Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter

A hymn, by Samuel Crossman, 1664, England.

My song is love unknown,
My Saviour’s love to me;
Love to the loveless shown,
That they might lovely be.
O who am I, that for my sake
My Lord should take frail flesh and die?

He came from His blest throne
Salvation to bestow;
But men made strange, and none
The longed-for Christ would know:
But O! my Friend, my Friend indeed,
Who at my need His life did spend.

Sometimes they strew His way,
And His sweet praises sing;
Resounding all the day
Hosannas to their King:
Then “Crucify!” is all their breath,
And for His death they thirst and cry.

Why, what hath my Lord done?
What makes this rage and spite?
He made the lame to run,
He gave the blind their sight,
Sweet injuries! Yet they at these
Themselves displease, and ’gainst Him rise.

They rise and needs will have
My dear Lord made away;
A murderer they save,
The Prince of life they slay,
Yet cheerful He to suffering goes,
That He His foes from thence might free.

In life, no house, no home
My Lord on earth might have;
In death no friendly tomb
But what a stranger gave.
What may I say? Heav’n was His home;
But mine the tomb wherein He lay.

Here might I stay and sing,
No story so divine;
Never was love, dear King!
Never was grief like Thine.
This is my Friend, in Whose sweet praise
I all my days could gladly spend.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Fig. 1. Turkey. From Vintage Printable

Here is a good Thanksgiving message from Patrick Deneen.

The contrast between our "feast" days and our regular days has faded nearly to the point of indistinction. In America today, we are more likely to contend with obesity than starvation, with binge shopping than asceticism, with adult diabetes than scurvy. I don't mean to minimize the genuine sufferings of the genuine poor, but many of our disadvantaged people today are far more wealthy and comfortable than even the wealthiest of the Pilgrims; poverty, "the middle class" and wealth are and have always been relative standards, points of comparison that reflect contemporary levels of material want or plenitude.

My friend and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia, Charles Mathewes, has suggested that the problem we may face in the future (if not the present) is not too much want, but too much plenty. How do we, as a civilization, deal with the existence of so much stuff when our operative definition of the world and the economy has been based on the idea that nature is one of scarcity and we need, in response, an ever-increasing generation of more?

Much of modern philosophy - from thinkers ranging from Francis Bacon to Thomas Hobbes, from John Locke to Adam Smith - has held that nature is chintzy and that human freedom consists in extending our mastery over, and control of, the natural
Rather than seeing the world as one of scarcity that required our conquest, they saw a world of plenitude and as gift
world. Freedom is the expansion of the human power to fulfill our wills and desires. Freedom today is so often defined as choice - but more, the power to fulfill choice. If we are so often dissatisfied, it is not that many of our desires go unfulfilled, but that new desires inevitably trail those that have been met, demanding new power and the further extension of mastery. As a result, our one official political policy - regardless of party or leader - is growth....

I find this fact noteworthy - for it is our older inheritance, once embodied in our humanities disciplines, that offered a different understanding of freedom. By this older definition - found in our classical and Biblical inheritance - freedom is the attainment of self-government over our appetites. Ancient and religious thinkers (ranging from Aristotle to Augustine and beyond) argued that human appetites were infinitely expandable, and that submission to the pursuit to fulfill appetite was an endless and impossible task. To pursue their fulfillment was to make oneself a slave to one's appetites. True freedom, such thinkers argued, consisted in the governance of appetite. By extension, rather than seeing the world as one of scarcity that required our conquest, such thinkers saw a world of plenitude and as gift, one that offered us many goods and even plenitude and required of us in turn good stewardship and moderate appetites. The first Thanksgiving - for all the hardship experienced by the Pilgrims - was celebrated in this spirit, not one that despised the earth for giving us too little, but celebrated creation for offering so much.

The view of the world as miserly is becoming dominant in our world today...

Changing behavior is difficult, more difficult than getting legislation passed or inventing a new form of indigestible fat. Yet, it is a capacity given to every one of us. This is our challenge and our task. In this, we have much to learn from our Puritan forbears. Let us give thanks.

He also remarks on the use of science and technology to wield power over our world, but the forsaking of the wisdom to understand, or even ask, why? and to what extent? He also touches on the failure of both political parties to ask these question as well. You should read the rest.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Link Round-up

Hi everybody.

So here's the best ways to waste time on the internet.

Man on the Move - People find cool cars on the street, take pictures, and send them in. Pretty much the best thing ever.

Mark Bittman
give us a bajillion recipes we can cook ahead of time for Thanksgiving. And they all look good. Hat tip to Dreher.

Charley Parker of Lines and Colors posts about the French painter James Tissot, who devoted much of his later life to watercolors depicting Christ in the Holy Land.

Brett McKay at Art of Manliness posts Fifty Best Books for Boys.

From A Continuous Lean, a drum battle between Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich on Sammy Davis Jr's show. Who's the winner?

Answer: Sammy Davis Jr, with his dance at 3:10.

Monday, November 16, 2009


Sorry for the delay. And thank you Chris for getting back on the bloggin road again. I owe you a brew of your own choosing.

