Friday, April 29, 2011

The Sins of the Saints

If there is one thing that gets up my nose, it is biographies of the saints that make them out to be sinless paragons. This is a complete falsification of what sainthood is all about, and is theologically blasphemous. It is also incredibly damaging to the spiritual lives of the rest of us, as it makes the saints inaccessible, inhuman, and, by setting the bar impossibly high, makes us despair of our own hope of salvation.

It also allows the enemies of Christ to point to a provable fault in a saint and seem thereby to cast doubt on the entire concept of sainthood, and the infallibility of the church.

Saints are never without sin. Nobody has ever been without sin, other than Jesus, Mary, and possibly Enoch and Elijah in the Old Testament. This has always been understood in the Judeo-Christian tradition. As a Jewish friend recently pointed out, all the Old Testament prophets were also clearly very imperfect men--and this was a point the OT was making quite deliberately. God loves us despite our sin and imperfection.

Father James Martin has recently written a healthy corrective:

http://www.slate.com/id/2164673

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The NDP Surge

The Canadian election is getting far more interesting than I expected. Some thoughts:

A lot of the NDP surge, I suspect, is a sympathy vote. It's Jack Layton's cane and bout with cancer. Especially in Quebec, voters are sentimental about such things. To their credit.

Some if it is also a Canadian equivalent to the Tea Party. In these times, it is not advantageous to have a profile as the "Natural Governing Party." At the same time, the Conservatives are in government, and so not the obvious recipients of a protest vote against the powers that be. The NDP becomes the obvious "none of the above" choice, since Reform is gone.

The Liberals are staring at the real possibility of sharing the fate of the British Liberal Party. If the NDP gets past them once, they may establish themselves as the clear left-wing alternative, as happened in the UK, and the Liberals fade to the chronic third-party status the NDP has suffered until now.

But can the Liberals even continue to exist, if this happens? Since it has scant chance of power, a third party must be held together by an ideological core. Does the Liberal Party really still have an ideological core, at least sufficiently distinct from the NDP's? Even to the extent that the old PCs did? Or has it lately only been a vehicle for power, the party of the ruling class, easily assimilating its Scott Brisons and Bob Raes from either side of the supposed left-right divide?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Two Word Poems

Some titles are the finest poetry; it is really possible, it seems, for the very best writers to write two or three word poems.

Here are some examples that have always sounded terribly good to me:

Wild Feeling – Li Bai
Sixteen Inches of Rain – Ian Tyson
Pale Fire – Vladimir Nabokov
That Old Gravel Road – Ian Tyson
Idiot Wind – Bob Dylan
The Hissing of Summer Lawns – Joni Mitchell
Voyage of the Dawntreader – C.S. Lewis
Slow Train Coming – Bob Dylan
Beautiful Losers – Leonard Cohen
The Book of Longing – Leonard Cohen
Blue Alert – Leaonard Cohen
Rolling Thunder Review – Bob Dylan

Friday, April 08, 2011

The Ultimate Canadian Portrait


Don't know where I originally found this--it was on an old hard disk. But I love it. Kind of captures the wonderful corn of Dief's character. Canadian pop art, worthy of Andy Warhol.

The Dark Night of the Soul


My interpretation of the finest lyric in Spanish, St. John of the Cross's "Dark Night of the Soul.":

In blackest night, on fire with desperate longing—oh bliss of chance—
I escaped unseen; my household still and ignorant, like smoke suspended.

Safe in the covering darkness, by the secret ladder, disguised as someone else—oh bliss of chance—
Dark, unseen, unknown; my household sleeping still.

In the delirious night, unwhispered and unnoticed, troubling no beams
And stark with blindness, no light, no wayfinder but the torch burning down my heart.

This torch a truer guide than gaudy noon
To the place where I remembered he had always awaited me
A place where no one was, and none appeared.

Night itself led me—night lovelier than the dawn.
Brilliant night that interlaces lover and belov├ęd, both transformed.

Upon my scented breast, all his and his alone
He rested, sleeping; I caressed. The breath of distant cedars filled the room.

A wind swept in from high watchtower. My fingers parted hair;
His fingers brushed my neck: all senses left.

Someone remained, forgetting everything. My head was fallen, on his breast.
Everything ended, even me. All cares disappeared among lilies.


I disagree with St. John's theology, but he sure can write.

Friday, April 01, 2011

The BBC Fights the Oppression of Women in Saudi Arabia

A fine example of the BBC's legendary bias is on display currently. They are promoting a piece on the situation of women in Saudi Arabia with the tag line:

"Women in Saudi Arabia are among the world's most oppressed. But whose fault is it? The men, or the women?"

The idea that women are not oppressed in Saudi Arabia is simply not permitted. Even, you will note, if Saudi women themselves insist it is so.