Saturday’s Gifts

Involve sleeping in after a week of waking up at 5:30 to shovel snow.

And running (trundling??) through the five or so inches of snow covering the path around the Field of Dreams. But the world was pluckily alive with the sort of sparkly blue cheerfulness that is only possible when it’s January and life is predominately cold and white.

Reading Making Sense of it All , which I absolutely love. It’s so well written and funny.  But I love it even more because it’s Pascalian –  we all know how I feel about Pascal…

Making healthy cookies. Or everything cookies, or Grandpa’s kind of cookies. Recipe to follow as a reference for those of you who probably would like this recipe.

(Oh, and eating said cookies. That was good too.)

But here’s what I really want to mention: running into I.M. and being enthusiastically greeted with a huge hug and excessive “WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?”s. Must be a Latin American thing to enthusiastically greet sort-of-friends as if they’re your practically-best-friends, but it’s a thing that I very much appreciated. It was just plain old really nice and really encouraging and made me really cheerful to have someone be so irrationally happy to see me.

I don’t expect that I’ll ever behave like this (I mean, me hugging everyone I meet? – not likely!), but I might learn a lesson from it. I might learn to channel some of my love for ideas towards people instead.

So cookies. That’s my method of channeling love to y’all today. Go make some cookies or save the recipe fir future baking and when you do make them, eat some and then eat some with someone else and then give some to someone else.

Healthy Cookies / Everything Cookies / Grandpa’s Kind of Cookies

– 2 cups dates or prunes, chopped

– 1 cup liquid

-2 cups oatmeal

-2 cups sugar

-1 teaspoon salt

-1 teaspoon baking powder

-1 teaspoon baking soda

-1 teaspoon cinnamon

-1/2 oil

-2 eggs

-2 cups flour

-dried fruit, chocolate, nuts, coconut: as desired

Chop the dates or prunes, pour the boiling water over top, set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl mix the oatmeal, sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, oil and eggs.

In a separate bowl mix whatever dried fruit/chocolate/nuts etc. you’d like to add (no more than 3 cups worth, I’d say).

When the dates/prunes are well-soaked and the water has cooled down a bit, add them to the oatmeal, etc. bowl. Stir. Add 2 cups flour to this bowl. Then add the dried fruit/nuts/etc. to the bowl, stir.

Place cookies on WELL GREASED baking sheets and bake until just golden. I like them on the gooey side.


Today’s “World-Views”

Welcome to the H. I’m inhabiting today:

A shallow bowl of black plastic filled with applesauce-flecked yogurt. It’s disappearing fast.

Sidewalks baked in a snow-oven overnight, the top layer crusty and being tossed aside in pieces as I shovel.

Silty, clouded coffee in a fat, honeypot-esque mug. Wishing there were more.

A redhead in Western Civ. is wearing pink and I think it looks nice.

Droning four-foot principle stop playing mentally as I watch paper-tongues emerge from the printer… “Great is thy faithfulness; 2/3, 3, 3, quick substitute to 5; right toe – left toe -right toe, heel…”

Dignified Prof. R., clad in jeans and his rather old coat, running beneath the bridge. Urgently, without mittens or hat despite the bitter cold.

Dutch colors through the classroom door kitty-corner to my seat in the reading room – someone has a backpack with blaze orange and navy blue and it’s sprawled on the floor. (Do people look deflated like that, when they faint and/or fall over?)

Slate-like snow patterns forming the roof of Chamberlin as I look up, Dickinsonian winter slant-light pressing through the covered skylights.

And Prof. S. has recently styled her hair. It is very orange. Copper orange. Like those old colonialish wigs, but one made of pennies.

Scrawls in grey pencil and black pen all over the flimsy and rough-edged paper of the Logic homework I’m grading, illegible like the Arabic I saw in Systematic Theology today but not beautiful like that Arabic.

Prof. Y. and his wife shuffled along the snowy walks clinging to one another this morning. They looked like a pair of birds, especially she in her bright red coat. As our rooster Finzi would accompany a hen to the compost pile, hopping gingerly through the snow.

There is a checkered pattern on the reading room glass. What archetypal patterns are checkering my world? Hegel’s triads? Kant’s logical structures? What else is there, overlooked?

(Someone else’s) Thoughts on Busyness

“Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day. […] Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done. […] Perhaps the world would soon slide to ruin if everyone behaved as I do. But I would suggest that an ideal human life lies somewhere between my own defiant indolence and the rest of the world’s endless frenetic hustle.”

Some thoughtful words from a thoughtful article (although rather old-hat, by now), worth your looking at (or re-looking at).  I thought I had this resting stuff figured out, but then came along this new semester, and I’m, well, busy.


Medieval Order and the Palpable Obscure

Hello all. I might as well begin addressing you, my dear readers, since the category now has referents.

Today we have a reflection on this morning’s Western Civ section. We’ve been talking in Western Civ about the dissolution of Medieval culture in Western Europe, and what I’ve been most struck by is the trajectory of order to chaos – we go from Jesus with a protractor, laying out the world, to Jesus torn and bloody as a third of the population dies. (Forgive my historical simplifications, please.)

