was a complete phony. He deserved none of the fame and acclaim he garnered in life. I believe this drove him to drink harder and to kill himself in a drunken car crash.


It is not enough to have fame, fortune, honor, and glory. One must also believe that one is deserving of these things. That deserving part is what creates bitterness in the talented but obscure and self-loathing in the famous but untalented. This mismatch between what people receive and what they deserve leads to a profound sense of injustice in the world. Either God is unjust, or the world is governed by the same chaos you find in a Jackson Pollock painting.

The first myth we can dispense with is the idea that life really is just pure dumb luck. There is no such thing as pure dumb luck. What we call luck is really the collection of factors beyond our control or influence. The reality is that all things that happen are governed by the providence of Almighty God. This would include Ringo Starr and Jackson Pollock. Nothing happens to us or anyone else that isn't foreordained and determined by God. As Matthew 10:29 puts it, "Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father." If even the most insignificant things happen as a consequence of providence, you should believe that the fortunes of all people, nations, and the like are also foreordained and determined by Almighty God. Life is not the product of chaos.

The second myth we can dispense with is the idea that we are deserving of anything. The only thing any human being deserves from the hand of Almighty God is eternal damnation. The fact that any of us escapes this fate is completely as a consequence of God's mercy.

When we forget these two facts of life, pride comes into the picture. This pride is what produces arrogance in the fortunate and bitterness in the unfortunate. We believe we deserve good things from God. So, we look with envy on those who receive better things than us, and we look with disdain on those who have received worse things.

The antidote to these two poisonous myths is humility. We must acknowledge our sinfulness and utter dependence upon Almighty God. We must never forget these facts. Jesus Christ could have come as anyone in this world. He could have chosen to be the emperor or even the king of Israel when that would have been a glorious thing. But Jesus came as a humble carpenter and a suffering servant. He alone is worthy of all the honor and glory we think we deserve in our pride. Yet, Christ emptied Himself and humbled Himself even to the point of humiliation and death on a cross. It was not bad luck that put Christ on the cross. It was Providence. And Jesus accepted the Father's will for Him without bitterness or complaint.

For us, our cross is to accept where God has placed us and what God has planned for us. It matters not whether we have good fortune or bad fortune in our lives. What matters is that we accept both with humility and the knowledge that it all comes from God's hand. The proper response to these things is gratitude. God knows best, and the light of eternity will reveal this even if we see it only through the darkened looking glass of the present time. Life is not chaos, and God is not unjust. Trust in God.

8.30.2016

Suggestions For Spiritual Reading


Don't neglect your spiritual reading. Reading has made many saints.
ST. JOSEMARIA ESCRIVA

When it comes to the spiritual life, prayer is the primary practice and discipline. A close second would be reading. Prayer is when we talk to God, but reading is how God talks to us. I have lost count of the number of times when I have had troubled thoughts that I took to prayer and the answer was found in the very next thing I read. Without a doubt, spiritual reading has helped me tremendously in my walk on the narrow path. Here are a few books that I have found helpful and still continue to find helpful.



1. The Bible

This sounds like a no-brainer, but the Holy Bible is the best spiritual book you can ever read. I put this on the list because of the running joke about Catholics not being Bible readers. Catholics are not illiterates when it comes to the Bible since it is an essential part of each Mass. But few Catholics read the Bible as an integral part of their day.

When I was a Protestant, I would get up each morning and read the Bible. I didn't skip around and read a piece here or there. I read it like any other book from beginning to end. When I finished, I would start over. I would read a different translation each time or pick a study Bible to read. I now carry this practice over to my life as a Catholic. My wife does the same thing.

I recommend at a minimum that you read and follow the daily readings that are recited at Mass each day around the world. You can find these easily here at the USCCB website. I have them sent to my email address. There are smartphone apps that also help in this regard, but I am a flip phone luddite.

Another recommendation is to read the Bible straight through each morning at breakfast. I am currently reading through the Douay-Rheims translation on my Kindle. After that, I am going to read the Navarre Study Bible which is my wife's favorite.

Finally, I recommend getting a pocket New Testament. I would read mine when I used to get a lunch break, and I made quick work of it. It will amaze you how much you can read in those daily chunks. Binge reading is not nearly as good as bite size reading. By having a New Testament handy, you will find moments here and there when you can read a chapter or two. You will also find that reading more profitable than checking Facebook on your smartphone.

Reading the Bible will pay rich dividends in your spiritual life especially the reading of the Gospels. In becoming like Christ, it helps to read about Christ. I am always fascinated with His interactions with people. Jesus dealt with difficult people just like you do in your daily life. I find great comfort and insight in learning how Jesus interacted with all those personalities.


2. The Way/Furrow/The Forge by St. Josemaria Escriva

After Bible, the second most helpful volume I can recommend are the writings of St. Josemaria Escriva. The primary criticism of Escriva is that his writings and spiritual advice are utterly simple. Here is Fr. James Martin, SJ on Escriva:
Some of the group’s spirituality can be gleaned from Escriv√°’s numerous writings, most notably his 1939 book, The Way. The book is a collection of 999 maxims, ranging from traditional Christian pieties (“The prayer of a Christian is never a monologue”) to sayings that could easily have come out of Poor Richard’s Almanack (“Don’t put off your work until tomorrow”).
This damning criticism was meant to castigate the unsophisticated nature of the spirituality of Opus Dei. Yet, I don't see the Society of Judas producing any saints since they traded St. Ignatius for Karl Marx.

