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June 2013

The Last Lewis

Probably. If you like the series at all, you should see this one. It's one of the better ones. It's called "Intellligent Design," and one of the characters is an advocate of that theory. Nothing much is made of that in the story, so it seems an odd thing to throw in, but the phrase itself has some relevance. 

From Today's Gospel

And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Eli'jah did? But he turned, and rebuked them[, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them].

  --Luke 9:51-56

(The bracketed portion is not in the reading, apparently because it's not in the earliest manuscripts. But it's relevant.)

Bach: Cello Suite #5, Sarabande

Weekend Music

I think I've listened with at least some degree of attention to about half of the cello suites, and have to admit that I haven't warmed up to them on the whole, although some individual movements caught my ear. Last Sunday I listened to the fifth suite, and the sarabande really grabbed me. It was the Rostropovich recording, and after I'd heard the suite I read the liner notes to see if Rostropovich had anything to say about that suite in particular. He did, and moreover particularly emphasized his love for the sarabande. I suppose it's silly, but that pleased me.


Why #5? Because the suites are arranged to fit on two CDs (I assume), three on each disk, and #5 is the last one on the disk, and I wanted to play only a single suite, and that was the easiest way to do it. I think part of my lack of response to the suites is that I generally put on one of these CDs and let it play all the way through. I'm sorry, but seventy minutes of solo cello is too much.

As the night the day...

JEFFREY BROWN: I want to pick up first on what the president was just saying about this issue of couples married in one state moving to a state where perhaps that's not recognized.

How big a deal, first, is this patchwork system that we have?

WINNIE STACHELBERG: Well, the patchwork system is a very big deal, which is why we are eager to have marriage equality in all 50 states, because the patchwork just doesn't work for a married couple.

What exists right now is in the 13 states and the District of Columbia where are you legally married, you are legally married for the purposes of state benefits, and now, with DOMA's demise, federal benefits, the tricky issue comes up if you have a legal marriage in Massachusetts, one of those states, and then you move to Alabama. You're still married, and the question now remains, do you get federal benefits living in Alabama?

From PBS. It's a group conversation, and the traditionalist position is represented briefly and inadequately by Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo).The consensus of the others is "you people are going to be despised just as racists are despised."

But it's not the same thing, and millions of people know it's not the same thing, and no words and no laws can make it be the same thing.

So, how long is it going to be until this rule is enforced on all fifty states? Two years? Five? Probably not more than ten. I think I hear threads snapping in the fabric of society.

The Party is Victorious

So says Elizabeth Scalia, and she seems to mean The Party in the sense that it's used in one-party states. It's as good a term as any to refer to the whole amorphous yet clearly identifiable entity that includes the Obama administration, the Democratic Party, the majority of journalists and news outlets, most of academia, and most of the entertainment industry. And of course the rank and file, from the provincial liberals and college students who see themselves as following a different drummer, to the low-information voters who follow moral fashion without thinking too much about it.

The interesting thing about Scalia's lament is that it was not written about yesterday's Supreme Court decision; though published on the same day, it was written the day before. The momentum of affairs has been clear for some time. The decision was not unexpected, but it seems to be serving to clarify and crystallize perceptions about the real state of things. It may, when seen from the future, appear as a significant marker, a point where the state shifted definitively from ostensible neutrality to hostility toward religion, especially toward Christianity.

This is not overt--a key passage in the ruling says only that

...the principal purpose and the necessary effect of this law are to demean those persons who are in a lawful same-sex marriage.

But the court doesn't acknowledge the existence of arguments against same-sex marriage on the merits, instead reducing opposition to, in effect, simple meanness. This is, as we all know, exactly the line of the SSM movement, and the fact that it has been adopted by the Supreme Court means serious problems for Christians. Obviously, one source of this " demean"  is the Christian religion, and, just as obviously, the only reasonable posture of government toward people engaged in meanness is to keep a watchful eye on them and restrain them when they get out of hand. In effect, the biggest legal gun in the American arsenal is now pointing straight at Christians who adhere to the idea that the word "marriage" applies to something that happens between men and women, an idea that was universal in the human race until just the other day, historically speaking.

In any case, the hope that there can be any but sporadic and rear-guard harassment of this juggernaut in the political realm seems slim indeed. The Party is victorious; mere language, inherently unstable and disputable, was never going to be enough to restrain it once those in power felt themselves emancipated from the principles and assumptions that underlay the words. The opposition is weak, confused, fragmented, a little guilty in its dissent from what everyone else sees as a noble consensus, and hopelessly, hopelessly, hopelessly unfashionable. And the press has mostly suspended its watchdog role where the Democratic party is concerned, openly working on its behalf: repeating its propaganda, hiding or explaining away its misdeeds, and attacking its enemies.

Naturally there is some over-reaction and some misinformed panic on the anti-SSM side. The decision doesn't force everyone, as I heard someone say, to accept homosexual marriages, much less require that Christian clergy perform them. But it does set wheels in motion: large, heavy wheels not likely to be slowed or turned. It makes an unstable situation, in which a couple married in New York is not married in Texas, even more so, because now they will be sort-of-married in Texas--married insofar as they reside in the United States, but not married insofar as they reside in the state of Texas. Already this morning those who favor the ruling, from the president on down, complained that it doesn't go far enough, precisely because it does not require all states to consider same-sex marriages valid, and that they will immediately press the question further. Lawsuits will be brought, cases will make their way to the Supreme Court, and Anthony Kennedy or someone of like mind will pronounce the state of affairs to be contrary to the constitution. 

The phrase keeps running through my mind: this will not end well.

Notes On the Never-Ending Tour

That's what they call Dylan's relentless touring. It's been going on for 25 years now, and a couple of publications take notice: The Atlantic and The Wall Street Journal. I didn't realize it had been such a conscious artistic choice for him.

