27 July 2015

Prayer request

Puff's mother is in the hospital with Kidney failure.  Please pray for her.

24 July 2015

Another reflection on facebook

My Lord, it's pointlessly boring.  I think I'll severely curtail my time on Facebook and do something more productive and intellectually stimulating, like slicing an apple in two and watching the separate halves turn brown.

15 July 2015

I got nothing

Still around, just feeling a trifle burned out at the moment.  I'll post sometime when I actually have something to say.

8 July 2015

Pope Emeritus Benedict: The truth of Christianity...

...is demonstrated in our music

Certainly, Western music goes beyond by far the religious and ecclesial ambit. And yet it finds its most profound origin, in any case, in the liturgy of the encounter with God. In Bach, for whom the glory of God represents ultimately the end of all music, this is altogether evident. The great and pure answer of Western music was developed in the encounter with that God that, in the liturgy, makes himself present to us in Christ Jesus. For me, that music is a demonstration of the truth of Christianity. Wherever such an answer is developed, there has been an encounter with truth, with the true Creator of the world. Therefore, great sacred music is a reality of theological rank and of permanent meaning for the faith of the whole of Christianity, even if it is not necessary that it be performed always and everywhere. On the other hand,  however, it is also clear that it cannot disappear from the liturgy and that its presence can be an altogether special way of participation in the sacred celebration, in the mystery of the faith

A while ago I spoke with a cousin who is a permanent deacon on the subject of how we are often told how most of our sacred music was never meant for the church.  He recalled how Haydn's twenty five minute Magnificat for Vespers could not possibly have had any liturgical use, as it was far too long,  to which he replied that with only twenty five minutes the celebrants would be hard pressed to finish in time.  At the time it was composed, the Magnificat was sung during the incensing of the altars- note the plural.  If you have seen churches in the old style, that haven't been renovated badly, you will see that they often have many side altars, all of which would need to be incensed.  Furthermore, the action for incensing the old altars was thoroughly prescribed and not to be rushed.  Twenty five minutes was not overlong for this process.  

The modern critics must imagine a conversation like this happening when Haydn presented his new piece:

Haydn: Your Eminence, I have just completed the new Magnificat you requested. 

Cardinal:  That is an awful lot of pages you are holding there.  How long is this piece?

Haydn:  Twenty five minutes, your eminence.

Cardinal:  Twenty five minutes?  What are we supposed to do for the extra twenty four minutes and thirty seconds?

When the conversation probably went more like this:

Haydn: Your Eminence, I have just completed the new Magnificat you requested.

Cardinal:  Excellent.  How long is it?

Haydn:  Twenty five minutes, your Eminence.

Cardinal:  Only twenty five minutes?  We'll be a bit rushed with that, don't you think?  

 There may be arguments about not using such music today.  There aren't enough qualified musicians and singers.  It is not suitable to our rites as they exist now.  I disagree with these arguments, to be sure, but at least there is some honesty to them.  However, to say that this music was never intended for liturgical use in the first place is either ignorance, or a lie.  They are either deceived, or deceiving. 

The old composers had faith, knew the liturgy for which they were composing, and they knew what they were doing.  It's our generation that doesn't know any of those things, and I am grateful to Benedict for reminding us.

4 July 2015

What is a right?

My title is a question I sometimes ask activists who get a little too demanding of me.  They want the right for this or that thing- which is really unimportant, everyone, it seems wants something, and they want it now.  I save my question for the more disagreeable sort, the kind that won't let one simply walk away, as though the fact that they wish to speak means that everyone else must listen.  But sooner or later, they must draw a breath, and then it is time to pounce.

"You want this right, do you? And you're sure? You've thought this through?  Very well then, I have only one question for you:

What is a 'right'?"

They often stare at me blankly, as though they had never heard such a stupid question. Doesn't everyone know what a right is?  Or perhaps, and I suspect this too is true, they have never given the matter a moment's thought.

Or sometimes they answer to the effect that a right is the ability to do something, and no one may tell you otherwise.  That would be the most common answer these days, but I still don't think they've given it a moments thought.  But, answer or no, I have never had cause to believe they have taken any real time consider the meaning of their most fundamental term.