Escriva is simple. Yet, I cannot read this volume without feeling the burn of the Catholic Guilt Ray and a resolution to do better. The simple fact is that sanctity is not produced by sophistication but love. St. Josemaria Escriva loved our Lord, and these three books are like a notebook of sanctity. The Stoics had the Enchridion of Epictetus and the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius as handbooks for living as philosophers. The Way/Furrow/The Forge is written in a similar manner to those volumes. They represent a handbook for becoming a saint.

These books can be found and read for free here. You can also have daily selections sent to your email here.



3. Abandonment to Divine Providence by Father Jean Pierre de Caussade, SJ

The title of this book alone is enough to produce a spiritual benefit in the reader. Life is not always pleasant and shouldering your cross daily can be discouraging at times. Suffering and bewilderment produce anxiety. Abandonment to Divine Providence is the antidote to anxiety. Caussade writes,
You would be very ashamed if you knew what the experiences you call setbacks, upheavals, pointless disturbances, and tedious annoyances really are. You would realize that your complaints about them are nothing more nor less than blasphemies - though that never occurs to you. Nothing happens to you except by the will of God, and yet [God's] beloved children curse it because they do not know it for what it is.
Nothing happens to you or can happen to you that is not part of God's plan for you. Our anxieties come when we forget this simple fact. Here is how Cassaude tells us to live:
In the state of abandonment the only rule is the duty of the present moment. In this the soul is light as a feather, liquid as water, simple as a child, active as a ball in receiving and following all the inspirations of grace. Such souls have no more consistence and rigidity than molten metal. As this takes any form according to the mould into which it is poured, so these souls are pliant and easily receptive of any form that God chooses to give them. In a word, their disposition resembles the atmosphere, which is affected by every breeze; or water, which flows into any shaped vessel exactly filling every crevice. They are before God like a perfectly woven fabric with a clear surface; and neither think, nor seek to know what God will be pleased to trace thereon, because they have confidence in Him, they abandon themselves to Him, and, entirely absorbed by their duty, they think not of themselves, nor of what may be necessary for them, nor of how to obtain it.
We have to trust in God's providence like children. Here is Caussade again:
To escape the distress caused by regret for the past or fear about the future, this is the rule to follow: leave the past to the infinite mercy of God, the future to His good Providence, give the present wholly to His love by being faithful to His grace.
This volume is filled with these nuggets of wisdom and consolation. Abandonment is the cure for distress in your life. You can read it for free here.


3. Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross

If you are going to walk on the narrow path, you must get used to walking in the dark. This is the message of St. John of the Cross in his masterpiece, Dark Night of the Soul. St. John writes,
God has to work in the soul in secret and in darkness because if we fully knew what was happening, and what Mystery, transformation, God and Grace will eventually ask of us, we would either try to take charge or stop the whole process.
This book is a treasure to read during the dark times of life, and there will be dark times. Times of suffering and not feeling that God is even there are a natural part of the walk on the narrow path. Mother Teresa suffered for years in a dark valley until the end of her life. The true test of a saint is not their confidence in the light but their fidelity in the dark night of the soul. Though it can be distressing and painful, the dark nights of the soul will produce wonderful things in you. St. John writes,
Never give up prayer, and should you find dryness and difficulty, persevere in it for this very reason. God often desires to see what love your soul has, and love is not tried by ease and satisfaction.
There is no progress in sanctity without suffering and darkness. Dark Night of the Soul will help you to accept this aspect of spiritual growth, and it will be comfort for you in the darkness. You can read it for free here.


4. Divine Intimacy by Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D.

This volume is a hidden treasure, and I regret that I cannot find it for free on the internet. My copy was pricey. Yet, I admit it is worth every penny I paid for it. Divine Intimacy is a classic and a masterpiece of Carmelite meditation. Each chapter is a reading for the day, and you can read it along with the liturgical year. Or, you can read it straight through or skip to the interesting bits like I do. No matter how you choose to read it, each meditation will improve you and encourage you in some way.


5. The Hidden Treasure by St. Leonard
I believe that were it not for the Holy Mass, as of this moment the world would be in the abyss.--St. Leonard
The Mass is the center of a Catholic's life because it is the Mass where we encounter our Lord in the Holy Eucharist. When I first became Catholic, this volume first bought for $4 at a Catholic shop was invaluable in helping me to prepare for Mass. My wife praises it endlessly and gives out copies as gifts. It is a short read, but it will enhance your preparation for Mass and reception of communion. You can read it here for free.

These are a few suggestions for spiritual reading, and I think you will find them beneficial to your spiritual life. They have been beneficial to me and rewarded me greatly. I pray they will work their wonders in your life and your walk on the narrow path.

8.29.2016

Rise and Fall


An American monkey, after getting drunk on brandy, would never touch it again, and thus is much wiser than most men.
CHARLES DARWIN

There are two competing views of humanity in the world today. The view you subscribe to has a large impact on your lifestyle, your values, your politics, your morality, and many other things. It is important that when picking which view to hold that you get it right because of the large effects such a viewpoint will have on you and on the world. These views center on two questions. Did humanity rise from humble origins to greatness? Or, did humanity fall from greatness?

The belief that humanity rises is the one held and promoted by those who subscribe to the worldview known as secular progressivism. These are your atheists, materialists, and left wing liberals who believe that the human race evolved by accident from lower organisms. According to these people, humanity was bestial but has become more civilized as a process of evolution. Now, humanity has the chance to evolve and progress further as it ascends to utopia. Many are the cries to not "turn back the clock" and "lean forward." Humans are getting better and better.

