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The Loneliest Place in the World
9/1/2019
Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit. Proverbs 26:4-5 Social media is the loneliest place in the world. Trawling through the hyperlinks you can find hordes of other people talking about people like you. People who are convinced that you are virtually subhuman, deserving of death, of no…

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N. T. Wright on the Objective/Subjective Knowledge of History
3/8/2019
“History finds itself stuck between the two poles. Is it a sort of ‘objective’ knowledge, or is it all really ‘subjective’? Or is this a false dichotomy? What sort of knowledge do we have of historical events? On the one hand, historical knowledge is subject to the same caveats as all knowledge in general. It is possible to be mistaken. I may think I am holding a book when it is in fact a lump of…

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Heidegger, 'The Question Concerning Technology'
1/21/2019
Oh, for enough knowledge of German to be freed from this hyphenated nightmare of language! Heidegger seeks in his essay “The Question Concerning Technology” to find what he calls the “essence” of technology. In the modern world, we are everywhere “unfree and chained to technology. But we are delivered over to it in the worst possible way when we regard it as something neutral; for this conception…

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Thomas Aquinas on the Limits of Human Knowledge
1/14/2019
Some Reading Notes Perusing the beginning of St. Thomas’ Summa this morning, it struck me how honest Thomas is about the sources of his knowledge, and the nature of the conclusions reachable by human reason. Human knowledge is but a feeble endeavor, and depends finally on a faith as childlike as that of the mystics. In the first article, Thomas addresses why we need theology at all. Man is…

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The Stages of the Bodhisattva
1/2/2019
“Bodhicitta comprises in it two elements, viz., enlightenment of the nature of essencelessness (sunyata) and universal compassion (karuna). This definition of Bodhicitta as the perfect comingling of sunyata and karuna had far-reaching effects in the transformation of the Mahayanic ideas into the Tantric ideas. After the production of Bodhicitta the adept becomes a Bodhisattva and proceeds on in an…

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On Vision: A New Year's Eve Confession
12/31/2018
In every field, from business to politics to marketing to education, the dominant mode of experience has become entertainment. -- Michael Crichton I am surrounded by both beauty and ugliness, but I cannot see either. The bloody stripes of my mind’s constant self-flagellation go without feeling. Constantly I cast about for some diversion that will keep my will from its duty, some intemperance with…

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Notes on the Imagery of Cain and Abel in Steinbeck’s East of Eden
11/6/2018
Delivered at New Saint Andrews College to the Lost Generation Literature class, November 6, 2018. Good morning. First of all, I recognize that Cain and Abel imagery is arguably the most obvious biblical allusion made in the course of the novel, and therefore I will not be spending a great deal of time arguing that such imagery does in fact exist, or analyzing where or in what manner it exists…

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Computer Processing and Human Thought
11/6/2018
Robert Epstein, the distinguished American psychologist, published in May of this year an essay arguing, in the words of its subtitle, that “Your brain does not process information, retrieve knowledge, or store memories. In short: your brain is not a computer.” He is arguing against what he calls the “IP” metaphor for the brain — the brain as information processor: this metaphor for the human…

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Memory #1
4/6/2018
One night I went with my friends Caleb and Mike to Zips. Zips was (and still is) a tiny fast food restaurant down third street half way between downtown and the grocery store, with a brilliant red logo on their sign, red like the Cleveland Indians. We sat down underneath the fluorescent lights, and ordered a series of greasy hamburgers, with a special sauce that made Caleb sick (I shared our…

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Movie Review - The Ritual (2018)
2/22/2018
Rating: 4/5 The Ritual(http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5638642/?ref=nvsr_1), a tense, tightly written horror film released a few weeks ago on Netflix, is a beautifully done film, that asks the right questions in a way that keeps the viewer in suspense, and provokes genuine sympathy for its characters. Like perhaps too many horror films, however, I don’t believe that, in the end, it answers fully the…

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The Chinese Leviathan
2/20/2018
In a recent article for The Atlantic, Adam Greenfield writes perceptively about the growth of intrusive, government-initiated social technologies in China. Artificial intelligence, through face-recognition technologies and cameras on every corner, allow the Chinese government almost complete knowledge of the each citizen’s actions, and as a result, they want to establish a system of “social credit…

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Is Social Media the New Totalitarianism?
2/9/2018
It is popular to criticize the major social media giants—Google, Facebook, Twitter—for their impact on people’s minds, and the proliferation of unwanted ideologies. Both liberals and conservatives are concerned about the amount of “fake news” gobbled up by gullible social media users ready to be entrapped by clickbait. Facebook has been conducting, ever more publicly since the 2016 election season…

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The Writer as a Character: Phillip Lopate on Personal Non-Fiction
2/7/2018
Phillip Lopate, in his book, To Show and To Tell, gives the following advice to the aspiring memoir writer: Actions speak louder than words. Give your protagonist, your I-character, something to do. It’s fine to be privy to all of I’s ruminations and cerebral nuances, but consciousness can only take us so far in the illumination of character Particularly if you are writing a memoir piece, with…

