Saturday, December 31, 2022

Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot…

New Year's Eve: 2022

Time is told by death, who doubts it? But time is always halved--for all we know, it is halved--by the eye-blink, the synapse, the immeasurable moment of the present. Time is only the past and maybe the future; the present moment, dividing and connecting them, is eternal. The time of the past is there, somewhat, but only somewhat, to be remembered and examined. We believe that the future is there too, for it keeps arriving, though we know nothing about it. But try to stop the present for your patient scrutiny, or to measure its length with your most advanced chronometer. It exists, so far as I can tell, only as a leak in time, through which, if we are quiet enough, eternity falls upon us and makes its claim. And here I am, an old man, traveling as a child among the dead.

We measure time by its deaths, yes, and by its births. For time is told also by life. As some depart, others come. The hand opened in farewell remains open in welcome. I, who once had grandparents and parents, now have children and grandchildren. Like the flowing river that is yet always present, time that is always going is always coming. And time that is told by death and birth is held and redeemed by love, which is always present. Time, then, is told by love's losses, and by the coming of love, and by love continuing in gratitude for what is lost. It is folded and enfolded and unfolded forever and ever, the love by which the dead are alive and the unborn welcomed into the womb. The great question for the old and the dying, I think, is not if they have loved and been loved enough, but if they have been grateful enough for love received and given, however much. No one who has gratitude is the onliest one. Let us pray to be grateful to the last.
--Wendell Berry, Andy Catlett: Early Travels

Friday, December 30, 2022

I'm Left Wondering....

Does Silicon Valley still want to emulate Elmo's management style?

(BTW, smart money says it was true for the half-day Elmo was in that office.  Elmo is not a reliable source of information.)

Wait! Is Elmo Now Andrew Tate's Talent Agent?

Andrew Tate’s talent agent told the Washington Post that the allegations of human trafficking were “an orchestrated hoax put on by the matrix.”

Perhaps more to the point:  what is Andrew Tate's "talent"? 

Let's Start By Saying Ministry Is Relational

By which I mean, it's not transactional:

With a halting voice, I told my congregation anyway how it felt when I watched would-be insurrectionists carry Bibles and Christian flags into the U.S. Capitol building on January 6, suggesting that their violent overthrow of a democratic election was God-ordained.

I felt vulnerable saying these things, but I also trusted that my congregation would listen. We had a shared bond, a shared trust, a shared relationship. I baptized their babies and stood vigil in my clergy collar at the local cemetery as a military band played taps and a veteran’s ashes were laid to rest. I led prayer at the local Memorial Day picnic after rounds were fired into the air, the names of lives lost were read, and children scattered into the street to grab the spent bullets.

They knew that I’d marched with clergy for racial justice after George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin just six miles from my home. They hadn’t all liked it very much that their pastor was out there supporting “the Blacks,” as some people put it. But others sent me messages about their Black family members and the racism they’d faced in rural Minnesota. They were glad I was bearing witness on behalf of a Savior who did not come to redeem only white Americans.

We’d settled into an uneasy truce, my church and I. They tolerated my NPR and CNN appearances, but they preferred it when I quoted country songs in my sermons and we could joke together about my former career as a sportswriter. Gingerly, we trusted each other, forgave each other, and listened to each other.

But they didn't have a Damascus road experience when she told them how she felt.  Huh.

I was in the pulpit (still) on 9/11.  It was international news, I thought my congregation wanted to hear from me about it.

They didn't.

Not that I went full Wendell Berry on them (I knew better).  But I assumed they were concerned.  They weren't.  It was New York City; this was Houston.  It didn't touch their lives at all.  It was practically in a foreign country.  They had their own concerns, their own interests; mostly they were old (as I understand now, being "old" myself) and had seen violence before.  Basically, they were non-plussed.  Violence was the way of the world.  Not violence in their lives (that was another matter entirely), but violence on a grand scale in a far away place?  Meh.  It happens.

