Archives For July 2014
Gathered here, are some of the best bits and pieces I’ve encountered online over the past few weeks. Some reflective, some serious, some just plain hilarious.
1. Everyday Heroes [Video]: Water bombing, aircraft, inferno extinguishers. Along with the song, something about this just shouts awesome.
2. Chesterton’s uniqueness appears to know no bounds.
‘Science & Art without morality are not dangerous in the sense commonly supposed. They are not dangerous like a fire, but dangerous like a fog. A fire is dangerous in its brightness; a fog in its dullness; and thought without morals is merely dull, like a fog.
The fog seems to be creeping up the street; putting out lamp after lamp. But this cockney lamp-post… is still crowned… with its flame; and when the fathers have forgotten ethics, their babies will turn and teach them’
(The Essential Chesterton Collection, 2009. Kindle Ed. 7612-7615 – This version is real cheap via Amazon at the moment)
3. There are a few versions of this old story on YouTube, this one is the most dramatic and amusing. Instead of an Irish accent on the other end of the comms, it’d be funnier with an Aussie one. (“Just sayin’…” 🙂 )
4. We’ve just about finished watching through the T.V series Duck Dynasty. This meme epitomises the gutsy edge to this Cajun delight. Even though it’s structured up unto a point (what reality TV show isn’t?), that doesn’t hinder the serious message being promoted through all the bells and whistles (or in this case duck calls, camo, camaraderie and comedy).
5. Lastly, if you have ever wondered what would have happened should the remaining members of Led Zeppelin become a “worship band”. Here Tim Hawkins pulls off a pretty close interpretation of how it might have turned out:
Images: G.K Chesterton, Alarms and Discursions 1910; Jase Robertson, (Pinterest)
This has the sharp edge of poignant relevance painted all over it:
“….Now let’s set the record straight. There’s no argument over the choice between peace and war, but there’s only one guaranteed way you can have peace—and you can have it in the next second—surrender. Admittedly, there’s a risk in any course we follow other than this, but every lesson of history tells us that the greater risk lies in appeasement, and this is the specter our well-meaning liberal friends refuse to face—that their policy of accommodation is appeasement, and it gives no choice between peace and war, only between fight or surrender. If we continue to accommodate, continue to back and retreat, eventually we have to face the final demand—the ultimatum.
And what then—when Nikita Khrushchev has told his people he knows what our answer will be? He has told them that we’re retreating under the pressure of the Cold War, and someday when the time comes to deliver the final ultimatum, our surrender will be voluntary, because by that time we will have been weakened from within spiritually, morally, and economically. He believes this because from our side he’s heard voices pleading for “peace at any price” or “better Red than dead,” or as one commentator put it, he’d rather “live on his knees than die on his feet.”
And therein lies the road to war, because those voices don’t speak for the rest of us. You and I know and do not believe that life is so dear and peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery. If nothing in life is worth dying for, when did this begin—just in the face of this enemy? Or should Moses have told the children of Israel to live in slavery under the pharaohs? Should Christ have refused the cross? Should the patriots at Concord Bridge have thrown down their guns and refused to fire the shot heard ’round the world?
The martyrs of history were not fools, and our honored dead who gave their lives to stop the advance of the Nazis didn’t die in vain. Where, then, is the road to peace? Well it’s a simple answer after all. You and I have the courage to say to our enemies, “There is a price we will not pay.” “There is a point beyond which they must not advance.” And this—this is the meaning in the phrase of Barry Goldwater’s “peace through strength.” Winston Churchill said, “The destiny of man is not measured by material computations. When great forces are on the move in the world, we learn we’re spirits—not animals.” And he said, “There’s something going on in time and space, and beyond time and space, which, whether we like it or not, spells duty.”
You and I have a rendezvous with destiny.