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Coercion and the Christian: Finding the Righteous Magistrate In the Political Thought of Augustine
12/31/2017
Augustine certainly takes a dim view of the civic government of the earthly city, describing it as he does in The City of God as, despite being the “mistress of the nations,” itself “ruled by its lust of rule.” The civic state and its coercion is a product of the Fall, since without original sin, there would have been no need for force. Political authorities are often forced to do things which…

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Bastiat, and a Return to a Blog Long Forgotten
8/12/2017
Firstly, an aside. I have not posted here in many months; in fact, I believe the last time I posted here with any kind of regularity is when I began an ill-fated project to blog my way through some potential thesis research on medieval memory techniques and their influence on medieval interpretation of scripture. Since then the visicitudes of life have occasioned my flight from the groves of…

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Poetry and Cultural Relevance
9/25/2016
“Poetry and the Silencing of Art” by Hilton Kramer in the New Criterion, recently dug up from 1993 on the _New Criterion’s _Twitter, is a helpful article about tendencies in contemporary poetry I’ve been thinking about for a while. I have two observations. Firstly, the book, which the article describes by a certain Dana Gioia, has an excellent point: that poetry has been enervated by a subculture…

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Each To His Desert
9/10/2016
We emerged from our wooden cave, the shed with flaking siding propped up by concrete blocks, each, passing by, laying down a song sheet: a paper oblation of harmony, absolutions of the mind turned out from its cacophony and thick-tongued worry, into night. The steps down over shivering boards were nails in time, plodding into the sun receding from our faces, while the open wind surprised our…

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Art That Speaks: Mary Carruthers' The Craft of Thought
7/3/2016
The medieval aesthetic—and imagination, and memory—was intimately tied up with the process of communication between the aesthetic object, or the memory image, and the person viewing (or ‘remembering’) it. Works of art are works of memory and rhetoric, because they enter into the meditative experience of the viewer, and ‘speak’ with him. Mary Carruthers frames this in terms of comparison with the…

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The Fall As a Failure of Memory
5/26/2016
For the mind, stupefied by bodily sensations and enticed out of itself by sensuous forms, has forgotten what it was, and, because it does not remember that it was anything different, believes that it is nothing except what is seen. —Hugh of St. Victor, _Didascalion, _I. i The first several chapters of Hugh of St. Victor’s Didascalion, while not themselves dealing directly with the art of memory…

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Ars Memoriae, Introduction
5/23/2016
For the next several months, and quite possibly several years, to come, I will be researching a thesis on the medieval art of memory, and how it influences medieval interpretations of the biblical text. I hope to be doing biweekly blog posts summarizing my research over the summer months. They might not be long, but they’ll help to keep me focused. Here’s (roughly) the summer reading list. I’ll be…

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Technology: A Metaphor For the World
1/27/2016
In Lewis Thomas’s Essay, An Earnest Proposal, \he writes, “I take it on faith that computers, although lacking souls, are possessed of a kind of intelligence.” I note two points: firstly, that Thomas takes this assertion on faith, and secondly, that he separates intelligence from the soul. These two points are connected. We perceive the world around us through metaphor, expressing and describing…

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Recollection
1/20/2016
The summer before I came to college, my dad and I visited Yellowstone National Park. It was a good trip: we tried hiking up Mount Washburn and decided against it a few hundred feet along the trail; we tried Elephant Back mountain instead, and ate lunch at the top looking out over the lake; we drove through the park and remarked sarcastically at the Asian tourists parked on the side of the road…

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Habits Changing Desires
10/22/2015
“Christianity is the life and death and resurrection of Christ going on day after day in the souls of individual men and in the heart of society.” ~Thomas Merton Just beyond the little town of Potlatch, among the wheat fields of the Palouse hills, across the railroad tracks, up the two thin lanes of Rock Creek Road, and a winding gravel driveway, there is a farmhouse, and woods, and a long…

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The Horror of Emptiness
7/5/2015
As the New York Times gleefully reports, in the wake of the Charleston shooting, “Within five days, decades of resistance in South Carolina, a state that had held fiercely to its Confederate identity, fell away.” The unchangeably “racist symbol” of the Confederate flag will be removed from the capitol grounds, from Nascar races, and from Bubba Watson’s car. The truly surprising thing is quickly…

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Wipe My Lips
6/22/2015
Wipe my lips and bind my back against the mast. Stretch my loosened cheeks and jaw with canvas cloth Now, that I may not with fevered feet go past True bounds to meet unwanted love in sloth. Take my hand and lead me on my way, Past the church of hollow saints and past, Quick, the cave of devils built with clay: Far from sleep and selfish hope held fast. Heart, if once for long you had an enemy…

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A Dialectical Approach: A Parable for Moderns
5/31/2015
It would have taken an Eagle Scout to untangle the eyebrows of J. Kevin Pennyworth, as he fumbled weakly at the door of Dr. Peiro, the president of the college. His bowtie was askew, the silk handkerchief in his suit coat the recent victim of a sneeze. Breathing heavily, he considered discarding his bowtie, and unfastening the top button of his shirt, but then as the gravity of the situation…

