More Tradition

With much talk lately and my own curiosity/knowledge developing about Tradition, I went back and took a look at Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s words that helped convert me to find what I saw in him that I do not see in Pope Francis. Here are some words that I cannot see Francis offering:

 

After the tearing of the Temple curtain and the opening of the heart of God in the pierced heart of the Crucified, do we still need sacred space, sacred time, mediating symbols? Yes, we do need them, precisely so that, through the “image”, through the sign, we learn to see the openness of heaven.

 

And, sad to say, it seems like a lot of his defenders would also refuse to say this kind of thing, as if our traditions are superfluous, movable, not so much sacred as appreciable.

Again, Blame Yourself

This one goes out to feminists and women in general. With any segment of feminism, I’ll gladly admit men share a portion of the blame, and perhaps an even larger portion is typically to be holstered upon the back of the elite capitalists who’ve devised it all to the detriment of men and women.

Men have the tendency to forget the needs of women, or to never study them to begin with. This alone should drive many to anger and a massive overhaul within our society. But instead, men end up patting themselves on the back for acting in a way they think is manly, instead of seeking out the virtue in their manhood and by extension not putting too large a burden on women.

And capitalists have done more than enough to divide men from women until they each cling to whatever morsel of identity they have left. I can see no end to this until people decide to be men and women without defining themselves so promptly as employees and people who enjoy certain things. People need to define themselves as a composite of what they enjoy, what they’ve endured, and the virtues they desire to embolden within themselves. They cannot continue to think of themselves as people who do this or that work (for work is properly only a means towards a virtuous end). They cannot go on thinking that life is a lengthy fight to thwart all that makes them feel less than perfectly happy. For if they do think of themselves as employees and consumers they will ensure their employers remain forever in control over them.

With these mistakes abound, they will even regret one of the boldest and most virtuous adventures there is in life: having children. Thus, they have. To be sure, people have always toiled within themselves to deflate that bloated feeling that the children they have have been had mistakenly. However, abortion and capitalism really do the parent no good by inflating one’s head with potential destinies wherein a child doesn’t fit.

Within a culture where personal happiness (in the modern hedonistic, not virtuous, sense) is placed higher than devotion and the delayed gratification of sacrifice, you get women who are “consumed by boredom and dissatisfaction,” somehow unironically feel “like my life was basically a middle-class prison,” “fantasize about a life unburdened by dependents and free from the needs of others,” ruminate whether — having written one — they would’ve “written my second or third book?” or traveled “to chase that elusive story” because they feel “motherhood has slowed me down so much.” And it goes on. Without any visible notion of satire, the article quotes these women as if they were suffering a painful and common problem that hasn’t been talked about enough. One admittedly small German study indicated that “8 percent of its 1,200 participants regretted becoming parents” and yet the article’s author claims these women aren’t outliers.

Honestly, this is absurd. With all due respect, this is what happens when women console themselves. Sympathy has it’s values: understanding and advising people who are suffering is clearly a good thing that can prevent people from feeling alienated. But women becoming introspective and not saying enough is enough, at some point or another, is truly a virtuous impulse gone awry. Perhaps it’s the mother instinct in a hall of mirrors. Maybe I need to be corrected about this.

Looking at this situation, alongside others I’ve experienced in my own life, however, I don’t think that I am wrong. Call it mainsplaining and close the tab if you think that’s what tolerance is, but something here just sounds like soliloquy of sympathy, like one were being inundated in fresh air — like there was simply too much of a good thing.

Being critical about your own ability to be a mother can and has led many women to become even better mothers. Feeling like you aren’t really capable of doing anything without children, or even imagining what you want to do without them in your life can lead to figuring out how to be not only a better example but also a person with stronger, healthier habits. Hell, it can teach you how to deal with boredom and the lies you tell yourself, two problems the young find no end to.

A few of the accounts in the article sound like outright envy. Envy and jealousy are always impulses better dealt with by addressing one’s lack of humility, that is: a lack of accepting and appreciating one’s own strengths and gifts. That has always been the best choice for someone suffering depression. It will forever remain the best thing to do when bored — for believing one has nothing to do can always mean taking the time to appreciate or better what you have done.

