Friday, August 28, 2009

Directive by Robert Frost

Back out of all this now too much for us,
Back in a time made simple by the loss
Of detail, burned, dissolved, and broken off
Like graveyard marble sculpture in the weather,
There is a house that is no more a house
Upon a farm that is no more a farm
And in a town that is no more a town.
The road there, if you'll let a guide direct you
Who only has at heart your getting lost,
May seem as if it should have been a quarry—
Great monolithic knees the former town
Long since gave up pretense of keeping covered.
And there's a story in a book about it:
Besides the wear of iron wagon wheels
The ledges show lines ruled southeast-northwest,
The chisel work of an enormous Glacier
That braced his feet against the Arctic Pole.
You must not mind a certain coolness from him
Still said to haunt this side of Panther Mountain.
Nor need you mind the serial ordeal
Of being watched from forty cellar holes
As if by eye pairs out of forty firkins.
As for the woods' excitement over you
That sends light rustle rushes to their leaves,
Charge that to upstart inexperience.
Where were they all not twenty years ago?
They think too much of having shaded out
A few old pecker-fretted apple trees.
Make yourself up a cheering song of how
Someone's road home from work this once was,
Who may be just ahead of you on foot
Or creaking with a buggy load of grain.
The height of the adventure is the height
Of country where two village cultures faded
Into each other. Both of them are lost.
And if you're lost enough to find yourself
By now, pull in your ladder road behind you
And put a sign up CLOSED to all but me.
Then make yourself at home. The only field
Now left's no bigger than a harness gall.
First there's the children's house of make-believe,
Some shattered dishes underneath a pine,
The playthings in the playhouse of the children.
Weep for what little things could make them glad.
Then for the house that is no more a house,
But only a belilaced cellar hole,
Now slowly closing like a dent in dough.
This was no playhouse but a house in earnest.

Your destination and your destiny's
A brook that was the water of the house,
Cold as a spring as yet so near its source,
Too lofty and original to rage.
(We know the valley streams that when aroused
Will leave their tatters hung on barb and thorn.)
I have kept hidden in the instep arch
Of an old cedar at the waterside
A broken drinking goblet like the Grail
Under a spell so the wrong ones can't find it,
So can't get saved, as Saint Mark says they mustn't.
(I stole the goblet from the children's playhouse.)
Here are your waters and your watering place.
Drink and be whole again beyond confusion.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

a world lost

In the elementary textbooks of Hebrew in use a quarter of a century ago, there was a story of a schoolboy who would be in great distress every morning, having forgotten where he put away his clothes and books before he went to bed. One evening he arrived at an answer to his problem. He wrote on a slip of paper: "The suit is on the chair, the hat is in the closet, the books on the desk, the shoes under the chair, and I am in my bed." Next morning he began to collect his things together. They were all in their places. When he came to the last item on the list, he went to look for himself in the bed--but his search was in vain.

picture this caption

"He has committed every crime that does not require courage."
— Benjamin Disraeli, speaking of a political opponent

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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Flo Jo

Dr Johnson on Resolutions

There is nothing which we estimate so fallaciously as the force of our own resolutions, nor any fallacy which we so unwillingly and tardily detect. He that has resolved a thousand times, and a thousand times deserted his own purpose, yet suffers no abatement of his confidence, but still believes himself his own master; and able, by innate vigour of soul, to press forward to his end, through all the obstructions that inconveniences or delights can put in his way.
* * * *
Of the uncertainty of every human good, every human being seems to be convinced; yet this uncertainty is voluntarily increased by unnecessary delay, whether we respect external causes, or consider the nature of our own minds. He that now feels a desire to do right, and wishes to regulate his life according to his reason, is not sure that, at any future time assignable, he shall be able to rekindle the same ardour; he that has now an opportunity offered him of breaking loose from vice and folly, cannot know, but that he shall hereafter be more entangled, and struggle for freedom without obtaining it.
* * * *
I have now spent fifty-five years in resolving: having, from the earliest time almost that I can remember, been forming plans of a better life. I have done nothing. The need of doing, therefore, is pressing, since the time of doing is short. O GOD, grant me to resolve aright, and to keep my resolutions, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.
--Samuel Johnson