A part of me thought the very good Christians of my church’s little rural Midwestern town would take down their Trump flags on their own after the attempted insurrection. I thought they’d see the lives lost at the Capitol, the willful assault on American democracy, the shouts of the n-word at the Capitol police officers from the Trump-supporting rioters, and decide that simply wasn’t the association they wanted to claim any longer.

Like I said, I was naive. For many of the good white Christians I knew — not only in my church’s little town but across America, whom I’d interviewed for this book throughout 2018 — and for my dear friends and family members, January 6 was nothing to be ashamed of. Violence had always been necessary to sustain wealth and power for the white ruling class, and violence was also required to sustain the support of the rural white Christians who’d tied their fate to their economic overlords in New York City, California, and DC, with Rs behind their names.

Yeah, pretty much like that.

I will tell you for free: never tell your congregation how you feel, expecting they will sympathize with you and try to understand you.  They want you to understand them.  Their relationship to you is largely transactional (this is not a universal constant, but it's pretty nearly so).  Your pastoral relationship to them cannot be.  That's the vulnerability, and it's all on the side of the pastor.  Which means you cannot tell the congregation how you feel like you might tell a lover, hoping for a deeper relationship, for understanding and even a change of heart in the audience.  Large groups of people simply don't work that way.  (Individuals in the congregation don't work that way, either.  But that's another matter.) They are not one heart and one mind:  they are a collection of individuals, gathered into units and cliques and probably even families.  You, the pastor, are a stranger in a strange land.  Forget that at your peril.

Sorry, but that's the way it is.

The congregation is never going to see things the way you do.  That's not the fault of Constantine or capitalism or American nationalism or whatever cause you want to blame.  It's human nature.  It's human social order. Niebuhr understood it: an individual can be ethical, can even make decisions for self-sacrifice based on an ethic.  But do we expect a father to make such decisions on behalf of his children?  How many of us would countenance a father who refused his children medical care, vaccines, education, based on his ethics?  Now who is the ethical voice of the congregation?  Who gets to decide what they will hold dear and true? And how do you enforce it?

Yeah; not so simple in reality.

Ministry is relational.  Just because you pray with people and bury their family members and baptize their babies (I baptized the grandchildren of a family who worked very hard to run me out of my last church), doesn't mean you've paid the coin of the realm and now have a deposit of goodwill you can withdraw at your convenience.  You are the pastor.  Your convenience means nothing to your congregation; and it never will.

Sorry, but that's the way it is.

Some members will be kinder, gentler, more hospitable than others.  But the congregation will not change its collective heart and mind because you say what you think are the right words.  Indeed, the problem with congregations is that they are selfish; they expect everyone to think the way they do, and do as they would do.  Even though those are the expectations of every individual making up that congregation, which means each one of them thinks they think as the congregation does, and you as pastor should do as they (each person thinking they are the congregation) says and does.  And your words, your ultimately selfish ambition to get them to change for you, is not going to change them any more than they can get you to change.

It's a relationship; but it's a very transactional one.  What it is not, is a position of power.  You can represent your ideas and beliefs as best you can in the circumstances.  The congregation will cling to theirs.  Congregations have a culture, just like larger societies; and that culture is both virtually genetic (persisting over years and even centuries) and as implacable as stone, to steal a phrase from Sondheim.  Your tears will not alter it, melt it, erode it in the least.  Your shouts will not break it.  Your heart will not warm it, except for a moment or two; and then only for the occasion, not for the long term.

These are the conditions that prevail.

Sixth Day of Christmas 2022: "The Cultivation of Christmas Trees"

There are several attitudes towards Christmas,
Some of which we may disregard:
The social, the torpid, the patently commercial,
The rowdy (the pubs being open till midnight),
And the childish - which is not that of the child
For whom the candle is a star, and the gilded angel
Spreading its wings at the summit of the tree
Is not only a decoration, but an angel.

