Saturday, September 24, 2011

Things I Knew


Jim Geraghty writes a blog over at National Review Online.  I'm not endorsing everything he has said, but I found his litany relaying the surprises of the past 15 years moving. 

Think back to about fourteen or fifteen years ago, and everything you thought you knew at that moment.

You knew no president would be so reckless that he would get caught having sex with an intern in the Oval Office.

You may have worried about your kid’s safety at school, but you knew two alienated teenagers couldn’t turn their rage into a massacre.

You “knew” that the winner of the presidential election was the candidate who got the most votes.

You knew absentee ballots get counted, whether or not the race was close or not. You knew a vote was a vote, and “dimpled chad” was the kid in your child’s kindergarten class photo.

When you looked out at the New York City skyline, you knew it would look the same the next day.

If you knew where Afghanistan was, you knew those loons beating women and blowing up Buddhas were bad news, but they were on the other side of the world and you had a lot more closer to home to worry about.

You knew the only thing being sent through the mail that could kill you came from the Unabomber. You knew that if deadly poison ever came through the mail, it wouldn’t be coming from a government scientist.

You knew a giant company like Enron with a big corporate headquarters and commercials couldn’t be a big scam. After all, serious professional economists like Paul Krugman worked for them as consultants.

You knew that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. You knew that when the United States sent its troops into harm’s way, it knew the mission and how it would accomplish it.

You knew that American soldiers didn’t humiliate their prisoners for fun, and didn’t take pictures of it.

You knew that you could trust priests.

You knew that you’d never see a breast during the Super Bowl halftime show.

You knew that television news anchors checked out their sources before reporting a huge story right before an election. You knew that if an anchor got it wrong, other news media would jump all over them, and the defining mission of figuring out the truth wouldn’t be left to a bunch of no-names working in their pajamas.

You knew hurricanes could get pretty rough, but you figured every big Gulf Coast city was ready for them.

You knew that governors didn’t sleep with hookers, at least not the ones who started their careers as prosecutors busting prostitution rings.

You knew the value of your house would almost always go up each year, some years a little, some years a lot.

You knew gas prices went up and went down, but that you would probably never pay more than three bucks a gallon.

You knew not to drink the water in Mexico, but that food here in America – tomatoes, jalapenos, peanut butter, ground beef – was always safe.

You knew the Cold War was over, the days of Russian troops marching across borders and occupying parts of other countries were long gone.

You knew the markets could bounce around, but that nobody talked about them collapsing and another Depression descending upon us. Your money was safe in institutions like Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns, you spent your paycheck on gadgets at Circuit City and the Sharper Image, furniture from Bombay Company, books from Borders and toys from KB Toys, and the Big Three in Detroit would always keep making cars. The last thing you would ever see would be the big guys on Wall Street going to Washington and begging the federal government for cash.

You knew that recessions usually ended within a year; they didn’t drag on, with high unemployment, year after year after year…

You figured you could pick up your copy of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Rocky Mountain News, or the Christian Science Monitor every day until you died and never see those events in the headlines. It was about as likely as a federally-funded community group offering assistance to child prostitution rings.

The past fifteen years have been one rude awakening after another, where one unspoken assumption after another kept getting smacked around by a bipolar furious reality.
I also appreciate one of the comments listed there as well. 

Couldn't you make a list like that for any 15 year period?
Think 1930-1945 for starters....
15 years ago I knew that no nation could kill millions of people in gas chambers...

How to Manage Ideas

SOURCE: "Leadership Limerick: How to Manage Ideas" by Jeffrey Cufaude

"Great ideas are easily lost,
And bad ones often aren't tossed.
You need a system to rate,
and determine the right fate,
Or else you'll pay a great cost."

Friday, September 16, 2011

What It's Like to Be in Love

KEYWORDS:  love, Chesterton, discipleship,

On the subway, I was reading one of G. K. Chesterton’s Father Brown stories, “The Flying Stars,” and ran across one of those passages that make Chesterton worth the attention even of those who do not share his key theological or political views. The setting is an impromptu theatrical at a Boxing Day house party, and the boyfriend of the family’s daughter has taken charge of the entertainment:
He was supposed to be the clown, but he was really almost everything else, the author (so far as there was an author), the prompter, the scene-painter, the scene-shifter, and, above all, the orchestra. . . . Commonly he was a clever man, and he was inspired tonight with a wild omniscience, a folly wiser than the world, that which comes to a young man who has seen for an instant a particular expression on a particular face.
Honestly, this passage brought tears to my eyes, even though I had read the story more than once before — simply because it made real, emotionally, the way being in love transforms not only one’s view of the love-object, but also of oneself and of the whole world. To the person in love, the whole world seems to come into a brighter and clearer focus, and inspires a sense of omni-competence: Anything I didn’t do before, out of laziness or lack of motivation, I am now able to do, and want to do.

Chesterton does not theologize this passage, but I can’t help myself. St. John tells us that “God is love” — and is there not, in His attitude toward His creatures, the same sort of amour fou that the young man is possessed by in the story? And isn’t mysticism nothing but a glimpse, an inkling, a reflection, of precisely that sort of love? The perspective love brings is more powerful than that of pure reason. This is why many people over the past couple of centuries have objected to the word “Logos” to characterize God, and sought to de-Hellenize theology — purify it of Greek philosophical concepts — to get rid of the word. They intuit, correctly, that God is not “Word” in the sense of Professor Dryasdust and the cold syllogisms of purely human reason; they get the sense, in reading the works of too many theologians, that the latter have set many all-too-human limits on God. (This can be expressed as: “God is capable of more things than the volumes of Aquinas, Calvin, Barth, and the canon lawyers of various denominations might be willing to permit Him.” But who could put it better than Shakespeare: “There are more things in heaven and earth . . . than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”)

But “Logos” is quite appropriate if it’s understood in a broader way, to mean a reason deeper than ours, a reason not limited to the rules elaborated by our thinkers — a reason like that of the man in the story, with his “folly wiser than the world.” What looks like “folly to the Greeks,” a stumbling block to human reason, is, many of us believe, the Deepest Reason of all.