The Christian religion opposes progressivism and declares that humanity is fallen. Humanity is not getting better and better except to the extent that the Christian religion is allowed to flourish. Human beings began at a high place and have descended to a lower place. Instead of animals becoming men, men are becoming animals.

The antagonism between these two views is fierce. For the progressive, man's "elevation" has occurred accidentally through a process of deliberation. Now that we have attained our present enlightenment, we should no longer leave the progress of humanity up to mere chance. Progress should be directed collectively and from a centralized authority with great levels of control over families and individuals. Anything that thwarts progress such as Christianity needs to be eliminated.

In the progressive's mind, religions like Christianity represent useful stages in the evolutionary mindset of man. These religions helped to advance humanity but now outlive their usefulness being supplanted today with philosophy and science. The Church of Reason is the new temple in which all human beings will worship. All other religions are outdated superstitious ignorance.


Who is right? The argument would seem to hinge upon the idea of evolution. If human beings did evolve from primates, it would seem to indicate that our superior reason and intellect over the inferior reason and intellect of animals means that we are evolving or progressing to something higher since we started somewhere lower than where we are now. This is what I call the "clever monkey" view. Humans are merely clever monkeys, and our survival and flourishing depends upon us becoming more clever. This cleverness is the bedrock of the progressive ideology.

Religion's role in this progress was as a handmaiden to philosophy. Religion promoted culture, literature, art, and thinking. These are good things except that religion also retarded reason and science. This weird relationship is how things like pagan civilizations could build monumental structures, map the stars and their movement, and also sacrifice their infants to cruel gods.


The Christian viewpoint is decidedly different. Humanity was created in a harmonious relationship with God. God allowed humanity to eat of all the trees of the Garden of Eden except the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They were forbidden to eat of this tree. Essentially, all the trees of the garden are all the many fields of human endeavor. Humans excel at many of these things. One of these things is science.

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is essentially the tree of religion. By eating of this tree, our first parents decided that they would be the captains of their souls instead of God. The result of that decision is a panopoly of civilizations that were adept at technology and architecture and many arts including warfare. They also sacrificed their infants to cruel gods we know today as the demons. The Fall was a trick where humans were not turned into gods but where Satan and his horde were turned into gods. Humanity has suffered ever since.


It is no accident that the most advanced civilizations in human history have also been the most cruel. Progressives will claim that it was the superstitions of these civilizations that fostered this cruelty, and they would be correct. Pagan religions are evil. They make you kill your own children. It is not unlike this:


Millions face death in the name of progress. The Aztecs ripped hearts from the chests of their living victims. Yet, are we no different in declaring "brain death" before we start carving up people to harvest their organs and tissues? Is it the act or the reasons for the act that are the deciding factors in these atrocities? Would the Aztecs be seen in a better light if they had developed anesthesia first and used it on their victims? Is butchery of human beings OK as long as the living have no sensation of the pain?

The progressives are at pains to explain an uncomfortable fact of their program. Wherever progressive enlightenment is found, a lot of people end up dead. In France, the revolution lead to a reign of terror with priests and nuns being the primary victims of the purge that ended up taking down aristocrats, a king, and the revolutionaries themselves. This same thing would repeat itself in other revolutions whether it was the Russian revolution, the Maoist revolution, Pol Pot, or today's revolutions for "democracy." The glaring fact is that there is little progress in progressivism. The only difference between ancient paganism and modern progressivism is that atheists have a higher body count.

G.K. Chesterton stated that original sin was the one Christian doctrine that could be proven empirically, yet it is the one doctrine that scientifically minded progressives are at labors to deny. The simple reality is that humanity is evil. It has always been evil since the Fall. The tendency of man is not to become like the angels but to become like the demons that tricked them in the first place.

Christianity offers the antidote to this fallen condition. Yet, progressives are at pains to deny the uniqueness of Christianity. To them, Christianity evolved from paganism. The Christian religion supplanted the more primitive religions. Now, progressivism is the religion that must supplant Christianity. Yet, where are these saints of progress? What great moral person has science ever produced?

One does not have to believe in Christianity to believe in the fall of man. If man is merely a clever monkey, then he has not evolved from his base origin and will never evolve from it. His cleverness will increase, but his savagery will remain intact. Inevitably, the human race will annihilate itself in nuclear holocaust. The simple fact is that natural history shows that extinction is the end of virtually all species, and there is nothing to indicate that humanity will not share the same fate as the dinosaurs. The key difference between humans and dinosaurs is that humans will be the authors of their own destruction.

Christians are accused of creating a myth out of the past. By the same token, progressives make a myth out of the future. In their myth, the future is utopian and perfected. Humanity will achieve a greatness that will extinguish its flaws. This is the icon of that perfected humanity:


The extraterrestrial represents an advance sibling to humanity. If advanced civilizations exist beyond our own world, then this gives us hope that our own race can extend itself into space. Aliens have replaced pagan deities as the new gods of a new mythology. It is no coincidence that alien representations look so human. There is no scientific reason to think that aliens will look so much like us except with bigger brains and the absence of body hair. And what is the deal with those big black eyes? But it is no mystery. The lack of hair removes the animal from the being. The big brain is the advanced reason. The big black eyes are the lack of a soul and empathy. Basically, advancement means losing your soul to become more like a robot than a human being.

All of this is madness and nonsense. Humans are not advancing except in the cleverness department. Where civilization advances in all its facets, you find Christianity. Christianity is hope. The problem with people is not that they are stupid. The problem is that people are evil. They lack the sanctifying grace needed to become better. Yet, this sanctifying grace is the gift that Jesus Christ gives to all who believe in Him. Through Christ, the fallen man can be restored and put on his proper path.