The child wonders at the Christmas Tree:
Let him continue in the spirit of wonder
At the Feast as an event not accepted as a pretext;
So that the glittering rapture, the amazement
Of the first-remembered Christmas Tree,
So that the surprises, delight in new possessions
(Each one with its peculiar and exciting smell),
The expectation of the goose or turkey
And the expected awe on its appearance,

So that the reverence and the gaiety
May not be forgotten in later experience,
In the bored habituation, the fatigue, the tedium,
The awareness of death, the consciousness of failure,
Or in the piety of the convert
Which may be tainted with a self-conceit
Displeasing to God and disrespectful to children
(And here I remember also with gratitude
St.Lucy, her carol, and her crown of fire):

So that before the end, the eightieth Christmas
(By "eightieth" meaning whichever is last)
The accumulated memories of annual emotion
May be concentrated into a great joy
Which shall be also a great fear, as on the occasion
When fear came upon every soul:
Because the beginning shall remind us of the end
And the first coming of the second coming.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Gifts That Keep On Giving

So this happened today:
The document requests covered a series of subjects, from the withdrawal from Afghanistan to the Hunter Biden investigation. The attorney, Richard Sauber, separately informed Republican representatives James Comer from Kentucky and Jim Jordan from Ohio via two letters that their requests do not hold validity since the Republicans currently do not control the Congressional oversight process. 
Both Comer and Jordan are front runners to control leading oversight committee positions starting in January, but Sauber let the duo know that they had to wait until then to submit and complete their document requests from the newly Republican-controlled Congress, not as individual requests. Comer and Jordan have publicly stated that a denial of their individual requests would resort in legal actions.
Narrator: "Sure they will."

But the pertinent question is: “Can they count to five?
Even as Republicans say they'll move forward as planned, committee investigations will already be hobbled due to the party's speakership fight. McCarthy has delayed elections for contested committee chairs until after the chamber selects who will wield the gavel, preventing some panels from making key decisions on targets and staffing, and the rules of the House dictate no committees can hold hearings or call witnesses until after the speaker is decided.
Those unappointed committee chairs say they’ve worked all this out with McCarthy already. Until McCarthy gets five more votes, that don’t mean jack shit.


Maybe A Little Less Grandiose?

LBJ is remembered for the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act (which barely exists anymore and is not likely to be legislatively resurrected soon); and the Vietnam War. The last is why he didn’t run again.

To say he’s one of the most consequential Presidents in U.S. history is like saying Thomas Jefferson edited an interesting Bible, or Ben Franklin wrote an interesting almanac. It sounds good, but it barely captures the man’s accomplishments in the White House. Put simply, most of modern government you can’t connect to FDR, is due to LBJ. I know that’s weak tea , too; but count the programs you can think of (Medicare; Fair Housing; education; PBS and NPR; generally government helping people who actually need government help): all LBJ, most of it directly LBJ. You’d be hard pressed to overstate his accomplishments.

And all forgotten in the furor over Vietnam. (Yes, we had a war there. Git off mah lawn, ya punk bastards!)

“Who controls the past controls the future”? Isn’t that like saying “The victors write history”? The victors who drove LBJ from office certainly wrote his history. Nobody’s reading Caro. His books on LBJ are “classics.” A book which everyone praises and no one reads.

Biden deserves better. He’ll probably get it considering who his opponents are:
I mean, seriously?

Twitter Justice

I still don’t know who Andrew Tate is, but that final panel there has a reveal too. Meaning, if you saw it in a movie, you’d think it was too pat and lazy writing.

