Saturday, August 29, 2009

Kennedy Funeral

I'm disgusted but not surprised.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Ricardus III Anglorum Rex Requiescat in Pace

". . . King Richard left Nottingham and marched to Leicester, arriving there on the 19th of August. Here he gathered his army. Two days later he marched out to meet Henry Tudor at Bosworth Field on the 22nd of August. Here he fought his last battle, supported by the Duke of Norfolk, who was killed, but betrayed by Thomas Lord Stanley and his brother Sir William Stanley, whose sudden switch to Tudor's side at a crucial moment lost Richard the battle and his life." (Richard III; The Road to Bosworth Field, P. W. Hammond and Anne F. Sutton. London: Constable, 1985; p. 214)

"The York City Council had (slightly inaccurate) reports of the battle on the day after it was fought. In their own Minutes they provided Richard III with a lasting epitaph.

"On the 22nd day of August Anno Domini 1485 at Redemore near Leicester there was fought a battle between our Lord King Richard III and others of his nobles on the one part, and Harry Earl of Richmond and others of his followers on the other part. In this battle the foresaid King Richard in the third year of his reign, John Duke of Northfolc . . . .

"Tuesday the vigil of St. Batholomew,
that is 23rd August in the year etc., the throne being vacant
We assembled in the counsaill chamber, where and when it was shewed by diverse persones and especially by John Sponer send unto the feld of Redemore to bring tidinges from the same to the citie that king Richard late mercifully reigning upon us was thrugh grete treason . . . piteously slane and murdred to the grete hevynesse of this citie . . . ." (op cit., p.223)

One interesting thing about this 524-year-old story is that Lord Stanley was married to Margaret Beaufort, who was -- Henry Tudor's mother.

Another is that Shakespeare's "Richard Crookback" was written during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, who happened to be -- Henry Tudor's granddaughter.

A third is that had Richard won the battle, there very probably would have been no Henry VII or Henry VIII, thus no split of the Church in England from Rome.

And a fourth, which ought to surprise no one, is that this kind of lying and character-blackening goes on even today.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

G.K.C. on the early Church

These quotes are from The Everlasting Man and I think we need to remember them these days, when the Usual Suspects are talking about umbrellas, big tents, inclusivity, common ground, and so on. (Emphases are mine.)

The life of the great civilisation [Rome] went on with dreary industry and even with dreary festivity. It was the end of the world, and the worst of it was that it need never end. A convenient compromise had been made between all the multitudinous myths and religions of the Empire; that each group should worship freely and merely give a sort of official flourish of thanks to the tolerant Emperor, by tossing a little incense to him under his official title of Divus. Naturally there was no difficulty about that; or rather it was a long time before the world realised that there ever had been a trivial difficulty anywhere. The members of some Eastern sect or secret society or other seems to have made a scene somewhere; nobody could inagine why. The incident occurred once or twice again and began to arouse irritation out of proportion to its insignificance. It was not exactly what these provincials said; though of course it sounded queer enough. They seemed to be saying that God was dead and that they themselves had seen him die. This might be one of the many manias produced by the despair of the age; only they did not seem particularly despairing. They seemed quite unnaturally joyful about it, and gave the reason that the death of God had allowed them to eat him and drink his blood. According to other accounts God was not exactly dead after all; there trailed through the bewildered imagination some sort of fantastic procession of the funeral of God, at which the sun turned black, but which ended with the dead omnipotence breaking out of the tomb and rising again like the sun. But it was not the strange story to which anyone paid any particular attention; people in that world had seen queer religions enough to fill a madhouse. It was something in the tone of the madmen and their type of formation. They were a scratch company of barbarians and slaves and poor and unimportant people; but their formation was military; they moved together and were very absolute about who and what was part of their little system; and about what they said, however mildly, there was a ring like iron. Men used to many mythologies and moralities could make no analysis of the mystery, except the curious conjecture that they meant what they said. All attempts to make them see reason in the perfectly simple matter of the Emperor's statue seemed to be spoken to deaf men. It was as if a new meteoric metal had fallen on the earth; it was a difference of substance to the touch. Those who touched their foundation facied they had struck a rock.

With a strange rapidity, like the changes of a dream, the proportions of things seemed to change in their presence. Before most men knew what had happened, these few men were palpably present. They were important enough to be ignored. People became suddenly silent about them and walked stiffly past them. We see a new scene, in which the world has drawn its skirts away from these men and women and they stand in the centre of a great space like lepers. The scene changes again and the great space where they stand is overhung on every side with a cloud of witnesses, interminable terraces full of faces looking down towards them intently; for strange things are happening to them. New tortures have been invented for the madmen who brought good news. That sad and weary society seems almost to find a new energy in establishing its first religious persecution. Nobody yet knows very clearly why that level world has thus lost its balance about the people in its midst; but they stand unnaturally still while the arena and the world seem to revolve around them. And there shone on them in that dark hour a light that has never been darkened; a white fire clinging to that group like an unearthly phosphorescence, blazing its track through the twilights of history and confounding every effort to confound it with the mists of mythology and theory; that shaft of light or lightening by which the world itself has struck and isolated and crowned it; by which its enemies have made it more illustrious and its own critics have made it more inexplicable; the halo of hatred around the Church of God.

