Friday, November 30, 2012

Silent Retreat

Alrighty so I am heading out of town on a silent retreat sponsored by the Diocese of Austin.  Which basically means from 6:30PM today till noon Sunday I will shut up.

Hey hey HEY!  Put down that champagne!

Anyway, no blog today.  But please pray for a friend whose mother passed away last week.  The funeral is today and the family is asking for prayers so I'm rounding them up.  Many thanks and have a great weekend.

The Management   

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A few thoughts on the last election

Now that people have beaten to death the results of the election and my allergies are starting to clear up I've decided to offer a few thoughts about the last political fracas.

First and foremost, while the electoral college paints a bleak picture (suddenly it is the friend of liberals everywhere and not the bogyman of 2000) the polls reveal a divided nation right down the middle for the most part.  Also worth mentioning that the Republicans offered quite possibly the only candidate that could lose to Obama and decided that he was their guy.  A most impressive display of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

That's all for inside politics.  The fallout however for Catholics faithful to the Church is more positive.  While the election itself is a disappointment for those of us who cherish liberty and religious freedom it has begun a great deal of soul searching amongst us.  Several things we learned this November, and a lot of people are taking the lessons to heart.

First and foremost the landscape of ideas are against us.  This has been true for some time but there was always this notion that if things were bad enough the fictitious "Moral Majority" would rise from slumber and oust the current rabble of politicians.  This election has demonstrated that such a majority does not exist, and it is wishful thinking to suggest that people who don't vote are going to suddenly participate in a system that they feel is broke.

The second is that we need to have a serious conversation with ourselves about how best to explain why freedom and especially religious freedom is so important.  The tide is against us as people simply don't seem to care that religious liberty in this country is under attack.  The "War on Women" propped up by the Left, ridiculous as the view was, worked. People either fell for it or simply didn't care.  Neither explanation holds hope for the future of our country.  

Finally one thing is for certain.  Evil is now out in force.  The world has decided it is time to put the screws to the followers of Christ.

It happens in every age.  Evil, when it is weak, seeks accommodation   Then when it is powerful, it seeks submission to itself.  It is a refreshing honesty, to be told that the State will not abide any other contenders for the title of King.  The naked use of force that the government is using to break the will of the Faithful is now a matter of routine.  Obviously it is not at the level of killing us for sport, but the march to marginalize, exclude, and shame believers into second-class citizens is in full swing.

Things will likely get worse from here on out.  The continuing trend of secularists to ignore and deny any attempt at accommodation is increasing.  The notion of conscience rights and the dignity of the believer is rapidly disappearing.  We are already being told that outside the home or Church we are not allowed to practice our Faith, either in business or politics.  And this line of thought is not open to cross-examination.

But the question is not if the Church will survive, but the State.  Should the State continue this self-destructive course it will only shatter to pieces against the Rock the Church is built on.  And then the Church will be there to pick them up.  The only real question is how much suffering will the Faithful have to undergo before the State collapses under its own dead weight.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The breakdown of the conversation

We see it all the time.  A particular group of people will believe something, and by virtue of believing that something believe that they are superior to those who disagree with them.  Simply by virtue of disagreeing with them.

Mark Shea writes a post about evolution as a metaphysical fig leaf.  While he is talking about another issue with New Atheism I notice a continuing trend in this us vs. them mentality that is exhibited by adherents of Darwinism.  The belief (seriously, belief is the word they use) in evolution that distinguishes the intelligent from the dangerous and unenlightened.

This coloring of people who disagree with them is not a new invention.  People have been doing it as long as there have been opinions (and for that matter people).  What is particularly striking is the fear and hatred that is being fomented now against those who don't hold evolution as the be all and end all of explanations.

 As we become more polarized and continue to isolate ourselves from the opinions of those we disagree with, two effects begin to emerge:

  • We become less able to defend our own ideas
  • We begin to fear the ideas that we disagree with
The first effect is due to laziness.  We only hang out with those who agree with us.  We only read that which we agree with.  Like Obama in the first debate, when you are surrounded by yes-men and sycophants you get soft.  Your ideas are not challenged.  You perceive yourself to be smarter than you are. 

