I sometimes feel that I'm a bit of an impostor in the former-Anglican culture of the Ordinariate, in which people often refer to "our Anglican [or Episcopalian] heritage," "the hymns and prayers we grew up with," and so forth. But I didn't grow up in Anglicanism, although a certain amount of it had been carried over into the Methodism in which I did grow up. My time as an Episcopalian was really a fairly brief stop (four years or so) on my way from unbelief to the Catholic Church. So there's a fair amount of Anglican lore and terminology that I don't recognize.
One such, for a while, was reference to "the Coverdale psalms." The first time I heard that I had no idea what it meant. I hadn't known that the Anglican Book of Common Prayer had for centuries used a 1535 translation of the Psalms which had been part of a Bible translation by Miles Coverdale. I did, however, know that I very much liked the psalms in the BCP.
For a couple of months now, since sometime in Lent, I've been trying to pray at least one or the other, and preferably both, of the morning and evening prayer sets in Magnificat. These generally include a psalm, and I often read the Coverdale translations instead of the Grail versions which are printed in the magazine. I'm fairly sure that the Coverdale is inaccurate sometimes, and occasionally it uses words that have shifted in connotation enough to make them sound odd or even silly to modern ears: "naughty," for instance, in Psalm 86, where current translations have "ruthless." But in general the Coverdale translations are much richer, more vivid and more powerful. Here, for instance, is the beginning of Psalm 38 in the Grail translation:
O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger; reprove me not in your rage. For your arrows have sunk deep in me; your hand has come down upon me. There is no soundness in my flesh because of your anger: there is no health in my limbs because of my sin. My guilt towers higher than my head; it is a weight too heavy to bear. My wounds are foul and festering, the result of my own folly. I am bowed and brought to my knees. I go mourning all the day long. All my frame is burning with fever; there is no soundness in my flesh. I am spent and utterly crushed, I cry aloud in anguish of heart.
Put me not to rebuke, O Lord, in thine anger; neither chasten me in thy heavy displeasure, for thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore. There is no health in my flesh, because of thy displeasure; neither is there any rest in my bones, by reason of my sin. For my wickednesses are gone over my head, and are like a sore burden, too heavy for me to bear. My wounds stink, and are corrupt, through my foolishness. I am brought into so great trouble and misery, that I go mourning all the day long. For my loins are filled with a sore disease, and there is no whole part in my body. I am feeble and sore smitten; I have roared for the very disquietness of my heart.
There's nothing wrong with the first one. If I didn' t have the second for comparison, I'd think it was fine. But when juxtaposed this way it seems like Bud Lite followed by Guinness Stout. "Roared" may seem too much for us, but it might be quite accurate for men of less restrained times.
There is a very nice PDF of the Coverdale Psalms at an Orthodox site called Synaxis. (According to another page at Synaxis, the PDF was prepared by/for a web site called Lutherans Online, but the link to it doesn't work.)
The discussion last week of postmodernism left me leaning more strongly toward something I've long suspected: that postmodernism is not something fundamentally different and separate from modernism, but is rather a late, decadent, and perhaps terminal phase of modernism. The terms are fluid and imprecise and refer to somewhat amorphous developments, and I won't deny that the word "postmodern" entails some useful distinctions. But still, both seem to me to be aspects of the great cultural dissolution that's been in progress for a couple of centuries now.
Wandering between two worlds, one dead,The other powerless to be born....--Matthew Arnold, "Stanzas from the Grand Chartreuse"
One characteristic of modernity in both its broad and limited senses (that is, the couple of centuries just mentioned as well as the contemporary) is a predilection for dividing history into distinct periods (eras, epochs) with distinct names. Calling our own time "modern" was therefore a failure in planning, and the term "postmodern" is evidence of that. Something has to come next, but the classifiers have boxed themselves in, since everything that comes after "modern" is by definition "postmodern," nor will "modern" make much sense once the era so named is past. Perhaps modernism will not truly have ended until the practice of dividing history into named periods has ended, and we have been for a while in an age that does not attempt to name itself.
