Monthly Archives: January 2012



Phenomenon: When two (or more) random strangers share a precious moment of friendship.

Example: Today in the dining hall, I was doctoring up my dining-hall coffee [1] (which is so bad I have to add stuff to the blessed substance I typically drink pure).  I saw a girl come over, no mug on her tray, and grab a handful of the little creamers I use to put in my coffee (horrid, I know, but you gotta do what you gotta do while on meal plan) and shove it into her purse.  “Oh my gosh, I’m not the only one who stockpiles those things too?!?” I asked (having three in my pocket and three in my studio desk and planning to take three more next time, etc etc).  “Heck yeah!  I add them to my hot chocolate in my room all the time.  These things are f***ing delicious!”

And then we went our separate ways… having, for a moment, shared a split-second of friendship together.

Sometimes this leads into long-term friendships: one of my friends tells a story where he met another friend by eavesdropping on a conversation, then demanding, “What the HELL are you talking about?”  (They’re still friends, to this day.)  Others, it is simply a good story: “Hey, I met this girl today who stockpiles the french vanilla creamers too!”

This phenomenon is fascinating to me: it proves to me that man is inclined towards loving his neighbour–random strangers are quite friendly to each other–and that it is only when we become more acquainted with one another that we begin to see the effects of the Fall.


[1] Only the Colombian blend can be safely doctored (I’ve tried everything else, and I’m not lying).  Add lots of Coffeemate creamer if available OR add International Delights French Vanilla creamer packets in multiples of 3 (3, 6, or 9) to taste.  Consume carefully.


Quote of the Day – “Self-denial”


“If we would be followers of the great Apostle [Paul], first let us with him fix our eyes upon Christ our Saviour; consider the splendour and glory of His holiness, and try to love it.  Let us strive and pray that the love of holiness may be created within our hearts; and then acts will follows, such as befit us and our circumstances, in due time, without our distressing ourselves to find what they should be.  You need not attempt to draw any precise line between what is sinful and what is only allowable: look up to Christ, and deny yourselves every thing, whatever its character, which you think He would have you relinquish.  You need not calculate and measure, if you love much: you need not perplex yourselves with points of curiosity, if you have a heart to venture after Him.  True, difficulties will sometimes arise, but they will be seldom…  So shall self-denial become natural to you, and a change come over you, gently and imperceptibly; and, like Jacob, you will lie down in the waste, and will soon see Angels, and a way opened for you into heaven.” – Blessed John Henry Newman, “The Duty of Self-denial”

Divertissement and Distraction


(This is a simul-post with Ignitum Today)

Weariness.--Nothing is so insufferable to man as to be completely at rest, without passions, without business, without diversion, without study. He then feels his nothingness, his forlornness, his insufficiency, his dependence, his weakness, his emptiness. There will immediately arise from the depth of his heart weariness, gloom, sadness, fretfulness, vexation, despair.

Diversion.--When I have occasionally set myself to consider the different distractions of men, the pains and perils to which they expose themselves at court or in war, whence arise so many quarrels, passions, bold and often bad ventures, etc., I have discovered that all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own chamber. A man who has enough to live on, if he knew how to stay with pleasure at home, would not leave it to go to sea or to besiege a town. A commission in the army would not be bought so dearly, but that it is found insufferable not to budge from the town; and men only seek conversation and entering games, because they cannot remain with pleasure at home.

Blaise Pascal, French mathematician and Catholic apologist

These piercing words of Pascal, perhaps the first modern Catholic apologist writing to an emerging modern world, have grown sharper as the world has grown more modern.  I mean this in that peculiar sense, distinct from chronology, in which we can call the 17th century modern although it already lies in so many ways beyond our historical horizons.  We could describe this modernity in many ways by looking at its art, its literature, its philosophy, its theology; but for the purpose of Pascal’s thoughts here it suffices to say that in the conditions of modernity the opportunities for distraction proliferate.  This should not be very controversial and at first glance perhaps does not look very worrisome either; however, as these two quotes from the Pensées indicate, Pascal discerns in this condition a peculiarly vivid example of the maladies afflicting humankind after its Fall.  What’s more, this symptom has grown only more severe in proportion to our knack for invention: now, as then, we might still work, play, go to the theater, gamble, hunt, go traveling, or pursue honors, esteem, and affection; but we also watch television, play video games, fool around on the internet, fiddle with our cell phones or iPods or iPads or Droids– and read and write blog posts.