Tate was roundly humiliated for his pitiful response to Ms. Greenburg. But that’s still not an explanation for that police raid. This is:
That was all worth the repetition. And my Crim Law professor from 40 years back is vindicated again: “They don’t catch the smart ones.” ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ

And I now know it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving guy:

๐Ÿ’ฉ Pretty Sure This Is A Human Rights Violation; Or At Least A Health Code One


Gross. ๐Ÿ’ฉ 

Festivus: Airing Of Grievances

Are you new here? Or just woefully ignorant about American political history? I can think of half-a-dozen political figures, national and state (Texas) who ran, and won, with personal histories that didn’t withstand the least scrutiny. All long before Trump was anything but an NYC real estate guy. And that’s just in my lifetime. American political history is full of such clowns. "LOCK ‘EM UP! LOCK ‘EM UP!” (And we do censure, sanction, and even refuse to seat (rarely) elected officials. Like impeachment, it should not be the practice of simple majority rule or transient outrage. Tailgunner Joe was finally censured by the Senate and the voters turned him out. The Republic survived, which is often all you can ask.) Several Trump lawyers face disciplinary proceedings. Kari Lake’s lawyers were sanctioned by the court. Not enough? Hangin’ too good for ‘em? They’ll be glad to know you sanctify their suffering.

You know, justice is not about making the world safe from people who upset you. I mean, at some point you can’t be distinguished from Gym Jordan, who already thinks he can make demands on the White House:
Republicans have been forthright for months about their plans to start multiple investigations into various MAGAland grievances — including investigations into Hunter Biden, the Afghanistan pullout, the Biden administration’s immigration policies, Dr. Anthony Fauci and the work of the Jan. 6 Committee — if they flipped the House in the midterms.
You never want to sound like Gym Jordan.

Moi Aussi

In related Twitter news: I blame the Fed. Who knew they were going to raise interest rates?

I don’t know who Andrew Tate’s going to blame. I’d advise deleting his account, selling off his cars, and going into witness protection.

Same Energy

Kari Lake's 'forever coup' is what the future looks like — until we start to see real consequences

Manufactured Outrage

No one’s on TeeVee/the Intertoobs telling you to punch an airline employee in the face for Freedumb.

I was recently in a small store in a small town in Texas whose main business was selling candles they made. They also screen printed their own t-shirts, most of which bore anti-mask legends. The candles were selling well. The t-shirts weren’t drawing any interest at all. That outrage is pretty much over.

I’ve been in stores that still ask you to wear a mask, and visited a hospital with the same requirements. Nobody seems to mind.

When social expectations collapse, our reaction is usually one of calm, not rage. Rage against the machine is more often manufactured than spontaneous.

Comites Christ: 2022 Fifth Day of Christmas

We come, after Christmas, to the Comites Christi, the companions of Christ. They are honored with feast days following Christmas, and two will be of special concern here: St. Stephen, and the Holy Innocents.

But there is no better introduction to the Comites Christi, for now, than the words of St. Augustine:

Consider what is said to you: Love God. If you say to me: Show me whom I am to love, what shall I say if not what Saint John says: No one has ever seen God! But in case you should think that you are completely cut off from the sight of God, he says: God is love, and he who remains in love remains in God. Love your neighbor, then, and see within yourself the power by which you love your neighbor; there you will see God, as far as you are able.

Begin, then, to love your neighbor. Break your bread to feed the hungry, and bring into your home the homeless poor; if you see someone naked, clothe him, and do not look down on your own flesh and blood.

What will you gain by doing this? Your light will then burst forth like the dawn. Your light is your God; he is your dawn, for he will come to you when the night of time is over. He does not rise or set but remains for ever.

In loving and caring for your neighbor you are on a journey. Where are you traveling if not to the Lord God, to him whom we should love with our whole heart, our whole soul, our whole mind? We have not yet reached his presence, but we have our neighbor at our side. Support, then, this companion of your pilgrimage if you want to come into the presence of the one with whom you desire to remain for ever.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Adrift On The Wide, Wide Sea ๐ŸŒŠ

Oh, no, we’re just getting started: And worse: This is NOT what you want to hear about yourself:

It Was A Short Journey

Similarly: Another short trip: ๐Ÿ˜น๐Ÿ˜น๐Ÿ˜น๐Ÿ˜น๐Ÿ˜น ๐Ÿ’ฏ!

