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May 2009

Ah! Sunflower (2)

This post is more than a year and a half overdue. It’s connected with this one from November 2007, which mentioned the little town, or alleged town, of Sunflower, Alabama. In the other post I noted that “its existence is noted only by one forlorn street sign that stands beside the highway, looking very weary of time.”

Well, here’s the sign. My gracious wife took this picture for me a few weeks after the first post, but, typically, my attention (what there is of it) moved to other things and I didn’t do it.

(Click for larger image, as usual.) The strange thing about this sign is that not only are there are no sunflowers, there doesn’t appear to be any town. (Non-U.S. readers: signs like this normally indicate the name of a place.) There’s something a little sad but also a little brave and hopeful about it. No, there aren’t any sunflowers, but maybe one day there will be.

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Ah! Sunflower (2)

This post is more than a year and a half overdue. It’s connected with this one from November 2007, which mentioned the little town, or alleged town, of Sunflower, Alabama. In the other post I noted that “its existence is noted only by one forlorn street sign that stands beside the highway, looking very weary of time.”

Well, here’s the sign. My gracious wife took this picture for me a few weeks after the first post, but, typically, my attention (what there is of it) moved to other things and I didn’t do it.

(Click for larger image, as usual.) The strange thing about this sign is that not only are there are no sunflowers, there doesn’t appear to be any town. (Non-U.S. readers: signs like this normally indicate the name of a place.) There’s something a little sad but also a little brave and hopeful about it. No, there aren’t any sunflowers, but maybe one day there will be.

Pre-TypePad

On the Ascension Day Reading That’s Not the Ascension Day Reading

My diocese is one of those in which what should be Ascension Thursday is celebrated on the following Sunday (which always reminds me of Churchy La Femme saying “Friday the 13th come on a Monday this month.”). So when my wife and I went to Mass on the evening of Ascension Thursday, we heard not the Ascension reading, but John 16:16-20, of which this is an excerpt:

Jesus said to his disciples:
“A little while and you will no longer see me,
and again a little while later and you will see me.”
So some of his disciples said to one another,
“What does this mean that he is saying to us,
‘A little while and you will not see me,
and again a little while and you will see me,’
and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?”
So they said, “What is this ‘little while’ of which he speaks?
We do not know what he means.”

Indeed we don’t. Two thousand years, and still the “little while” goes on. I can’t help wondering sometimes if we’re out of our minds to believe this stuff. Yet the Faith continues to convince me, day by day, year by year, of its truth, not so much on the evidence of miracles—apart from the one enormous miracle of the Resurrection—or any other specific empirical evidence, but by its general congruence with reality.

I don’t mean that it explains every physical fact, like a scientific theory. But it accommodates all the physical facts we know, and it describes and explains the experience of being human more convincingly than any other religion or philosophy. It seems to me that any genuinely open soul, any person in whom heart and mind are united in desire for the truth, must feel its persuasive power, though I know that this is not in fact the case. (Yet although a particular person at a particular point in his life may not feel it, there is always, up until the moment of death, the possibility that he will; conversion happens at unexpected times in unexpected ways to unexpected people.)

If I suppose, for the sake of argument, that all religions are equally false, I will still say that Christianity is the greatest of them, in the sense of encompassing more of reality more persuasively. I know this in the same way I know that Shakespeare is the greatest poet in English. I can’t prove either assertion, but I’m nevertheless certain of both.

If Christianity is a dream, it is the greatest of dreams. Even if it could somehow be proved to be only something like a great work of art, I would still love it, and in some way attempt to shape my life by it. Presented with the “little while” of two thousand years, I have a choice between believing that the Faith is a delusion, or that the promised time will in fact someday come. And I choose to believe. More precisely, I choose to trust God—that He Is, and that therefore no hope is too great to place in him, even when “we do not know what he means.”