Of course these pursuits have their rightful roles to play in human flourishing.  Yet even then, wherever the proper proportions for such activities may lie, we often go far out of our way to keep ourselves entertained– to kill the time, or stay busy, or shorten the wait.  Can we not withstand even a moment without something to do?  The lengths we will often go to fill the stillness sometimes take on the complexion of a quiet but desperate escapism.  Yes, escapism– not of the day-dreamer who yearns to ride off into the sunrise of some more fantastical life, but of the addict who will fix his gaze on anything to keep from having to look into his own face.  Indeed, the language of addiction would not be far from Pascal’s pen in this case; he would likely say that we are dependent upon our myriad diversions as upon sedatives.  Deprive ourselves of them for but a short while, and we become restless, perhaps anxious.  Why should this be?  Our 17th-century friend would locate the answer in our reluctance to face some of the more dreadful elements of our present condition: the brevity of our lives, the frailty of all our loves.  Pascal offers for our examination the many woes which we would sooner cover over than confront.  We might easily accuse Pascal of morbidity, but if that is our immediate response, doesn’t it attest to his point?  Why should we pass over the topic because it’s “too morbid,” “dreary,” “depressing,” when by confronting it we might hope to improve our lot beyond a mere self-induced sleep of denial?

Rather, let us get up and stir each other to wakefulness.  Once we do, we will begin to learn to recognize the brokenness of our condition, not as a meaningless blight to be covered up with endless hollow dissipation, but as a sign of our profound need for healing and an encouragement to press on along the way of redemption in Christ.  For on that journey alone shall we find the everlasting peace which comes, not from diversions of our own invention, but from the love of Our Lord.

Quote of the Day – “Life is for action”


Life is not long enough for a religion of inferences; we shall never have done beginning, if we determine to begin with proof.  We shall ever be laying our foundations; we shall turn theology into evidences, and divines into textuaries.  We shall never get at our first principles.  Resolve to believe nothing, and you must prove your proofs and analyze your elements, sinking further and further, and finding “in the lowest depth a lower deep,” till you come to the broad bosom of scepticism.  I would rather be bound to defend the reasonableness of assuming that Christianity is true, than to demonstrate a moral governance from the physical world.  Life is for action.  If we insist on proofs for everything, we shall never come to action: to act you must assume, and that assumption is faith.  – Blessed John Henry Newman, “The Tamworth Reading Room”

The Impudence of Modern Thought


I’ve noticed something as I sit in my architecture courses… every time the role of religion-in-the-city-throughout-history is mentioned, it is somewhat glossed over.  It makes me laugh and cringe at the same time.  The Church has played an enormous role throughout the past two millennia.  Glossing over this fact just makes you look like… well, a rather ignorant modernist.  Sometimes beyond ignorant, if you decide to outright deny it.  For example, we were discussing the 19th century urban re-design of Paris.  Amongst the many coloured lines were two big, bold, red lines.  The legend, when explaining these red lines, read “Big Cross” (in a language which resembled French but wasn’t quite).   My professor then proceeded to tell us that he’s pretty sure it’s not religious.  I was about to break into hysterical laughter–of COURSE it’s probably religious.  It’s PARIS.  Paris tries to think it’s Rome.

Speaking of Rome, that came up in the same lecture–the urban re-design of Rome in the 16th century.  Of COURSE there are churches on every corner.  Of COURSE the Pope wanted to build more churches or try to bring the focus back to them.  Rome is the seat of the Church… but somehow this point is constantly missed and glossed over.

The Catholic Church exists, and it is alive today, and it was extremely prominent in Western culture.  Those who deny Her blatant and heavy influence on history and today’s society are doing something more than simply being “politically correct”–they are truncating history down to the “culturally friendly” parts and ignoring the honest and sometimes ugly truth: the Church is powerful.

Yes, I said it.  Powerful.  And while power corrupts, the Church is not a human institution–oh, but we threw that idea out in the trash along with our morals and our children.  The big bad Catholic Church ought to be ignored and left alone–She’ll die out in time.  Have you SEEN how old those Massgoers are?  Especially at those Traditional Latin Masses!  And oh, those Marchers for Life are even worse!  (My favourite is hearing that the Marchers for Life are “all old men.”  Giggle, snort.)  The result of this horrific “ignore it and it’ll go away” mindset is that so much of history has been edited down to ignore the Church–or, if there’s something you can’t ignore (like the Crusades, the favourite Church-basher’s argument) to pitch the Catholic Church in a horrendous light.  (I may do another post on the Crusades.  Comment if you think that’s a good idea or not.)

Long story short: we are living in a culture so hedonistic it has attempted to erase the Good out of itself–and out of its past.  Congratulations, Western civilization.  You’re throwing away the Truth and replacing it with Ego.  Looks like it’s all over and Ayn Rand has won.

Related Link: Wherin We Discuss Art

This is what I get for oversleeping…


I woke up rather late today, saw that Mark Shea has backlinked to us at Ignitum Today, therefore people are flocking to our lowly little blog here… and we now have over 1000 page views!  Thank you all for reading, and I hope you come back more just than because-you-followed-lots-of-links-to-get-here.  Because we’re cool.  At least I think we are.