This leads to a horrible inability to defend one's ideas.  The intellectual shallowness gives way to an emotional defensiveness that relies on ridicule and derision rather than engaging an actual position.  The ideas one holds become a part of one's identity.  Without a rational basis to defend such ideas, the adherent feels that they are being personally attacked when a disagreement arises.

The second point is more obvious.  If one cannot defend one's own ideas logically, it makes it almost impossible to understand let alone argue against the ideas of another.  This ultimately is why dialogue in this country is dead, and the ability to have an intelligent conversation as well.

Understanding another's views requires a deep understanding of one's own ideas and how they contrast with others.  This is something we are unable to do in modern discourse because we are not used to thinking about our own ideas very deeply.  The points of conflict where people disagree requires an exchange of diverging ideas, and often the core of the disagreement is rather up the chain of reason rather than the immediate disagreement.

We face a time where the ability to defend the rationality of the Catholic Faith is all the more important.  Presenting rational ideas to an irrational world may seem like an exercise in futility.  The human mind longs for reason even if our fallen natures would convince us to reject reason for the sake of immediate gratification.  This is why we labor to explain, defend and propose the Faith.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Okay well

allergies refuse to let up and so I have nothing to talk about.  So I'm calling it quits for this week until after the Thanksgiving holiday.  Seriously, I haven't felt well since two weeks ago and its getting worse.  Nothing serious but I'm tired all the time and my brain refuses to cooperate.

Thank you for your patience and hope to have posts up after the holiday.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Once again

feel horrible today.  Sorry for no blogging.  Hopefully I'll be back with posts for Monday and Wednesday before the Thanksgiving break.

Thank you for your patience.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Lazy minds

It is a strange thing that most modern conversations resemble fighting with strawmen rather than the actual exchange of ideas.  Most exchanges resemble attempts to defend one's own view rather than the attempt to exchange intellectual goods.  As a result the insulation of ourselves from ideas that are not our own continues and worsens.  

I think it has a lot to do with the intellectual shallowness that we moderns have with ideas.  Most of the arguing is a hyper-reflexive response to the fact that someone is challenging the ideas that one holds.  While we are used to our ideas challenged we are far more preoccupied with the opposition than with examining our own ideas.

I find this tendency exhibited in myself.  I am preoccupied at times with New Atheist shoddy arguments and complete inability to see religion beyond what Michael Flynn terms "Bill and Ted's Most Excellent Bible Shack."   They are completely incurious to the fact that most of their arguments aren't even on the same planet compared to what people actually believe.

But yet I find myself on occasion going to atheist sites or reading atheist arguments despite the fact that the only new things out there are just new distortions about religion in general, by which they usually mean Christianity, and Catholicism in particular.  Why would I do such a thing if I was convinced that these ignorant and usually vile people have nothing to offer?

I read my friend JC Sander's piece about reality and Hell for Ignitum Today and found this:
The conformity of the mind to reality is knowledge, and it is an innate desire. It is how the intellect responds to truth, which is in a sense the response of the soul to Truth, that is, to God. Truth, like reality, is something which transcends us—both truth and reality are among the transcendentals  That is, they are things which are outside or above and beyond us, things which are “more” than us, and thus which we can grasp only in part and not in whole.
I began to think about how it seemed to me that while we do desire to be right modern thought seems to go about this not by finding the best argument for one's view but by going out and destroying the competition.  Our preoccupation these days is not "Am I right?" but "others are wrong, here's why."

Intellectual shallowness is nothing new but it has reached critical mass in the modern age.  People don't know honestly why they hold the ideas that they do.  Look at any discussion and see who if anyone is actually defending their ideas vs. attacking ideas that are not theirs.  The lopsided trend toward the latter is obvious.

I know the reason why this is.  I do this all the time.  The reason why this is the case is because it is easier to attack an idea than it is to defend one.

Shooting down an idea requires no compromise on our part.  Nothing is at stake for the attacker.  All it requires is the ability to find holes in another's position.  It is a stance that requires nothing of us nor does it threaten to destabilize our view of the world if the attack fails.