The fact that the world hates Christianity testifies to these truths. People only become better when they submit to the lordship of Jesus Christ. The proper and fitting end of a man is to become a saint. The world has never had a saint before Jesus Christ. It can never have a saint apart from Jesus Christ. Jesus conquered the Fall. Eventually, we will be allowed to eat from the Tree of Life which is immortality in eternity. Those who follow Christ aim for a new destination for humanity. That destination is the elevation of humanity from evil to good. And if you lack faith on this, I would suggest that you follow the evidence. Progressives can merely lie and try to tell you that black is white, wrong is right, and the end that does not exist will justify the meanness of the means in the interim. What good can come from such evil?

8.28.2016

St. Alphonsus Liguori On the Means Necessary For Salvation


If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 JOHN 1:9 NASB

All would wish to be saved and to enjoy the glory of Paradise; but to gain Heaven, it is necessary to walk in the straight road that leads to eternal bliss. This road is the observance of the divine commands. Hence, in his preaching, the Baptist exclaimed, "Make straight the way of the Lord." In order to be able to walk always in the way of the Lord, without turning to the right or to the left, it is necessary to adopt the proper means. These means are, first, distrust in ourselves; secondly, confidence in God; thirdly, resistance to temptations.

First means. Distrust in ourselves.

1. "With fear and trembling," says the apostle, "work out your salvation" (Phil. 2:12). To secure eternal life, we must be always penetrated with fear; we must be always afraid of ourselves (with fear and trembling, and distrust altogether our own strength; for, without the divine grace we can do nothing. "Without me," says Jesus Christ, "you can do nothing" – we can do nothing for the salvation of our own souls. St. Paul tells us, that of ourselves we are not capable of even a good thought. "Not that we are sufficient to think anything of ourselves, as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God" (II Cor. 3:5). Without the aid of the Holy Ghost, we cannot even pronounce the name of Jesus so as to deserve a reward. "And no one can say the Lord Jesus, but by the Holy Ghost" (I Cor. 12:3).


2. Miserable the man who trusts to himself in the way of God. St. Peter experienced the sad effect of self-confidence. Jesus Christ said to him, "In this night, before cock-crow, thou wilt deny me thrice" (Mat. 26: 34). Trusting in his own strength and in his good will, the Apostle replies: "Yea, though I should die with Thee, I will not deny Thee" (5:35). What was the result? On the night on which Jesus Christ had been taken, Peter was reproached in the court of Caiphas with being one of the disciples of the Savior. The reproach filled him with fear: he thrice denied his Master, and swore that he had never known Him. Humility and distrust in ourselves are so necessary for us, that God permits us sometimes to fall into sin, that, by our fall, we may acquire humility and a knowledge of our own weakness. Through want of humility, David also fell, hence, after his sin, he said, "Before I was humbled, I offended" (Ps. 18:67).

3. Hence the Holy Ghost pronounces blessed the man who is always in fear: "Blessed is the man who is always fearful" (Prov. 28:14). He who is afraid of falling, distrusts his own strength, avoids as much as possible all dangerous occasions, and recommends himself often to God, and thus preserves his soul from sin. But the man who is not fearful, but full of self-confidence, easily exposes himself to the danger of sin: he seldom recommends himself to God, and thus he falls. Let us imagine a person suspended over a great precipice by a cord held by another. Surely he would constantly cry out to the person who supports him: Hold fast, hold fast; for God's sake, do not let go.. We are all in danger of falling into the abyss of all crime, if God does not support us. Hence we should constantly beseech Him to keep His hands over us, and to help us in all dangers.

4. In rising from bed, St. Philip Neri used to say every morning, O Lord, keep Thy hand this day over Philip, if Thou do not, Philip will betray Thee. And one day, as he walked through the city, reflecting on his own misery, he frequently said, I despair, I despair. A certain religious who heard him, believing that the saint was really tempted to despair, corrected him, and encouraged him to hope in the divine mercy. But the saint replied, "I despair of myself, but I trust in God, hence, during this life which we are exposed to so many dangers of losing God, it is necessary for us to live always in great distrust in ourselves, and full of confidence in God.

Second means: Confidence in God.

5. St. Francis de Sales says, that the mere attention to distrust of oneself on account of our own weakness, would only render us pusillanimous, and expose us to great danger of abandoning ourselves to a tepid life, or even to despair. The more we distrust our own strength, the more we should confide in the divine mercy. This is a balance, says the same saint, in which the more the scale of confidence in God is raised, the more the scale of confidence in ourselves descends.

6. Listen to me, O sinners who have had the misfortune of having hitherto offended God, and of being condemned to Hell: if the Devil tells you that but little hope remains of your eternal salvation, answer him in the words of the Scripture: "No one hath hoped in the Lord, and hath been confounded" (Eccl. 2:11). No sinner has ever trusted in God, and has been lost. Make, then, a firm purpose to sin no more; abandon yourselves into the arms of the divine goodness; and rest assured that God will have mercy on you, and save you from Hell. "Cast thy care upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee" (Ps. 54:23). The Lord, as we read in Blosius, one day said to St. Gertrude, "He who confides in me, does me such violence that I cannot but hear all his petitions."

7. "But," says the Prophet Isaias, "they that hope in the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall take wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint" (40:31). They who place their confidence in God shall renew their strength; they shall lay aside their own weakness, and shall acquire the strength of God; they shall fly like eagles in the way of the Lord, without fatigues and without ever failing. David says that, "mercy shall encompass him that hopeth in the Lord" (Ps. 31:10). He that hopes in the Lord shall be encompassed by His mercy, so that he shall never be abandoned by it.


