Boinkie's Blog

Universalis

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Jaime Sin used to joke, while still a lowly archbishop, that they would never make him a Cardinal...."imagine: Cardinal Sin"...
But nevertheless, he was named a cardinal, and this jolly Filippino, who is being laid to rest this week, is one of the champions of freedom in the 20th century.

I have a great dislike for mealy mouthed elites who look down on those saying that there just might be evil in this world, and we have to chose whether to recognize evil exists and if we need to oppose it.

So again I have thrown against the wall a book by a "spiritual" type...Father Greene, who worked in the 1970's in the Philippines and has a book on "spiritual dryness"...
In the introduction: about manichaean splitting: "...to the recent tendency to divide the whole world into 'godless' communists and God fearing men"...

Date of publishing: 1981.

Guess he is talking about that evil cowboy Reagan, who dared to call Russia an evil empire...
Imagine: Naming a philosophical system that killed 100 million people over 70 years (via execution, concentration camps, and state sponsored famines) as "evil"... can't have that you know.

Actually, it is people like Father Greene who are the manicheans, for in their equivalence, they see mild imperfections as the same as terrible evil, and fail to condemn them...indeed, many liberals in the Philippines in the 1970's backed the communists here as the "only" alternative to a growing Marcos dictatorship.

And it's interesting how all of this turned out.

The "evil cowboy" Reagan, along with a stubborn Polish pope, insisted that good was good and evil was evil: But the opposition was that of freedom not war. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall...and the people, not Mr. G , heard, and tore down the wall...
And the answer to Marcos was not the communists, so beloved of American nuns and priests (mainly Maryknoll and Jesuits) but Cardinal Sin and a million Filippinos singing hymns and praying on the EDSA (road) that prevented Marcos from stealing the election (an election, by the way, that was held and not postponed thanks to Reagan, who was a personal friend of Marcos, but who loved Democracy more).

The people were marching on the EDSA to defend General Ramos (a protestant, by the way, and later president) who backed Corey Acquino...and Marcos sent his troops out to shoot the demonstrators, but they did not...
For a beautiful lady came up to them and said "Do not shoot my children"...
And they did not.
Who was the lady?
Cardinal Sin said some people thought it was a nun, but that he knew all the nuns and would say with a twinkle in his eye that none of them was good looking...
And now there is a shrine there, to our Lady of Peace...(with the Ugly madonna out front, but that is another story)...
So Cardinal Sin has died, and is being laid to rest.
And one suspects Sin, and Reagan, and John Paul II, who are not politically correct, will be ignored by the power elite, but their legacy of correcting error, naming evil, and even standing up to tyrants at a personal risk, will have a legacy that lasts longer than those who are so "spiritual" that they dare not go against the opinions of the "sensitive" who brag about how spiritual they are...

Sunday, June 12, 2005

I love Thomas Merton's writings...but a lot of those who deify him forget that he was a pacifist in World War II....

Sorry, but if he even drove a Red Cross ambulance or worked with refugees I'd probably admire him...he DID work a couple months in Harlam with Catherine Doherty, but the rest of the war he merely went around viewing his navel trying to find where "god" wanted him...as a teacher, then in a monastery...and ended up in the Trappists...

Sorry, Tom, but if you love God, you love your neighbor too...and I know you were given the gift of writing and contemplation, but did you ever put your money where your mouth was? I mean, it was nice you worked a couple months in Harlam, but Eddie Doherty noted you spent a lot of time at restaurants discussing poetry and art with the Baroness...(Eddie married her later, and was a bit jealous of your intellect...but then he was merley a Chicago newspaperman, a la "the front page"...not well educated, cynical, but having a way with words...you were merely a highfalutin poet)...

Of course, CS Lewis wrote an essay about the need to continue scholarship during wartime...essentially saying that there was a need to keep up the intellectual life so that after the war we will still be civilized...so perhaps I'm wrong...and of course, JP2,Karol Woytewa's underground work was acting in Polish plays, so that Polands' intellectual heritage would not be destroyed...

However, CS Lewis was a veteran of WWI, and JP2 was drafted into slave labour and had little choice, but risked his life by performing in the plays...

So maybe Merton is right, but maybe he was just so hoity toity that he though he was superior to those maggots who actually got their hands dirty by fighting a terrible evil...

OF course, during the Viet Nam war, his pacifism became an "in" thing...opposing the war (but I don't remember him saying a peep about Cambodia, the prosecution of Catholics in North Viet Nam, or criticizing the various persecutions in China, especially the persecution of Buddhist monks in Tibet?...so I suspect his pacifism was merely ideological rather than religious...*

As for his Buddhism, as an Asian by marriage, I suspect he would be hoity toity superior ascended beings like the "buddhists" I put up with as a student, not the humble monks of Japan or Thailand or Tibet....