Denying objective truth or its know-ability requires no cost to any of our ideas.  When one denies that truth can be knowable all one has to do is to destroy how people came to know the truths that they hold.  It is in short a way for a lazy mind to think it is thinking when all it is really doing is casting down others.

And to be honest this is what I do far too often, so I should know.  When I am preoccupied with what others are doing I am not doing what I should be doing.  Instead I am distracting myself from the work I should be doing.

So I will get back to that.

Monday, November 12, 2012

When Your Train of Thought is a Runaway

My mind works in overdrive sometimes.  Some days my mind will just continue to go on and on with no respite.  It interferes with my sleep and concentration can be difficult or even impossible.

Initially I thought in arrogance that this was just how geniuses thought.  A genius to my mind was simply someone who refused to let go of a problem until it was solved.  And so I just went with the flow even if that meant stress and anxiety over whatever I was pondering.

At this time I was also dealing with depression.  While I was working through the ideas and issues that caused me to be depressed I was finding that my mind still held on to thought patterns despite my best efforts to think in different ways.  Perceived slights from others and feelings of loneliness still haunted me regardless of the evidence in my life that such things were not true.

After much "pondering" I seemed to be out of ideas.  My mind continued to spin as I tried to find the answers to these riddles that kept turning over in my mind.  They appeared to be riddles without answer, and still I couldn't escape the conclusions that my mind reached.

But the grace of God at times will cut through the noise our minds make.  I don't remember exactly when it happened.  I cannot recall the exact moment.  But at one point I was presented with irrefutable evidence that my mind was not processing events properly.  The question finally emerged:  What if my mind is just not disciplined?

I came to realize that my thinking was not thinking at all.  There was to be sure "reasoning" to some degree.  But my thoughts always went down one track, as if it thought on its own and I was simply along for the crazy ride.  Because of my previous lack of discipline, I could not steer my mind to the truth.  It would not process new evidence, only reinterpret evidence to fit the existing view.

My mind was stuck on a one way track.  And it was a runaway train.  I had no control over it.  It thought, and I simply let it run roughshod over any and all evidence to whatever I saw.

The mind requires discipline.  Not just in terms of learning how to reason and follow a train of logic, but also to know when to quiet the mind and absorb information.  To learn when to relax and to learn when to engage.  Like our physical bodies the mind requires tempering and the will to train it properly.

Most importantly the discipline to know when to use the mind.  The mind requires rest like anything else.  A restless mind is just as bad as a lazy mind if not worse.  A lazy mind may perceive that it is lazy.  A restless mind is usually not aware that it is so.

Our thoughts and workings of our "brilliant" minds are not as impressive as we think they are.  Often they are a result of a lack of discipline.  Our digital age only aggravates this situation with instant access to information in bite sizes.  Darting from one thing to the next we don't take the time to process and digest what we have learned, if anything.

There are ways to discipline thought however.  This we will discuss later.  For now, simply know that our modern minds are not superior simply because we are moderns.  In fact, we could use some medieval thought discipline in our lives.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Day off today

I'm beat, and just got worked over in weightlifting class.  No thoughts in my head.  Have some ideas though so check back Monday.  Thanks for your patience!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


on Thursday!  Check back here tomorrow!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Heading toward the end

Mercifully the election will be over by this time Wednesday.  Dear God it has taken so long.  Yet if the trend continues the press will start wondering who is a viable candidate in 2016 before the swearing in ceremony.

Sadly neither outcome offers much solace.  While I hope Obama loses I'm not entirely sure what that would mean.  In theory it would mean that the HHS mandate would be killed before having to go through the lawsuits.  Also it would depose someone who is hostile to religious freedom and replace him with someone who is at least ambivalent about it.

For myself I'm old enough to remember when candidates seemed to at least have some divergence in viewpoints.  Nowadays that has all but disappeared.  Different faces, same bad ideas.  Yet one would think that we are worlds apart in this country.

It is tempting to give up on it all.  Many have done so.  Despite the "stakes" only half of voting age citizens vote these days.  Not surprising then that people are so disillusioned with American "values."

I honestly think this is causing some soft of existential crisis.  Chesterton said that America was the first nation to be founded on a creed.  If that creed turns out to be false, then who are we?