8. St. Cyprian says that the divine mercy is an inexhaustible fountain. They who bring vessels of the greatest confidence, draw from it the greatest graces. Hence, the Royal Prophet has said, "Let Thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, as we have hoped in Thee" (Ps. 32:22). Whenever the Devil terrifies us by placing before our eyes the great difficulty of persevering in the grace of God in spite of all the dangers and sinful occasions of this life, let us, without answering him, raise our eyes to God, and hope that in His goodness He will certainly send us help to resist every attack. "I have lifted up my eyes to the mountains, from whence help shall come to me" (Ps. 120:1). And when the enemy represents to us our weakness, let us say with the Apostle, "I can do all things in Him who strengtheneth me" (Phil. 4:13). Of myself I can do nothing; but I trust in God, that, by His grace, I shall be able to do all things.

9. Hence, in the midst of the greatest dangers of perdition to which we are exposed, we should continually turn to Jesus Christ, and throwing ourselves into the hands of Him who redeemed us by His death, should say, "Into Thy hands I commend my spirit: Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord, the God of truth" (Ps. 30:6). This prayer should be said with great confidence of obtaining eternal life, and to it we should add: "In Thee, O Lord, I have hoped; let me not be confounded forever" (Ps. 30:1).

Third means: Resistance to temptations.

10. It is true that when we have recourse to God with confidence in dangerous temptations, he assists us; but, in certain very urgent occasions, the Lord sometimes wishes that we cooperate, and do violence to ourselves to resist temptations. On such occasions, it will not be enough to have recourse to God once or twice; it will be necessary to multiply prayers, and frequently to prostrate ourselves, and send up our sighs before the image of the Blessed Virgin and the crucifix, crying out with tears: Mary, my mother, assist me; Jesus, my Savior, save me; for Thy mercy's sake, do not abandon me – do not permit me to lose Thee.


11. Let us keep in mind the words of the Gospel: "How narrow is the gate and straight is the way that leadeth to life: and few there are that find it" (Mat. 7:14). The way to Heaven is straight and narrow: they who wish to arrive at that place of bliss by walking in the paths of pleasure shall be disappointed; and therefore few reach it, because few are willing to use violence to themselves in resisting temptations. "The kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away" (Matt. 11:12). In explaining this passage, a certain writer says, "Vi queritur, invaditur, occupatur." It must be sought for and obtained by violence: he who wishes to obtain it without inconvenience, or by leading a soft and irregular life, shall not acquire it – he shall be excluded from it.

12. To save their souls, some of the saints have retired into the cloister; some have confined themselves in a cave; others have embraced torments and death. "The violent bear it away." Some complain of their want of confidence in God; but they do not perceive that their lack of confidence arises from the weakness of their resolution to serve God. St. Teresa used to say, "Of irresolute souls the Devil has no fear." And the wise Man has declared, that "desires kill the slothful" (Prov. 21:25). Some would wish to be saved and to become saints, but never resolve to adopt the means of salvation, such as meditation, the frequentation of the sacraments, detachment from creatures; or, if they adopt these means, they soon give them up. In a word, they are satisfied with fruitless desires, and thus continue to live in enmity with God, or at least in tepidity, which, in the end, leads them to the loss of God. Thus in them are verified the words of the Holy Ghost, "desires kill the slothful."

13. If, then, we wish to save our souls, and to become saints, we must make a strong resolution, not only in general to give ourselves to God, but also in particular to adopt the proper means, and never to abandon them after having once taken them up. Hence we must never cease to pray to Jesus Christ, and to His holy Mother, for holy perseverance.

8.27.2016

Random Thoughts on Various Subjects 25


I'm not afraid of death; I just don't want to be there when it happens.
WOODY ALLEN


It is obvious that the world of professional sports and much of collegiate sports is drenched in performance enhancing drugs. It is so bad that an athlete is left with only two options--win dirty or lose clean.

The purpose of sports was to be a test of one's virtue. Sports in the pre-doping era taught things like teamwork, leadership, perseverance, fortitude, and all the rest. As such, athletics was a sort of school of virtue. And it is why we looked to these athletes as heroes. In the doping era, these people are little more than ruthless cheaters with an attitude of winning at all costs. And the reason for this is because winning pays you millions of dollars.

There are those who argue that sports should stop with the farce of testing and let it be a free-for-all when it comes to doping. Essentially, this is the libertarian policy of drug legalization applied to the world of sports. Just like the fact that the government loses the futile War on Drugs, sports bodies are losing a similarly futile War on PEDs. I suspect this libertarian policy on doping will become the standard policy in just a few years. The result is that sports and athletics will resemble the Roman Colosseum and the Circus Maximus more than the Greek Olympics. Athletes will become Frankenstein monsters competing in spectacles for the amusement of fans like chickens in a gigantic cock fight.

People think the War on Drugs is about drugs when it is really about money. There are some people who will do anything to get money including selling poison to our children and murdering the competition and law enforcement. Similarly, PEDs are also about money. There are some people out there who will destroy their bodies and the spirit of sport for a massive pay day. This is one of the fundamental flaws of libertarianism. By erasing restraint, it gives license to the most ruthless among us. You may as well have a sport without rules at all.

Sports was corrupted by money long before steroids and EPO. I fully expect professional sports to continue down this road to spectacle and ruin. But what about the original spirit of sports as a test and practice of one's virtue? That can still be had. It is called the amateur ideal. If you strip the money from competition, you will also strip away the corruption. There should be competitions where no prize money is awarded. No athlete can wear sponsorship logos or be sponsored by a company. There will be no commercial televised coverage of sporting events. Once upon a time, this was how things were. But money has a corrupting influence such that even so called amateur sports like college football are tainted by the greenbacks.