๐ŸŽ… Doesn’t Love Me This Much

Even the article Trump promotes concedes Trump couldn’t win outside the two-party system. 

If he could even get on the ballots in 10 states I’d be surprised. And who would finance it? 

Ross Perot self-financed his third-party effort (until he didn’t)). That’s the closest anyone has come to being viable in a third-party in my lifetime. And he wasn’t close at all (and he had as many supporters as Trump, and he abandoned them when he got bored. Vanity projects as presidential campaigns seldom end well.).

The American People Are Too Dumb To Understand My Real Story

I’m seriously wondering if, even in this House, he’ll be allowed to be sworn in. MTG is backing him, but unless she can get McCarthy elected Speaker (signs point to “No”), her clout is going to diminish rapidly. And if the GOP degenerates into in-fighting, a moderate Speaker is likely, and tolerance for Santos is…not likely. And his argument that nobody can understand his recondite reasoning? Yeah, not how you win friends and influence people.

Yes, he has repeatedly claimed he's not "Jewish," he's "Jew-ish."
How long before he denies he’s even from this planet? "Follow the money.” That discrepancy between the campaign finance statement and the personal finance statement raises a lot of questions.

The GOP freshman class is gonna be lit! (Do the kids still say that?)

Ladies And Gentlemen, The CEO Of Tesla, SpaceX, Twitter, and The Boring Company

...proves he really did pay $44 billion to be the world’s biggest internet troll.*

(And yes, the meme is stupid, but then he tops it.)

*Waiting for the ElonBro to come along and explain Elmo is trolling ironically. Still gotta wonder: doesn’t this guy have a job? Responsibilities?

Fourth Day of Christmas 2022

The threefold terror of love; a fallen flare
Through the hollow of an ear;
Wings beating about the room;
The terror of all terrors that I bore
The Heavens in my womb.

Had I not found content among the shows
Every common woman knows,
Chimney corner, garden walk,
Or rocky cistern where we tread the clothes
And gather all the talk?

What is this flesh I purchased with my pains,
This fallen star my milk sustains,
This love that makes my heart’s blood stop
Or strikes a sudden chill into my bones
And bids my hair stand up?

--W.B. Yeats

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

In Which I Feel Sympathy For David French

The thread is a cogent discussion of First Amendment issues regarding Musk’s assertion the FBI coerced Twitter. You could argue the facts (no evidence, because there isn’t any. Several non-lawyers have shown this, over and over again). Or you could take David’s line, and argue the law.

Pearls before swine.

This is the most thoughtful reply:
The rest are like this: Absurdly wrong and completely off the point. But polite, compared to these. No engagement, no analysis, not even signs of reading comprehension; just “I don’t like this so it’s bad!”

Most of those people, one way or another, are defending or agreeing with this guy:
Twitter really is a cesspool.
No shit, Sherlock.

Third Day of Christmas 2022: Holy Innocents

Santa Claus is for children, and Christmas Day is for children; but the whole story of Christmas is not.

When Herod realized he had been duped by the astrologers, he was outraged. He then issued a death warrant for all the male children in Bethlehem and surrounding region two years old and younger. this corresponded to the time [of the star] that he had learned from the astrologers. With this event the prediction made by Jeremiah the prophet came true:
'In Ramah the sound of mourning
and bitter grieving was heard:
Rachel weeping for her children.
She refused to be consoled:
They were no more.' " (Matthew 2: 16-18, SV)
Advent and Christmas are seasons steeped in mystery and the whole of the human story, from joy to misery, from peace to pain. We shield our children from these truths, so we can shield ourselves. We pretend God is only about love and peace and our happiness, and complain that the God of Israel is a god of blood and thunder, while the God of Jesus is a god of babies and rainbows. Neither simplicity is true, and the simplicity of the Christmas story, that it begins with the Annunciation to Mary and ends with the angels singing Gloria to the shepherds, is too simple to be true, also. Luke tells one story of the birth, where the power of the state forces the Holy Family to Bethlehem but that power merely fulfills the expectation that the redeemer of the line of David will come from the ancestral home of David. Matthew tells the other story; the story of Herod's fear and insecurity. This is the part of Christmas the world doesn't celebrate. This is the part of Christmas we ignore, for the sake of the children, we tell ourselves; but it's really for our sake. Just as we don't want Advent blighted with the deaths of the innocent, we don't want Christmas spent remembering the Holy Innocents.

