Sunday, January 31, 2016

Tolkien on degraded language

I've been caught up in a discussion about foul language, and someone reminded me of this quote from J. R. R. Tolkien:

“But Orcs and Trolls spoke as they would, without love of words or things; and their language was actually more degraded and filthy than I have shown it. I do not suppose that any will wish for a closer rendering, though models are easy to find. Much the same sort of talk can still be heard among the orc-minded; dreary and repetitive with hatred and contempt, too long removed from good to retain even verbal vigor, save in the ears of those to whom only the squalid sounds strong.”

Pax et bonum

Saturday, January 30, 2016

What Would Jesus Do? Well ...

Back in the 1990s, the "What Would Jesus Do?" fad sprang up in Christian circles. Many people, particularly young folks, wore wristbands with WWJD? on them.

The question then - and now - is a valid one. What would Jesus do when it came to the poor, immigrants, the sick, the inmates, drug addicts, the unborn, the elderly? What would Jesus do when it came to charitable giving, and social and government polices?

That's all fine with me. I think we need to ask that question, and then carry out as best we can what Jesus would do.

But some people also used the saying as a way to water down moral and ethical teachings. They turned it into a phrase to help justify accepting, or at least not challenging, things the culture had begun to accept, and to turn Jesus in a "nice" smiling guy who forgave and accepted almost anyone and anything, and who would just go along.

What those people forgot is that Jesus did some other things that did not follow the "go along" mantra.

Jesus was not afraid to call the Scribes and Pharisees "hypocrites" when they deserved it.

Jesus cursed the fig tree that did not bear fruit, and it died.

Jesus confronted those who were desecrating the Temple, overturning tables and driving out people with a whip.

He told parables about the rich man neglecting the poor and going to hell, the bridesmaids who were unprepared and got locked out of the wedding, the man who showed up for the feast not wearing the right robes and getting tossed out into the night.

So ... what would Jesus do, for example, when it comes to those who support, or at least turn their heads, when it comes to policies that undermine the sanctity of life and marriage? What would He do when it comes to those who promote harsh treatment and even hatred for immigrants and Muslims and religious people sincerely trying to act based on their beliefs? What would He do when faced with those who put profits above people and politics above principles?


Pax et bonum

Brief Encounters

I like good writing. I like essays. This book - and the series of which it is part - satisfies both of these "likes."

In Brief Encounters: A Collection of Contemporary Nonfiction, editors Judith Kitchen and Dinah Lenney have gathered together some of the best recent short nonfiction - essays, reflections, pieces that border on poetry.

One of the nicest things about it is the variety. The writers deal with all sorts of issues and concerns in a variety of ways. Memories. Art. Mortality. Family. Travel. Nature. Illness. If you don't like one piece, turn a page or two and you will find something completely different that might appeal to you.

While I like the vast majority of the pieces, a few were not to my taste due to the writers having to make unnecessary sex related comments or using foul language - but fortunately these were the exceptions.

I already read the first in the series of such collections Kitchen helped to compile - In Short - and plan to read more of the collections.

Pax et bonum

Friday, January 22, 2016

America | Bernie Sanders - Dang

I'm not a Sanders supporter, but he does hold some positions with which I agree - no to the death penalty, for example, and he opposed the war in Iraq. (Yes, he is also pro-choice, so that works against him.)

But this is an effective ad. Positive. Not attacking anyone. Plus I love the song!

Pax et bonum

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Every Thing On It - A Posthumous Shel Silverstein

I stumbled across a more recent Shel Silverstein book I'd never seen before - Every Thing On It. I was surprised - after all, he died in 1999. And indeed it turned out is was a posthumous collection published in 2011.

It had many of the kinds of poems and drawings that helped to make him the best-known contemporary children's poet. Silly. Gross in a good way. Clever. Much to like.

But it also contained some poems that, frankly, I wondered if he would have included had he been around to compile this collection. I'd like to think he would have been more selective and perhaps written some new ones to take the place of the weaker ones.