I admitted earlier that this is not always a woman’s fault. Men indeed neglect their wives a lot — with one of the mothers, the husband and her split up. Capitalism has also seen a recent profiteering in the market of people’s boredom and self-loathing: traveling and exploring have become popular as never before, makeup and beauty products promote youthful appearances to those long beyond their youth, the promise that working and earning more can mean more freedom is on display everywhere, etc.

This is all true and atrocious. Men have to step up and be better husbands and before that better men. I ask the reader to not discredit my sentiment on the matter, for it is a serious topic I wish to tackle later and with as much gravitas as a man’s shoulders can hold. Capitalism I will rebuke nearly as often as I pray an Ave.

As for the present, it must be emphasized that women have to stop accepting lies about their womanhood. Their strength is misrepresented as rudeness; their passion for caring as an obsession with pleasing others; their beauty as youth; their freedom as employment; their purer longing for intimacy as the exploited enjoying their exploitation. Forgive me for sounding like all sorts of the typical Republican which I am not, but there has to be some personal responsibility taken in how women live their lives. Indeed their bodies are the products choices, so women must take another long and critical look at what it means to be born a woman, and embrace that fact.

No Door to the Mansion

Our politicians are corporate lapdogs for the same reason so many Americans think technology and better products means real progress. Neither plenty of Americans nor our politicians are willing to consider a future without depending on corporations.

Mention to any politician that corporations are often very pleased with their policies and much more so than the average person, and they will probably say something is not right there. Perhaps as often or more, they will say that corporate interests are better for America.

Mention to the average citizen that they will have to give up their cell phone, tv, cable, internet, ability to travel, and many of their comforts if we got rid of our dependence on corporations, and they will deny that we have to depend less on corporations in order to control or rescind some of their power. They’ll instead talk about higher taxes or getting the money out of politics.

With this predicament, we will likely not get rid of corporate control because we don’t really want to. The left will be up in arms about this or that scandal, and then shout with joy to the heavens whenever a corporation publicly supports some leftist cause. The right will say the government should dial back it’s own powers, especially its interference with the market, and then bite their tongue when the disobedient elite exploits whatever freedoms they already have. And around we go, everyone complaining about the same problem — inordinate power concentrated beyond the reach of the people — and then nothing will change because the root of the problem is not addressed.

Here is another pertinent Chesterton quotation:

A man so desperately ill that he cannot be cured without an operation may have been so affected by a nervous breakdown that he cannot withstand the shock of an operation. His position is in some measure analogous to that of a nation which has accepted an artificial mode of life and has lost desire for recovery. In the one case the doctors must deal with the nervous breakdown and then operate. In the other the minds of men must change before they can improve their habits.

No good purpose can be served by minimising, certainly not by ignoring this condition, which is largely responsible for the helplessness of so-called leaders and the success of subversive teachers. Those who want to find the way to victory must therefore be patient as well as determined, must preach perhaps a little more actively than they engage personally in normal work.

It is as Phil Elverum sang, “We built walls, tall and solid, between the treasure and the shovel.” Yes, you should blame yourself. And as you blame yourself, I advise decreasing the width between both ends of all the things you need. That’s how we begin to imagine and create a future without corporations. The dependence did not jump from widespread poverty to the present commonness of technology, so we cannot return or advance to a place with less corporate influence, power, and consummables without an equally slow, or at least inexorably more arduous, effort towards needing less of what we think we need.

To do or not to do

God does not desire that we enjoy anything but doing the right thing. At times this may mean working for the right thing, other times it may mean suffering wrongdoings. But it shall never mean meandering or embracing chaos. I think about those who enjoy the dating game. Surely Satan couldn’t manifest a more loyal lot. Kidding.