Not that other countries aren't experiencing such crises as well.  Islam's continued spiraling as it deals with its homicidal radicals in its midst while trying to figure itself out on the world stage is a haunting issue.  Secularist are ahead of the game in crisis as they imagine theocrats attempting to take over the world.

Economic crises typically force us to reevaluate what is actually important.  But I do wonder if we as a people have the knowledge to perform that reevaluation.  Catholics emphasize reconversion.  That everyday is a chance to recommit to Christ and the Truth.  Lent is set aside for precisely that.

But what if you don't have anything to recommit to?  Our culture has done away with God and truth.  We wax poetic at times about family and "the important things in life" but we don't seem to believe it ourselves.  We have severed our ties with the past, and in doing so seem to have crippled ourselves for the future.

I've always been far more of a pragmatist.  I typically follow idealists and work to make the dreams come true.  Idealists tend to not see the work ahead.  For pragmatists, that's all we see.  

There is always hope for Man, so long as he is alive.  The same is true for a country.  There is always time to turn around.  Our problem is we don't know where to turn back to.  We keep looking at the superfluous (relatively speaking).  The economy.  Jobs.  Education.  When all we are concerned is economic status, it isn't surprising that we cannot move forward.

To me the question is not how the election turns out but how will we as a country react.  I think either way tough times are ahead and we'd do best to prepare ourselves.  Personally I do not think that the average American citizen has the moral fortitude for tough times.  But then again maybe that is the point.  Through suffering comes strength, etc.

In any event, at least it will be over soon.

Friday, November 2, 2012

I have no idea

My mind is a complete blank today.  It might be that I am coming down with a cold that is making the rounds among work and family.  Or it might be the late night XCOM video game binge that I stayed up till two playing.  Yeah, that's probably it.

I find myself tired.  Work is kinda slow as we are prepping for the Texas Legislature to start the 83rd session soon.  I don't talk about my job too much as it is like every other programming job with some unique aspects of working for the state Legislature.  But this is a unique aspect as we are gearing up for supporting session.

I think I'm just tired.  Tired of the election.  Tired of the HHS mandate.  Tired of having to justify to hostile people that just because I believe in God doesn't mean I'm an idiot.  And that those who say I am are usually more worthy of the moniker.

I guess the thing that is crazy is how much hate, anxiety, and fear that exists today.  Everyone seems to have this impression that no matter what happens we are heading off a cliff.  Things just seem too big, too broken, too much damage that has been done.  We all seem to agree on this yet are at each others throats as to how to fix it.

In my mind it's because in order to fix it we have to give up how we live right now.  I have had this nagging feeling for a long time that the wealth and prosperity of Western Civ is an illusion.  The massive debt that we have seems to indicate that we have borrowed our children and our grandchildren's prosperity to keep the broken machine going just a little longer.

Sorry for the downer.  I am typically a "worst-case scenario" planner.  Not as a professional worrier (though I get that way when tired for long time) but that I derive comfort when having a plan based on how to react to the worst possible outcome.  But lately I see no bottom for our society.  Everyone seems to know that this society is going to go belly up yet no one knows what that actually means or what will happen when it does.

I've come to realize why Hope is a theological virtue.  It is something that God has to bestow on us through grace.  We can despair, and that is a sin.  But Hope is something that only God can give us, and Hope in Him is the only logical response to such a mess.

If there is one thing that has always indicated to me the Truth of Christianity is the complete and utter wreck that is humanity when it divorces itself from the Divine.  Our society has completely rejected God, and far from making us happy we are now in the midst of self immolation.  The people who throw God out of their lives seem most often to be the ones who are most unhappy.

I take comfort in the fact that if it were not for God I would not be where I am today.  Grace, when open to it, transforms lives.  When closed, it corrupts.  And like a person a nation, a culture, a society can close itself off to grace.  This closing of the culture is now bearing the evil fruit.

But if Christ gave Himself on the Cross for us, He must have seen something worth giving His life to save.  Christ did not offer His life out of a hopeless love, but one beaming with the Hope that is God.  If Christ is willing to do that, then I have no right to be so down.

Here's hoping the weekend is nice and quiet.