Thursday, December 17, 2009


I used to wonder why old people were happy to sit and stare; now I find myself doing it more and more. Ever since I read Pius Parsch's remark, that the Christmas season isn't really about Jesus' birth so much as the Second Coming, I've found Advent more intriguing. And if Christmas is about home and hearth, it means our real home and true end. Even the Second Coming, with its overtones of judgment, means putting the world aright again. The Psalmist yearns for judgment--that we might saved.

These thoughts console, though they come amidst winter and ending. Ending is so sad, December so dark. I sit amidst all my broken life and unfinished work, watching and waiting.

Monday, December 7, 2009

After Wyeth

Roaming the Brandywine River Valley, December 6, 2009.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Poetry Reading

Went to a poetry reading yesterday. Very disturbing, in a good way.

In prose, in an essay, when the right word comes, it's a perfect fit. It feels precise and satisfying. In poetry, the "right" word comes, but it doesn't feel right; it sticks, like an arrow in the flesh. It has to be eased in, not pulled out. The meanings shift; the poem begins to resonate.

Anyway, the reading is still resonating with me. Brought up a lot of memories, mostly after the reading. I'm still a bit raw and incoherent now, but I'll note a few things. (This is more of a memory-jogging entry for me. Andrew Zawacki and Joshua Harmon were the poets. Not exactly my kind of poetry, but I admired their verve. And their love of landscapes, which we briefly discussed beforehand. (We were actually discussing where the highest point in the county was). Landscape, geography more precisely, inspires a lot of their poetry. Harmon wrote one about looking out his window at a rainy Poughkeepsie street. He talked about hanging on to each bit of nature, like the lone tree in his backyard. It reminded me a lot of living in the Port. Zawacki had the more precise and cutting lines; Harmon has a sense of humor in his poems which I hope he develops further. BJ told Zawacki there was a stream-of-consciousness feel to one of his poems. I thought of Ginsberg around that campfire in Colorado. And I was heartened by what they said about teaching: Zawacki that poems aren't a puzzle to be solved; Harmon, that neither are they just expressing feelings. BJ said it all was better than going to a play; I say certainly better than a movie.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

My Imaginary Friend

My last post was June?? "Gone are the months of summer, gone beyond pursuit." That's Vassar Miller, but I can't find a link to the poem. Perhaps I have the line wrong. Well, anyway, they are gone. It's dark now in the morning, and my fingers are cold. There is playoff baseball; each season has its emoluments, I suppose. But what can compare to a summer's day?

I'm blogging at work, on a weekday. I'm in too good a mood to do actual work--this morning my cardiologist said I was the healthiest person he was likely to see today. And L. is working at the Gardens on a project she is loving, and she has tomorrow there too. So God is in his heaven, and all's well.

I just flashed back to a childhood memory. One October 23rd, I distinctly remember jotting my homework assignments down in my little notebook, with a great deal of satisfaction at how smoothly the whole day had gone. I remember I had been anxious about returning to school, and now by Oct. 23rd I had become inured to the whole process, so much so that the routine of schoolwork had become painless, even comforting. I celebrated such transitions for a number of October 23rds afterwards.

The years are gone, but that little tyke lives on in my head. Not a bad little fellow.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Lisa Sotomayor and the Decline of Catholic Education

So, Lisa Sotomayor has never thought about the rights, if any, of an unborn baby. I believe her, even though she went to Cardinal Spellman High School. Such a change has occurred in Catholic education, in just a generation! When I was in high school, at a regular old diocesan school in a working class neighborhood, we studied concepts like natural law, proofs of God's existence, evolution, the soul and human nature, abortion and sexual ethics-- moral questions of all kinds. We did it in religion class, training our minds to work within the framework of Aquinas, which is really Aristotleianism. (Nowadays, Aristotle is that benighted old fool in the front of your glossy science textbook.) We actually thought about things, or at least learned how to think, and we did it in high school, and those who went on to college did it on an even more nuanced level. Or at least they did up till the sixties and seventies--I caught some wisps of the old-style education, enough to give me a taste of what I had missed. In The Closing of the American Mind, Allen Bloom praised Catholic universities for keeping the classic, Aristotleian methods alive. Of course, when he wrote, in 1987, the tradition had largely passed. I've always said I think I learned more in high school than I did in college (Thank you, Oblates of St. Francis de Sales!). At least, the foundations had been properly laid.

Further reading: James Burtchaell's The Dying of the Light, the individual histories of the devolution of Christian education at a number of famous and not-so-famous institutions.

Monday, March 30, 2009

My Time at the Institute for Advanced Study

A couple of years ago L. and I were driving through Princeton, N.J. on our way north. We were on Route 206, I think . It was around Memorial Day or the Fourth of July or something, and we had to detour because of some holiday festivities. We lost our way and wound up on the campus of the Institute for Advanced Study. It was a normal-looking place, not very impressive and quite deserted. We spied a brainy-looking fellow making his way between buildings, so we asked him how to get back on 206. He didn't know....