Commonplace Book: February 2005 Archives

St Francis Borgia on Judas


May as well continue my annual or semi-annual tradition of posting this little tidbit:

From the time that he began to give himself totally to the divine service Francis Borgia, who was canonized in 1671, learned the importance and difficulty of attaining to humility, and he tried unremittingly to humble himself in the divine presence and within himself. Amidst the honours and respect that were shown him at Valladolid, his companion, Father Bustamante, noticed that he was not only quiet but more than ordinarily self-effacing, for which he asked the reason. "I considered", said St Francis, "in my morning meditation that Hell is my due. I think that all men and even dumb creatures ought to cry out after me, 'Hell is your place'." He one day told the novices that in meditating on the actions of Christ he had for six years always placed himself in spirit at the feet of Judas; but then he realized that Christ had washed the feet even of that traitor, so that he thenceforth felt unworthy to approach even him.

See the poem I posted earlier this Lent.

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The Sacrifice


From Office of Readings: Psalm 50

Pay your sacrifice of thanksgiving to God
and render him your votive offerings.
Call on me in the day of distress.
I will free you and you shall honor me."

Ant: Offer to God the sacrifice of praise.

Prayer: Father, accept us as a sacrifice of praise, so that we may go through life unburdened by sin, walking in the way of salvation, and always giving thanks to you.

My praise has grown beyond words for the good things He has done for me.

accept us as a sacrifice of praise,
so that we may go through life unburdened by sin,
walking in the way of salvation,
and always giving thanks to you.

Father, accept us
as a sacrifice
of praise, so that we may go
through life unburdened
by sin, walking in the way
of salvation, and always
giving thanks
to you.

Accept me--this body, this life, this brokenness--because my words are just words and they have been used so long and so hard that they do not mean what they once did. But my heart knows you and your joy. My heart hears your word and leaps up. All of creation is a praise to You, O God, what can I add to that with mere words? But my life--let it be a constant praise, a source of joy and hope to those who see You in me. Let my ears hear, my heart obey, and my life be always directed to You in humble obedience and joy.

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The Mysterious Ways of God


from The (Mis)Behavior of Markets
Benoit Mandelbrot and Richard L. Hudson

Lastly, the cotton story shows the strange liaison among different branches of the economy, and between economics and nature. That cotton prices should vary the way income does; that income variations should look like Swedish fire-insurance claims; that these, in turn, are in the same mathematical family as formulae describing the way we speak, or how earthquakes happenn---this is, truly, the greatest mystery of all.

Mystery?--Yes and no. Mathematics is one of the ways in which we discern the organizing principle behind all creation. When these things fall together and there is no correlation among them in terms of causes or events, we begin to see the Mind of the Maker. We can deny it, if we choose--and many do. But the reality is that the thumbprint of God is on all creation if you merely look for it.

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The Christology of the Saints


I wrote a piece yesterday in which I tried to get at this point--quite awkwardly. I did not publish it (as you may see). However, I stumbled on this during my perambulations through St. Blogs and it says perfectly what I had in mind. Thank you Mr. Blosser.

A quotation from Cardnial Ratzinger

Real advances in Christology, therefore, can never come merely as a result of the theology of the schools, and that includes the modern theology as we find it in critical exegesis, in the history of doctrine and in an anthropology oriented toward the human sciences, etc. All this is important, as important as schools are. But it is insufficient. It must be complemented by the theology of the saints, which is theology from experience. All real progress in theological understanding has its origin in the eye of love and in its faculty of beholding.

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Particularly among the ladies. I laughed out loud when I first read this because of the non sequitur and needlessness of the final line. I think misogynist is the word one might use, except that Mr. Waugh didn't particularly LIKE anyone. So he was an equal-opportunity disdainer. Note the source.

from Msgr. Ronald Knox
Evelyn Waugh

At the time there was a limited but eager public for these puzzles. Fashion has turned from them, as from acrostics. When they come back into fashion, Ronald's stories, because of their austerity, may seem less dated than those of his more romantic and dramatic rivals. None was more ingenious than he, more scrupulous in the provision of clues, more logically complete in his solutions. Very few women have ever enjoyed them.

