Monthly Archives: July 2018

Fandom

Last time we looked at the rise of mass media and the resultant birth of pop culture as we know it.  Over time, as even cheaper forms of print came into being (penny dreadfuls, dime novels, and pulps) and new media were developed (movies, radio, and television), there came into being the phenomenon we know as fandom.

“Fan”, of course, is originally an abbreviation of “fanatic”.  A fan is fanatic about his favorite books, TV show, band, or whatever.  The term originated in America in the late 19th Century–not surprising, since America at that time was rapidly becoming the epicenter for all the various media that made fans and fandom possible.  “Fandom” appears around the same time, but is very rarely seen until the second half of the 20th Century, becoming more and more common from the 1970’s onward.  “Fandom” is the subculture of fans of a given franchise, property, or other media entity.  Such subculture includes, but is not limited to, networking among fans, fan clubs and societies of various sorts, fan-produced magazines (“‘zines”, often produced on the cheap with mimeograph machines in decades past), fan-written fiction (“fan fiction” or “fanfic”–with modern technology, fan films have become common, too), fan conventions (“cons”), cosplay, and various forums, discussion boards, and zones on the Internet.

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Quote for the Week

Statistics are the triumph of the quantitative method, and the quantitative method is the victory of sterility and death.

–Hilaire Belloc, “On Statistics”, from The Silence of the Sea; courtesy of Wikiquote

Lots of Beethoven Piano Music for the Weekend

 

Over ten hours!  ‘Nuff said!

Scandal and Universalism

The title of this post may seem to be an odd juxtaposition, but there is method in my madness.  Bear with me as I explain.  Over the last month I have been following the news of the removal from ministry of retired Archbishop of Washington, D. C. Theodore Cardinal McCarrick in the light of allegations of sexual misconduct.  During this time, I have also been engaged in discussion of this issue on some blogs that I frequent.  One theme that I hear coming up more than once is the loss of faith of many Catholics.  The abuse scandal that broke in 2002 was bad enough, and its repercussions have perhaps not completely played out yet.  Still, many had hoped that the worst was over.  With the revelations about McCarrick, and the repeated mantra that everyone knew about his behavior for decades, and that nevertheless no one came forth publicly even after the revelations of 2002, many have considered this to be the last straw.  “That’s it–I’m out,” is something I’ve heard more than once.

So what does that have to do with universalism?  Well, in order to make the connection, I’ll need to take a look at ecclesiology.  This is the branch of theology that deals with the nature of the Church.  Most simply, in the Catholic tradition, the Church is defined as the Body of Christ.  That is, all baptized persons–practicing or inactive, good or bad, living or dead–are joined together through that sacrament into the Mystical Body of Christ.  For any of my readers who are Catholics, if you’ve ever wondered why the deacon incenses the congregation, this is why.  Incense is a sign of worship, and liturgically indicates the presence of Christ.  Christ is present at the Mass in four ways–in the Scriptures, in the priest (who acts in persona Christi–“in the person of Christ”), most fully in the Eucharist (which is Christ’s Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity), but also in the congregants, who are the Mystical Body of Christ.  Thus, the Gospel, the priest, the gifts to be consecrated, and the people are incensed.

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The Good, the True, and the Beautiful, and Why We Shouldn’t Misbehave

 

In discussions on universalism, the question is sooner or later raised by the non-universalist in the dialogue, “If all are ultimately saved, then why be moral?  Why not live it up and do whatever you want?  After all, you’ll be saved anyway–so why not get the best of both worlds?”  I’m often perplexed as to how to respond.  On the most fundamental level, this argument, as I’ve noted in the past, misses the point altogether.  Whether belief in universalism persuades people to become debauched libertines or not has no bearing on whether it’s actually true.  You might as well say that the tax code is a mess and has all kinds of bad results, and that therefore it must not exist!  Universalism may have negative moral implications, or it may not; but to say that it is invalid because of these purported implications is just as silly as saying the tax code doesn’t exist because I don’t like it.