Some times one has to just put their head down and work. I challenge any Protestant to prove that this act is not the sincerest form of faith made visible by a human being. With no certainty except that one may please God in the end, we take to doing such things as suffer terrible dates, studying to enter a certain career, entering seminary/a monastery/nunnery, read the Bible, pray the Rosary, attend Mass, and so on. God bless whoever feels God’s grace upon them even as they do these things, but I usually don’t. I have no consolation except that God may, may, look on me with approval. I’ve had enough arguments with friends throughout every period of my life to know I can’t really find a voice of approval among the terrestrial, I’ve formed enough regret to know I should have done something I knew was right to know I have to distrust my own feelings and put my faith in Something. I cannot rely on whether I get what I want or feel good about what’s going on.

On the Book of Job, Chesterton writes this:

“If prosperity is regarded as the reward of virtue it will be regarded as the symptom of virtue. Men will leave off the heavy task of making good men successful. They will adopt the easier task of making out successful men good.”
What Chesterton is saying is that virtue is something higher, more important than success. Success may only come after the fact, if it should ever come at all. One has to separate virtue from the successful if one is to ever put either in their proper place with proper proportion.

Materialism in the Pews

Rorate Caeli, a fine blog for any Catholic, put up a post including Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s forward to a book about liturgy. At root, it’s more or less the same thing that has been said: reform of the reform and keep God at the center. It did have a nice bit appending an idea that I’ve had from time to time, that nothing for the Church, let alone any nation where She is present, will change until we really recover what has been lost in the Liturgy. Until the primary form of worship and prayer that Catholics undertake becomes filled with the sacred, not the contemporary or novel, we shouldn’t expect anything to change. This point may bear worth stressing in a later post, but for now I’ll focus on a perhaps offensive claim: believing one must understand Mass entirely smacks of materialism.

Catholics, especially the traditional kind, are familiar with relativism and enjoy the comforts of blaming it for everything. They know that the way people think exclusively in terms of their own truth suggests they only believe in the sensible. And they know this disposition is properly called materialism, the doctrine that only what can be observed, studied, measured, and sensed is real.

Where Mass is concerned, I wish to suggest that the belief that Mass is there primarily to serve as a form of worship which the congregation should never be confused or given reason to re-examine their own interpretations is indeed materialism. Not as much materialism as the atheist’s, for Catholics indeed are at Mass because they believe there is more to reality than the measurable.

Still, I maintain there is at least a real hint of materialism. The language of Mass, the songs, the prayers, and even the vestments have become easier to swallow, less symbolic and thereby easier to understand. I don’t even know what meaning there is to any of the more modern vestments priests wear, but I know the meaning is not as deep (historically and theologically) as what priests wear in the Tridentine Mass, especially not when these modern vestments look a lot like what non-Catholic preachers and priests wear.

The mysteries, in short, remind us not only that we aren’t aware of all of reality, but that there is more to it than we can understand — and yet believing is still good. This is the latest idea to pop into my head in a series that is leading me to think about an inseparable union between faith and action, a union which requires the former to properly perform the latter. Faith is much more of a temperament. The Protestants get this and only this right. If Faith were not a temperament or orientation, if it were not something much deeper than action, something that leads action, then I don’t know how both St. Therese, the “little flower”, and St. Jerome, what with his temper, could both end up in Heaven.

Immigration is Gentrification

Said I once upon a time, much to the chagrin of some and the perplexity of others. I’d still like to elaborate on that some time, but for now, I’ll offer these, in the hopes of perpetuating the mystery:

“Comin’ up is just in me
But the Black community is full of envy
Too much back-stabbin’
While I look out the window I see all the Japs grabbin’
Every vacant lot in my neighborhood
Build a store, and sell their goods”

There’s a clear enough example of what I mean. Closer to the reality, those lines by Ice Cube suggest that people from outside of a community enter it and “build” it in a way that may conflict with the interests and progress of those in the community. Things like that end up creating racial tensions within a community as well.

The following is less an outright declaration of a community being infiltrated by outsiders, but is more an expression of love for one’s imperfect home that you’d find in a folk song about the country side. Perhaps it’s because Scarface is from Texas.