This is truly the Church's portion of Christmas. Appropriate to the interests of the church, Walter Brueggeman would call Herod's concerns the theology of scarcity, and point out it's a very old game, even in Biblical history. It is a game we blame on God; but it is one entirely of our making, and it ties the story of the Holy Innocents to our secular observation of Christmas, and our cri de couer for someone to tell us what Christmas is all about. This story, is what it is all about. And the Coventry Carol captures it in one song:

Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child,
bye, bye, lully lullay.

O sisters too, how may we do,
for to preserve this day,
this poor youngling for whom we sing,
bye, bye lully lullay.

Herod the king in his raging,
charged he hath this day,
his men of night, in his own sight,
all young children to slay.

Then woe is me, poor child, for thee!
And every morn and day,
for thy parting not say nor sing
bye, bye, lully lullay.

Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child,
bye, bye, lully lullay.

It is the only remnant of the story that still makes it into our Advent and Christmas music, though we may not always recognize the story and the reason it is a "Christmas carol." In another medieval play, “The Play of Herod,” they take the story even more seriously. To portray the story from Matthew, an angel is sent from God to console Rachel, but she refuses even the aid of God. She refuses all comfort. Of course she does; she is a grieving mother, her children are gone. What comfort can be offered to her? This is real; this has happened. What else could be felt, except bottomless grief, except the sucking, horrible pain of loss?

This is not Matthew reaching for yet another scriptural reference to support his nativity story. This is not Matthew trying to shore up his tale with yet another appeal to authority. This is Matthew telling us he has no words for this horror, and he must borrow words just to be sure we feel it as it was felt by those grieving mothers and fathers. This is not Matthew telling us this is true, because scriptures predicted it. This is Matthew telling us someone else, someone earlier, described it, caught the horror of it, knew what it felt like. This is Matthew telling us this is real. This is Matthew telling us to believe this birth occurred, because the world is not kind to saviors, even when they are babies. The world does not seek salvation, but its own contentment; and it does not react well to mystery.

So Rachel cannot be comforted, but that is not where "The Play of Herod" ends. It ends where it should: in holy mystery.
For there is a Te Deum sung: 'We praise you, God, we confess you as Lord.' The greatest chant of praise. This is sung by Mary and Joseph, processing through the audience, but they are joined in their song and procession by the animals and the angels, by the shepherds, by the lamenting Rachel and the parents of Bethlehem, and they are joined by the soldiers and their victims and by Herod. Knowing that (Hopkins again)

we are wound
With mercy round and round. . . .

they all, incarnate God and all creation, even death, tyrants and martyrs, all process and all sing praise. And we sing too, and find ourselves in the procession.

Today we can't imagine it. We take our Christmas with lots of sugar. And take it in a day. Though we've been baptized into his death, we have little time for or patience with how that death is told at Christmas, a death that confuses lament and praise forever. And no wonder we are careful to keep Christmas at an arm's length. What is Herod in these times?--Gabe Huck
Or, to return to Luke:

Lord, let your servant 
die in peace
for you kept your promise.
With my own eyes
I see the salvation
you prepared for all peoples;
a light of revelation for the Gentiles
and glory to your people Israel.
I like that translation for this context, because it emphasizes Simeon's wish:  he can die now, God's promise to him has been kept. But that's not the end of Luke's nativity, because Simeon turns back to Mary:

And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;

(Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
Even in Luke's more beautiful, more popular version, we cannot escape it: the appalling strangeness of the mercy of God, and the penetrating mystery at the heart of the season, just as the year begins again.

