Choose Your Poison

Sorry, but here’s another delicious video about Romney.  (Note: the video is entirely ruined when the show that antiquated “Obama: Hope” poster at the end … and I think many people of diverse walks of life would agree).

And just to balance it out.  Let’s hear some criticism of Obama … from an African American no less so you know it’s true:

We need more people voicing their opposition to the Democratic and Republican parties.  They both fail.  And even normal people are starting to realize this now.

Voting for Obama may be the stupidest thing a human could do.  Somehow, I feel that voting for Romney might even be stupider.  I might be wrong.  Maybe it’s just as stupid.

But, at this point, as long as a candidate says, “I’m pro-Life” it’s good enough for some faithful Catholics.  It doesn’t really matter if there’s any evidence to back up the candidate’s bleeding obvious lie.  At least he’s not Obama.  Just as liberals who say, “Well, at least Obama isn’t Romney.”  Both viewpoints are admirable.  In their own way.  Also, both viewpoints suck.  In just about every way.

As long as there are two apparent options, people will gravitate to one or the other, no matter how much both options are crap.  Well, I reject that.  I’ve had enough of this crap.  I choose neither.

If we really want to send a message to our enlightened government that the choices they’re presenting us are retarded, we should reject both those options.  Because something tells me that voting for Romney is not sending them that message.

(And if you’re planning to vote for Obama, I can’t even relate to you.)

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You better vote for Romney!!!

If there is any doubt about Romney being Pro-Life, watch this video:

Oh … nevermind.  But Romney is a changed man now, right?  In fact, this is what he says now: “My position has been clear throughout this campaign … I’m in favor of abortion being legal in the case of rape and incest, and the health and life of the mother.”  There we go.  That’s the kind of pro-life guy we’re talking about.

And just in case there’s any doubt still, Romney’s sister, Jane, has assured the media that Romney will not try to ban abortion if he’s elected President.

For dessert, I also want to add that Massachusetts, as you may already know, was the first US state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  Guess who was governor of Massachusetts at that time?  That’s right.  Our champion for the Culture of Life … Mitt Romney.

Did I mention he was Mormon too?  He’s Mormon too.  Everybody seems to forget that for some reason.

But since Romney said he’s pro-life, even if he’s not, we are now morally obligated to vote for him.  That is the code of the Pro-Life Republican way.  And it’s been working great. Yeah.

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Building the New Rome

rome

In 2005 I spent three months in Rome. In some ways I have never left. Perhaps it sounds like a commonplace to say that I “left part of myself” in the Eternal City. But the fact is, I did. I returned to Rome once more, in the spring of 2007, when I proposed to my now-wife in Assisi, and I have not been back since. And yet, to this day there is hardly a week that goes by when I do not dream about Rome, and often these dreams recur far more frequently than that.

There is very little to tell about these dreams: usually I am alone, or with another person or group of friends, wandering through the cobblestone streets and alleyways of the city. It is not so much the events, but rather the mood of these dreams that so disturbs my sleep, and then my waking hours, so that I often feel the influence of their haunting beauty long after I have awoken.

Very often, in the curious manner of dreams, “Rome” looks nothing at all like the real Rome, and yet when I awake I am absolutely certain that I was dreaming about the Eternal City. This makes sense because Rome has become so much more to me than a city, even a very beautiful one: it has become an archetype, a symbol, an abstraction of beauty, both man-made and divine.  And whenever I encounter such beauty in my dreams, whether it bears any resemblance at all to anything actually in Rome, it is categorized simply as “Rome.”

Our sleeping subconscious minds are far more skilled creators than our waking selves, and if I could show you the churches and basilicas and cafes and boulevards and parks and vistas that my imagination has cooked up in the small hours of the morning, you should see why I feel as if I am haunted by the Eternal City. And yet, for all of their ethereal beauty, I doubt that anything my sleeping imagination has concocted comes anywhere close to what the real Rome has to offer.

Continue reading at Crisis Magazine here….

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The Shining and the Lunar Landing Hoax

So, the theory is that Stanley Kubrick, the director of the film The Shining (as well as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Dr. Strangelove, etc.) was hired by the US government to fabricate the Apollo 11 landing on the moon.  This is, of course, because the US never made it to the moon … though it was imperative that the world thought otherwise, lest we lose the technological/cultural prestige in the Cold War against Russia.  You know the story.

So, I was directed by a friend to this YouTube video that apparently shows how The Shining is Kubrick’s symbolic confession of all this.  I’m ashamed to say that it reminds me of things I seemed to see in Star Wars and Mary Poppins.  Same kind of curious coincidences … some of them being, perhaps, far-fetched but not too out there.  But I shy away from conspiracy theories like this, simply because I tend to believe them (and when I do, I start to feel insane).  MythBusters did a nice job assuaging my fears for a time, convincing me the Moon Landing was authentic … but now that this has come up, I don’t know.