“On my block–it’s like the world don’t exist
We stay confined to this small little section we living in
Oh my block, I wouldn’t trade it for the world
Cause I love these ghetto boys and girls
Born and raised on my block”

Education as a success (pt. 2)

Previously I said we ought to remark education as a success instead of the popular notion, oddly an almost universal response to many of our current institutions, that it is a failure. I think I got my point across as entirely as I gathered it. Modern schools should be considered for whether they teach students enough, but at the same time, if they are to ever change for the better, we ought to concern ourselves with whether they achieve precisely what their reformers desire.

Today, for another nice redaction the Good Lord has provided to an idea of mine, I read these words from Chesterton in what I’m deeply considering may be my favorite non-fiction book (surpassing Lasch’s The True and Only Heaven) What’s Wrong With the World in chapter X: The Case for the Public Schools.

The word success can of course be used in two senses. It may be used with reference to a thing serving its immediate and peculiar purpose, as of a wheel going around; or it can be used with reference to a thing adding to the general welfare, as of a wheel being a useful discovery. It is one thing to say that Smith’s flying machine is a failure, and quite another to say that Smith has failed to make a flying machine. Now this is very broadly the difference between the old English public schools and the new democratic schools. Perhaps the old public schools are (as I personally think they are) ultimately weakening the country rather than strengthening it, and are therefore, in that ultimate sense, inefficient. But there is such a thing as being efficiently inefficient. You can make your flying ship so that it flies, even if you also make it so that it kills you. Now the public school system may not work satisfactorily, but it works; the public schools may not achieve what we want, but they achieve what they want. The popular elementary schools do not in that sense achieve anything at all. It is very difficult to point to any guttersnipe in the street and say that he embodies the ideal for which popular education has been working, in the sense that the fresh-faced, foolish boy in “Etons” does embody the ideal for which the headmasters of Harrow and Winchester have been working. The aristocratic educationists have the positive purpose of turning out gentlemen, and they do turn out gentlemen, even when they expel them. The popular educationists would say that they had the far nobler idea of turning out citizens. I concede that it is a much nobler idea, but where are the citizens? I know that the boy in “Etons” is stiff with a rather silly and sentimental stoicism, called being a man of the world. I do not fancy that the errand-boy is rigid with that republican stoicism that is called being a citizen. The schoolboy will really say with fresh and innocent hauteur, “I am an English gentleman.” I cannot so easily picture the errand-boy drawing up his head to the stars and answering, “Romanus civis sum.” Let it be granted that our elementary teachers are teaching the very broadest code of morals, while our great headmasters are teaching only the narrowest code of manners. Let it be granted that both these things are being taught. But only one of them is being learned.

It is always said that great reformers or masters of events can manage to bring about some specific and practical reforms, but that they never fulfill their visions or satisfy their souls. I believe there is a real sense in which this apparent platitude is quite untrue. By a strange inversion the political idealist often does not get what he asks for, but does get what he wants. The silent pressure of his ideal lasts much longer and reshapes the world much more than the actualities by which he attempted to suggest it. What perishes is the letter, which he thought so practical. What endures is the spirit, which he felt to be unattainable and even unutterable. It is exactly his schemes that are not fulfilled; it is exactly his vision that is fulfilled. Thus the ten or twelve paper constitutions of the French Revolution, which seemed so business-like to the framers of them, seem to us to have flown away on the wind as the wildest fancies. What has not flown away, what is a fixed fact in Europe, is the ideal and vision

The many, swiftly engendered reforms in testing or curricula come and go at the pronouncement that what came before failed, but overall, the ideology behind these educational reforms has remained the same: technocratic and anti-democratic, obsessed with progress and unconcerned with what’s been proven viable by experience. The product is as I said before, students who become adults with little virtue, or what virtue they’ve had they could have gotten just by being alive and not enrolled in school. I think many college professors would look at college students and say education has in some cases reduced the virtue of students. I know some parents must feel that way, sending their kids to school for 15 years or so and they grow up to be a stranger.

The problem is wider than the fences bordering our schools, but if schools are to be taken seriously — if I’m supposed to fear Betty DeVos like Hell itself — I think it needs to be abundantly clear that the project of educating minds is taken seriously and viewed for what it is, tradition, or the handing on of what is worth knowing.