Add to that the fact that Mr. Knox's mysteries are, quite simply, not enjoyable. There isn't so much as a thread of personality on which to hand a hope of a real story--you get in essence the outline of a mystery with the skeleton fully exposed. Mr. Waugh's prediction is sadly unrealistic. And his venom gratuitous. Nevertheless, I think it was the shock of juxtaposition that forced a guffaw out of me. And then gave me pause, because I certainly fall into the class of those who cannot read Mr. Knox's mysteries with any pleasure at all. If I'm to read fiction by clergy, I'll hold with Robert Hugh Benson's wonderful novels. You want to read some good stuff try The Necromancers or Lord of the World.

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Shakespeare Does Psalm 8

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To honor Ms. Schiavo and the Terri Schiavo blogburst:*

from "Hamlet" Act II scene 2
William Shakespeare

I have of late--but wherefore I know not--lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory, this most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o'erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire, why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? man delights not me: no, nor woman neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so.

"The beauty of the world--the paragon of animals." How horribly appropriate in the savagery surrounding this innocent woman and those who wish her dead--that these two should be juxtaposed. For people can indeed be the paragon of animals in both the positive, and in this case the negative sense. How much more an animal must one be to stoop to the slaughter of those least able to defend themselves. May God have mercy on them and deliver Terri from their "tender" care.

I am with you in spirit (those in Tampa) though I didn't hear about the gatherings until too late to manage a day off. My prayers are with those who gather in her defense.

*A note of clarification from Hyscience--Visit hyscience blog and search for Terri Schiavo Blogburst to find the script to add to your blog, etc. E-mail hyscience at once you have it added or if you have any questions. It's time to burst the blogosphere for Terri! Ultimate goal? Getting her out of the hands of those trying to murder her and back on the road to her recovery in the care of her parents/siblings/etc. and those who love and want to help her.

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One I Had Not Seen by Richard Crashaw


Once again, your indulgence I beg and direct your eyes to the apologies of the previous post. Ditto.

Hymn in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament
Adoro te
Richard Crashaw

WITH all the powres my poor Heart hath
Of humble love & loyall Faith,
Thus lowe (my hidden life!) I bow to thee
Whom too much love hath bow'd more low for me.
Down down, proud sense! Discourses dy!
Keep close, my soul's inquiring ey!
Nor touch nor tast must look for more
But each sitt still in his own Dore.

Your ports are all superfluous here,
Save That which lets in faith, the eare.
Faith is my skill. Faith can beleive
As fast as love new lawes can give.
Faith is my force. Faith strength affords
To keep pace with those powrfull words.
And words more sure, more sweet, then they,
Love could not think, truth could not say.

O let thy wretch find that releife
Thou didst afford the faithfull theife.
Plead for me, love! Alleage & show
That faith has farther, here, to goe,
And lesse to lean on. Because than
Though hidd as GOD, wounds writt thee man.
Thomas might touch; None but might see
At least the suffring side of thee;
And that too was thy self which thee did cover,
But here ev'n That 's hid too which hides the other.

Sweet, consider then, that I
Though allow'd nor hand nor eye
To reach at thy lov'd Face; nor can
Tast thee GOD, or touch thee MAN,
Both yet beleive; And wittnesse thee
My LORD too & my GOD, as lowd as He.

Help, lord, my Faith, my Hope increase;
And fill my portion in thy peace.
Give love for life; nor let my dayes
Grow, but in new powres to thy name & praise.

O dear memoriall of that Death
Which lives still, & allowes us breath!
Rich, Royall food! Bountyfull BREAD!
Whose use denyes us to the dead;
Whose vitall gust alone can give
The same leave both to eat & live;
Live ever Bread of loves, & be
My life, my soul, my surer selfe to mee.

O soft self-wounding Pelican!
Whose brest weepes Balm for wounded man.
Ah this way bend thy benign floud
To'a bleeding Heart that gaspes for blood:
That blood, whose least drops soveraign be
To wash my worlds of sins from me.
Come love! Come LORD! & that long day
For which I languish, come away;
When this dry soul those eyes shall see,
And drink the unseal'd sourse of thee,
When Glory's sun faith's shades shall chase,
And for thy veil give me thy FACE.