I have pondered the matter occasionally, and my ideas are a little different from theirs, for when I look to the past to see what the concept of right meant back when the concept of rights was being formulates, I see that rights often comes hand in hand with duties.  The two were not inimical to each other then, as they are now, but rather two sides of the same coin.  The right to do something also carries with it the duty to do it well.  The right to free speech, for instance, carries with it the responsibility to speak truth.  We are not permitted to liable nor slander, nor lie under oath, nor may we yell 'Fire!' in a theatre where there is no fire.   Informally, we may tell a lie, but a known liar is never again trusted.  A right is a kind of power, and, as Spider-man is fond of telling us, with great power comes great responsibility.

These people I meet so often would have me believe that without a full and complete right, they are unfree, a veritable slave in chains. But this merely shows their folly.  The opposite of right is licence, or the capacity to act without the constraints of duty or obligation.  The true opposite of right, then, is exactly what they mean when they say 'right'. 

To be able to act without consequence is the province of a child, and a spoiled one at that.  They seem to desire that there be no consequences for their choices, no consequences for their actions.  They seem to desire to live a life of no consequence. This is not freedom, for a free man knows his freedom was not free, and, being the arbiter of his destiny, he bears its burden, and he must bear the cost of his mistakes.  But these do not seek responsibility: that they would place on another.  The ultimate freedom they desire is freedom from responsibility.  But this is the freedom of a master over a slave; it is not a freedom of a rule of law, but of the domination of Thrasymachus:  the strong will do as they will, and the weak will accept what they must.  I will do what I want. You will pay the price.

With responsibility it is possible to have civilization.  Without it, there is only the barbarism of anarchy, a Hobbesian war of every man against every man, where life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.  Too many rights, as these people seem to conceive them, and we shall all be ruined.

1 July 2015

Happy Canada Day!

I prefer when it was still called Dominion Day, but I also prefer "Brewer's Retail" over "The Beer Store".

This is also the 99th anniversary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme, the single biggest military disaster in British history, and thus also the anniversary of the annihilation of the Blue Puttees of Newfoundland. Newfoundland was still a British colony at the time, and Britain was so grateful for their courage and sacrifice that they rid themselves of the colony at the first possible opportunity.

Other memorable anniversaries would include the Battle of the Boyne, or perhaps not, depending on what calendar you use. Drink a toast to Seamus Acaca.

I'm lazy today, so I'll just post a few videos.

Remember this?

Here someone on the American News covers the story of our Highway of Heroes, and gets it right.

If you are a Canadian my age or older, you will remember this guy, even though you may not remember that his name was Roger Doucet:

True story: Sportswriter Paul Zimmerman (Dr. Z.) once wrote that he wishes American singers would sing their anthem the way Roger Doucet sang the Canadian one. Also true: Doucet changed the way we sing the anthem. He either invented or popularized singing the final"for thee!" an octave higher than was originally written.

Lastly, our original anthem:

So, whether you believe we were named from the Algonquin words "ka-na-ta" meaning "collection of huts" or from the Portuguese words "ca nada" meaning "here is nothing", happy Canada Day to you all.

29 June 2015

Reflections on a proposed war memorial.

If you ask two Canadians a question, you will likely get three opinions.  I know this to be true, and I know it to be doubly so for myself.  I am generally of five minds on any given topic, so if I am one of the two, you will get a minimum of six opinions, and quite possibly seven.  With that in mind, I wish to make a few notes about a proposed monument in honour of the Canadian war dead.

One: I found the first article I read on the proposed monument to be bull.  Or, to be more clear, not so much the article itself, but the comments which follow.  The article itself is written in opposition to the proposed monument, albeit it in an overwritten, melodramatic way.  For instance:  "...it’s offensively tasteless at the aesthetic level. The bigger-is-better approach to art is best left to Stalinist tyrants, theme-park entrepreneurs and insecure municipalities hoping to waylay bored drive-by tourists. In a hubristic act of arrogant unoriginality..."  Okay.  Your opinion, fair enough.  But what is odd is, as I said, the comments.  Every single one for the first several pages is in utter unanimous agreement with the editorial.  Odd, isn't it?  The Globe says that the comments express only the opinions of the writers of those comments and not The Globe, and yet every comment is a reiteration of the opinion of The Globe's editors.   Either their readers are utterly unanimous, or the Globe should rework it's editorial comment policy, and state that only comments restating the opinions of  The Globe shall be allowed.

