Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Thought and a Poem

Just a few ideas for a Sunday morning...

“Civilization is the process in which one gradually increases the number of people included in the term 'we' or 'us' and at the same time decreases those labeled 'you' or 'them' until that category has no one left in it.”

––Howard Winters, archeologist



My people were Mormon pioneers.
Is the blood still good?
They stood in awe as truth
Flew by like a dove
And dropped a feather in the West.
Where truth flies you follow
If you are a pioneer.

I have searched the skies
And now and then
Another feather has fallen.
I have packed the handcart again
Packed it with the precious things
And thrown away the rest.

I will sing by the fires at night
Out there on uncharted ground
Where I am my own captain of tens
Where I blow the bugle
Bring myself to morning prayer
Map out the miles
And never know when or where
Or if at all I will finally say,
“This is the place,”

I face the plains
On a good day for walking.
The sun rises
And the mist clears.
I will be all right:
My people were Mormon Pioneers.

––Carol Lynn Pearson


UPDATE: And here are a few more that I've just been reminded of:

The Mormon Stories Podcast series is ├╝ber-cool. Check out the most recent offering from the marvelous Joanna Brooks (who also writes great stuff at Religion Dispatches). In her talk she makes reference to Daymon Smith, who has done some brilliant work unpacking and analyzing the history and meaning of "correlation" in the LDS Church. Some introductory blog posts are available from BCC (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9), and his whole dissertation is available here in PDF format. Download it. Read it. Enjoy. It's some of the most fascinating Mormon history stuff I've ever read. Ever. (In other words, if you want to make sense of the modern Church, this is ESSENTIAL reading! Tattoo it upon your soul in letters of fire!)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Variations on a Theme

They lied to you. The Devil is not the Prince of Matter; the Devil is the arrogance of the spirit, faith without smile, truth that is never seized by doubt.

––Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose


Men never do evil as thoroughly or as joyfully as when they do it in the name of God.

––Blaise Pascal, quoted in The Monks of Tibhirine


Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth.

––C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock


RAHAB: Your war can’t be like any other war ever fought. It can’t be glorious, like all the other wars. It should be a war fought sadly, regretfully. You’re killing your brothers and sisters. If my people were attacking you, they wouldn’t see it that way, but you have to, you know better. Maybe this war is necessary; maybe God does require it. It’s still terrible.
JOSHUA: It’s easier, though, to glory in it. To trample every nagging doubt. Easier not to question.
RAHAB: It’s easier to kill me than to let me go.
JOSHUA: True. I thought I wanted it, war and death and violence. I thought I would find it glorious, though all to God’s glory.
RAHAB: But it’s not.
JOSHUA: No. He has a plan for us, and somehow that plan requires not just death and pain, but slaughter.
RAHAB: I don’t understand that either. And I’m frightened for you. People are going to hear of this. Your story is going to be told. Maybe even read about in books, generation after generation. Doesn’t that thought make you shudder? (JOSHUA turns away, disturbed.) It’s just so easy, people justifying to themselves, “Oh, God’s on our side. Oh, those horrible people are vile and vicious. Let’s wipe them all out.” I worry about it, evil done in your name.
JOSHUA: (A shocked pause, then an outburst.) Why do you do this to me? I never even considered that until now.
RAHAB: I knew men. What you’re doing tomorrow is the worst thing in the world. If God requires it, then maybe you have to obey, but it’s awful, and I think it’s going to be done again and again, and I think people are going to excuse themselves by saying God requires it, even when He doesn’t. I think you’re opening a door to horror and viciousness, and I know you have to open it, I’m even helping you open it, but please, while you do God’s will, find room in your heart for doubt.
JOSHUA: And now I’m filled with doubt, I’m nothing but doubt!
RAHAB: But is that so bad?
JOSHUA: I don’t know.
RAHAB: So spare me. Spare my ... family. And save yourself. From the worst excesses you think your God requires.

––Eric Samuelsen, The Plan


Dogmatism and skepticism are both, in a sense, absolute philosophies; one is certain of knowing, the other of not knowing. What philosophy should dissipate is certainty, whether of knowledge or ignorance.

––Bertrand Russell

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Fugue in the Key of Gaga

Okay, so I have a confession. I know I'm supposed to be a music snob –– and believe me, when it gets right down to it, when it really counts, I am; I can snob it up with the best; I'm snobbish enough to know that the most enjoyable musical performance to watch is the one that's flawless but for a single glaring error... that you can harp on all night! –– but I also happen to be [shaky breath, eyes lowered in shame] a pretty serious Lady Gaga fan. Now that I got that off my chest, I want to share something with you. That something is TEH AWESOME.

But first some preliminaries for the uninitiated. One of Lady Gaga's most famous songs is called Bad Romance, (this is the Glee version, which I've used in lieu of the original because this version doesn't use the word "b*tch"):

Now to the point. If J.S. Bach and Lady Gaga had a love-child, he/she would write this amazingness:

You're welcome.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

From The Monks of Tibhirine

Brilliant quote from a great book*:

If you think God is what the different communities believe –– the Muslims, Christians, Jews, Mazdeens, polytheists, and others –– He is that, but also more. If you think and believe what the prophets, saints, and angels profess –– He is that, but He is still more. None of His creatures worship Him in His entirety. No one is an infidel in all the ways relating to God. No one knows all God’s facets. Each of His creatures worships and knows Him in a certain way and is ignorant of Him in others. Error does not exist in this World except in a relative manner. [From the Spiritual Writings of Emir Abd al-Qadir al-Jaza'iri.]
The subject of this book is also given a beautiful, profound film treatment in Of Gods and Men, which is required viewing for anybody who claims to have a soul.

*Very special thanks to Father Peter for sending a copy my way!