A M E N.

As this is the year of the Eucharist, whatever feeble strains we can add to praise, we ought to do so. And so I offer this--not my own, but too easily lost and not again found.

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Another Poem


I'm sorry for yet another, but I came upon it in searching through some other things and wanted to be able to find it again. The best way is to place it here and I will be able to see it in the commonplace book or among the poets. Please pardon my self-indulgence.

Robert Gilbert Welsh

from The Little Book of Modern Verse (1917)
ed. Jessie Rittnehouse
(available from Bartleby, linked above)

THE ANGELS in high places
Who minister to us,
Reflect God’s smile,—their faces
Are luminous;
Save one, whose face is hidden,
(The Prophet saith),
The unwelcome, the unbidden,
Azrael, Angel of Death.
And yet that veilèd face, I know
Is lit with pitying eyes,
Like those faint stars, the first to glow
Through cloudy winter skies.

That they may never tire,
Angels, by God’s decree,
Bear wings of snow and fire,—
Passion and purity;
Save one, all unavailing,
(The Prophet saith),
His wings are gray and trailing,
Azrael, Angel of Death.
And yet the souls that Azrael brings
Across the dark and cold,
Look up beneath those folded wings,
And find them lined with gold.

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A Poem in Honor of this Month

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February is often honored as African-American History month. So I offer this poem.

The Feet of Judas
George Marion McClellan

CHRIST washed the feet of Judas!
The dark and evil passions of his soul,
His secret plot, and sordidness complete,
His hate, his purposing, Christ knew the whole,
And still in love he stooped and washed his feet.

Christ washed the feet of Judas!
Yet all his lurking sin was bare to him,
His bargain with the priest, and more than this,
In Olivet, beneath the moonlight dim,
Aforehand knew and felt his treacherous kiss.

Christ washed the feet of Judas!
And so ineffable his love ’twas meet,
That pity fill his great forgiving heart,
And tenderly to wash the traitor’s feet,
Who in his Lord had basely sold his part.

Christ washed the feet of Judas!
And thus a girded servant, self-abased,
Taught that no wrong this side the gate of heaven
Was ever too great to wholly be effaced,
And though unasked, in spirit be forgiven.

And so if we have ever felt the wrong
Of Trampled rights, of caste, it matters not,
What e’er the soul has felt or suffered long,
Oh, heart! this one thing should not be forgot:
Christ washed the feet of Judas.

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St John of the Cross on Satan


from The Spiritual Canticle
John of the Cross

quoted in In Conversation with God
Francis Fernandez

No human power can be compared to his; only God's power can vanquish him and only God's light can unmask the snares that he lays. The soul that would overcome the ower of the devil will not be able to do so without prayer, nor will it recongise his deceitful traps without the aid of mortification and humility.

The traps of the devil cannot be seen by those who are looking in the mirror. A great many people walk around with a Rube Goldberg apparatus attached to them--a fishing pole at the seat of the pant that dangles a mirror in front of them. Walking about in this way will lead only to falling into a pit--and oh what pits there are to find.

The worst part of all of this is that there are certain kinds of people who, once they have fallen into a pit, choose to make it home, decorate it and invite others in, thinking there is absolutely nothing wrong with the way they are living.

The season of Lent is a time to look at the minefield of pits we may have previously inhabited and to resolve, by the grace of God never to dwell there again. It is a time to realize that we cannot even tell the good from the bad, even though we know it for a certainty in our heads. It is a time for humble adoration and extended prayer to ask God to make right what we have made oh, so wrong. It is a time to break the mirror and to begin to move ahead fully aware of what lay in our path. And this may only be done with God's grace, His help, and our continued and grace-perfected obedience to His law.