Another approach would be to question the moral development of of the person who asks this question.  In Kohlberg’s well-known stages of moral development, the higher levels of morality are increasingly less concerned with a fear of punishment or a conniving attempt to get away with whatever one can get away with.  The concern as to the behavior of believers in universalism seems to betray a lower developmental stage on the part of the person making the anit-universalist argument, or an assumption on her part that humans in general are at a lower stage of moral development.  In fairness, though, such a counter-argument smacks of the genetic fallacy, as well.  After all, a person’s stage of moral development is no more relevant to the truth of non-universalism than the supposed behavior of universalists is relevant to the truth of universalism.  Thus, this is probably not the best way to go in responding to this question.

Sometimes, feeling flip, I want to answer the question, “Why be moral if all are saved?” by saying, “Why not?”  Nevertheless, there is a serious intent behind this question, and I will try to deal with it seriously.  I will try to give at least a partial reason why we should be moral even if we all eventually end up in heaven.

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Prayers to St. James the Greater

 

Prayer to Saint James the Apostle

O glorious Apostle, Saint James,
who by reason of thy fervent
and generous heart
was chosen by Jesus to be witness
of His glory on Mount Tabor,
and of His agony in Gethsemane;
thou, whose very name is a symbol
of warfare and victory:
obtain for us strength and
consolation in the unending
warfare of this life,
that, having constantly
and generously followed Jesus,
we may be victors in the strife
and deserve to receive
the victor’s crown in heaven.
Amen.

Saint James the Greater

O Glorious St. James,
because of your fervor and
generosity, Jesus chose you to
witness His glory on the Mount
and His agony in the garden.
Obtain for us strength and
consolation in the upending
struggles of this life. Help us to
follow Christ constantly and
generously, to be victors over
all our difficulties, and to
receive the crown of glory in heaven.
Amen.

Courtesy of  here.

Prayer of Healing for Arthritis and Rheumatism Sufferers

Dear Saint James, specially chosen to witness Jesus’ glory on Mount Tabor and His agony at Gethsemane, you are the patron of all who suffer with arthritis and rheumatism.

I ask you now to intercede for me before Our Lord, that in His mercy God might heal me of the symptoms and root causes of these illnesses.

Help all people to follow Christ as you did, to overcome in all our difficulties, and to receive the crown of life in heaven.

Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

Courtesy of here.
A novena to St. James the Greater can be found here, courtesy of here.
St. James the Greater is one of two Apostles named James.  He was the brother of John the Evangelist, and son of Zebedee.  Today is his feast day.

A Sting Cover by Isaac Hayes

Normally I publish music videos on Fridays.  Just for variety, though, and since I’ve just been listening to it, I’m posting this fantastic and beautiful cover of the old Sting song “Fragile” by the late, great Isaac Hayes.  Enjoy.

Too Much Meta!

“What is meta,” you may ask, “and how is there too much of it?”  Those are excellent questions.  In order to answer them, I’ll need to give a little background on just what it is I’m talking about.  “Meta” comes from the Greek preposition μετά, which simply means “after” or “beyond”, among other things.  It can also be a prefix in which the basic meaning is attached to the root word.  For example, “metamorphosis” pairs meta– with with a derivative of μορφή (morphē), “form” or “shape”, giving the meaning, “beyond the [original] form”.  Thus, in a metamorphosis, something (such as a caterpillar) goes beyond the form it has into another form (such as a butterfly).

A subtle shift in this straightforward meaning began with the works of Aristotle, and rather inadvertently, at that.  Aristotle’s books on various topics derived from what we would now call lecture notes for the talks he gave at the school he founded, the Lyceum. These were either written by Aristotle himself, or taken down by his students.  After his death, these notes were collated and arranged by topic.  The book dealing with the working of the natural world was called the Physics, from the Greek φυσικά (physika), which simply means “having to do with nature”.  The name stuck, and we still call the study of mass, energy, motion, and such “physics”.  The book that was placed next in the sequence after the Physics dealt with abstract topics on the nature of being, what we can know and how we can know it, causality, and so on.  Whoever it was who arranged the texts very pragmatically called this text τὰ μετὰ τὰ φυσικά (ta meta ta physika), literally, “the things coming after the Physics”).  In other words, it was the next book after the one on physics, so its title was essentially After Physics!