This is particularly striking to me, since, well, I love the Medieval mind. Even more than this, I love the idea of an ordered world – a lucid world, the philosopher’s dream. And as order slips away from the Medievals, I’m mourning along with them. I’m sympathizing because my own world – happy and healthy and materially-ordered though it may be – has developed a rash, as it were. Everywhere I turn I’m finding more spots to the world; I can’t keep track of them; they create nuances and loopholes and they mar what I’d hoped would be a neatly beautiful image.

This confusion became doubly poignant for me when we briefly spoke about William of Occam and nominalism. If you can’t see the big picture, if the ordered world isn’t within your grasp – you just point to objects, like a child. What presents itself in front of your face is what you get; there’s no extending beyond and piecing together. (Okay, okay, I may be slightly exaggerating.) And despite all my dreams about being able to get at the essence of a thing, idea, or situation and really “name it well”, the world of “the way things really are” is not my world. I’m within existence, per Kierkegaard, and I don’t see the relationships and I don’t see the essential characteristics and I definitely don’t see the forms. But I’ve got to bumble my way through the messy world nonetheless, keep away from the sticky walls when possible as I burrow on through the tunnel. And for whatever reason (custom? God-given desire or task? love particular to me? sheer oddity?) I keep on giving names, making labels, even though they’re not sufficient. Even though I change them. Even though they fall off after a few minutes.

So then I wrote a poem about it in my Western Civ. notebook.

Back to addressing the audience: I’m not sure how you all feel about the inclusion of poetry here, but for some reason the impersonality of this blog and the fact that you can just stop reading at any time if you’re bored means that I don’t really mind putting in the occasional poem here or there. Maybe that’s annoying. I doubt that they’re really terrible; I also doubt that they’re of much interest to anyone who isn’t thinking about what I was thinking about when I wrote them. But they’ll probably keep appearing nonetheless.

My poem is a simple haiku (yes, that’s redundant). I’m on a haiku/cinquain kick lately; I think the restrictions force me to produce somewhat better work. (It’s Miltonic in origin, please note. I’m reading Paradise Lost and the poem draws its central image from the section in which Satan leaves Hell and passes through chaos on his way to Paradise. Milton actually uses the phrase “palpable obscure” at one point, which I loved – that’s exactly what’s so maddening about obscure things, I think – they’re palpable!, you can just get in touch (ha) enough with them to have a vague sense of what they are – but they’re “merely” palpable, reason in its visual domain can’t get at them. Thus: obscure. We’re blind, living feelingly instead. (Imagine if Plato’s prisoner had felt the sun! What then?! Imagine the implications for the trajectory of Western philosophical history!))

So have a poem. Then have a Rembrandt sketch.

Will I be able

in the palpable obscure

to christen chaos?

More Merton

Because he is just that good.

(These quotes are from Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander.)

“I do have questions, and, as a matter of fact, I think a man is known better by his questions than by his answers. To make known one’s questions is, no doubt, to come out in the open oneself.”

“[…] unconsciously seeking to awaken, perhaps, the hidden sophianic Mozart in himself, the central wisdom that comes in tune with the divine and cosmic music and is saved by love, yes, even by eros. While the other, theological self, seemingly more concerned with love, grasps at a more stern, more cerebral agape: a love that, after all, is not in our own heart but only in God and revealed only to our head.”

“Life is, or should be, nothing but a struggle to seek truth: yet what we seek is really the truth that we already possess. Truth is mine in the reality of life as it is given to me to live: yet to take life thoughtlessly, passively as it comes, is to renounce the struggle and purification which are necessary. One cannot simply open his eyes and see. The work of understanding involves not only dialectic, but a long labor of acceptance, obedience, liberty, and love.”

“[Christian Socratism?] This means respect for persons, to the point where the person of the adversary demands a hearing even when the authority of one’s own ecclesial institution might appear to be temporarily questioned. Actually, the Socratic confidence in dialogue implies a deeper faith in the Church than you find in a merely rigid, defensive, and negative attitude which refuses all dialogue.”

“Technology can elevate and improve man’s life only on one condition: that it remains subservient to his real interests; that it respects his true being; that ti remembers the origin and goal of all beings is in God.”

The Seven Storey Mountain

“The beginning of love is truth, and before He will give us His love, God must cleanse our souls of the lies that are in them.”

“You have called me here not to wear a label by which I can recognize myself and place myself in some kind of a category. You do not want me to be thinking about what I am, but about what you are.”

“We cannot arrive at the perfect possession of God in this life, and that is why we are traveling and in darkness. But we already possess Him by grace, and therefore in that sense we have arrived and are dwelling in the light. But oh! How far have I to go to find You in Whom I have already arrived!”

“The life of the soul is not knowledge , it is love, since love is the act of the supreme faculty, the will, by which man is formally united to the final end of all his strivings – by which man becomes one with God.”

“I needed a high ideal, a difficult aim[…]”

“[This awareness] ignored all sense experience in order to strike directly at the heart of truth, as if a sudden an immediate contact had been established between my intellect and the Truth Who was now physically really and substantially before me on the altar. But this contact was not something speculative and abstract: it was concrete and experimental and belonged to the order of knowledge, yes, but more still to the order of love. […] It was love as clean and direct as vision: and it flew straight to the possession of the Truth it loved.”

“The logic of worldly success rests on a fallacy: the strange error that our perfection depends on the thoughts and opinions and applause of other men! A weird life it is, indeed, to be living always in somebody else’s imagination, as if that were the only place in which one could at last become real!”