Archive for October, 2011

October 31, 2011

some found this by far the most amusing part

The King of the Gold Mines was not less noble and splendid; it was easy to see by his face how happy he was, and everyone who went near him returned loaded with presents, for all round the great banqueting hall had been arranged a thousand barrels full of gold, and numberless bags made of velvet embroidered with pearls and filled with money, each one containing at least a hundred thousand gold pieces, which were given away to everyone who liked to hold out his hand, which numbers of people hastened to do, you may be sure–indeed, some found this by far the most amusing part of the wedding festivities.

From “The Yellow Dwarf” in The Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang (p. 25).

October 29, 2011

defiance against any claim by the current regime

Prayer has to be a response to what God has said. The worshiping congregation – hearing the Word read and preached, and celebrating it in the sacraments – is the place where I learn how to pray and where I practice prayer. It is a center from which I pray. From it I go to my closet or to the mountains and continue to pray. A second thing about praying in community is that, when I pray in a congregation, my feelings are not taken into account. Nobody asks me when I enter the congregation, “How do you feel today? What do you feel like praying about?” So the congregation is a place where I’m gradually learning that prayer is not conditioned or authenticated by my feelings. Nothing is more devastating to prayer than when I begin to evaluate prayer by my feelings, and think that in order to pray I have to have a certain sense, a certain spiritual attentiveness or peace or, on the other side, anguish. That’s virtually impossible to learn by yourself. But if I’m in a congregation, I learn over and over again that prayer will go on whether I feel like it or not, or even if I sleep through the whole thing.

…Prayer is subversive activity. It involves a more or less open act of defiance against any claim by the current regime…. [As we pray,] slowly but surely, not culture, not family, not government, not job, not even the tyrannous self can stand against the quiet power and creative influence of God’s sovereignty. Every natural tie of family and race, every willed commitment to person and nation is finally subordinated to the rule of God.

Eugene H. Peterson from an interview with Rodney Clapp published in a forward to Peterson’s book, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction.

October 28, 2011

planting still other seeds

The person … who looks for quick results in the seed planting of well-doing will be disappointed. If I want potatoes for dinner tomorrow, it will do me little good to go out and plant potatoes in my garden tonight. There are long stretches of darkness and invisibility and silence that separate planting and reaping. During the stretches of waiting there is cultivating and weeding and nurturing and planting still other seeds.

By Eugene H. Peterson from an interview with Rodney Clapp published in a forward to Peterson’s book, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction (under the heading Traveling Light).

October 27, 2011

a bunch of royal dead guys

This dialogue from the Lion King recalled the passage by Lewis where Ramandu informs Eustace that calling a star “a huge ball of flaming gas” only tells us “what it is made of” but not “what it is.” Disney studios is far from presenting the truth here, but I’d venture to say that this bit of dialogue gets closer to the truth than many moderns (both secular and Christian) tend to get.

Pumbaa: Timon, ever wonder what those sparkly dots are up there?

Timon: Pumbaa, I don’t wonder; I know.

Pumbaa: Oh. What are they?

Timon: They’re fireflies. Fireflies that, uh… got stuck up on that big bluish-black thing.

Pumbaa: Oh. Gee. I always thought that they were balls of gas burning billions of miles away.

Timon: Pumbaa, wit’ you, everything’s gas.

Pumbaa: Simba, what do you think?

Simba: Well, I don’t know…

Pumbaa: Aw come on. Give, give, give… Well, come on, Simba, we told you ours… pleeeease?

Timon: Come on, come on… give, give…

Simba: Well, somebody once told me that the great kings of the past are up there, watching over us.

Pumbaa: Really?

Timon: You mean a bunch of royal dead guys are watching us?


Pumbaa: Who told you something like that?

Timon: What mook made that up?

Simba: Yeah. Pretty dumb, huh?

October 26, 2011

responsibility to one’s neighbor

Zimmermann and Klassen compare Heidegger, Gadamer and Levinas:

Hans Georg Gadamer … emphasizes the point that ideas for our interpretation of the world do not simply pop into our heads from nowhere but are passed on to us through tradition.

…We must begin not with greater totalities such as Heidegger’s Being or Gadamer’s tradition but with our concrete social relation to other human beings. Philosophy does not come first in our reflections but the ethical relation to our fellow human being, and such a beginning is not Greek but Hebraic. It is in the Bible, argues Levinas, that we find the true ethical grounds for humanism: responsibility to one’s neighbor. It is this ethical demand of the other human being that limits one’s self-centered impulse for control over nature and others.

