"Love follows knowledge." – St. Catherine of Siena

Friday, January 23, 2015

Faith Filled Friday: “The Children” by John Piper

Yesterday was the annual March for Life Day in Washington DC, the 42nd anniversary of that horrendous Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision.  It is the single greatest civil rights march of our day.  This is the third year in a row I have planned to go but had to alter plans.  Last year we had a crazy snow storm the night before that just made driving the four plus hours an impossibility.  The other two years I just could not take off from work that day.  I don’t know why but middle of January always seems to get complicated at work for me.  Perhaps because the holidays end and things that were on pause culminate into need.  This year I had even said no matter what I was going to go, but then I had to travel last week and I’ll have to travel next week, and so too many things at work required attention.  But my heart and prayers go to all the wonderful pro-lifers that inspire me so.

To commemorate the occasion I want to post this poem by Reformed Baptist Theologian, John Piper. I didn’t know anything about John Piper, but in researching I found he’s not only a theologian, but a somewhat accomplished poet as well.  He wrote “The Children” last year for the Roe v. Wade 40th anniversary.  It has a Tennysonian play with rhyme and meter and a hymnal stanza form.  It seems to echo Robert Blake’s Songs of Innocence, though not one of those poems actually has the same form that I could find.  It’s certainly not “modern” but how else could a poet with an optimistic view project his vision aesthetically?  I think his poetic choices were well taken and it’s quite lovely.  Also, listen to John Piper beautifully read his poem on the clip at the bottom. 

The Children
Revised Edition for the 40th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade
January 18, 2013 by John Piper 

Do you hear the children crying?
I can hear them every day,
Crying, sighing, dying, flying
Somewhere safe where they can play.

Somewhere safe from all the dangers,
Somewhere safe from Crack and AIDS,
Safe from lust and lurking strangers,
Safe from war and bombing raids.

Somewhere safe from malnutrition,
Safe from daddy's damning voice,
Safe from mommy's cool ambition,
Safe from deadly goddess, Choice.

Do you hear the children crying?
I can hear them every day,
Crying, sighing, dying, flying
Somewhere safe where they can play.

* * * *

Do you see the children meeting?
I can see them in the sky,
Meeting, seating, eating, greeting
Jesus with the answer why.

Why the milk no longer nourished,
Why the water made them sick,
Why the crops no longer flourished,
Why the belly got so thick.

Why they never knew the reason
Friends had vanished out of sight,
Why some suffered for a season,
Others never saw the light.

Do you see the children meeting?
I can see them in the sky,
Meeting, seating, eating, greeting
Jesus with the answer why.

* * * *

Do you hear the children singing?
I can hear them high above,
Singing, springing, ringing, bringing
Glory to the God of love.

Glory for the gift of living,
Glory for the end of pain,
Glory for the gift of giving,
Glory for eternal gain.

Glory from the ones forsaken,
Glory from the lost and lone,
Glory when the infants waken,
Orphans on the Father's throne

Do you hear the children singing?
I can hear them high above,
Singing, springing, ringing, bringing
Glory to the God of love.

* * * *

Do you see the children coming?
I can see them on the clouds,
Coming, strumming, drumming, humming
Songs with heaven's happy crowds.

Songs with lots of happy clapping,
Songs that set the heart on fire,
Songs that make your foot start tapping,
Songs that make a merry choir.

Songs so loud the mountains tremble,
Songs so pure the canyons ring,
When the children all assemble
Millions, millions, round the King.

Do you see the children coming?
I can see them on the clouds,
Coming, strumming, drumming, humming
Songs with heaven's happy crowds.

* * * *

Do you see the children waiting?
I can see them all aglow
Waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting,
Who of us will rise and go?

Will we turn and fly to meet them
Will we venture something new?
I intend to rise and greet them.
Come and go with me, would you?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Literature in the News: Huckleberry Finn, Moral Delinquent

I came across this article, ‘“Huck Finn” is not about race: The real subtext of Twain’s masterpiece’ by Laura Miller published in Salon, that reaches the theme of Twain’s Huckleberry Finn.  What’s surprising to me is that the author of the piece felt the need to explain it, as if this wasn’t widely known.  First Miller sets the context:

“A committee of the public library of your town have condemned and excommunicated my last book,” Mark Twain wrote to the secretary of Concord Free Trade Club in 1885, “and doubled its sales.” The book that was the object of what Twain called “this generous action,” was “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” a novel that would go on to be banned here and there in schools and libraries for the next 130 years.