We’ll preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we’ll sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness.”[i]
The political context:
Reagan was a Democrat turned Republican. Barry Goldwater was a Republican nominee, and Reagan is speaking in support of that nomination. Kennedy lost his life in 1963. Leaving Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat, as U.S President. Frontline combat involving the American, Australian and New Zealand military, in The Vietnam War began in 1964. The direct result of the ‘Gulf of Tonkin Resolution’. This is a simple chronology featuring key historical figures from the West. I use it here as a guide. The broader international context of the Vietnam War is the Cold War. It is important to view one in the light of the other.
Whether you stand on the left, the right, up or down, it is difficult, if not impossible to argue against the historical lesson. Appeasement only benefits those who are being appeased. This is a lesson learnt the hard way and one that still, eerily, echoes out from Neville Chamberlain’s ”peace in our time”. Something which, at the time, stood out as a so-called justification for the decade long charge of ”warmongering” howled out loud against Winston Churchill in the 1930’s (Gilbert,1992).
The problem is that finding the time to do it well has been more of a challenge than I anticipated – given that, and the serious issues in the news at the moment, I’m kind of avoiding finishing it.
So instead, today I’m posting some weekend G.K Chesterton lite.
For an academic, he appears free of the quest to be liked, shared or even celebrated. Not being one to take himself too seriously, Chesterton is a reminder that serious reflection in life involves laughter, not just clinical-objective observation. More than this, he understood that the space and time we allow for laughter in our relationships is often way too small. Often, it is something temporary, lost to the impact of distraction; a casualty of circumstance.
He wasn’t fond of what he calls ’intellectual fog’[i]. (A term of his that I’m fond of, and one that pretty much describes the dangers of academic arrogance[ii]. This means anything that sucks the beauty and benefit out of reading, involving the form, content and unreasonable criticisms/suspicions applied to a text – e.g.: ad hominem, reductio ad absurdum et.al).
Most of us would agree on this point: that copious amounts of data (images) being fed through our technologically intertwined lives can weigh us down.
When this happens we should be careful to not let the intellectual fog ‘creep up the street; and put out lamp after lamp.’[iii]
In order to do this, when the time comes, we might aim at being more generous with our laughter. With the full understanding that just as the tears and sighs of broken hearts can move grief up through our lungs right towards the ears of God. Tears can also be the result of our hearts being reoriented towards joy.
In the light of Chesterton’s ability to see past his own ego and that of his peers and by employing such things as humour to do so, he, in my view, avoids being neatly packaged into any box of anti-intellectualism.
Perhaps when critics of Chesterton talk about him in this context, they might actually be missing the dry humour in some of Chesterton’s criticism of unnecessary over-sophistication.
‘I was sharply reminded that I had entered Babylon, and left England behind. The waiter brought me cheese, indeed, but cheese cut up into contemptibly small pieces; and it is the awful fact that, instead of Christian bread, he brought me biscuits.
Biscuits–to one who had eaten the cheese of four great countrysides! Biscuits–to one who had proved anew for himself the sanctity of the ancient wedding between cheese and bread! I addressed the waiter in warm and moving terms.
I asked him who he was that he should put asunder those whom Humanity had joined. I asked him if he did not feel, as an artist, that a solid but yielding substance like cheese went naturally with a solid, yielding substance like bread; to eat it off biscuits is like eating it off slates.