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Knowing God


from Ascent to Love
Sr. Ruth Burrows

The real point John is making is that at a certain point of growth a new form of knowledge is introduced that does not come through the normal channels of cognition. This is real knowledge of him who 'is night to the soul in this life', incomprehensible mystery. Thus in a practical existential way we are being asked to accept that 'nothing whatever that our imagination can conceive or our minds grasp in this life, can be God himself'; they are merely ideas about him no matter how spiritual they seem to be. Anything that we can actually regard and give an account of simply cannot be a direct experience of God.

Beginners for John are 'those who meditate on the spiritual road', which means they are those who are totally dependent on thoughts and ideas about God. Now for all of us, whatever state we are in, this is the only distinct knowledge we have; it is all we can know in the common acceptance of the term. When we write or talk it is always this kind of knowledge that is involved. But for beginners it is literally the sum total of their knowledge. It is not, as with advanced persons, merely that this is their conscious knowledge of God--it is, in objective reality, the sum of their knowledge. They are completely dependent on what their intelligence discovers of him and, as knowledge and love are closely intertwined, their love too is limited in this way.

This is so heartening--the thought that with enough progress I do not have to depend upon the nonsense that circulates in my head and calls itself "knowledge of God." My head so bulges and throbs with ideas about God that if my eventual success depended upon them, I would know for certain that there is no hope.

But my journey does begin with my thoughts and my ideas about God. In the light of transforming grace God gently moves me closer to Him by "perfecting" that knowledge in so far as I am capable of grasping it. The truth is that I am extraordinarily limited in this way. If two theologians were debating, I might be able to ask a couple of questions to fuel the fire, but I know so little that I would be persuaded first this way and then that way. The sum of my certain knowledge of theology is found in the revelation of the Scriptures, the defined doctrines and dogmas of the Church (in so far as I know and understand them), and most especially in the Creed. I understand at least the superficial meaning of every statement in the Creed, and I accept them unequivocally. This, at least is an organizing chain for thoughts.

But if we are living the life God has set out for us, thought will inevitably lead to deeper, inexpressible knowledge. This seems to be the message of all the great spiritual writers of the Church. At some point in prayer we move beyond meditation and thought about God into a deeper knowledge of Him that He Himself grants us. This is commonly called infused contemplation. However, that are a great many steps between these two ends, and I think all of us have experiences of the reality and the truth of God that extend beyond mere ideas. That transcendent and overwhelming feeling that has no reliable description in English when one first encounters a stunning landscape or work of art--that it seems to me is a small sense of what Sister Burrows means when she talks about "secret knowledge of God." It isn't a knowledge that sits outside of revelation, but rather a direct encounter.

I suppose one way of thinking about it is the translation from Divine Acquaintance (How do you do? So pleased to see you again.) to Divine Friendship (How can I help you deal with this difficult mater?) to Divine Intimacy (Oh let us be married, too long we have tarried, but what shall we do for a ring?). We all start at Divine Acquaintance. We seem to know something of God but are largely indifferent or only slightly warm to the matter we know. Most of us have probably moved beyond acquaintance to friendship, where we desire to spend more time and really get to know the Other. We go beyond the minimum requirements, but we still withdraw at times and move to be on our own. God stays in His place (figuratively speaking) and we go elsewhere. Finally, we know so much and understand enough, that we wish not to be merely friends that come and go, but we desire to become One Flesh, intimate family--we don't ever want to be parted from the presence or the security of our union. Most of us are like the proverbial bachelor--we want to keep our freedom, Divine Intimacy would really wreck our game plan for life. We need to be free to sample the pleasures of the world.

The reality is that it is only in the bonds of union that we become free enough to know what the pleasures of the world really are. And to get to union we must eventually go beyond our ideas and constructs and begin to trust God for who He is. We must experience the great I AM in the smallness of being "she who is not" (a quote from St. Catherine of Siena). This is the end goal--this is the Easter of our lives. Living the lives of good Christians and striving always to stay in a state of grace, we will find our way to this end eventually. But consider for a moment the profound triumph, beauty, passion, and ecstasy of finding ourselves there while still in the land of the living. Moving beyond merely knowing about into knowing while we still live. St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Francis de Sales, St. Alphonsus Liguori, in fact every Saint who writes about the deep mystical life tells us that not only is it possible, it is what we are intended for. This is the "Mary" (as opposed to Martha) moment. This is the "one thing necessary." It is the end either here and now or in the life to come.

