Sunday, September 17, 2017

Beautiful women and mountaintops-the uses and abuses of technology

Here is a nice picture. We see a beautiful woman is sitting on a mountaintop, enjoying a magnificent view. She's reveling in the splendors of nature in all their glory. A true, ahem, mountaintop moment.

One problem, though-she isn't enjoying the scene at all. It might be hard to see in the image as uploaded, but her eyes are closed. She's having a wonderful time, but it's due to the music she's listening to, music she could just as easily listen to at home.

This is an ad for headphones, as you may have suspected. The evident message from our corporate overlords benefactors is that we now need headphones, smart phones, devices, everywhere and anywhere. All situations call for the injection of at least a little virtual reality, lest the real thing bore us, trouble us, or fail to entertain us adequately, as in the case of this woman and her mountaintop view.

You half-expect to hear of people watching their devices while having sex. As a means of enhancing the experience, you watch OTHER people having sex!

Technology can be used, has been used, to improve people's lives, but are we past that stage now?

Friday, September 15, 2017

The power of positive salesmanship, bigotry, and Sen. Feinstein

I ridiculed the Norman Vincent Peale "Power of Positive Thinking" way of thinking in my recent post on the value of "negative" emotions. Peale more than deserved deserved it-not only is it a silly worldview, if you could call it that, he was rather an anti-Catholic bigot, as evidenced by his comments in the 1960 election campaign.

But having mentioned Peale, Amazon's marketing bot keeps putting that book, which apparently is still a big-seller, in the ads you see here. I have no control over that, of course.

Peale's comments put me in mind of the recent controversy started by CA Senator Dianne Feinstein, who bashed Federal court nominee Amy Barrett for her unconcealed Catholicism. Peale and Feinstein would likely agree on little, but both seem to think a good Catholic is one who should, well, shut up in public if he is serious about his faith. Peale would censor Catholics; Feinstein both Catholics and Peale.

The Left now endorses a narrow "freedom of  worship", rather than our long-established "freedom of religion", in which you may attend any religious service you like, but had better not bring those views to the public square.

Feinstein and many of her Democratic colleagues advocate the notion that secular politics is "neutral" politics, that early 21st century deism is the default, unbiased view of thinking folks. But, to state the glaringly obvious, it is not a neutral view, any more than a Catholic, evangelical, Muslin, or any other more explicitly worldview would be.

It is not, to be sure, really a secular view. It is more of a seemingly unreflected-upon Moral Therapeutic Deism-it doesn't exactly deny God, since few Americans are atheists. Rather, MTD reduces Him to a figure on the periphery, a vaguely benevolent figure who wants us to be happy but is little involved in human affairs, and certainly not politics.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Trump tracking-down 6.1%

Trump's average approval among registered/likely voters (RCP) is 40%. He got 46.1% of the vote last year.

I've been tracking this and will update it on occasion.

By the way, the full breakdown of the vote totals by David Wasserman is fascinating, at least to politics junkies like myself.

Monday, September 11, 2017

September 11

On the "first" September 11, I was living in North Carolina. Somebody called and said, "Turn on the TV", and it was done. We witnessed the events. The day is otherwise a blur to me. I didn't watch the videos of the planes crashing into the buildings for many years. They still have an unreal quality to me, like a scene from a bad movie.
It is no good to pretend that in our modern world we have no enemies, that human nature has changed for the better, or that "the arc of history bends towards justice".
History, and the events of a mere sixteen years ago, teach us otherwise.

Emotions, good and "bad"

We tend to think of certain emotions-fear, anger, sadness-as bad. We are told to "think positive", or "Don't be so negative!". One particular quasi-religious empire was built around "positive thinking". Another, more contemporary one, tells us that a different sort of positive thinking combined with meditation will "attract" wonderful things to us, somewhere from the deep recesses of a universe that somehow is both personal and impersonal at the same time.

In any case, the so-called negative emotions are so described because they are unpleasant. No one likes to feel them, unless, I suppose, you're a pain glutton, patterning yourself on Jack Nicholson in The Little Shop of Horrors, but as an emotional, rather than physical, pain junkie.

For the rest of us, though, emotions act as signals. And so they cannot be bad in themselves. They tell us, remind us, to "Avoid this", or that "I'm sorry I lost this". We could no more lose our unpleasant emotions and be fully functioning humans than we could do the same if we lost our pleasant ones, or our reason.

But when we experience that signal, that pain, we want to turn away. We want to shut it down, now. Often this is a perfectly reasonable. So much of what we see on the Internet is designed to work us up to a strong emotional reaction, get a click, drive numbers.

But much of the time, in "real life", that strong reaction indicates there's something here that we need to think about. This is especially true if the reaction is particularly powerful. If someone says something I react to strongly, I must ask myself why this is. Am I really inconsiderate, or too slow to ponder why a given viewpoint angers me? What am I walling myself off from?

In a age of using electronic devices to, in effect, alienate ourselves from what we truly feel and think, it strikes me that these are worthwhile questions.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Lesley Garrett, "Jerusalem"

"Jerusalem" is from a poem by William Blake that references a mythical visit by Jesus to England. He re-sets the myth in Industrial Age England, hoping that Christ might come among the "dark Satanic mills" and establish The New Jerusalem, the heavenly city of history's climax. Music is by Sir Hubert Parry.

It is exquisitely beautiful.

UPDATE: If you'd like to know why Christianity is all but dead in Europe, a vicar has banned this gorgeous hymn for being excessively nationalistic.