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Nagasaki chaplain reflects

In August of 1945 Rev. George B. Zabelka, a Catholic chaplain with the U.S. Army Air Force, was stationed on Tinian Island in the South Pacific. He was assigned to serve the Catholics of the 509th Composite Group. The 509th Composite Group was the Atomic Bomb Group. He served as a priest for those who dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. After 22 years as a military chaplain he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel. What follows are some of his reflections. Rev. George B. Zabelka went to meet his God on April 11, 1992
"To fail to speak to the utter moral corruption of the mass destruction of civilians was to fail as a Christian and a priest as I see it. Hiroshima and Nagasaki happened in and to a world and a Christian Church that had asked for it – that had prepared the moral consciousness of humanity to do and to justify the unthinkable. I am sure there are Church documents around someplace bemoaning civilian deaths in modern war, and I am sure those in power in the church will drag them out to show that it was giving moral leadership during World War II to its membership.

Well, I was there, and I’ll tell you that the operational moral atmosphere in the Church in relation to mass bombing of enemy civilians was totally indifferent, silent, and corrupt at best – at worst it was religiously supportive of these activities by blessing those who did them.

I say all this not to pass judgment on others, for I do not know their souls then or now. I say all this as one who was part of the so-called Christian leadership of the time. So you see, that is why I am not going to the day of judgment looking for justice in this matter. Mercy is my salvation.

* * *

For the first three centuries, the three centuries closest to Christ, the Church was a pacifist Church. With Constantine the church accepted the pagan Roman ethic of a just war and slowly began to involve its membership in mass slaughter, first for the state and later for the faith.

Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants, whatever other differences they may have had on theological esoterica, all agreed that Jesus’ clear and unambiguous teaching on the rejection of violence and on love of enemies was not to be taken seriously. And so each of the major branches of Christianity by different theological methods modified our Lord’s teaching in these matters until all three were able to do what Jesus rejected, that is, take an eye for an eye, slaughter, maim, torture.

It seems a "sign" to me that seventeen hundred years of Christian terror and slaughter should arrive at August 9, 1945 when Catholics dropped the A-Bomb on top of the largest and first Catholic city in Japan. One would have thought that I, as a Catholic priest, would have spoken out against the atomic bombing of nuns. (Three orders of Catholic sisters were destroyed in Nagasaki that day.) One would have thought that I would have suggested that as a minimal standard of Catholic morality, Catholics shouldn’t bomb Catholic children. I didn’t.

I, like that Catholic pilot of the Nagasaki plane, was heir to a Christianity that had for seventeen hundred years engaged in revenge, murder, torture, the pursuit of power and prerogative and violence, all in the name of our Lord.

I walked through the ruins of Nagasaki right after the war and visited the place where once stood the Urakami Cathedral. I picked up a piece of a censer from the rubble. When I look at it today I pray God forgives us for how we have distorted Christ’s teaching and destroyed His world by the distortion of that teaching. I was the Catholic chaplain who was there when this grotesque process, which began with Constantine, reached its lowest point – so far."

a lesson

My oldest daughter had been an officer for one of the Utah chapters of the Future Homemakers of America, and the state organization held its end-of-the-school-year banquet in Salt Lake City. I was going through all the usual hoopla politely but condescendingly. I was there to do my duty as a father, although I would have much preferred to be elsewhere. Chicken dinner for 750 accompanied by speeches and awards for a large group of fourteen-through-seventeen-year-olds was not my idea of a great way to spend my Saturday afternoon.