(Doubleday Image Books edition, 1955, pp. 164-166)

It is the same with all the modern attempts at Syncretism. They are never able to make something larger than the Creed without leaving something out. I do not mean leaving out something divine but something human; the flag or the inn or the boy's tale of battle or the hedge at the end of the field. The Theosophists build a pantheon; but it is only a pantheon for pantheists. They call a Parliament of Religions as a reunion of all the peoples; but it is only a reunion of all the prigs. Yet exactly such a pantheon had been set up two thousand years before by the shores of the Mediterranean; and Christians were invited to set up the image of Jesus side by side with the image of Jupiter, of Mithras, of Osiris, of Atys, or of Ammon. It was the refusal of the Christians that was the turning-point of history. If the Christians had accepted, they and the whole world would have certainly, in a grotesque but exact metaphor, gone to pot. They would all have been boiled down to one lukewarm liquid in that great pot of cosmopolitan corruption in which all the other myths and mysteries were already melting. It was an awful and an appalling escape. Nobody understands the nature of the Church, or the ringing note of the creed descending from antiquity, who does not realize that the whole world once nearly died of broad-mindedness and the brotherhood of all religions.

(Pp. 176-177)

We have already noted that this paradox appeared also in the treatment of the early Church. It was important while it was still insignificant, and certainly while it was still impotent. It was important solely because it was intolerable; and in that sense it was true to say that it was intolerable because it was intolerant. It was resented, because, in its own still and almost secret way, it had declared war. It had risen out of the ground to wreck the heaven and earth of heathenism. It did not try to destroy that creation of gold and marble; but it contemplated a world without it. It dared to look right through it as though the gold and marble had been glass.

(Pp. 180-181)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Attila the Hun

Just the other night I was rereading Dr. Wess Roberts' book Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun, which was published in 1989, and which makes for interesting reading in these times, such as where Attila links authority with responsibility, or remarks that the first goal for every Hun chieftain is the good of the nation.

It is a historical fact that Attila was all set to invade and sack Rome about AD 452, and was met one-to-one by Pope Leo I. What was said between them is lost to history, but Attila did turn back.

The punch line is the one leadership rule Dr. Roberts didn't make explicit:

When the Pope talks, obey him!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Great Stuff from G.K.C.

This is from "The Suicide of Thought" in Orthodoxy; I still have the copy I bought about 1964 (The next copy I buy I'll just underline everything). Here it is:

This last attempt to evade intellectualism ends in intellectualism, and therefore in death. The sortie has failed. The wild worship of lawlessness and the materialist worship of law end in the same void, Nietzsche scales staggering mountains, but he turns up ultimately in Tibet. He sits down beside Tolstoy in the land of nothing and Nirvâna. They are both helpless -- one because he must not grasp anything, and the other because he must not let go of anything. The Tolstoyan's will is frozen by a Buddhist instinct that all special actions are evil. But the Nietzscheite's will is quite equally frozen by his view that all special actions are good; for if all special actions are good, none of them are special. They stand at the cross-roads, and one hates all the roads, and the other likes all the roads. The result is -- well, some things are not hard to calculate. They stand at the cross-roads.

* * *

. . . I can see the inevitable smash of the philosophies of Schopenhauer and Tolstoy, Nietzsche and Shaw, as clearly as an inevitable railroad smash could be seen from a balloon. They are all on the road to the emptiness of the asylum. For madness may be defined as using mental activity so as to reach mental helplessness, and they have nearly reached it. He who thinks he is made of glass, thinks to the destruction of thought; for glass cannot think. So he who wills to reject nothing, wills the destruction of will; for will is not only the choice of something, but the rejection of almost everything. And as I turn and tumble over the clever, wonderful, tiresome, and useless modern books, the title of one of them rivets my eye. It is called "Jeanne d'Arc" by Anatole France. I have only glanced at it, but a glance was enough to remind me of Renan's "Vie de Jésus." It has the same strange method of the reverent sceptic. It discredits supernatural stories that have some foundation, simply by telling natural stories that have no foundation. Because we cannot believe in what a saint did, we are to pretend that we know exactly what he felt. But I do not mention either book in order to criticise it, but because the accidental combination of the names called up two startling images of sanity which blasted all the books before me. Joan of Arc was not stuck at the cross-roads, either by rejecting all the paths like Tolstoy, or by accepting them all like Nietzsche. She chose a path, and went down it like a thunderbolt. Yet Joan, when I came to think of her, had in her all that was true either in Tolstoy or Nietzsche, all that was even tolerable in either of them. I thought of all that is noble in Tolstoy, the pleasure in plain things, especially in plain pity, the actualities of the earth, the reverence for the poor, the dignity of the bowed back. Joan of Arc had all that and with this great addition, that she endured poverty as well as admiring it; whereas Tolstoy is only a typical aristocrat trying to find out its secret. And then I thought of all that is brave and proud and pathetic in poor Nietzsche, and his mutiny against the emptiness and timidity of our time. I thought of his cry for the ecstatic equilibrium of danger, his hunger for the rush of great horses, his cry to arms. Well, Joan of Arc had all that, and again with this difference, that she did not praise fighting, but fought. We know that she was not afraid of an army, while Nietzsche, for all we know, was afraid of a cow. Tolstoy only praised the peasant; she was the peasant. Nietzsche only praised the warrior; she was the warrior. She beat them both at their own antagonistic ideals; she was more gentle than the one, more violent than the other. Yet she was a perfectly practical person who did something, while they are wild speculators who do nothing. It was impossible that the thought should not cross my mind that she and her faith had perhaps some secret of moral unity and utility that has been lost. And with that thought came a larger one, and the colossal figure of her Master had also crossed the theatre of my thoughts.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