FURTHER UPDATE: this reminds me a of a quote by CS Lewis, another UK'er, on the Second Coming, Progress, and what Barack Obama inaccurately calls "the arc of history that inevitably bends towards justice":

"The doctrine of the Second Coming is deeply uncongenial to the whole evolutionary or developmental character of modern thought. We have been taught to think of the world as something that slowly moves towards perfection....Christian Apocalyptic offers us no such hope. It does not even foretell a gradual decay....[I]t foretells a sudden, violent end imposed from without....a curtain rung down on the play-'Halt!'". The World's Last Night, 1952.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Here is the text of Blake's poem-

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?
And did the countenance divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among those dark Satanic mills?
Bring me my bow of burning gold
Bring me my arrows of desire
Bring me my spear! Oh, clouds unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire
I will not cease from mental fight
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Til we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Search

Nothing beautiful can be fully understood. Our hearts crave mysterious Truth. So much of the beauty is in the mystery, itself. And so the search continues.

Walker Percy, a member of that interesting category, the Southern Catholic writer, often wrote of the search. Percy is the only author I've ever read who prompted the thought, "This guy thinks like me". I'm not sure if that says much for Percy, in itself, but he was certainly one of the 20th century's finest novelists.

Will Barrett, the protagonist of The Second Coming, is a widower who has reached a point in his depression where he essentially dares God to kill him. God doesn't. Will ends up meeting Allison, a zany mental hospital escapee living in a greenhouse, whose love redeems him. Almost sounds trite to describe, but Percy uses a light touch to show how gratitude can lead to faith.

Percy's books are all about the alienation of modern man, who struggles with, as Arnold Stocker (the Catholic Romanian psychoanalyst) put it, "A false suggestion and a true intuition". The false suggestion, to put it simply, is that what we strive for-career, relationships, wealth, power-are all we need. The world tells modern man this, and in his secularized understanding of his meaning and purpose, he "accepts" it.

The true intuition is the sense that we need more, that the "sensus divinitatis" that Calvin spoke of. It is the instinctive sense each of us has that God is real and our lives are not our own. As CS Lewis wrote,  we desire things, and God provides them-food, sex. Similarly God plants in each of us a desire for Himself, that only He can fulfill.

Our alienation, our anger, comes from the usually unconscious recognition that our strivings, even when achieved, do not really satisfy. How many Hollywood types do we see who have, most improbably, gotten all their wished for-fame and money and power and creative success-who still are miserable?

This world cannot satisfy us.

Much of the above comes from ideas drawn from Swiss physician Paul Tournier's work, such as The Whole Person in a Broken World.  

Monday, September 4, 2017

Trump steals black baby as trophy of TX trip, plans to make her White House mascot

As often as Trump says or does something beyond ridiculous, our "dispassionate" media will always out-Trump him. The two sides-the media, and Trump the media manipulator-truly deserve each other. They're basically Mo and Larry of the Three Stooges, poking each other in the eye on a daily basis. Enjoy the next three and a half years!

In any case, the above headline is a fake-I think. The difference between the National Enquirer and the New York Times is now more what schools the reporters went to than content.

We got Trump for a lot of nasty reasons, all of which are too unpleasant to detail, and he is no real antidote to any of that, but yes, Hillary would've been worse. That's what we're reduced to.

I didn't vote for him. I voted for Evan McMullin. The Mormon Roundhead.


Sunday, September 3, 2017

Walter Becker, RIP

Just heard of the death of Steely Dan co-founder Walter Becker. Here's one of my SD favorites. Great opening guitar solo by Larry Carlton. This song may or not be based on the Texas tower shooter case from 1966. 

I once inserted the Becker-Fagen line about "luckless pedestrians" from this song in an Economics paper in college, as in, "A high unemployment rate will further damage America's luckless pedestrians". The professor was not amused.

Links-controversial and otherwise

Democrats' smears of GOP as racists, misogynists long predate Trump.

In fact, the Left's inability to make an argument for their position instead of libeling their opponents along these lines goes all the way back to Harry Truman.

Many people, Right and Left, now decry "mass incarceration". But unpleasant though it is, it means less crime. 

The New Atheists made the mistake of slamming Islam as well as Christianity, and have been bodily removed from the lefty funhouse. 

A "map of the soul": Michael Egnor, Professor of Neurological Surgery at Stony Brook University, says neuroscience confirms Aquinas' notion of will and intellect as immaterial things. 

List of the oldest living people. Violet Brown of Jamaica is the winner, at 117 years, 177 days. My Grandmother on my mother's side, who lived to 102, was a piker compared to these women (not many men in the bunch).

Miriam on the perils of the art business. 

Whose voices are you listening to? The search for worthy role models. I note, in pondering the conclusion reached here, that GK Chesterton was quite hefty.

Several of the links above come from this article by philosopher Edward Feser.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Far out

Voyagers 1 and 2 are way out there. From Astronomy POTD: "Launched in 1977 on a tour of the outer planets of the Solar System, Voyager 1 and 2 have become the longest operating and most distant spacecraft from Earth. Nearly 16 light-hours from the Sun, Voyager 2 has reached the edge of the heliosphere, the realm defined by the influence of the solar wind and the Sun's magnetic field. Now humanity's first ambassador to the Milky Way, Voyager 1 is over 19 light-hours away, beyond the heliosphere in interstellar space. Celebrate the Voyagers' 40 year journey toward the stars with NASA on September 5."

On this date in Phillies' history

They lost.

Pictured: Hugh "Losing Pitcher" Mulcahy.

Friday, September 1, 2017

A noble putdown

"[thou] shalt stand in fire up to the navel and in ice up to th' heart, and there the offending part burns and the deceiving part freezes."

The Two Noble Kinsmen. Shakespeare knew how to insult people.

Beautiful women and mountaintops-the uses and abuses of technology

Here is a nice picture. We see a beautiful woman is sitting on a mountaintop, enjoying a magnificent view. She's reveling in the splend...