Sitting next to me at the table for parents was a couple about my age, both of whom were obviously enjoying what I was merely tolerating, from the food to the entertainment. When I asked where they were from, he replied, "Wayne County."

"Where in Wayne County?"

"Just Wayne County."

"How far away is that?"

"About a four-hour drive."

It quickly began to be more difficult for me to condescend. Their four-hour trip made my forty-five-minute one look like a walk across the street, but I was the one who was slightly irritated about having to make the trip. On the other hand, had I stopped to reflect (although I did not), I could have explained their enjoyment of the occasion geographically; such things might look good in comparison to the pleasures of Wayne County. Our conversation continued:

"About what time will you get back tonight?"

"About 11:00."

"Well, at least tomorrow is Sunday. Maybe you can sleep in."

Stupid me. I had assumed that all people have five-day-a-week jobs, Monday through Friday, and that they work from eight to five.

"Well, it's lambing season and one or the other of us has to get up every hour to check the sheep. We trade off, so we can sleep about two hours at a time."

Condescension turned to humiliartion: this man and woman loved their daughter more than I loved mine. Though unlike me, they actually had to sacrifice to be at the banquet, they were pleased to be there, enjoying what happened not because they were so intellectually blighted that they thought that seventeen-year-olds actually have much of importance to say and certainly not because they liked the food on the menu or found the pleasures of Wayne County so abysmal. They were there because they loved their daughter and took pleasure from seeing her enjoy herself and be honored. I love my daughter, too, but what I saw as an inconvenient and mildly irritating responsibility that is consequent on loving that daughter, they saw as part of that love.

That experience persuaded me in a moment that they were right and I was wrong. Their lives were right in a way that mine was not, and I came to that understanding by seeing a small part of their lives.

The couple next to me did nothing-almost certainly would not have thought-to offer me what philosphers recognize as rational arguments, and they almost certainly did not have the training to do so in a way that I would acknowledge as philosophical. In spite of that, their behavior allowed me to come to a conclusion: the conclusion that one should enjoy such events. They did not intend to do so. I had no impression that they were trying to teach me anything-certainly not that I was wrong. Nevertheless, being in their presence did persuade me. They did not offer evidence; [instead] they were something like evidence.
--James Faulconer

preach my gospel

Lorenzo Snow was visited one day by a man named Reverend Prentice. [T]he reverend walked into what he considered was more or less a business office-the office of the First Presidency-where decisions were made and problems solved. Reverend Prentice didn't expect to see what he saw. What he saw, he said, was the holiest face, except one, he had ever seen in his life. And that was Lorenzo Snow. He tried to put into words something about the eyes, something about the grace and modesty, something about the peace of his personality, but he ended up saying, "There aren't words." His conclusion was, if the Church of Jesus Christ can produce even a few persons like that man, they will not need a lot of books or tracts or an extensive missionary program. The world will see.
--as told by T.G. Madsen

remembering Joseph

Someday, and sometime, if I should live on I may converse with you as I only do to a few choice souls. Not that I can give you new thoughts-you get those from the depths that are found in your own heart-but to exchange or interchange thoughts with one of superior intelligence is a luxury in this barren world of cold communication.

When I recall as I sometimes do, if I ever have time to think of the past, the spiritual converse of a few intimate friends of the prophet Joseph, I marvel at how I have lived all these later years without now and then drinking at the fountain of that inspiration that seemed to fathom the depths of eternal wisdom and with a grace so modest, yet so sublime, that one sat, as it were, entranced, listening as one would to music of celestial beings. I wonder if you will comprehend me, but you who have studied the prophet deeply must know that the men and women who sat with him partook more or less of that spirit of eternal truth. And it lingered with them while they lived [they are all gone now] and we only dream of them and fancy their influence lingers near and plod on among the other wanderers, and now and then we get a germ of finer thought from those we meet on life's journey. And in humilty and obedience we surrender our own will to his who sees not as man sees."
--Emmeline B. Wells, age 82.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009