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The Truth of Fiction
5/3/2015
The Impact of the Resurrection On Writing and Criticism Anton Chekhov famously said that the purpose of fiction is to tell the truth. All literary theories depend on the definition of truth, on the construction of the all-encompassing system by which the words of the world ought to be measured. Pilate famously asked, “What is truth,” and in the answer is contained the nature of the world, of man…

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Come Let us Worship (Just Do It Nicely)
4/29/2015
I am not prepared to weigh in on the immense legal, ethical, and personal issues currently firing (literally) the streets of Baltimore, apparently in protest over the death of Freddie Gray. Neither do I want to pontificate over the two people who were shot in Ferguson in protest over Michael Brown, in whose name yet more blood is shed at the altar of social peace and equality. I would simply like…

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World-sized Dollhouses
4/23/2015
At several points in the Chronicles of Narnia, Lewis seems to hint at a vision of Narnia which perhaps yields good fruit with regard to his love for fairy tales and “children’s stories.” Usually Narnia stands apart, utterly separate from our world, with very little commentary on the relationship between its world and our own. But on a few occasions, Lewis steps back from this strict distinction…

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See
4/6/2015
Nails shot through ankle bones, back arched into spiking splinters, blood-eagled God stretched against a wooden curse. Magdalene, see that cup, overflowing, flowing oil out on your feet. See that cup poured out, for your burial. Your death. See that face which rips the Temple shroud, and yours. Your dirty knees press into the stones where life is death. Hide sun, cease your song. Stars, grow cold…

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Full
4/2/2015
Knotted hunger walked me through the Wendy’s door, and shoved a hamburger and soda into my unthinking mouth. Only later did I notice the resemblance of the mayonnaise (ladled on by the handful) to pus, and the bun’s disturbing habit of oozing grease just as a dying warrior in the Iliad did blood. The hamburger patty itself, I became convinced, was a close relative to the Dead Sea—both are, after…

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A Hologram of Humanity
3/30/2015
Apathy is at the root of modernity. Apathy is the heart of entertainment, and by ‘entertainment’ I mean not only the film or music industry, but the entire, passive philosophy of living which sluggishly floats through the veins of modern life. We would rather receive than give, and in a horrible inversion of Christ’s proverb, even what we have received is in danger of being taken from us…

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Musical Morality: Nietzsche and Wagner
3/13/2015
Aesthetics is not a popular subject in a culture that bows to the high throne of individual desire. The question of whether art could reflect, much less motivate, a philosophical or moral position is anathema, and therefore not often asked. But the answer to this question created modern artistic ethics. If the Church is serious about transforming culture and morals, then she will have to come to a…

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Joseph Weizenbaum On Tools
3/7/2015
Joseph Weizenbaum, one of the great computer scientists of the mid-twentieth century (and author of the instantly-famous ELIZA program), in 1976 wrote _Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgment to Calculation, _a brilliant examination of the impact of computers on society and human thought. In his first chapter, “On Tools,” he examines the impact which tools have on the processes they are…

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A Culture of Death
3/5/2015
A Floregium The culture of death is simultaneously a culture dominated by the notion of “entertainment.” The very notion of entertainment presumes the state of boredom as the norm, which means that a culture increasingly fueled by this notion assumes that our lives are innately and intrinsically meaningless without the constant stream of stimulation and distraction, a stream inevitably subject to…

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Beyoncé and Plastic Fish
2/24/2015
At its core all art is abstract. No art can walk along the dry earth and feel the five-month dead hay stubs cracking beneath it, while reddening at the cold air driving along the tilled valley between the ridges. All art is a rhetorical figure, taking a slippery reality into tiny hands and struggling to hang on to the important piece. The artist must choose. Reality itself slips away like oil…

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Gray Funeral
1/31/2015
My bare scalp, tight and numb, curls beneath the cold. I hear the pastor’s voice, floating over the muffled buzz of my violin case’s zipper. I am the resurrection and the life. He that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. On my violin, my fingers, like alien creatures crawling and groping at the end of my arm, play the hymn. A canopy covers the vault and the heavy, green coffin…

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Fog
1/31/2015
That morning ladled no good fog onto the highway. Naked hills squeezed away into the blank color of silence hiding their bellies and faces against the bedrock. Ghosts in the fog metamorphosed on the hills’ back into stalking trees tearing off their shreds of fog-cloth, giants with tall hair. From behind, strange dryads reached out gray, fleshly hands to the cars, staring with huge, evil eyes.

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Acedia
1/29/2015
I’ve spent years looking for my life down the dirty drain of hopes and moods melting like winter, not seeing or caring outside the cramped concrete tunnels, shiny and echoing, and bright pinprick of light at the end, drawn in my glazed-over, half-closed and hopeful eye by acedia. Sometimes shadows flash their half-forgotten forms on the moon-shine in front of me, and I stop to pick at them with…

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Afraid of the Dark
1/22/2015
The window—square, with rounded corners—of the airplane was a smoldering, translucent orange, the sun spilling down from the left corner like a slightly burned sauce. Every detail on the window caught the light and shone back at me, the scratches like a complex and abstract drawing. But it was a drawing that told me little, because I had little to tell it. The space of two seats squatted between…