August 6

On this day in 1945, when I was two years, one month, and twenty-seven days old -- counting from probable date of conception, of course -- Hiroshima was hit by the first atomic bomb used in warfare.

On this day in 2009, Sonia Sotomayor was confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court.


Saturday, August 1, 2009

Same Shit Different Enemy

Here are a quote or two from a novel published in 1940, when America was hotly debating whether or not to get into the War, and the German-American Bund (Nazis by another name) had a lot of influence here and there. The first speaker is Newt Haskins, Sheriff of Dade County:

"Son," he remarked, "it's always been a policy of the law in this country to let bad little boys alone when they want to play. We let these bunches o' tin soldiers march an' drill around in our peaceful country, an' wave their swastikas, an' Heil Hitler, and make the goddamdest dirty cracks about democracy, on account of it's the policy of democracy to let everyone shout his own opinions, even when it's his opinion that nobody who don't agree with him ought to be allowed even to whisper what he thinks. We let 'em tear hell out of the Constitootion on account of the Constitootion says anybody can tear anything out of it he wants to. We let 'em use all the freedom that the founders of this country gave their lives to give us, to try an' take that freedom away. We're so plumb scared of gettin' accused o' bein' the same as they are that we even let 'em train an' arm a private army to put over their ideas, rather 'n give 'em the chance to say we denied them the liberty they want to take away from us. That's why we're the greatest country in the world, an' everybody else laughs 'emselves sick lookin' at us."

The second speaker is a young European woman railing at the hero of the story:

"For three months I've let myself be pawed by Randolph March and leered at by Heinrich Friede. I've pretended to sympathise with a philosophy that stinks to high heaven. I've let myself gloat over the invasion of peaceful countries and the bombing of helpless women and children and the enslaving of one nation after another. I've made myself laugh at the slaughter of my own people and the plundering of Jews and the torture of concentration camps."


"Friede stood with the immobility of a carving in Saxon stone, yet his stillness he epitomised all the qualities that had been developed and glorified in the system which he represented -- the crude driving force and brutality of the Vandals who had left their tribal name to posterity as a synonym for the destroying barbarian, fatefully combined with an infinitude of patient and painstaking and pitiless cunning that the Mongol invaders had left Eastern Europe for a legacy that was to filter westwards and lend its aid to a greater shambles than Genghis Khan ever aspired to."

More narrative:

"Simon saw him without pity, even with an arctic and eternal satisfaction. For what March had been and what he had done there could be no excuse that could stand up to judgement, for what he suffered on account of it there could be no sympathy that was not maudlin; and in a world where civilization was fighting for its very life there was no room for such inanities. It was that kind of vacuous sentimentality which had allowed the powers of the jungle to grow strong -- that perverse broadmindedness which insisted on acknowledging every argument for the other side while discounting all the irrefutable evidence on its own side, which strained every nerve to make excuses for a murderer while it pigeonholed the sufferings of the victims who did not need any excuse. It was against such injustices masquerading under the namke of Justice that [Simon] had always wages his relentless battle; and now at this time he was glad that Randolph March had to suffer even a fraction of what had been suffered by the men and women and children who had been crushed under the juggernaut to which he had freely given his aid."

Sheriff Haskins again:

"Well, son, it's like this. A lot o' strange critters bed down together peaceable-like when a panther's on the prowl. Let 'em get to fightin' too much among themselves, an' the crazy cat will gollop 'em all. Take rabbits, now." The Sheriff filled his glass again and smiled ruminatively. "I reckon if enough rabbits ganged up together an' got properly mad, they could put a bobcat on the run. Most times the folks in this country are homelovin' an' peaceable as rabbits -- but it seems to me that the time for a little gangin' up an' gettin' mad has more 'n come."