Tarnishing the Splendor of Truth



The eccentric French footballer Nicolas Anelka— once of Arsenal, Real Madrid, Chelsea etc., now of West West Bromwich Albion– celebrated one of his goals against West Ham the other day by performing la quenelle, a quasi-nazi salute invented by French comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala. Politically correct journalists are now suggesting that he should  be hounded out of the game for this.  Now, in this case the PC establishment has a point; anti-semitism is obviously evil, and making fun of the unspeakable evil of the שואה is horrible. But why is it that even when the PC machine is in the right there is something distasteful about the way it exercises its power? Anelka has claimed that la quenelle is not anti-semitic, but only “anti-système,” against the establishment and its manipulative and hypocritical system of power.

Anelka is presumably wrong about the original meaning of la quenelle, but…

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David Foster Wallace’s 1996 Interview in Elle

There is a quotation from an interview with David Foster Wallace reproduced on hundreds of webpages across the internet. There are several variants of the quotation, but it runs something like this:

…fiction’s one of the few experiences where loneliness can be both confronted and relieved. Drugs, movies where stuff blows up, loud parties—all these chase loneliness away by making me forget my name’s Dave and I live in a one-by-one box of bone no other party can penetrate or know. Fiction, poetry, music, really deep serious sex, and, in various ways, religion—these are the places (for me) where loneliness is countenanced, stared down, transfigured, treated.

None of the webpages that reproduce it, however, give a reference to the original. Searching the right phrases in Google Books turns up a snippet, which Google says is from p. 58 of Elle, Volume 11 (1996), Issues 5-8. It was surprisingly difficult to track down the correct issue. Academic libraries in Europe do not have the American editions of style magazines. The New York Public Library remote-scanning team (helpfully contacted for me by Incudi Reddere) responded that the material requested was not found in the Elle volumes specified. Even the usually omniscient Wallace-l e-mail list came up blank on this one. As did DFW Twitter.  At long length though, an ebay seller named luckybuckeye_collectibles was able to track down the correct issue. It was in issue 6 of the volume cited by Google.

Here’s a scan of the whole interview; a transcript follows. Continue reading

The Body as Deep Mud, a Donkey, and the Hinge of Salvation


nativity copy

I am plunged into deep mire, and there is no standing. Ps 69(68):2

When Christ came into the world, he said, […] a body hast thou prepared for me. Heb 10:5

Caro salutis est cardo. (Salvation hinges on the flesh). Tertulian, De Resurrectione Carnis, VIII

For to what angel did God ever say, “Thou art my Son, today I have begotten thee”? Heb 1:5

The ox knows its owner, and the ass its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, my people does not understand. Is 1:3

The Psalm verse about being plunged into deep mud where there is no standing is usually applied to the Passion, but Charles De Koninck in Ego Sapientia (ch. 20) shows that it can also be applied to the Incarnation. The “deep mud” is the potentiality of matter into which the eternal Son, the pure act of Divinity, is sunk in becoming man. Fashionable…

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The Josias Podcast, Episode IV: Nature, Natural Ends, and the Enlightenment (Part 2)

A continuation of the discussion of natural teleology on The Josias Podcast.

The Josias

Building off our previous conversation, this episode (iTunes, Soundcloud, Google Play) takes the question of nature and natural ends more into the modern era. What’s going on with natural order in the work of modern philosophers like Descartes, Hume, and Kant? What should we think about all of this? What does Pope Francis say? We promise it won’t put you to sleep, unless you’re trying to fall asleep.

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The Pseudo-Distinction Between Rose and Pink


After Gaudete Sunday I noticed a number of priests on social media posting on the supposed difference between rose and pink. I claim that this distinction has very little foundation in reality; it has more to do with contingent cultural associations with the word “pink” than with a fair reading of the rubrics of the Roman Missal, or of the actual tradition of vestment making in the Roman Rite. The rubrics indeed speak of rose, but this could just as well be translated pink, since Latin does not have a separate term for pink. Indeed many languages (eg. German) make no distinction between the two colors.

Both of the English words are derived from flowers, but roses and pinks come in myriads of overlapping shades.

Indeed, as soon as one begins to think about the naming of colors, one’s native Platonism begins to give way, and one begins to suspect that there is something to…

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The Josias Podcast, Episode IV: Nature, Natural Ends, and the Enlightenment

The Josias

Do rocks have purpose? Are they essentially headed somewhere? What about plants? Humans? The stars? In this episode (iTunes, Soundcloud, Google Play) we touch on a bunch of questions related to the idea that the universe is ordered and things have intrinsic ends. The episode kicks off with some awesome music taken from the film Koyaanisqatsi, and continues with a riveting discussion of Aristotle, celestial bodies, and the implications of the idea of intrinsic ends for our worldview at large.

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“They are to be laughed at”

Now ‘principle’ [beginning] is placed in the definition of nature as its genus, and not as something absolute, for the name ‘nature’ involves a relation to a principle. For those things are said to be born which are generated after having been joined to a generator, as is clear in plants and animals, thus the principle of generation or motion is called nature. Hence they are to be laughed at who, wishing to correct the definition of Aristotle, tried to define nature by something absolute, saying that nature is a power seated in things or something of this sort.

Ponitur autem in definitione naturae principium, quasi genus, et non aliquid absolutum, quia nomen naturae importat habitudinem principii. Quia enim nasci dicuntur ea quae generantur coniuncta generanti, ut patet in plantis et animalibus, ideo principium generationis vel motus natura nominatur. Unde deridendi sunt qui volentes definitionem Aristotelis corrigere, naturam per aliquid absolutum definire conati sunt, dicentes quod natura est vis insita rebus, vel aliquid huiusmodi. (S. Thomae Aquinatis, In Phys. II)

On the City of God Against the Pagans

The Josias

Alan Fimister

The doctrine of the two cities, which finds its greatest expression in the work we are to examine today, is not the construct of some theologian, however great. It is an essential element in God’s revelation to mankind, vital to the correct understanding of the personal and institutional history of each individual and society and of every book of scripture from Genesis to Revelation. The great Pope Leo XIII frequently alluded to this doctrine in his encyclical letters, not least in the thundering opening of Humanum Genus promulgated in 1884.

“The race of man, after its miserable fall from God, the Creator and the Giver of heavenly gifts, ‘through the envy of the devil,’ separated into two diverse and opposite parts, of which the one steadfastly contends for truth and virtue, the other for those things which are contrary to virtue and to truth. The one is the kingdom…

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