Or maybe my criticism is a "class" thing: an innate jealousy but also an innate impatience with upper class intellectuals who never did a day's work in their life...Guess I have more in common with Aristophanies and the wags in the bleachers than with Socrates in Cloudcukooland...

Then there is THIS,
the fact he has an illegitamate child when a student at Cambridge in England (Wonder who took care of the kid?) and not mentioned is something I read in his biography: That he had a girlfriend at the end of his life...

A more rounded evaluation of his life is HERE...

all conspiracy theories about his murder are bunk to those of us familiar with third world electrical wires (one day I'll post a photo of the wiring of our house)....

So yes, I have several of his books here, and as a Catholic, I think he is in heaven, but then, I believe in purgatory....

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

I was watching discovery channel on Starwars.
Much of it was about how modern weapons mirrored/copied the weapons of Starwars (which, of course, copied earlier Sci Fi weapons)...
But then Lucas startes spouting nonsense about the Force...they showed short clips of Shaolin masters and children who studied in these monasteries doing all sorts of karate chops and acrobatic flips...mixing these clips of Chinese Shaolin training with obvious Japanese Samurai...
And, of course, what Lucas said was both true and nonsense.
The vast cultural differences between Japan and China are ignored, for example...Samurai are hereditary warriors with a code of honor, not monks who learned to fight in self defense...
And then what about the history of these countries? I am reading "Hungry ghosts" about the famine of the Great Leap forward of the early 1960's, which also discusses the long history of Chinese famines...these monasteries, and indeed all religion, had essentially been systematically destroyed...yet Lucas is busy comparing the evil emporer to Bush in the newspapers, not even finding parallels to the communist destruction of religion, even though the parallels between story three and the destruction of Tibetan monasteries is quite obvious...but not politically correct except to Richard Gere.
The "supernatural" spirituality is probably only partly true: Anyone who seeks God will find him...look at the Deli Lama or even the Pathet Lama, who stayed in Tibet and courageously protested the starvation of the Great Leap Forward...
But Lucas' assumptions have another problem...what about the kids?
It's nice to "see" the Jedi, or in the clips, the Shaolin kids doing karate chops...but what about play? And learning to love each other? Or compassion for the weak? One suspects for every Dali Lama, there are hundreds of perverts...(and one is reminded of the National Geographic article where a Tibetan lady married to an immigrant Chinese dismissed the claim of cultural genocide, pointing out that in traditional Tibet, all the best men became monks, and women were nothing...probably communist propaganda, but one suspects that the women of Tibet indeed would have another story to tell of that theocracy)...
The clips of the kids doing karate/backflips reminded me of something else: Red Trousers.
There was a Discovery channel series on Chinese cinema, one of which discussed Hong Kong stuntmen, aka red trousers.
Bruce Lee was a trained karate expert, in the tradition of Lucas ideas: His training included spiritual training. And many of the early stuntmen had similar training...but as the films evolved, the stuntmen were gradually replaced by those trained to the Chinese opera, and the main example of this is Jackie Chan...
And the children at the Chinese Bejing opera school also could do karate type chops and backflips...and the stuntmen described how hard they had to work, and they were beaten when they did them wrong...or when they slacked off.
Human nature being what it is, one suspects the children would have preferred to be playing ball and staying at home with their parents.
Again, in Hungry Ghosts, it describes how inhumane the commune sytem was and how people quickly reverted back to previous patterns when not threatened with starvation and death...
Sorry, George, but one suspects if one reads the biography of the six year olds thirty years later, you will read horror stories similar to those told by the "red trousers" or indeed by Indians at boarding schools in Canada, or by orphans like my sons in south American orphanages, or by British upper class schoolboys who attended the best schools...
In the name of poverty or (for upperclass people) distances that made local schooling impossible, perhaps such things were necessary.
But don't give them a rosy utopian picture...like all human things, there was good and bad, and sometimes from the hills of Marion county, separated by 10 000 miles and often by 200 years, such things look more glamourous and more utopian than they actually were in reality...

Thursday, June 02, 2005

I caught the end of a show on EWTN with Patrick Madrid, about trying to convert people to Catholicism.

He earnestly described how he had been persuading a Baptist friend of the truth of the Catholic church, but when he decided to take his friend to see the church, they went past the church hall where it was Bingo night...