The Mockingbird has a good post up today on the "spiritual, but not religious" viewpoint, which he views as a misnomer: truly one who holds that viewpoint is religious, but not truly spiritual.

Roughly 2000 years ago, the Apostle Paul ran into a group of people who were similarly "spiritual," and had this to say to them: "Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, 'To the unknown god." What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you."

He ends with a the much-needed understanding that spiritual life is necessarily experience and shared within a cultural context, but rebuts the postmodern canard that context is all. Despite being influenced by and influencing culture-at-large, the tenets of faith of must point to an objectively grounded reality that supersedes the culture--otherwise it truly has no meaning to impact it. Thus:

I mean, all of us are, in one sense or another, pupils of Socrates. John Stewart Mill said humanity cannot be reminded often enough that there was once a man named Socrates, and that's right. But there are no temples built to Socrates. Nobody ever wrote the "B Minor Mass" in honor of Socrates, because he calls upon people to learn and therefore to be honest with themselves, but he does not call upon them to take up their cross and follow. And both he and Jesus died for what they believed. But Jesus died in the conscious commitment to the salvation of the world. And so wherever the message is preached and brought in whatever language it comes from, the language it comes to and the culture into which it penetrates must, at some stage of its maturation, learn to answer yet again the question: "Who do you say that I am?" Because the "you say" in that question is the culture in which we live. He's not asking, "Who does the fourth century say that I am?" when it was writing in Greek. That's important, because without that we wouldn't be where we are. But, at some point, you have to be who and what you are in the only culture in which you're ever going to live, the only century in which you're going to live and die, and, in that century, you have to answer with whatever linguistic and philosophical equipment you have, you have to answer the question: "Who do you say that I am?"

PS. I always approve of bloggers with bird-themed names!

Friday, August 28, 2009

My Childhood

I thought it ended a few years ago, but now I am certain.

This happened.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Music for Learning. Music for Communicating.

One thing I have always found interesting, especially from a neurological and a psychosocial standpoint is music. For instance, I believe1 (without any evidence whatsoever--perhaps my more intrepid readers could do a PubMed search, but the only readers of this blog who would value that are myself, and Greg C) that music and lyrics engage different neurological pathways and processes for learning, as opposed to typical "book larnin." For instance, if I asked you something you read or learned several months ago, you'd probably be pretty foggy. Just ask me about all the antiepileptic drugs I crammed for my boards a couple months ago. Yet if a song came on the radio, even one you haven't heard for several months, you could sing along without much difficulty, and remember mots of lines. Probably part of this is due to repetition, but then again, I repetitively flipped through those pharmacology flash cards a lot too.

Now here's this, in a recent interview by Scott Horton with famed neurologist Oliver Sacks in Harper's:
Aphasia is a terribly frustrating and isolating condition. Some people experience temporary aphasia (say, following a stroke or brain injury), but others are left with it for months or years. Yet many people with expressive aphasia, unable to utter a sentence, may be able to sing. I often greet such patients by singing “Happy Birthday” to them, whether it is their birthday or not. Everyone knows the words and melody of this song, and often aphasic people can join in. In 1973, Martin Albert and his colleagues in Boston described a form of music therapy they called “melodic intonation therapy.” Patients were taught to sing or intone short phrases—for example, “How are you today?” Then the musical elements of this were removed slowly until (in some cases) the patient regained the power to speak a little without the aid of intonation. One sixty-seven-year-old man, aphasic for eighteen months—he could only produce meaningless grunts and had received three months of speech therapy without effect—started to produce words two days after beginning melodic intonation therapy; in two weeks, he had an effective vocabulary of a hundred words, and at six weeks, he could carry on “short, meaningful conversations.”

This is a very specific use of music therapy, but there are many others. People with Alzheimer’s or other dementias will often respond to music even when they are able to respond to little else. Music, especially familiar music from one’s early years, can help to orient and organize such people.

Music works because it engages so many parts of the brain. Rhythm, actual or imagined, activates areas of the motor cortex, crucial in synchronizing and energizing movement—whether for athletes or people with movement disorders like Parkinson’s disease or Tourette’s syndrome. In Musicophilia, I described a man who has incessant seizures, which only stop when he plays music, though this is a highly individual thing, for some people with epilepsy may find that music of a particular sort can actually trigger seizures. By and large, though, there are few, if any, bad side effects of music, and music can often work where no medications can.


The Man at Midnight

Via Ray Ortlund, quoting Alexander Whyte's Lord, Teach Us to Pray:

"See the man at midnight. Imitate that man. Act it all alone at midnight. Hear his loud cry, and cry it after him. He needed three loaves. What is your need? Name it. Name it out loud. Let your own ears hear it. . . . The shameful things you have to ask for. The disgraceful, the incredible things you have to admit and confess. The life you have lived. The way you have spent your days and nights. And what all that has brought you to. It kills you to have to say such things even with your door shut. Yes, but better say all these things in closets than have them all proclaimed from the housetops of the day of judgment. Knock, man! Knock for the love of God! Knock as they knock to get into heaven after the door is shut! Knock, as they knock to get out of hell!"

Do I pray with such urgency? Such humilty? No.