The good news is that this end is open to every one of us through the Grace of God. It is inconceivable that the God who said, "knock and it shall be opened, seek and ye shall find" would fail to live up to His word. Once again, it is merely a matter of making up our minds to do this. Choose Life. Choose intimacy. Love God now in the ideas and meditations, live the life partaking of sacramental grace, and pray that His will be done, and each one of us who does so can join those saints who achieved Divine Intimacy. It is not beyond us, it is within us, in the form of the Holy Spirit who constantly calls and urges us to move beyond our hesitant and sometimes cool friendship. The Holy Spirit calls us to ardor.

"Now is the acceptable time."

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Providential Synchonicity

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Two readings this morning:

from Morning Prayer, the Intercession

May we abstain from what we do not really need,
and help our brothers and sisters in distress.

And this from my present bookgroup:

from Freedom of Simplicity
Richard J Foster

The life pleasing to God is not found in a series of religious duties but in obedience. The fast that God desired was for the people to "loose the bonds of wickedness" and to "let the oppressed go free." God's word to them were these: "Share your bread with the hungry" and bring the "homeless poor into your house." (Is 58: 5-7)

Fast from what you do not really need anyway. This doesn't seem like such a difficult thing, but many of us, perhaps most of us, are daily indulged in our own wants. We have more than we need and we crave more yet.

God did not set up a given economic system--He is not a capitalist or a communist or a distributist or an economist of any sort. He is God. He points out simple truths. You don't need that. And what we don't need generally weighs us down. Sometimes it does so in real physical reality--we eat more than we need and we increase our girth. But more often it is in psychological and spiritual terms. We have more than we really need and we cease to use or own things and we become the servant of things.

I think back to the time when I rented an apartment or a townhouse from someone else. When something went wrong, I simply called the landlord and it was dealt with, most often quite quickly. Yes, there were some restrictive rules, perhaps some problems with the system, but I had a place to live and it did not loom large in my mind.

Now I "own" a house. This last season I sat through four hurricanes wondering how I was to take care of this house, reroof it, de-mold it, repair it. Early this year I think how I must buy hurricane shutters, or get this thing or that thing removed or adjusted. The house owns me. It demands things of me never demanded by a rented townhouse. It requires of me things that I gave no thought to when I simply rented. And it offers no better surety or security. And thanks to owner's associations, I am even more restricted than when I lived in a townhouse. Some feel the warm glow of ownership--I feel, more often, the shackles of being owned.

The fast that we do today reminds us not only of God, but it should also remind us of those less fortunate than ourselves, those who do not have even a single full meal to eat in a day. The fast that the Church requires today is a fast that, should be choose to do so, we could easily live on the rest of our lives without being deprived. The fast we observe under Church regulation wisely focuses our attention on what we need not on what we want.

Try this experiment (if in ill health, obviously consult your physician first). Take this day of fast and extend it. See what happens to you , to your waistline (if that is a concern) to your health and to your awareness. And see what you save. Then take that and give it to the poor. What you do not eat, what you fast from--that can feed others. As you train yourself to focus on what you need, you can at the same time help others, with no other sacrifice whatsoever. Let this day be a dawning of new awareness. Let your little physical hunger drive the hunger for righteousness and for justice. Open your heart to give God a home. Offer Him your excesses and you will find yourself freed from them. More, you will find in His heart of generosity the spirit of generosity itself and become unburdened in matters that are only of the moment.

God will rescue us from the greatest foe of all--our own desires.

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On Simplicity

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Richard J. Foster is a Quaker who has quite the ecumenical outlook. He's written dozens of books on faith and spirituality, several of them dedicated to the study of devotional literature. In simplicity he talks at length about one of the most important and most difficult of spiritual disciplines.

from The Freedom of Simplicity
Richard J. Foster

If the first insight into simplicity that we receive from the Old Testament is radical dependence, the second is radical obedience. Perhaps nowhere is this more graphically seen than when Abraham was called upon to surrender his most priceless treasure--his son Isaac. God spoke, Abraham obeyed. No contingency plans, no skirting around the issue, no ifs ands or buts. Through a long painful process Abraham's life had been honed down to one truth--obedience to the voice of Yahweh. This "holy obedience" forms the grid through which the life of simplicity flows.