C.S, Lewis put it best when he wrote, "We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst." This is the essence of libertarianism and the libertarian policy on doping. The belief is that PEDs will make the competition better and more spectacular. The reality is that it will merely become more vulgar and disgusting. Already, our athletes are little more than showman and clowns on the field and scoundrels and criminals off the field. We are already far down the road of making a mockery of sports. Perhaps the ultimate sign of this is the surging popularity of UFC which is one small step from being human dog fighting. Gladiators will return, and the spectacle will be bloody.


2. PRESENTED WITHOUT COMMENT

3. Q & A

Q: Are smartphones a fad that will end?

A: I feel like a fool for saying this, but I say yes. I've said this before, and I probably sound like a candle man cursing Edison's electric lights. Or, perhaps I am cursing disco. I am either ahead of my time or hopelessly behind the times. But my gut tells me that smartphones are more like the Bee Gees than the Beatles.

I hate smartphones. When I look out the window when I drive, I see fools driving at 70+ mph while tapping away at the screen of a smartphone behind the wheel. People have substituted social media for real social interaction. The complaint today is that smartphones create a sort of fatigue of always being online. Then, there are the simple facts that the ridiculous things break very easily, are outrageously expensive, expose you more readily to identity theft and invasion of privacy, have a short battery life, and on and on. I have yet to see the "smart" in a smartphone especially when most of the people using these things strike me as complete idiots.

Fads take hold because of their novelty. They are new and different and fun. Then, they fade out as the novelty and the fun wears off.

Smartphones are like a fad factory. The most recent fad is Pokemon Go. Before that, it was Flappy Bird, Angry Birds, Candy Crush Saga and various other time wasters. The iPhone is less of a phone than a glorified gaming device. It has the most in common with this device:

The Atari 2600 was a big deal when I was a kid. Before the Atari, you had Pong which was a dedicated gaming device to a single game. The 2600 was a platform for games, and it was a hit. Every kid either had one or wanted one. Then, those kids grew up, and those Atari game consoles vanished into closets and attics. Right now, I have an iPod touch collecting dust in my closet.

The Atari persisted for years and was replaced with more robust gaming systems from Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft. Some kids never grow up, so you now have the phenomenon of the man-boy playing these games into middle age. But for the rest of us, we stop playing games at some point.

People will argue that the smartphone is not a toy but a tool. Yes, it is true that you can talk, text, email, and browse the internet with smartphones. But Blackberry was the first one to bring this functionality to the world. Aside from business leaders and politicians, nobody cared to own one of those Blackberry devices. Yet, fans of Blackberry devices will tell you that they are insanely productive tools. Unfortunately, Blackberry is headed for the handset graveyard.


Steve Jobs's great innovation was to turn the smartphone into a game. The keyword is "apps." There are useful apps that have utilitarian functions. But for the most part, the appeal of the iPhone over the Blackberry was the ability to play stupid games. The stupidity of it all is best expressed in the most ridiculous thing to come from smartphone culture--the emoji:


People include these ridiculous hieroglyphs in texts to me, but my dumb phone will not render them. This is a blessing to me but also a sign of the Illiterate Apocalypse foretold by Neil Postman. The emoji best exemplifies the faddish nature of the smartphone. I think Facebook is also a fad that will fade like AOL before it. Facebook is the number one app for smartphones. That whole world reeks of an inevitable decline into obscurity.

New fads will replace the old fads, and this may be the smartphone's saving grace. Like television, it has the ability to generate brand new novelties. But then again, so did the Atari 2600. I now save my strongest argument yet that smartphones are a fad. It is this:


Can anything be more ridiculous than a smartphone plugged into a virtual reality headset? Can we not see the nakedness of this emperor with his buttocks exposed for the world to see? How can you not see this and know in twenty years it will be as ridiculous to us as this is now:


This fashion sense persisted for almost a decade along with disco. The point is that fads can persist for a long time and then vanish. But I also remember that during these times, there were those who resisted such foolishness. They would not get on the Disco Train. Today, it is the Smartphone Train.


The Drudge Report regularly runs stories of people who reject smartphones to go back to flip phones. People who use flip phones today are either seen as hopelessly outdated like your grandma with her Jitterbug or rebellious in their giving the finger to the smartphone fad such as when a teenager opts for a flip phone when her smartphone cracks to pieces in a sudden sidewalk collision. But the fact that such smartphone refuseniks make the news suggests to me that a coming backlash is in the works much like punk boiled underneath disco.

The counterargument is that smartphones are technology, and we cannot halt the march of technological progress. Now, I have never made this argument against cellphones or the internet. Those things will persist in much the same way that music persists long after the death of disco, grunge, and bebop jazz. But the death knell comes when people express fatigue. It begins as a trickle and then becomes a torrent. I have never felt or heard fatigue from people about the internet or flip phones. But I have heard much negativity about smartphones including from the people that use them. Fatigue replaces fun, and then the ride is over.

The flip phone is a classic. The fact that Motorola made reference to its classic Razr with its new line of smartphones only attests to this fact. And I was very amused when people wondered if the Razr was going to be reintroduced and were disappointed that it wasn't. What makes the flip phone a classic was its simplicity and durability. And they still make them. My company recently replaced its fleet of banged up flip phones with another fleet of flip phones. As for me, I love my flip phone. The flip phone is like the Fender Stratocaster or the Timex Watch. They don't need improvement. They just need replacement when the old ones break or wear out.