I asked him if, when he said his prayers, he was so supercilious as to pray for his daily biscuits. He gave me generally to understand that he was only obeying a custom of Modern Society. I have therefore resolved to raise my voice, not against the waiter, but against Modern Society, for this huge and unparalleled modern wrong.[iv]’
This weekend why not take a deep breath, exhale gently, and with me, consider the reasons why the world needs to constantly be reminded of Barth’s admonition that:
‘Those who cannot sigh with others and laugh a little about themselves are warmongers[v]’
[i] Chesterton, G.K 1910, Alarms and Discussions: ‘Cheese’ Kindle Ed.441-448(‘Alarms and Discursions’ 1910, Kindle Ed. 441-448)
[ii] Chesterton, G. K. The Essential G. K. Chesterton Collection (400+ works) (Illustrated) (Kindle Ed. 2009 Loc. 7613-7614)
[iii] Ibid, ‘Science and art without morality are not dangerous in the sense commonly supposed. They are not dangerous like a fire, but dangerous like a fog. A fire is dangerous in its brightness; a fog in its dullness’
[iv] Chesterton, G. K. What I saw in America. Prohibition in Fact and Fancy: The Essential G. K. Chesterton Collection (400+ works) (Illustrated) (Kindle Ed. 2009. Locations 68335-68336)
[v] Barth, K. 1961 der götze wackelt (The Idol Wobbles – exact translation T.B.C) Insights, (Selected by Ebherhard Busch, 2009) Westminster John Knox Press p.12
(h/t to Ben @ Faith & Theology, where I first read about Chesterton’s ‘Alarms and Discursions’)
Image credit: ‘Lighting Decor’, Courtesy of FeelArt
‘Where do we go when we don’t know […..]?’
There is a statement made by Augustine in Confessions that reads: ‘what I mean when I say I love my God, is that I am clinging to an embrace which is not severed by the fulfilment of desire’[i]
Centuries later, Leo Tolstoy made a similar statement, writing that ‘grace supported him over the abyss.’[ii]
On the surface it may seem an odd correlation, but Viktor Frankl’s book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ embodies the essential characteristics of these theological positions.
Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist and holocaust survivor, presents a perspective born from extreme adversity.
The connection of his thought and experience with that of Tolstoy’s and Augustine’s, is at first an ‘existential struggle for meaning”[iii]. What follows is break with existentialism with an acknowledgement that such a meaning is found outside ourselves.
For example, Frankl ambiguously states that ‘being human always points, and is directed, to something, or someone, other than oneself’[iv]. Augustine and Tolstoy would agree, but go further, by more directly stating that we are not just pointed, but are being pointed towards the God who encounters us in Jesus Christ.
Where Augustine states that clinging to grace is first brought about by God’s embrace, Tolstoy reminds us that ‘faith is the strength of life’. Frankl adds, so is hope.
His prevailing conclusion is that in the midst of difficult circumstances, we are never without the ‘free decision[v]’ to say yes to life.
“…the last of the human freedoms is found in the ability to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.[vi]
The pessimist resembles a man who observes with fear and sadness that his wall calendar, from which he daily tears a sheet, grows thinner with each passing day.
On the other hand, the person who attacks the problems of life actively is like a man who removes each successive leaf from his calendar and files it neatly and carefully away with its predecessors, after first having jotted down a few diary notes on the back.
He can reflect with pride and joy on all the richness set down in these notes, on all the life he has already lived to the fullest. What will it matter to him if he notices that he is growing old? Has he any reason to envy the young people whom he sees, or wax nostalgic over his own lost youth? What reasons has he to envy a young person?
For the possibilities that a young person has, the future which is in store for him? “No, thank you,” he will think. “Instead of possibilities, I have realities in my past, not only the reality of work done and of love loved, but of sufferings bravely suffered.’[vii]
God gives us permission to act. In our free decision we are encouraged to let God transform our hearts. (Romans 12:1-21)
We are not bound to the definitions of others, our culture/sub-culture or the opinions of our neighbour. Identity rests in the one who, while we were yet sinners, died for us (Romans 5:8). For God, in Jesus Christ chose to free us, so that we can be truly free to say “yes” to Him, and “yes” to life.
[i] St. Augustine, Confessions Penguin Classics p.212
[ii] ‘I am supported above the abyss’ Tolstoy, L. 1869, A Confession
[iii] Frankl, V.E. 2006 Man’s Search for Meaning Beacon Press. Kindle Ed. Loc. 27-29 & 1268-1270
[v] Ibid, Loc. 922-924
[vi] Ibid, Loc. 877-878
[vii] Ibid, Loc. 1514-18-1521