From The Passionate Intellect: Incarnational Humanism and the Future of University Education by Jens Zimmermann and Norman Klassen.

October 25, 2011

knowledge that one does not know

Even Aristotle’s views on proof and argument—which, in fact, make dialectic a subordinate element in knowledge—accord the same priority to the question, as has been demonstrated by Ernst Kapp’s brilliant work on the origin of Aristotle’s syllogistic. The priority of the question in knowledge shows how fundamentally the idea of method is limited for knowledge, which has been the starting point for our argument as a whole. There is no such thing as a method of learning to ask questions, of learning to see what is questionable. On the contrary, the example of Socrates teaches that the important thing is the knowledge that one does not know. Hence the Socratic dialectic—which leads, through its art of confusing the interlocutor, to this knowledge—creates the conditions for the questions. All questioning and desire to know presuppose a knowledge that one does not know; so much so, indeed, that a particular lack of knowledge leads to a particular question.

Plato shows in an unforgettable way where the difficulty lies in knowing what one does not know. It is the power of opinion against which it is so hard to obtain an admission of ignorance. It is opinion that suppresses questions. Opinion has a curious tendency to propagate itself. It would always like to be the general opinion, just as the word that the Greeks have for opinion, doxa, also means the decision made by the majority in the council assembly. How, then, can ignorance be admitted and questions arise?

From the chapter “Analysis of Historically Effected Consciousness” from Truth and Method (2nd edition) by Hans Georg Gadamer, translated by Joel Weinsheimer and Donald G. Marshall. Thanks to a friend who recently brought Gadamer to my attention again.

October 24, 2011

nourishing themselves in festive companionship with the Gods

German Catholic philosopher Josef Pieper opens his essay “Leisure: The Basis of Culture” with these two quotations:

But the Gods, taking pity on mankind, born to work, laid down the succession of recurring Feasts to restore them from their fatigue, and gave them the Muses, and Apollo their leader, and Dionysus, as companions in their Feasts, so that nourishing themselves in festive companionship with the Gods, they should again stand upright and erect.


Have leisure and know that I am God.

-Psalm lxv, 11.

Many thanks to a colleague for reminding me of this book containing Pieper’s essays. Forward by T.S. Eliot.

October 22, 2011

that one event on which it appears to depend

Wrong, as Hegel described it, is “infinite,” and demands infinite judgment. The victim demands that the wrong should become the whole business of the universe. In confronting his adversary and striking him down he will command the world, which is reduced to that one event on which it appears to depend for its vindication. Like all sin, vengeance makes the world a small pseudo-infinite, a substitute for making contact with the true infinite.

Oliver O’Donovan. The Ways of Judgment. Page 26.

October 21, 2011

not an object set before us for scientific examination

It is difficult to evaluate the judgments of a past historical period, because we are not “at home” in it to assess its possibilities realistically. But is it any easier to evaluate the judgments of our own? Is it given to us to know our own society more clearly than a past one? Our society is not an object set before us for scientific examination. It is a historical, shifting and changing context, constantly emerging out of a past society and constantly developing into a future one. It is of infinite complexity, and we who assess it are part of it, and assess it from a partial point of view. We may sometimes suspect that there is no more misleading view of a society than the one it takes of itself, a blend of hopeful and despairing self-images, sectional perceptions, and so on.

The Ways of Judgment (Bampton Lectures) by Oliver O’Donovan, page 22.

October 20, 2011

anticipates the deep judgment of God

Public judgment is constrained by this limit, and in its struggle to wrest the initiative from private judgment, it loses the ground of its authority if it succumbs to immodest pretensions. It is not only that there is more truth to be known than it can know; there is also more judgment to be given than it can give. Its work lies on the surface of things, and only anticipates the deep judgment of God by not pretending to forestall it. To the extent that it exceeds its limits it loses credibility as a community undertaking, and appears in the world as a prophetic, didactic, or ideological force, armed with an authority springing from beyond community discourse.

What, then, are the limits of practicability that constrain a judgment performed in public on the community’s behalf? They are three: (i) that not everything known can be publicly expressed or certified; (ii) that judgment has only certain modes of expression open to it; (iii) that it lacks final authority.

From The Ways of Judgment (Bampton Lectures) by Oliver O’Donovan, pages 27-28.

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