This was shortened by the Romans who translated Aristotle into Latin to Metaphysics.  From early on, the tendency was to interpret “meta”–“beyond”–as meaning not “beyond” in the sense of “the next book in the sequence”, which was its original connotation, but “beyond” in the sense of “transcending”.  Thus “metaphysics” was understood to mean “that which goes beyond ordinary physics” or “that which transcends nature”.  This has been the standard connotation of “metaphysics” ever sense; and this connotation has determined the use of “meta” in other contexts, as well.

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I Ain’t Got No Body, Revisited: Rethinking Angels

Way back here we looked at the question of why humans are created as embodied beings.  In most Abrahamic religions, and in some other Western religious systems, as well (e.g. Platonism and Gnosticism), God is said to have created the bodiless intelligences–what we call “angels”, some of whom later become “demons”–before He made embodied intelligences–that is to say, us.  Since the angels are typically seen as far superior to us, the question arises as to why God bothered in making embodied creatures to begin with.  I came to no definite conclusion on this question, though I have some ideas banging about in my head.  What I want to do here is to put a different spin on the whole question by looking at the angels and speculating as to what, exactly, they are.  This will tie in with some other themes we’ve looked at.

In the Christian tradition*, beginning with Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite and continuing through various Church Fathers and theologians throughout the centuries (not least of whom as St. Thomas Aquinas in the West), angels have always been understood to be bodiless spirits.  In our discussion of the soul a little while back, we described the human soul as the seat of personality and intelligence, which is immaterial and which can survive the death of the body.  An angel has a personality and intelligence, just like a human; but it has no body.  Thus, an angel could be viewed as a pure mind.  Angels, of course, are often described as being humanoid in appearance–and sometimes, spectacularly, non-humanoid (see Ezekiel 1:4-21, Isaiah 6:2, and Revelation 4:6-8, for example).  Despite this, though, they lack physical bodies–such appearances are for the benefit of humans.  The angels either take on a temporary body (to put it in modern terms, they manipulate matter into a body which they use like a puppet) or manipulate the viewer’s mind so that they see an apparition that isn’t physically there (something like this is implied in the Book of Tobit, when Raphael reveals himself to be an angel; see Tobit 12:15-19). Theologians have debated which of these scenarios is likelier; but they have agreed that angels have no bodies of their own.

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A Prayer to St. Mary Magdalene

Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, have mercy on us. Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, hear us. Christ, graciously hear us. Holy Mary, Mother of God, Saint Mary Magdalene, Pray for us. Sister of Martha and Lazarus, Pray for us. Who didst enter the Pharisee’s house to anoint the feet of Jesus, Pray for us. Who didst wash His feet with thy tears, Pray for us. Who didst dry them with thy hair, Pray for us. Who didst cover them with kisses, Pray for us. Who wast vindicated by Jesus before the proud Pharisee, Pray for us. Who from Jesus received the pardon of thy sins, Pray for us. Who before darkness wast restored to light, Pray for us. Mirror of penance, R Disciple of Our Lord, Pray for us. Wounded with the love of Christ, Pray for us. Most dear to the Heart of Jesus, Pray for us. Constant woman, Pray for us. Last at the Cross of Jesus, first at His tomb, Pray for us. Thou who wast the first to see Jesus risen, Pray for us. Whose forehead was sanctified by the touch of thy risen Master, Pray for us. Apostle of apostles, Pray for us. Who didst choose the “better part,” Pray for us. Who lived for many years in solitude being miraculously fed, Pray for us. Who wast visited by angels seven times a day, Pray for us. Sweet advocate of sinners, Pray for us. Spouse of the King of Glory, Pray for us.

V. Saint Mary Magdalene, earnestly intercede for us with thy Divine Master R. That we may share thy happiness in heaven.

Let us pray. May the glorious merits of blessed Mary Magdalene, we beseech Thee, O Lord, make our offerings acceptable to Thee: for Thine only-begotten Son vouchsafed graciously to accept the humble service she rendered. Who livest and reignest with Thee and the Holy Ghost, God for ever and ever. R. Amen.

May the prayers of blessed Mary Magdalene help us, O Lord : for it was in answer to them that Thou didst call her brother Lazarus, four days after death, back from the grave to life. Who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, Unity in Trinity, world without end. R. Amen.

Prayer Source: Kyrie Eleison — Two Hundred Litanies by Benjamin Francis Musser O.F.M., The Magnificat Press, 1944

Courtesy of here.  Today is her feast day.