I hope I’m not crazy.  That’s all I ask.

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Monastic Life: A Life Without Choices?

Thou waitest for the spark from heaven! And we,
   Light half-believers of our casual creeds,
           Who never deeply felt, nor clearly willed

   Whose insight never has borne fruit in deeds,
       Whose vague resolves never have been fulfill’d;
           For whom each year we see

   Breeds new beginnings, disappointments new;
       Who hesitate and falter life away,
        And lose to-morrow the ground won today –

   Ah! Do not we, wanderer! await it too?
            —“The Scholar-Gipsy,” Matthew Arnold

Recently my wife and I have been looking to buy a house our first. Constrained as we are by a limited budget, and young and full of dreams as we are, none of the houses that we have yet seen have measured up to our visions, with the result that we have spent a considerable amount of time with our realtor (bless her heart) in search of “the one.” As will happen, professional barriers have begun to be replaced with a more casual acquaintance, until recently we found ourselves standing on the driveway of a house we had viewed (not “the one”, alas!) discussing, as will also happen, religion.

At some point I had mentioned that I was going to spend a few days over Easter at a traditional monastery, and this seemed to pique Cindy’s curiosity. Cindy is a fallen-away Catholic, jaded by the chaos of the sixties and seventies, and the scandals that were brewed in their midst, and expressed her skepticism about the monastic project. “You will probably disagree with me,” she said, “but it seems to me that the life of a monk is a life without choices.” But I did not disagree, pointing out that the lack of choices is precisely the point – that a monk gives up his right to choose in order that he may be able to focus, without distraction, on the one thing that matters.

But of course, Cindy’s complaint wasn’t really that monks are not able (or, perhaps, are unwilling) to choose. This was simply her way of saying that in her view the life of a monk is a dull one, without responsibility, comfort, freedom or happiness. I realized this at the time, and I tried to head off these objections by explaining that many of the priests, monks, and nuns that I know are some of the happiest people I know – far happier, I said, than myself or her. “Are they?” Cindy answered. “I am glad to hear that.”

But I don’t think she believed me. And I don’t blame her. Of what, after all, does the life of a monk consist?

Routine, mostly.

Continue reading at Crisis Magazine….

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A few (very peaceful) days at Clearcreek Monastery

Over Easter I spent a few very peaceful days at Clearcreek monastery in Oklahoma.

Low mass in the church crypt. Low mass happens at 7:00 am. Ten monks say mass simultaneously, making use of the 8 side altars in the crypt, as well as the high altar, and the tabernacle altar.

Clearcreek is one of the only (the only?) traditional Benedictine monasteries in the United States. They are an offshoot of the Solesmes congregation, which was founded in France following the devastation wrought on the monasteries by the French revolution.

Another picture of low mass in the morning. A very peaceful experience.

The Solemnes congregation has specialized in resurrecting Gregorian chant, and the monks at Clearcreek participate in that tradition to the fullest. Daily mass at the monastery lasted a full hour and a half because of the intricate and rich chant (This was Easter week, and so I can’t be entirely sure such an elaborate mass was entirely normal. I have been to the monastery twice before, but both of those times was during Christmas week, when you would also expect elaborate liturgies).

And one more of low mass.

The monastery was founded in the early 90s and has come a long way. I counted 39 monks while I was there, though there may be more. They say their goal is to reach 60, at which point they will found another monastery. The most remarkable thing about the monk is how young they are: there appear to be several monks in their early to mid 20s, and plenty who can’t be into their mid 30s. Just another sign of the “springtime” JPII spoke about.

A picture of the crypt of the church.

This is monastic life at its richest, and its most authentic. The Benedictines are an entirely contemplative order, meaning their primary purpose in life is simply to pray. Silence rules their life: they speak only when necessary, or during times of recreation. They strive towards self-sufficiency by raising their own cattle and sheep, growing their own produce, and by mastering various crafts, including cheesemaking and iron work, the products of which they sell in their book store.

The monks go out for their daily walk during recreation. This picture was taken from my cell.

All of their liturgies are in Latin, and they say the 1962 missal (i.e. tridentine or extraordinary rite). They get up around 4:45 for lauds, and then matins, terce, sext, none, vespers and compline, all of which are chanted with exquisite purity.

A picture of the interior of the main church (sorry it's so dim)

During my time there I was able to get a tour of their cheese-making operation. It’s a humble thing, with an incredibly humble monk at its helm: and the cheese they make (a gouda from their own milk) is utterly delicious. In order to get this private tour I had to ask permission, and had to get it from the abbott: they are very jealous of their privacy, as pretty much any authentically contemplative order is.

Another picture of the main church (also too dim).

I will tell you more about the cheese-making later (and my own experiments trying to make cheese). I am also working on an article about monastic life, which I should be done relatively soon. In the meantime enjoy the pictures.

Another shot from the hill - you can just see the top of the monastery peeking through the trees.