Good Literary Criticism Is Its Own Reward

Monday, December 26, 2022


Yeah, that's telling her! FAKE NEWS!
A) He only said it 28 times.

B) He only said it 29 times.

C) He never said it at all.
Trump never said that, so it can’t be true. Trump never said that, either. More fake news. More stuff Trump never said! And those sources don’t exist, because Trump said so. Heh. Empirically true. Both of them. But it’s all fake news because she’s unattractive. While Trump is often mistaken for Tom Cruise.

And while we’re on the subject:
Very interesting, because until recently the political Hacks and Thugs of the highly partisan January 6th Unselect Committee were seldom talking about your favorite President, me, as it related to the PROTEST on Election Fraud. NUMBER ONE, as President, I have total Immunity. Number two, I did nothing wrong. Then the Committee members, mostly the same sleaze that pushed the Russia, Russia, Russia HOAX, started saying that “Trump” did it. Even Shifty Schiff got into the act again. SAD!!!"
Trump has cracked and lost his mind. Because no, he doesn’t have immunity. And he did many things wrong. Put simply, if he did have immunity, DOJ wouldn’t bother investigating him.

Just Another Normal One

Shot. Chaser. Haha ๐Ÿ’ฏ Or, you know, the CEO of Tesla, SpaceX, The Boring Company, and Twitter setting an example of “hard-core” by … trolling. Or, you know, not. Besides, it doesn’t take into account AI or alternative energy. Or cobalt mining in the Republic of Congo. AI and alternative energy will solve that, too. I guess.

Second Day of Christmas 2022: Minstrel's Song

("Only connect." --E.M. Forster)

I've just had an astonishing dream as I lay in the straw.
I dreamed a star fell on to the straw beside me
And lay blazing. Then when I looked up
I saw a bull come flying through a sky of fire
And on its shoulders a huge silver woman
Holding the moon. And afterwards there came
A donkey flying through that same burning heaven
And on its shoulders a colossal man
Holding the sun. Suddenly I awoke
And saw a bull and a donkey kneeling in the straw,
and the great moving shadows of a man and a woman---
I say they were a man and a woman but
I dare not say what I think they were. I did not dare to look.
I ran out here into the freezing world
Because I dared not look. Inside that shed.

A star is coming this way along the road.
If I were not standing upright, this would be a dream.
A star the shape of a sword of fire, point-downward,
Is floating along the road. And now it rises.
It is shaking fire on to the roofs and the gardens.
And now it rises above the animal shed
Where I slept till the dream woke me. And now
The star is standing over the animal shed.

--Ted Hughes

The Iago Conspiracy

My son-in-law is an engineer who knows a lot about cars. He wouldn’t have a Tesla as a gift. He knows more about it than I do, so I defer to him on the subject.

We tend to defer to people who just sound like they know what they’re talking about, too.
I think Paul Simon was closer to it (“A man hears what he wants to hear…”),  but the fundamental truth is, reasoning is hard and if it leads you to decide everything in the paper is wrong (it probably is), more than a little disturbing. That logic can destroy your ability to function. How do you know anything is true unless you learn everything about everything for yourself? 

Clearly that way lies conspiracies and madness. Or Iago.

Ultimately we face the Iago situation: how do we function as social creatures if we can’t trust other individuals? Am I casting Elmo as Iago? Not quite: Iago knew what he was doing. Elmo only thinks he does.

When you’re playing out stories from “The Onion,” well…

Second Day of Christmas 2022: St. Stephen's Day

First, the reason for the feast day.  It commemorates Stephen, the first martyr of the church:

54 When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen. 55 But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” 57 But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. 58 Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died.  (Acts 7:54-60)

We remember this, if at all, because of the song:

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even;

Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight,
Gath'ring winter fuel.