4. THINGS THAT NEED TO BE SAID

Smartphones are porn phones. Men use their smartphones for viewing pornography in privacy. Men who take their smartphones to the bathroom are porn addicted perverts.

5. JOKE OF THE WEEK

What did the Buddhist ask the hot dog vendor?
Make me one with everything.

6. QUOTABLE QUOTES

Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole worlds seems upset.
ST. FRANCIS DE SALES

Phones with numerical keypads worked best for dialing phone calls. Incidentally, phone calls tend to be the primary function of a phone. 'Smartphones' completely ignore these basic facts, resulting in some of the least intelligent devices I've seen yet. Oh the irony.
ASHLEY LORENZANA

The true friends of the people are neither revolutionaries, nor innovators, but traditionalists.
POPE ST. PIUS X

We ought not to endeavor to revise history according to our latter day notions of what things ought to have been, or upon the theory that the past is simply a reflection of the present.
RUSSELL KIRK

Turn your back on the deceiver when he whispers in your ear, "Why complicate your life?"
ST. JOSEMARIA ESCRIVA

Impartiality is a pompous name for indifference, which is an elegant name for ignorance.
G. K. CHESTERTON

I shoot the Hippopotamus with bullets made of platinum, because if I use the leaden one his hide is sure to flatten 'em.
HILAIRE BELLOC

If, when stung by slander or ill-nature, we wax proud and swell with anger, it is a proof that our gentleness and humility are unreal, and mere artificial show.
ST. FRANCIS DE SALES

I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.
DOROTHY DAY

I am a conservative. Quite possibly I am on the losing side; often I think so. Yet, out of a curious perversity I had rather lose with Socrates, let us say, than win with Lenin.
RUSSELL KIRK

7. ODDS AND ENDS

--Bruce Jenner's tranny show got cancelled. Good riddance.

--If you believe we are progressing, you are evil. If you believe we are regressing, you are good.

--A 40-hour week is merely a good start.

--Alex Jones is nuts but in the good way.

--Evil triumphs because people rot their brains with Facebook.

--Rumors say the Ailes exit will turn Fox News into CNN. That would be sad and stupid.

--The Roman Catholic Church needs to clean house on sodomite priests.

--I am eager for that Wikileaks October Surprise. Unfortunately, the world will be too occupied with Pokemon and porn to notice or care.

--A friend said that he expects that St. Josemaria Escriva will be declared a Doctor of the Church one day. I agree.

8. LINKS OF INTEREST













8.23.2016

The Day Job


The talentless job you're currently working for just to make money, while in the process of following the career path you are working on and that you actually really want.
URBAN DICTIONARY, day job definition

I have a day job. I use this term because this job is not a career. It is simply what I do to pay the bills. It does not command my passion. It does not contribute to any concepts of self-actualization. It merely feeds me, houses me, clothes me, and puts gas in my vehicle. I hate my day job but not because of the actual work I do. I actually like working, and I engage in labor that can be greater drudgery than the work that earns my paycheck. My hatred for the day job is because of the mismanagers who make each day of my working life a complete hell with their endless stupidity. It is never the work itself but the frustration of that work by people who do no work at all.

The opposite of the day job is the dream job. This is the job you wished you had getting paid to do what you love. You already do what you love, but it costs money instead of generating money. The dream is that this job would actually pay you enough to live on. Naturally, these dream jobs involve professional athletics, music, acting, and the arts. For some weird reason, dream jobs never pertain to the janitorial arts or the digging of ditches.

Dream jobs just don't pay the bills. For every millionaire Mick Jagger, there is one hundred or more people who sing better or who are better looking fronting unknown bands in bars around the world. The simple fact is that a guy like Jagger represents not someone with talent who achieved through hard work so much as a lottery winner who happened to pick the right numbers on his ticket.

My dream job would be working as a full time writer. The problem is that precious few writers can earn enough to pay the bills and this includes those with books on the bestseller lists. In fact, writers who don't write fiction have very little chance of being full time writers because their work can't be turned into movies which pay better than books. Then there are those writers who write full time by being journalists during the day and novelists at night and on weekends. This arrangement is probably worse than being a janitor who writes novels because the journalist must use his brain for the entire day while the janitor's thoughts are still his own.

Many of my writer heroes had day jobs. In fact, I think those day jobs provided inspiration and structure to their days. It definitely makes for a busy schedule and a hectic life, but I think that life is more fulfilling than merely working a job and watching four hours of television at night or writing four hours a day and watching eight hours of television in the evening.

I have come to reject certain ideas. One of those is the idea of retirement. I don't believe in retirement, and I have no intention of ever doing it. I want to work myself to death. Similarly, I reject the idea that you should do only one thing. I love wearing multiple hats. One of those hats is my day job. Another one of those hats is my writer's hat. Still another is my apostolate. Then, there is being a husband.

If I won the lottery, would I keep working my day job? That seems like an absurd question to ask. If I work for the money, having money would end the necessity of the day job. But I have to admit that I would not give up my day job for much the same reason that I would never retire. It amounts to the same thing. Winning the lottery makes it possible to retire early. I equate retirement with decay and rot. I will always work a day job though I might change my field of endeavor to something more challenging. Winning the lottery would afford me a chance to retrain. But the day job is a permanent part of my life.

Being a full time writer is an intriguing possibility except that I can't write full time. I have two to three days off each week, but I cannot write for an entire day on these days. Four hours is all that I have in me at any given time. Unlike my day job, the writing gig takes more energy out of me. I believe that sleep is more for the benefit of the brain than the body, and I find that writing drains me more than a 12+ hour day at work. On a day when I neither write nor work, I feel energized and fresh. Writing is work, and it is more intense than real work. If you doubt this, watch a typical university student procrastinate on writing his term papers.

