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Showing posts from October, 2015

The Mad Farmers' Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready-made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.

And you will have a window in your head. 
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer. 

When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you 
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something 
that won't compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor. 
Love someone who does not deserve it. 

Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed. 

Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias. 
Say that your main crop is the forest 
that you did not plant, 
that you will not live to harvest…

Till We Have Faces

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'Till We Have Faces' is C.S. Lewis' imaginative retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche told from the perception of one of Psyche's two 'evil' sisters (in this particular case, ugly too). It was a myth drawn from Apuleius' 'The Golden Ass' that had haunted Lewis throughout his life and this is a compelling and beautiful late work.

It deeply coheres as a whole - Orual, the sister, tells her story in Part One as an accusation against the gods for sundering her relationship to her beloved half sister, Psyche. In Part Two Orual is reshaped by the gods accepting her complaint and responding in such a way that transforms and redeems Orual's story. Nothing in the past is fixed until it is seen in the light of a redeeming future.

Like his beloved George MacDonald, Lewis has reconfigured myth and faery and given it a contemporary accessibility of meaning. He does so with both psychological insight and metaphysical grace (and shows how the two co-inher…

Pure Act

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Robert Lax's vocation was first and foremost as a poet though he spent his life as many other things in people's perceptions. He was, for example, a friend of Thomas Merton (whose cottage industry was given further impetus by Pope Francis who recently singled him out for praise to the U.S. Congress). He was a reclusive saintly hermit on Patmos though like many saintly reclusive hermits before him, he was anything but, in truth, travelling and traipsing and hosting visitors aplenty. He was a 'failed' editor - an uncertain youthful fumbling after a literary career at the New Yorker and a deeper abiding presence, if sometime impractical, at Ed Rice's Catholic journal, 'Jubilee'.

But as Michael N. McGregor shows, in his exemplary biography, 'Pure Act: The Uncommon Life of Robert Lax',  Lax truly came alive when he realized that he could write nothing that was not simply for himself and that self was only authentically alive and present when it sought t…

An Inspector Calls

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Yesterday I watched the new BBC television adaption of J.B. Priestley's play, 'An Inspector Calls' with the admirable David Thewlis as the inspector. (The accompanying image is from the film version with the equally admirable Alastair Sim in the title role).

The inspector arrives at the intimate dinner party of a northern industrialist. The dinner is celebrating his daughter's engagement. The inspector announces that a young woman has committed suicide and as the investigation unfolds we come to see that all five of the dinner's participants have played a role in the woman's unhappy downfall to this ultimate misery. A role, that in each case, reflects badly on each of the individuals who are present. We watch as each person wrestles with their conscience and how that conscience is, in each case, more or less obscured. Ultimately, however, it is held in the objective gaze of an 'external' judgement namely that of the inspector, and all stand convicted i…

Gun crime

Following the thread of a discussion on an American friend's Facebook thread on the recent tragedy in Oregon, one of his interlocutors was an irate 'responsible' gun owner (also American) who questioned whether he (my friend) wanted the government to take her guns away? After all, she had not nor ever intended to kill anyone. The question was sidestepped by returning to the more politically plausible response of saying, 'No, what we need is more effective background checks etc.'

Reflecting on this, I thought, well maybe the answer, in fact, ought to be, 'Yes, I do want to take your guns away from you'. Individually you might indeed be a 'responsible gun owner' but the truth is societies with massive gun ownership tend to be societies where they are more often used violently (and by accident create accompanying mayhem). The question is not about individual responsibility but why do you as a responsible citizen want to live in a society awash with we…