I've seen three of these 2,500 shows: Pensacola ca. 1992, Lafayette ca. 1998, New Orleans ca. 2003. The first was not so good, the second was great--it was the tour with Paul Simon, and Simon's half of the concert was wonderful--and the third was very good. He puts together some great bands, and my only complaint about both the shows and his recordings is that he keeps them on such a tight leash. I'd really like to hear more in the way of guitar solos and such.

Shulamith Firestone, RIP

When my wife and I got married she owned a copy of Shulamith Firestone's The Dialectic of Sex, not to mention several other feminist works of the time, which in retrospect should perhaps have worried me a little. But in the early '70s most college girls with any sort of intellectual inclination read things like that, and at any rate any case the worry would have proved unfounded. The book is gone now, dumped in one of our periodic purges of books that we're pretty sure we never want to read again, or perhaps have accepted we will, after all, never read.

I did leaf through it once, though, and found at the end a truly bizarre vision of the future. It included a list of the stages through which humanity must pass on the way to perfect freedom and equality. As I recall, the elimination of legal and social gender differences was only the beginning; it progressed (if that's the word) through elimination of the family and all consciousness of family relationships, ending with a sort of techno-feminist-communist society in which babies are produced in artificial wombs and childbearing itself, as the foundation of all the oppression to which women have been subject throughout the ages, no longer exists.

Here's a passage quoted on her Wikipedia page which seems to be the summation of the vision:

So that just as to assure elimination of economic classes requires the revolt of the underclass (the proletariat) and, in a temporary dictatorship, their seizure of the means of production, so to assure the elimination of sexual classes requires the revolt of the underclass (women) and the seizure of control of reproduction: not only the full restoration to women of ownership of their own bodies, but also their (temporary) seizure of control of human fertility - the new population biology as well as all the social institutions of child-bearing and child-rearing. And just as the end goal of socialist revolution was not only the elimination of the economic class privilege but of the economic class distinction itself, so the end goal of feminist revolution must be, unlike that of the first feminist movement, not just the elimination of male privilege but of the sex distinction itself: genital differences between human beings would no longer matter culturally. (A reversion to an unobstructed pansexuality Freud's 'polymorphous perversity' - would probably supersede hetero/homo/bi-sexuality.) The reproduction of the species by one sex for the benefit of both would be replaced by (at least the option of) artificial reproduction: children would born to both sexes equally, or independently of either, however one chooses to look at it; the dependence of the child on the mother (and vice versa) would give way to a greatly shortened dependence on a small group of others in general, and any remaining inferiority to adults in physical strength would be compensated for culturally. The division of labour would be ended by the elimination of labour altogether (through cybernetics). The tyranny of the biological family would be broken.

I remember thinking "This person is completely deranged." And I think any reasonable person would agree. But there are probably a considerable number who would say, as they often say of communism, that it's a good idea although it would be hard to put into practice. 

 "What do conservatives want to conserve?" is a perennial question, and a good one. Not asked as often, at least in my experience, is its counterpart: to what goal are progressives progressing? I wonder how many would see Firestone's vision as a desirable utopia. Not so very many, I would guess. But those who would are probably in academia or government or journalism, and wield an influence out of proportion to their numbers. A good many more would probably go at least halfway to Firestone's goal, and agree with her basic view of relations between the sexes. No doubt the book remains useful for stoking rage in young women.

I have been thinking about the book and the woman who wrote it because I recently ran across this retrospective in The New Yorker. She didn't do well after Dialectic. After participating in the frenzy of theorizing and agitating that was feminism in the early 1970s, she turned her back on the movement, withdrew and became isolated, suffering bouts of madness and often living in poverty. Although she came out of that for a time in the 1990s (with the assistance and friendship of a woman named Lourdes), she withdrew again, and when she died alone in her apartment last year, a week went by before anyone noticed. 

Of course one who has looked at the book is not surprised, or ought not to be, to hear that her mind broke down at times: her rage was against the very nature of reality, as she herself said:

Feminists have to question, not just all of Western culture, but the organization of culture itself, and further, even the very organization of nature.

The very organization of nature. To rage against that is to see, in a distorted way, the fundamental human problem; to believe you can fix it is, eventually, to despair. She was to feminism as Nietzsche was to atheism: someone who was willing to see the implications all the way to the end. There is something admirable in her demand for purity, although it was a kind of purity not only impossible to attain but not even desirable to a healthy spirit.  

It is obvious to anyone, if Faludi's account is correct, that a troubled family life had a lot to do with Firestone's anger and her problems (not to mention the sick atmosphere of politicized personal quarrels--or should that be personalized political quarrels?--so frequently present in the feminist movement). And to a Catholic eye it's also obvious that a very misguided religious impulse was at work. Another profile, this one at The Atlantic, ends with this observation: "in her fervor she at times resembled a martyr or a saint." She did a lot of damage, to herself and others, but God would have seen the resemblance, too. 


(from a book she published in 1998, Airless Spaces)

Our time is notable for its number of officially educated people who don't know that they don't know what they don't know.

ZZ Top: Jesus Just Left Chicago

Weekend Music

Because I heard it a few days ago and still have it in my head, and maybe also because it's summer: simple food, simply cooked with natural ingredients and a bit of flair, tasty and satisfying.


I could play most of that (with a fair amount of work). It's almost surprising that ZZ Top's straightforward formula has remained popular, while remaining constant, for so long. The original recording of the song was already pretty old by pop music standards--seven years--when the above concert took place, and it varies only slightly from the recording. Here's how they did it thirty years later: 


Irreverent? I guess, but

You don't have to worry
Because takin care of business is his name