Second:  I read several articles railing against the proposed monument.  Not one linked to the site of those who are seeking to raise it.  They did not want anyone to see any opinion other than their own.

Third, my opinion of the monument itself: mixed.  On the one hand, I support the idea of raising monuments to our war dead.  With that in mind, the questions I have basically boil down to where and what, and possibly when.

Where: The monument is proposed to be on the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island, on a Headland overlooking the ocean.  It seems like a decent idea, a monument not far from the place where our men sailed out across the ocean, almost a hundred thousand of whom would not return.  However, some have raised the issue that the place chosen is ecologically sensitive, and not a place to put a monument.  I don't know enough to comment one way or the other about that, though I will say that, if true, it is a valid objection and not something to be cast aside lightly.

What:  the monument features the figure of a woman looking over the ocean, holding out her arms to the men who will never return to her.

When: soon.

I'll treat these two points together, as they are somewhat intertwined.  Whilst I favour the building of monuments, I also think that now really isn't the time to do so, as all our public monuments these days are hideous.  Our artists are largely dead, and our self styled artists these days are incompetent, and repetitive.  One of the more common artists found around the city is a fellow who raises steel cubes and tilted rectangular prisms, and nothing else.  I find the idea of a dedication ceremony darkly laughable:  "We are gathered here today to dedicate this...er.. cube in memory of those who gave their lives for our beloved country. The cube symbolizes the fact that these men were, by our standards, a bunch of squares." 

When our original memorials were raised, they employed a language of symbolism: the statue of a soldier standing at ease, looking to the east for his friends who will not return, lions symbolizing the Empire, often in groups, one sleeping, the others watchful, symbolizing the Empire at peace, but still guarding against dangers.  There were many other symbols.  The spoke an artistic language, and believed that form and content should work together.  Today, that language is gone and we are left with artists who make up their own language and end up speaking gibberish.

As a result I was in some ways pleasantly surprised when I saw the proposed monument.    It actually looks like something.  I can recognize what is portrayed and what is symbolizes.   It is based on the grieving mother on the Vimy Ridge memorial.  Some object that this is a copy that demeans both.  I don't think so.  It is similar, true. but also different.  The two can complement each other.  The grieving mother is looking down at her dead sons spread before her, many just names on the wall she is perched on.  This mother is looking out across the seas for the sons she will never see again.  Done well, it can be a powerful symbol.  However, that opinion changed a little when I read the description: the monument is to be over a hundred feet tall.  Suddenly, those who think the monument gaudy seem to have a point.  Ostentation is not something Canadians do well, nor does it sit well with us.

Should we have a monument?  For me, the question is not if, but more of where and what.  I support the building of a monument, but is this the monument that should be built, and should it be built in this place?  For that I have no real answer at this time.  So, I will close with General Currie's special orders to the Canadian Corps prior to the Lys offensive.  It is, in its way, a monument to the men, built in words, if not in stone, and a call to those who remain to remember those brave men.  In its own way, it embodies the quiet dignity that should be the mark of our monuments:

Looking back with pride on the unbroken record of your glorious achievements, asking you to realize that today the fate of the British Empire hangs in the balance, I place my trust in the Canadian Corps, knowing that where Canadians are engaged there can be no giving way.

Under the orders of your devoted officers in the coming battle you will advance or fall where you stand facing the enemy.

To those who fall I say, "You will not die, but step into immortality.  Your mothers will not lament your fate, but will have been proud to have borne such sons.  Your names will be revered for ever and ever by your grateful country, and God will take you unto Himself."

Canadians, in this fateful hour I command you and I trust you to fight as you have ever fought, with all your strength, with all your determination, with all your tranquil courage.  On many a hard-fought field of battle you have overcome this enemy.  With God's help you shall achieve victory once more.