Showing posts from April, 2015

Media bias

I read of this first in the Daily Telegraph and thought it was a very interesting definition of 'left wing' that embraces the Liberal Democrats (only in the United States possibly...). For that matter the UK Conservative Party would probably be dangerously liberal in the US!

However, more broadly, I thought it abiding strange that a politician vying to be the Prime Minister would not be happy to be in front of an audience of any cross-section of the nation's citizens and respond to their concerns and questions. You thought that might be the mark of a healthy democracy and of the confidence in which the candidate held the importance and truthfulness of their understanding of the world and vision for the country.

Better to my mind that the BBC simply selected a group of interested citizens at random than try the futile task of 'balance'. Balance should be in the presentation of th…

The Pope, climate change and First Things

I was reading an article in today's Guardian
on the forthcoming encyclical on the environment and the preceding conference at the Vatican on climate change that referenced a blog post on the First Things' website by Maureen Mullarkey taking exception to this.

First Things describes itself as the leading journal in the US concerning Religion and the Public Square, founded by the Roman Catholic theologian and political thinker, "Richard John Neuhaus and his colleagues to confront the ideology of secularism". It would be a journal that would be placed within the 'conservative' spectrum (though Neuhaus himself, as did Pope Benedict, started out of a more liberal turn of mind). It is a journal that, though I happily disagree with virtually everything it stands for, I have a…

William Blake: A New Life

I remember giving a talk at the Catholic Chaplaincy at University College, Cork, many years ago, where a friend was working. After the talk, my friend remarked on her surprise at the attendance of one of the Dominican priests. I assumed that this was because of the talk's substance - on teaching meditation and yoga in prison - the priest shying away from paganism! But no, my friend told me, it was because I was English! It was my first, real time, acquaintance with the troubled history of England and Ireland and throughout that, first, visit to Ireland, I remained sensitive as the ingrained hospitality of folk washed against the (often unconscious) rock of that tragedy.

I was reminded of this reading Tobias Churton's new biography of William Blake ('Jerusalem: The Real Life of William Blake) because he ably juxtaposes the troubled unfolding history of Blake's time with what Blake made of it as 'spiritual sign', reminding us that much of what appears at the sur…

Neil Gunn's last novel

"The Other Landscape" was not well received.  The signs had been there for a time - the gifted novelist of social realism and Scottish community life had slowly been descending into 'mysticism' - and now here it was in full display, puzzling his readership, taking it to places, away from the kitchen sink, to some other place, where they could not follow. Gunn lost his readership.

Had another decade past, into the 60s, he might have been rediscovered by a younger audience, who having 'tuned in' may dropped through to this other way of seeing, Zen like, in its detached clarity. But here too, he may have been missed because this clarity emerges in the wholly unexotic context of everyday, Highland life. Hippies piling into their camper vans went off on their journeys to the East in search of the other shore, not staying amongst the familiar landscapes of home.

Gunn stayed put, within a place actually loved and known, his community but he knew that the deeper one…

The Devils of Loudon

A provincial priest in the first half of the seventeenth century in France antagonises a significant portion of his community. He does this first through the envy he evokes because of his looks, manners and sophistication, second because his haughty manner alienates as he spoils for fights and third because he amorously transgresses among the town's female population.

So far, so normal...but the mother superior of a local convent has become fixated on the said priest, even though she has never met him, and falls into a hysteric identification, encouraged by the priest's enemies, until soon we have the convent possessed with demons, demons supposedly invoked and manipulated by the said priest, now a sorcerer; and, a case of possession attractive to the powers in France, for their own reasons, the powers being that of Cardinal Richelieu. The poor priest finds his only escape in the dignity he exhibits when he is tortured and burnt. He denies his enemies the confession they were…

Neurotic Beauty - Looking into Japan

Japan maybe a model for a steady state, sustainable economy built from a society that is grounded in an emptiness from which all creativity flows, a sense of presence towards one another and the natural world, and the celebration of craft. This would be contradistinction to a world adrift in a void from which consumption flows, where we hope to fill the gap by fashioning an endlessly postponed identity wrapped up in things, where we are rarely present because we are always looking over the shoulder of presence to a future that never appears to arrive in any satisfactory shape, and where lasting craft is replaced with built in obsolescence.

Morris Berman in his beautiful and provocative, 'Neurotic Beauty: An Outsider Looks at Japan' admits that it is a big 'maybe' but marshals his evidence with slow building care and on the way gives the reader a fascinating tour through both recent and ancient Japanese history, culture and philosophy.

He begins with the arrival of Com…