Archive for 2006
That’s the title the London Review of Books gives Terry Eagleton’s savaging of The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. It’s a guilty pleasure to read something as well-written (pleasure) and scathing (there’s the guilt). He begins:
Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology. Card-carrying rationalists like Dawkins, who is the nearest thing to a professional atheist we have had since Bertrand Russell, are in one sense the least well-equipped to understand what they castigate, since they don’t believe there is anything there to be understood, or at least anything worth understanding. This is why they invariably come up with vulgar caricatures of religious faith that would make a first-year theology student wince. The more they detest religion, the more ill-informed their criticisms of it tend to be. If they were asked to pass judgment on phenomenology or the geopolitics of South Asia, they would no doubt bone up on the question as assiduously as they could. When it comes to theology, however, any shoddy old travesty will pass muster. These days, theology is the queen of the sciences in a rather less august sense of the word than in its medieval heyday.
October 22nd, 2006
Readings: Isaiah 53:10-11; Hebrews 4:14-16; Mark 10:35-45
I was watching a rerun of the West Wing the other evening, right back from the first series, and there was President Bartlett delivering an impassioned pep-talk to his daughter Zoë. She was about to leave for College and the passion flowed as the president grappled for words, trying to find how to say what he felt he needed to say. Here was his youngest about to step beyond the limits of his protection into an unsafe world and he wanted to say all that was in his heart of care and concern, of advice and admonition, of what to do and what not to do, who to know and who not to know—above all of who to be. All the stuff that needs to be said, yet cannot be said, but somehow is heard.
I remember being on the receiving end of just such a heart-to-heart—embarrassing and baffling and touching. To hear my father’s pride in me and his doubt and to see a strange vulnerability come over him as I realised the depth of my power to hurt him and the power of my desire not to. Here he was trying to give me the low-down, the pith of what he wanted for me, the essence of what he held most dear, the lessons he had learned, his fragile legacy of wisdom… for me, his son, to stand me in good stead, to make me a man.
October 22nd, 2006
Sweetgrass is used by certain Native American tribes as a kind of incense. Dried and braided, lit and snuffed, it smoulders with a sweet smoke that is used in ‘smudging’, blessing a person and making a space for prayer. I had the good fortune to worship on the reservation several times when I was in the US and smudging always feels to me like washing your spirit in the sweet smoke. My smudging ‘stick’ has long expired but I still treasure the story of its picking. It was given to me by a friend from the Oregon Province of the Jesuits, JK Adams, and he told me about being taken out to pick sweetgrass while he was supplying as priest in Browning, Montana (I think–it might have been Heart Butte).
It’s not something you do lightly and the places where sweetgrass grows are not bandied about. You go at invitation and you go with some ritual and intent but not in a ponderous way. When you reach the place you ask that you might be able to see and find the unassuming grass. And then the hard part begins. It’s hard because its so easy. You mustn’t look for the sweetgrass. If you look for it you don’t find it. JK swears this is how it is. You have to be there and to walk around carefully not looking for the sweetgrass and if you are lucky you will glimpse some from the corner of your eye and then you can cut some. But you can’t make it appear by hunting for it. It has to come to you and show itself. It will not be possessed.
October 21st, 2006
Thanks to the University of Cambridge the complete works of Charles Darwin are now available online and very popular, amassing 150,000 hits in 11 days. You can see facsimiles of his Beagle notebooks. It makes me very happy to see how bad his handwriting was…
The Independent today printed some extracts and got Richard Dawkins to write an appreciation of ‘one of the most admirable men that ever lived’.
October 20th, 2006
Simpsons’ fan? You could spend many a happy hour … er moment … with the map of Springfield
October 17th, 2006
There was a spell in my prayer a good while ago when Jesus gave me roses. I was drawn over and over to an image of a red rose and my spiritual director helped me stay with that simple experience and trust it. She suggested I let Jesus buy me one. So I did. And sat in my prayer for days just looking and smelling and relishing the God who gave me roses.
Many times after that I’d get the sense of Jesus saying, ‘time for a new rose’, and out I would go to get one. I still have most of those roses, dried, in a bowl in my room. A few years ago in a rather maudlin mood I was praying, holding one of those rosebuds–by then very dark and very crisp and a little dusty–and thinking of how fragile it was and how fragile many things in life can be. But then I caught the edge of its scent. Even after 10 years my roses still carried their fragrance. And I could sense Jesus saying to me, ‘they might be fragile but look, here they are–lasting, beautiful, constant’. They still are.
October 16th, 2006
I’ve uploaded a new version of Similar Posts. It allows you to exclude static pages from the list of similar posts and also to exclude posts based on their category (thanks to commenter Upekshapriya for the suggestion).
There is also a better list of stopwords based on the one MySQL uses for the full text search.
October 16th, 2006
I’ve been trying out a download tracking plugin. Most of the time it has worked fine but intermittently there have been scrambled downloads. My apologies to anyone served gibberish. I’ve reverted to plain untracked downloads for now.
October 15th, 2006
I’m sorry if anyone came visiting in the last 12 hours or so and found a bunch of gobbledygook in place of this site. My host was ‘having a database outage’. Service has been resumed and seems normal but a little slow. Let’s hope it settles.
October 9th, 2006
Quite by chance (I was fiddling with the archive page) I noticed that the first post on this site is dated exactly 11 days ago today. I’ve never really thought about how long I’ve been posting stuff on the web in one form or another. I started with some components for the Delphi programming language. The homilies were added later so even though the oldest was preached eleven years ago I couldn’t say when it actually got posted.
October 8th, 2006