Today, “Huckleberry Finn” is most often banned for its use of the N-word. (If there’s an argument for the legitimacy of Twain printing it, I can’t imagine one to justify its appearance in a humble book review, so I’ll be euphemizing it here.) But that came later; the book would not be censured for containing “passages derogatory to negroes” until 1957, when it was removed from the curricula of elementary schools in New York. Rather, disapproving librarians and critics in the late 19th century deplored “Huckleberry Finn” as “the veriest trash” for its favorable depiction of “a wretchedly low, vulgar, sneaking and lying Southern country boy.” And for its violence, which is considerable.

Yes, every era since the book was published had some criticism of which the impulse to ban it emerged.  But since the 1950s the perception has been that Twain was writing about race and that though his intentions were noble the black character of Jim ridicules African-Americans.  Indeed I had a black professor in college who said he was insulted by the portrayal.  Miller introduces into her piece a new book on the subject by Andrew Levy, Huck Finn’s America: Mark Twain and the Era that Shaped His Masterpiece.

“Huck Finn’s America” is about the context in which “Huckleberry Finn” first appeared and, eventually, how that context has shifted — or not. Levy’s overarching argument is that we misunderstand American culture in fundamental ways because we habitually forget our own past in favor of happy, gauzy nostalgia and/or fantasies of progress.

Miller summarizes Levy’s research:

In researching “Huck Finn’s America,” Levy immersed himself in newspapers and magazines from around the time Twain’s novel was written and published. What he found was that nobody, including Twain himself, considered race to be the primary theme of “Huckleberry Finn.” Rather, the novel emerged from and spoke to a society that was obsessed with wayward children, particularly boys, and most typically lower-class boys spurred to delinquency by the violent stories they read in dime novels. The papers were full of “stories of children committing crimes or dying young or killing each other,” to a degree that, Levy remarks, a modern reader would find “simply numbing.” In response to this perceived crisis, Americans were, for the first time, seriously discussing the establishment of a system of public education.

What I find surprising is that this is surprising to Miller and I suppose her readers.  First Twain is upfront right in the very novel himself when he tells us that Huck is an uncivilized delinquent in need of being taught.  Second, what constitutes civilizing is clearly at the core of the work.  Should I be surprised at Miller’s reaction?  Perhaps not.  Those of a particular ideology have an obsession with race, and academia has been swallowed up by that ideology, which has a distorting effect on understanding a work, for the past sixty years .  Levy appears (I haven’t read it) to have done great research to show the social context that the novel was written in.

What Huck Finn is about is the relationship between two people, a boy and an escaped slave, both uneducated, both uncivilized to the standards of Twain’s time, who through their relationship find that morality rests in the very natural world that harbors them, outside of church, state, and even family structure.  Perhaps we might consider that somewhat naïve, but the Romanticism of the 19th century was a bit naïve, and the themes of Huckleberry Finn are square in the Romantic tradition.  No one should be surprised by the results of Levy’s research.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Notable Quotes: Art Every Day by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I just finished reading Johann von Goethe’s novel TheSorrows of Young Werther, and despite it being a maudlin it was an enjoyable read.  If I ever get accustomed to my new computer I will write up a post with my thoughts.  For now I’ll just post a quote I really like, not from the novel, but something attributed to the great German writer.

Every day we should hear at least one little song, read one good poem, see one exquisite picture, and, if possible, speak a few sensible words.

-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Music Tuesday: "Will the Circle Be Unbroken (By and By)" by June Carter Cash

I've been listening to a number of songs by June Carter Cash, the wife and often musical accompaniment to the famous Johnny Cash, and I have to say she too was quite a talent, not only as a singer but as a songwriter.  She did not write this song, but I just love how she sings it, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken."  It just sounds so raw and down to earth.

Now this is not the original "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" but a reworking of the original hymn.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Matthew Monday: Ten Things to Love About Italy

I was sent this video, and I showed Matthew and he found it fascinating.  I told him Nonna, his Italian grandmother, my mother, still makes pasta and pizza just like that from scratch. 

I hope you enjoy the video.  Of the ten, the two things my family has never been big on is truffles and balsamic vinegar. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Word of the Day: Cacasotto

Actually this is the word of the week, post the events in Paris and across the western world.  After my last post and seeing the reaction of the western media to this attack on free speech and artistic expression, I am very disappointed.  The one word that comes to mind is an Italian vulgarism, cacasott’.  My Italian grammar is weak, so I’m not sure when you drop the last vowel and use an apostrophe, but we have always pronounced it without that last vowel.  Literally it means shit-in-your-pants, and it’s usually directed at a person or entity, so it’s a noun meaning, one who is shit-in-his-pants cowardly.