'Hither, page, and stand by me,
If thou know'st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?'

'Sire, he lives a good league hence,
Underneath the mountain,
Right against the forest fence,
By Saint Agnes' fountain.'

'Bring me flesh and bring me wine,
Bring me pine logs hither,
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear them thither.'

Page and monarch forth they went,
Forth they went together,
Through the rude wind's wild lament
And the bitter weather.

'Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger;
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer.'

'Mark my footsteps, good my page,
Tread thou in them boldly:
Thou shalt find the winter's rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly.'

In his master's steps he trod,
Where the snow lay dinted;
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed.

Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing,
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing.

Which, if turns out, was written in 1853 to a 13th century tune.

The carol was written for the Feast of St Stephen, better known as Boxing Day. And it celebrates the long tradition of charitable giving on the Second Day of Christmas.

That "long tradition" is something else we've lost in America, thanks to the Puritans who despised Christmas and all traditions surrounding it.  As for Wenceslaus, he had a rough time of it:

Duke, martyr, and patron of Bohemia, born probably 903; died at Alt-Bunzlau, 28 September, 935.

His parents were Duke Wratislaw, a Christian, and Dragomir, a heathen. He received a good Christian education from his grandmother (St. Ludmilla) and at Budweis. After the death of Wratislaw, Dragomir, acting as regent, opposed Christianity, and Wenceslaus, being urged by the people, took the reins of government. He placed his duchy under the protection of Germany, introduced German priests, and favoured the Latin rite instead of the old Slavic, which had gone into disuse in many places for want of priests. Wenceslaus had taken the vow of virginity and was known for his virtues. The Emperor Otto I conferred on him the regal dignity and title. For religious and national motives, and at the instigation of Dragomir, Wenceslaus was murdered by his brother Boleslaw. The body, hacked to pieces, was buried at the place of murder, but three years later Boleslaw, having repented of his deed, ordered its translation to the Church of St. Vitus in Prague. The gathering of his relics is noted in the calendars on 27 June, their translation on 4 March; his feast is celebrated on 28 September.
There's a surprising amount of death on the Christian calendar after the celebration of the birth of the Christ-child.  It's almost a reminder that "peace on earth, goodwill toward" all, is not so much a gift as a hope that we have some part in.  But our part is active, not just passive.

'Mark my footsteps, good my page,
Tread thou in them boldly:
Thou shalt find the winter's rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly.'

Second Day Of Christmas 2022

 I’m leaving you with this, and coming back later.

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Xmas Is Getting TOO Commercial ๐ŸŽ…

O ๐ŸŽ„ O ๐ŸŽ„

The Christmas tree is a tradition older than Christmas

The author of the article is a professor of history at Texas A&M University.  The article is clearly not written for a scholarly audience, but it makes all kinds of sweeping generalizations without no visible means of support.  It's a lark, but it's also a lot of crap.  Lots of hand-waving and appeals to "ancient peoples" which is both lousy history and piss poor anthropology.  Besides evergreens are not a universal of European history, so the discussions of them should be limited to certain regions and cultures and times, not generally spread around like butter on toast.

There is no definitive history of the Christmas tree, but the better explanations come from the history of the Paradeisbaum and German medieval morality plays, which don't even get a mention in that article.  I could even challenge the idea the tree became popular in America because of Queen Victoria.  Well, read the second link to see what I mean.  The Xmas tree in America has a great deal more to do with the 20th century than the 19th, and was far more popular as a decorative item (where it was popular, until it became ubiquitous) among the upper classes who could afford the elaborate indoor settings for the trees (they were treated more like trees than like the artificial and aluminum ones we all know now, which are barely regarded as trees at all.  And the two in my house are only 'trees' because they're made of wood.  The Xmas tree is far more conceptual than forest, nowadays).

Merry Christmas, y'all!