Radical obedience is possible only when God has our supreme allegiance. . . .

Today we need to hear again that God alone is worthy of our worship and obedience. The idolatry of affluence is rampant. Our greed for more dictates so many of our decisions. Notice how the fourth commandment of the Sabbath rest strikes at the heart of this everlasting itch to get ahead. We find it so very hard to rest when, by working, we can get the jump on everyone else. There is no greater need today than the freedom to lay down the heavy burden of getting ahead.

(from chapter 2)

Following on the theme of several days now--we must make a choice, life or death, heaven or hell, self or Other. "You cannot serve two masters for you will love one and hate the other. . ." The choice is all-or-nothing and that is why it is so difficult. Either we embrace God and His way entirely and experience a radical transformation in our lives, or we reject Him in one way or another. Embracing God is scary because we have been given so many distorted pictures of what that looks like. Strange cultists burn their possessions and go in live in cinder-block communes all for love of Him. Some look for His return in a spaceship. There are any number of distortion to the one truth. And these distortions exist because the worst thing that can happen to the prince of this world is that we should turn our eyes from him toward the One who saves.

But the reality of the matter is that this interior transformation may be propagated to outward things, but the matter of change is our bondage to those things that keep us from being who we are. We do not know our identities until we are identified in Christ. Sin and self-possession keep us away from that possibility.

We cannot begin a life of obedience unless and until we have made that commitment to God, from whom the strength and the grace of obedience flows. That only makes sense--how can we hope to be obedient if we repudiate the source of obedience?

And that ultimate obedience of Abraham is instructive--God does not wish us obedience to destroy us, but rather to strengthen us. He will not take from us all that He has given us, but he will invest it with new meaning. Life will not stop, but the kind of life-in-death we live in bondage to ourselves. The obedience of Abraham teaches us that God does not ask from us the impossible. He may test us, but He will always be with us so long as we trust in Him and rely upon Him.

Simplicity, obedience, charity, meekness, humility, the storehouse of all virtues becomes opened to us by a simple choice. We either choose to unify ourselves to Jesus Christ in as much as we can, relying entirely on grace and His help, or we choose to remain as we are. God will save in due time either way--but it is the difference of a life of Joy in Him or a life of bondage to self with some recourse to Him. It really isn't much of a choice, and yet it is so difficult to make!

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"Transgressing the Boundaries"


At once the wittiest, most interesting, and most devastating attack on the excesses of post-modernism. Originally published in a peer-reviewed journal and later revealed as a hoax--I had forgotten how much I enjoyed "Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity" by Alan Sokal. An excerpt follows.

from "Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity"
Alan Sokal

There are many natural scientists, and especially physicists, who continue to reject the notion that the disciplines concerned with social and cultural criticism can have anything to contribute, except perhaps peripherally, to their research. Still less are they receptive to the idea that the very foundations of their worldview must be revised or rebuilt in the light of such criticism. Rather, they cling to the dogma imposed by the long post-Enlightenment hegemony over the Western intellectual outlook, which can be summarized briefly as follows: that there exists an external world, whose properties are independent of any individual human being and indeed of humanity as a whole; that these properties are encoded in ``eternal'' physical laws; and that human beings can obtain reliable, albeit imperfect and tentative, knowledge of these laws by hewing to the ``objective'' procedures and epistemological strictures prescribed by the (so-called) scientific method.