That is what the western media deserves to be called in respect to the Islamic terrorists killings in Paris.  Many were calling for all media to dramatically publish the Charlie Hepdo anti-Islamic cartoons, not as an insult to Islam, but as a defiant measure against anti-free expression.  I echoed this exhortation in my last blog postOther than a few media, the western media, who supposedly prizes free speech above all freedoms, at least that’s what they tell us when they insult Christianity, were shitting in their pants afraid.  Cacasotts!

In an opinion piece on National Review Online, Rich Lowery had said it well in his “The Crises of Free Speech":

In the fight over free expression, the editors and cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo occupied the most forward and exposed position. They lit a flare over their own parapet every night and said to the enemy that you may bring your worst, but you can’t make us afraid.

That their craft required such bravery in perhaps the most cosmopolitan city in the world is a testament to the embattled state of free speech in the West.

The sad fact is that physical intimidation works. Some press outlets pixilated or cropped out the covers of Charlie Hebdo in their coverage of the Paris attacks, as if they were the works of obscenity that the attackers consider them.

One expects the Liberal outlets, which are not really Liberal in the truest sense of the word, to be cacasotts, but the more common sense media outlets also pulled back from fully publishing a cartoon.  Cacasotts!  They have no qualms about nudity, vulgarisms, or even offending Christians, but because Muslims threaten violence and actually carry it out, they sit in their news rooms shitting in their pants. 

Jonah Goldberg, also at National Review Online, also had a great piece, “A Win for the Jihadists.”  Yes, despite being killed in their supposed martyrdom, the terrorists won because they cowed the western media.

The vigils in Paris are moving. The hashtag plumes of #JeSuisCharlie (“I am Charlie”) are endearing. The expressions of condemnation from Muslim leaders are commendable, as are the assurances of solidarity and support from Western governments.

But, as a practical matter, they don’t change a thing: The jihadists won this week.

Even if the atrocity in Paris served to imbue the civilized world — Muslim and non-Muslim alike — with a newfound resolve to battle radical Islam (it almost certainly won’t), this still stands as a victory for the bad guys.

And further down Goldberg continues:

As a conservative, I don’t like gratuitous mockery of religion, any religion. That’s not to say I think all blasphemies are equally offensive. For instance, I think most satire of Christianity is particularly cowardly and lame precisely because Christians are such a safe target. Also, after centuries of tolerance for satire of Christianity, opportunities for cleverness or originality are few and far between.

Mockery of Islam, meanwhile, whether in good taste or not, is dangerous and therefore also courageous even when stupid.

In a world where Muslim extremists weren’t killing people for such things, I’d be against publishing such material (not as matter of law, but of editorial judgment). But we don’t live in that world. And the slaughter in Paris only makes that more of a reality.

And finally I want to return to Lowery’s piece for a conclusion:

We all love the cliché that the pen is mightier than the sword. But it hasn’t been true through most of human history and isn’t true in many places — especially in the Muslim world — even today. The pen is an instrument that needs constant protection and the enlivening spirit of satirists of all sorts.

The cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo understood that. Does the West?

That’s a rhetorical question.  We know the media has proven to be cacasotts.

I started my young adulthood as an anti-communist, cold war warrior, as we used to be called.  When the Soviet Union collapsed, I thought that warrior part of my life had ended.  Then there were the September 11th attacks, and a new phase of my life started, an anti-Islamic-Fascist warrior, if you will.  It doesn’t appear the Jihadist are going away any time soon.  I’ll probably end my life still a rhetorical warrior against them.  But one thing I am not is a cacasott.

Sorry for being so political.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Notable Quote: To Die Standing

Today I was reminded of this quote:

"Freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faceless coward, and freedom will be defended." President George W. Bush, September 11th, 2001.
That's a great quote.  But that's not the quote I want to highlight.  In the aftermath of the Islamic-Terrorist atrocities in Paris today, I want to highlight this quote.
“I'd rather die standing than live on my knees" 
-Stephane Charbonnier, editor and cartoonist at Charlie Hebdo
Today was a direct attack on free speech and the right of any artist to write what he feels is art.  May Monsieur Charbonnieer and the eleven others who were brutally killed rest in our Lord's arms.  May their killers and all those associated with them be brought to justice.
Every news organization in the world should print the cartoons these terrorists were reacting to.