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On the Ascension Day Reading That’s Not the Ascension Day Reading

My diocese is one of those in which what should be Ascension Thursday is celebrated on the following Sunday (which always reminds me of Churchy La Femme saying “Friday the 13th come on a Monday this month.”). So when my wife and I went to Mass on the evening of Ascension Thursday, we heard not the Ascension reading, but John 16:16-20, of which this is an excerpt:

Jesus said to his disciples:
“A little while and you will no longer see me,
and again a little while later and you will see me.”
So some of his disciples said to one another,
“What does this mean that he is saying to us,
‘A little while and you will not see me,
and again a little while and you will see me,’
and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?”
So they said, “What is this ‘little while’ of which he speaks?
We do not know what he means.”

Indeed we don’t. Two thousand years, and still the “little while” goes on. I can’t help wondering sometimes if we’re out of our minds to believe this stuff. Yet the Faith continues to convince me, day by day, year by year, of its truth, not so much on the evidence of miracles—apart from the one enormous miracle of the Resurrection—or any other specific empirical evidence, but by its general congruence with reality.

I don’t mean that it explains every physical fact, like a scientific theory. But it accommodates all the physical facts we know, and it describes and explains the experience of being human more convincingly than any other religion or philosophy. It seems to me that any genuinely open soul, any person in whom heart and mind are united in desire for the truth, must feel its persuasive power, though I know that this is not in fact the case. (Yet although a particular person at a particular point in his life may not feel it, there is always, up until the moment of death, the possibility that he will; conversion happens at unexpected times in unexpected ways to unexpected people.)

If I suppose, for the sake of argument, that all religions are equally false, I will still say that Christianity is the greatest of them, in the sense of encompassing more of reality more persuasively. I know this in the same way I know that Shakespeare is the greatest poet in English. I can’t prove either assertion, but I’m nevertheless certain of both.

If Christianity is a dream, it is the greatest of dreams. Even if it could somehow be proved to be only something like a great work of art, I would still love it, and in some way attempt to shape my life by it. Presented with the “little while” of two thousand years, I have a choice between believing that the Faith is a delusion, or that the promised time will in fact someday come. And I choose to believe. More precisely, I choose to trust God—that He Is, and that therefore no hope is too great to place in him, even when “we do not know what he means.”

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The Incredible String Band: The Circle Is Unbroken

I’m about to leave town for a couple of days, and will probably not be online much, if at all. I was working on something about Ascension Day which I had wanted to post before I left, but it kept growing, and I’m out of time. So, just because it bothers me to go that long without posting something—what if everybody gets bored and never reads my blog again and I’m just out here talking into empty cyberspace?—here is a bit of music for the weekend. This is one of those songs by the ISB that haunted me during the dark years of my youth.

And though it doesn’t haunt me in exactly the same way, because I understand more about what, and whom, it points to, I think it moves me even more.

Scattered we were when the long night was breaking
But in bright morning converse again.

Pre-TypePad


The Incredible String Band: The Circle Is Unbroken

I’m about to leave town for a couple of days, and will probably not be online much, if at all. I was working on something about Ascension Day which I had wanted to post before I left, but it kept growing, and I’m out of time. So, just because it bothers me to go that long without posting something—what if everybody gets bored and never reads my blog again and I’m just out here talking into empty cyberspace?—here is a bit of music for the weekend. This is one of those songs by the ISB that haunted me during the dark years of my youth.

And though it doesn’t haunt me in exactly the same way, because I understand more about what, and whom, it points to, I think it moves me even more.

Scattered we were when the long night was breaking
But in bright morning converse again.

Pre-TypePad


Another Review of the Flannery O’Connor Biography

In the June Atlantic. Though he admires O’Connor’s skill, the reviewer strikes me as pretty obtuse; he seems to be one of those who just doesn’t get the essence of what she was doing. And now that I think about it, do many people who don’t already understand—i.e., Catholics and other Christians—really ever get O’Connor’s work? And did she, then, fail in a significant part of her effort to startle the comfortably godless out of their complacency?

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