There were all these Catholics gambling, smoking, and (shudder shudder) drinking beer...end of story, because Madrid's Baptist friend now could never be convinced of the truth of the Catholic church...he now saw the reality that the church was corrupt, full of sinful drinking smoking and gambing. And Madrid's conclusion was that in trying to convert people, you needed to let the spirit do the converting, and not push it along on your own power.

But I saw something different: Hobbits.

Catholics are not Baptists...or puritans. Chesterton, in the book Orthodoxy, points out that one person condemns Catholics for their strict morality, and then another condemns Catholics for their fiestas and parties...Yes...of course. So what is your problem?

And I see this paradox in Bingo nights at the parish hall...

You see, our church had Bingo, and my father always worked Bingo nights. But Bingo is not so much "gambling" as a way to get together and have a good time...

Catholics do not condemn gambling unless it leads to negative effects on the family (Which is why the attacks against William Bennet's high roller gambling in Los Vegas in order to destroy his reputation as a spokesman for virtue was especially vicious, because Bennet's loses were never excessive given his income, and none of these gleeful critics bothered to mention that as a Catholic he was not doing anything sinful).

Similarly, smoking is not a sin (I always chided my patients that smoking was the only recognized sin in the modern world, a world where physical perfection and health was the only idol that was worshipped). Smoking both relaxes the mind and leads to clearer thinking...as a doctor, I have seen much physical illness from excessive smoking, but no spiritual illness...my smokers always seemed to be the more responsible ones, the harder working ones, who rarely saw me for problems except for their bronchitis...

And alcohol? Well, the first miracle of Jesus was to give wine to a party...and the comment about the wine was that it was so good, it should have been served first, not later when everyone was already a bit drunk...the Catholic attitude is that wine is a gift of God that gives joy to the heart of men...hard drinking that leads to violence is wrong, but the convivial drinking of friends at the end of a hard day or at a celebration is something good, and like all good things, reminds us of the goodness of the Lord...

The Bingo nights were evenings of fellowship indeed. Yes, we had a few people who went every night from one bingo to another one, and who would use five or six cards for every game. But most people only saw it as a night out with their neighbors, a time to joke and laugh and have a good time...and for most, the fellowship and conversation were the key, not the "gambling" per se, or the drinking per se...such evenings strengthened the fellowship of the parish, and gave an evening of relaxation to the hard working people. Would a "Thursday night church service" be more religious? Actually, I don't know. I personally would be bored with such a thing...and probably would not go. But a night of Bingo, with beer and conversation and joking and being with neighbors might actually bring us closer to God and point to the reality of heaven more than a dour service of preaching and off key singing.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that the most influential Christian writers in the twentieth century were not monks, or puritanical preachers, but professors who met over beer and pipes to discuss ideas...Tolkien and Lewis are more influential now than they were fifty years ago...and perhaps that is because their writings are full of friendly humor...not highfalutin mysticism of what now passes for "spirituality", but down to earth lessons (Tolkiens letters show not only a wry sense of humor but a mystical love of God).

The hobbit heroes are presented to us not as warriors, or mystics, or as wisemen, or as puritanical prudes who earnestly seek to save the world...but as ordinary pople who enjoy parties...but they can both party and sacrifice...indeed, the closeness that allows them to talk over beer and pipe at the Green Dragon is what gives depth to their friendship, and their willingness to sacrifice for each other...

As Greeley points out, all this is part of the Catholic imagination: for the Catholic community is not a "fellowship of the saints" or a "community of believers" or even "the pilgrimage of the people of God"...

It is a gathering of family and friends at a tavern, or at a loud, boisterous Polish wedding, or on a pilgrimage...a family, not of saints, but of ordinary people who see good in the ordinary life of "eating and drinking and working and begetting"...

OH POOR ME I HAD TO KILL MY BABY...

So we "pity" the mom?

Actually the dirty little secret is that most of these late term abortions (i.e. on babies who could live outside the womb) are for convenience...I had a teenager come in angry at 26 weeks seeking tribal funding for an abortion...the tribe did not give it to her, since it was merely a "convenience" abortion, but she was referred to us by planned parenthood, who just told her he would do it for so much money...they did not counsel on alternatives, they did not tell her the child was viable, they just referred her...
We gave her alternatives, and now grandmom is raising the kid..
And since when do we kill people out of respect? Bull. Mom just wants a perfect kid...there is a nasty row in the UK when one late abortion was done for cleft palate...and no one tells the parents most meningomyelocoels have a fairly good quality of life...as do most children with Down's syndrome. But if you are a rich california Yuppie who wants a perfect kid, forgetabout it...easier to kill the kid and claim it's for the child's sake, not because you don't want to be bothered...