Not having a day job would not increase my writing output. The problem I have in writing is not so much time as it is material. The day job gives me time to think about what I want to write next. I used to write way more than I do now, but that is because I got married. It was a good trade because being married has been the single best thing that has ever happened to me. Unfortunately, my wife can be a writer's widow during the time I work on my projects. But she has her projects she works on.

Having a day job negates the time I would spend watching ball games on television. I am always in a state of work. Everything I do has a seriousness about it. I don't have time for frivolous things. I don't understand how people can idle away time watching grown men play games. At the very least, you could spend that time playing that game and improving your health and fitness. Even a nap is more beneficial.

We fool ourselves with the notion that we would achieve more if only we had more time. But that is a myth as evidenced from the fact of all the time we waste now. If we are profligate in the small things, why should we be given the greater things?

All of these things make me more accepting of the day job. The day job earns me a living, but it also does something else for me. It keeps me from being lazy. Nothing is more perilous for the writer than success. Success makes it possible to do nothing. I embrace my day job. I don't embrace it the way someone embraces a career, but I do embrace as something more than just paying the bills. It refines me and strengthens me. Work is good for the body and the soul even if it is rarely pleasure.

As for self-actualization, all I can say is that I am not paid to play. This is what people want from a job. They want to be paid very handsomely for what amounts to play. One of these groups of people paid to play is the professional Catholic. The professional Catholic is a layperson who neither teaches in a university nor serves in any capacity except as a full time blogger, vlogger and/or podcast maker. These professional Catholics like to pass the hat for donations to keep doing what amounts to a hobby. They could do this stuff for free while holding down a day job because I do it for free while holding down a day job. I will call it what it is. It is laziness. It is getting paid to play.

I want to live more robustly, and I believe the day job is part of that program. I have never been fond of specialization, and I subscribe to the Renaissance Ideal. Pursue multiple projects. Do many things. My day job is me, but it is not all of me. It will always be me. I work. I am a worker. I want to work until the day I die. I want to work forever. Work is life. Idleness is death. I am grateful to God for the work He has given me. I give it back to Him with love.

8.21.2016

Over the Hills and Far Away


Many have I loved - Many times been bitten 
Many times I've gazed along the open road. 
Many times I've lied - Many times I've listened 
Many times I've wondered how much there is to know.
LED ZEPPELIN, Over the Hills and Far Away

There's not much I can say about this song. It has an acoustic/electric thing going on. It sounds like a happy song, and it rocks. But for some reason, this song is not up there like Stairway or Ramble On. My wife seems to like it as I watch her dance to the beat. Her taste in music tends towards the Soul/R&B side of things. Stevie Wonder does the trick for her. I'm more of a Black Sabbath guy.

Seeing the pictures of the flooding in Louisiana takes me back to the flood we had here in SC about a year ago. Those people will bounce back because the people here have already bounced back. I got through it unscathed because I don't live next to a creek or river.

Metallica has a new song out, and I don't like it. When I listen to the old Metallica stuff, I am surprised at how good it is. This would be the three albums that Cliff Burton played on. When that guy died, Metallica died with him. Nothing post-Burton ever matches that early stuff. I don't wish to give all the credit to Cliff, and I know that some of his influence carried through to the Justice album. One of my favorite songs from the Cliff days is Orion. It is instrumental and has the thrash riffs but also a classical tinge like something from Bach. It is also some of the best bass playing from Cliff Burton. That song is the best demonstration of the man's influence on the band. I imagine Burton sitting in the studio saying what was cool and what was not. When he died, that influence was lost, so cool and crap just went through to the final product.

Metallica has aspired and struggled to return to those glory days when they made really good music. I don't mean to be a critic because I appreciate how hard creative endeavors can be. I see the same frustrations with writers, painters, and other musicians. I also have them. You struggle to produce good stuff, but you are not always able to deliver. Metallica comes back from a five year hiatus, but we should call it what it is--creative exhaustion.

My thoughts have been on economics lately. As mentioned before, there is a fight in my brain between Distributism and the free market economics of the Acton Boys. Both are Catholic but disagree. Distributism has a greater claim to being faithful to magisterial teaching while the Acton guys are truer to the reality of the world. I think that God has put it on me to wrestle with these two schools and come to some firmer conclusion on things economic.

I have been frustrated for four years in my homesteading aspirations because of an inability to secure a suitable piece of property. This frustration is what makes me debate Distributism vs. Acton. I liken my desire to homestead to wanting to return to horseback riding as transportation in a world of automobiles and interstate highways. Now, this seems absurd to do in modern times until one day OPEC turns off the petroleum spigot. Then, riding a horse seems pretty smart.

Homesteading is about self-sufficiency. The free market is a great idea until you realize that we do not have a truly free market because of the Federal Reserve and Too Big to Fail. Most of the gold bug/libertarian/free market types on the internet are also big on prepping, survival, homesteading, and the rest. This looks exactly like Distributism. The problem with Distributism is that a reinflated real estate bubble makes it hard to acquire property needed to check out of our chaotic economy.

The simple fact is that both sides of the debate make really good points. And because of this, I can't decide who has the lock on the truth. I can dismiss Marx and Keynes, but I have a hard time dismissing Mises and Chesterton. I just need to read way more until I can come to some sort of resolution on these matters.

I have the Sunday blues now. I dread having to return to work tomorrow. My life is a perpetual grind.