That said, I enjoyed it. And the last poem in the collection was poignant.

When I am Gone     

When I am gone what will you do?
Who will write and draw for you?
Someone smarter—someone new?
Someone better—maybe YOU!

Pax et bonum

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Yes, that's I


Me at 17 - the fellow on the right with his leg up on the wall. I used to be thin and beardless!

Pax et bonum

Saturday, January 9, 2016

To sleep, perchance to dream

Another morning when I wake up long before the birds.

This sleep issue has become a problem - one I finally raised with my doctor.

Waking up repeatedly at night - 1:30 - 2 - 2:40 - 3:15 - and so on until I finally get up, night after night.  The wife says there are times when I don't sound as if I'm breathing, then I suddenly start and gasp.

I've noticed more and more the negative effects during the day. In the last few months, I've found myself nodding off when I sit down on coming home. In the car at red lights. At Mass. During meetings. The other day as I sat in the dentist's chair waiting for him to examine a broken tooth that's been bothering me, I started falling asleep.

I've even caught myself nodding off as kids were visiting me as Santa.

It has been increasingly difficult to read challenging works, to grade papers, to write - I lose focus, I fall asleep.

Now I have tried to find a positive in this. When I wake up in the middle of the night and wait for sleep to return, I often recite the Jesus Prayer - "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner." - over and over until I sleep. Sometimes I wake up reciting the words!

But still, I need sleep, so at my physical last week I described everything to the doctor. He said it certainly sounds like a sleep disorder, maybe sleep apnea. I'm scheduled to see a specialist, and it's likely I'll have to undergo testing.

It's possible the problem is indeed physical, and fixable. But I also wonder how much of it is mental. When I wake up repeatedly, my mind is often racing, with thoughts about things I did or failed to do or have to do, perceived slights, work or family worries, others' expectations, my own expectations. When I do dream, it's often dreams about something bad happening that I can't avoid or stop, such as being chased, or being trapped in a confined space like a narrow cave.

We'll see.

I'd like to get a few nights of uninterrupted sleep just to feel refreshed and to think clearly.

And to write.

Pax et bonum

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Christmas Swag - the last items

I've already listed the books and beer and mead - here's the last items, including another book!

Some friends who couldn't make it for Christmas came over for New Years - and brought me a book: Goodness and Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas.

I also got new slippers - needed - and four tee-shirts. One of the tee-shirts was Santa related - a d red one to wear under my suit. One was a Syracuse basketball jersey - maybe if I put it on yesterday they would have won? And two were Solanus Casey tee-shirts - he is my Franciscan patron, after all.

There were also assorted food items - a big tin of popcorn, and two --- TWO --- fruitcakes. Mmmm. Yes, I am one of those crazies who actually likes fruitcake.

Now, onward into the next year - including that diet. (How will all that beer and fruitcake fit in?)

Pax et bonum

Friday, January 1, 2016

Resolutions 2016

A new year - time for some resolutions!

1. Improve my prayer life. I need to do more, and to be more consistent. At the very least I need to start my day with prayer.

2. Weight. Yes, that same old one. But I am about 50 pounds above where I should be. My recent physical confirmed that, and the doctor noted that my weight could be linked to some of the other issues I'm having, including the sleep problems. Now if I lost a pound a week I'd be down where I belong by next Christmas. So ... cutting down on portions, reducing snacking between meals (especially candy and chips), no evening snacks, and getting some exercise beyond walking the dog. That's a start.

3. Less time on social media. Just check it and get out - and not get caught up in arguments, debates, etc.

4. Less time playing online games. I tend to waste a lot of time with those.

5. Read more. Spiritual works (especially Franciscan ones), classics, biographies of worthy models, etc. If I cut back on social media and games I will have more time to do so. Maybe this year I'll have more than 22 works on my list!.

All seems reasonable. Let's see how I do.

Pax et bonum