There is often a smug quality in contemporary intellectual talk that I suspect is connected with postmodernism. Our culture now values pleasure above all things. Sexual pleasure is the greatest of these, but there are many others, and one of them is the sense of being superior to the past. It's a natural corollary to the notion of progress, but it's much more pronounced now than even fifty years ago. It induces a general spirit of mockery and cynicism which is really just incomprehension and which I suspect can be connected to postmodernism: it views the past as something always on trial, always under attack, always to be"interrogated," always required but always failing to justify itself to us. This again is not new and in a different tone is certainly seen in modernity in general, but it seems to have a different and more unpleasant flavor in postmodernism, as in the literary academic I once heard describe Dante as "a Christian creep."
Like so many unhealthy things that trickle down from the intellectual class to the masses, this disdain has become an unconscious assumption for a lot of people, and the younger they are they more likely they are to have it. I get the feeling from many young people now that they hardly even know that the past existed except as a sort of nightmare of racism, sexism, and "homophobia." It's natural for young people to be that way to some degree, and maybe this is just my age speaking, but it seems more pronounced now.
I never have liked the phrase "having sex." It's a strikingly cold and empty description. But "hooking up" is worse. It always makes me think of something mechanical, like hooking up two railroad cars. That's a thought provoked by reading a young woman's astonishingly shallow comments on the reasons she does and does not choose to do it with this or that male.
I apologize in advance for putting into your head the image you're going to see in a moment, but it's too funny for me to keep to myself. Writing for National Review, Kyle Smith devotes some time to making fun of pop singer Katy Perry making an attempt to be all serious 'n' stuff, which seems to be an occupational temptation for entertainers these days. I'm not sure why he bothered, except perhaps that he thought it was fun to do, and I'm not sure why I read it, except that I thought it might be amusing, which it was, especially this:
[A]s a pundit Katy Perry has about as much appeal as George Will does in a halter top.
In an interesting Facebook post, someone speculated that the current polarization in politics has something to do with the prominence of the baby boomers, and with the tendency of older people to want to simplify their lives, and to care less about what others think of them. The writer suggests that this might result in a tendency for Christian public intellectuals to take positions that are more blunt and less qualified and nuanced. He also suggests this might involve the casting off of a career-related reluctance to avoid giving offense on topic A in order to be heard on topic B, no longer necessary as the end of the career approaches.
I don't exactly qualify as a public intellectual, but I have spent a fair amount of energy over the years voicing my opinions about many things, and I'm 68 years old, so I asked myself if I might be doing this. It's the sort of thing one could fool oneself about--who, me? I'm not like that. But I don't think that particular syndrome is really operative in me; that is, I don't think I've become more harsh and more given to polarizing rhetoric, or that I'm falling into those old-guy mental habits.
I do, however, believe that in objective fact our social-cultural-political situation has changed significantly over my lifetime in that (among other things) our society is very deeply and angrily divided, to a degree that endangers the future of this and perhaps other nations. There have been changes for the better, but this division, this attempt of two hostile cultures to co-exist, is clearly not one of them, and it may be ruinous--and that's apart from whatever harm might be done by the ideas pushed by either side. (I can think of several ways in which that might be the case, but will leave out the specifics for now.)
And in some respects I am definitely on one side of the division. I'm thinking, of course, specifically of the sex-related matters like the assertion that the distinction between male and female has no relevance to marriage. So when I write about that, it may seem that I am in fact falling into old-man syndrome. Perhaps I am. But I argue that this is an objectively bad situation, not just an old man's cranky opinion.
Since I have written very little for pay over the years, and so have mostly been completely free to say exactly what I think, the career-related reasons for reticence have not applied. There is, however, one respect in which they have: since 1990 I've worked for a Jesuit institution, and I haven't said much at all about it. This is not because I have nothing to say. Perhaps one day I'll say it. I don't mean that to be mysterious or threatening; it would not be all bad by any means. But it would not be all good, either.
We had a lot of rain from tropical storm Cindy. On Thursday afternoon, after most of it had passed and the clouds were beginning to break up, I was at the bay with the two grandsons who are staying with me several days a week this summer. For a few minutes one shaft of sunlight dropped straight down from the clouds away to the west. This picture was the best I could do by way of capturing it.