But deep conceptual shifts within twentieth-century science have undermined this Cartesian-Newtonian metaphysics1; revisionist studies in the history and philosophy of science have cast further doubt on its credibility2; and, most recently, feminist and poststructuralist critiques have demystified the substantive content of mainstream Western scientific practice, revealing the ideology of domination concealed behind the façade of ``objectivity''.3 It has thus become increasingly apparent that physical ``reality'', no less than social ``reality'', is at bottom a social and linguistic construct; that scientific ``knowledge", far from being objective, reflects and encodes the dominant ideologies and power relations of the culture that produced it; that the truth claims of science are inherently theory-laden and self-referential; and consequently, that the discourse of the scientific community, for all its undeniable value, cannot assert a privileged epistemological status with respect to counter-hegemonic narratives emanating from dissident or marginalized communities. These themes can be traced, despite some differences of emphasis, in Aronowitz's analysis of the cultural fabric that produced quantum mechanics4; in Ross' discussion of oppositional discourses in post-quantum science5; in Irigaray's and Hayles' exegeses of gender encoding in fluid mechanics6; and in Harding's comprehensive critique of the gender ideology underlying the natural sciences in general and physics in particular.7

Even more amusing was its considerable aftermath, chronicled in part here. Enjoy.

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I trouble you once again with insights from Sr. Ruth Burrows.

from Ascent to Love
Sr. Ruth Burrows

We have one dynamism of choice. That dynamism must be controlled, concentrated, otherwise it ceases to be dynamic and is like a worn out battery driving nothing. If we do not know what we really want, if we vacillate, allowing ourselves to be drawn hither and thither, we become enfeebled and our faculty of choice is weakened. We must decide what we really want and concentrate on that. 'The soul whose will is torn between trifles is like water which n ever rises because it is running through an outlet down below.'

Taking a lesson from Aquinas--God is uniate, simple. There is no part of Him that is not integrated with all other parts (in as much as He can be said to have "parts"). This is a very hard lesson. We know the truth of the shema Y'israel--"Know O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is One." We know this. But the doctrine of the trinity sometimes clouds our understanding no matter how clearly we state it. Nevertheless, we know it to be true--God is triUNE--three person in union--simple. God is one. Uniate. Simple.

Why make such a big deal about it? Well, if God is uniate, simple, one, then nothing that is not God can be part of Him. That is, until our complete purification either here or in purgatory, we cannot join the God who is One. There can be no union of like with unlike. There is no mystical marriage and the fullness of the beatific vision is impossible. God is One and immovable, we are duple (at least) and duplicitous and must become simple and one to move toward the One.

This is what Sr. Ruth is emphasizing here. Our desire must be one, our heart must be one, our minds must be one, our intent must be one, our actions must be one. We cannot look now at God and now at some created good. Our choice must be singly and wholeheartedly one.

Now, there is not a little fear in this choice. What will happen to my family if my whole attention is devoted to God, to my career, to my life, to my leisure? What will happen to me?

What ideally SHOULD happen if one makes this choice is that "me" drops out of the picture and our joy and delight ever increases in serving God. It is in selflessness that we find the truest definition of self. If all of our being is aligned in wanting the One thing that matters, then we will not be troubled by the old car in the driveway or by wanting filet and eating chicken. We will not be disturbed by the same currents that scatter the rest of the school. We will begin to see eternity and what is present will pass away in RELATIVE importance. That does not mean our family passes out of our mind, but rather in the selflessness we practice we more completely serve our families and those around us. Union with the One does not mean the abandonment of life on Earth, but complete joy in that life and complete service to His ends in it.

The reality is very simple--we can continue to live a life in tension--in a kind of dynamic opposition of created good and Creator. Or we can "Choose Life" as we are commanded:

Deuteronomy 30:19-20

"I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice, and cleaving to him; for that means life to you and length of days, that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them."

"Cleave to Him." the ancient language used to describe the relationship of marriage where "the two become one." In fact, throughout the Bible we are called to this surrender of marriage, this abandonment of self and immersion in the self as defined by God's vision of us. Cleaving to God is a vision of divine union that promises "length of days." Not length of life, but the "length", if you will, of eternity.

So today and all the days I chance to think about it and particularly through this season of Lent, I must make a constant choice to "Choose life" so that I might begin to live rather than to walk through life. We have but one chance to get it right, but within that chance so many opportunities. "This is the day the Lord has made, let us be glad and rejoice in Him!"

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This page is a archive of entries in the Commonplace Book category from February 2005.

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