I see some Catholics suggesting we put the term "Catholiphobia" into currency. I'm completely against this. No more -phobias, -isms, victimologies or grievance-mongering. Instead of inventing new ones we should be rejecting the ones we have already.
If someone does something objectionable, it can be denounced without going in for -phobias and -isms. Bullying, for instance, is wrong no matter who does it and who the victim is. Let's judge each deed and utterance on its own, without any appeal to such concepts.
I have such mixed feelings about the decline in Irish cultural
Catholicism. I have noticed that a lot of the people who talk loudly
before Mass (in Ireland) are elderly. It's funny that presumably a life
of going to Mass and practicing their faith hasn't given them enough
respect to keep silent in church. And just this morning I read a
reference to the practice of standing at the back of the church during
Mass, which was a stupid and silly custom, still seen at memorial Masses and other occasions, generally practiced by men and boys who think it somehow manly.
And Irish cultural Catholicism meant that a lot of priests who should
never have been priests and nuns who should never have been nuns spent a
lot of time subverting the Faith in Ireland, doing immeasurable damage.
On the other hand...there all the indirect ways the Faith pervades and
enriches a culture, benefiting even those who spurn it. A sense of the
sacred. A sense of the value of every human life, not abstractly but
concretely. The spiritual taking priority over the material. A
gentleness which I think is lacking in Ireland now. All that. So on the
whole, I regret it, but with qualifications.
I saw a student wearing a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle t-shirt. I
reflected that, to her, this must be like the Beatles or some other pop
culture phenomenon, way back in the past. And that I remember them being
the latest thing. And I was feeling a bit bad about being so much older
than the students when I thought, why do we so often regret having
lived a longer rather than a shorter time? There may be good specific
reasons in terms of missed opportunities and other things, but in
general, isn't it a good thing that we never died all those days that we
might have died? That we remember different periods in history, as
eye-witnesses? If experience has value when it's happening, surely it
retains value after it has happened, for its own sake.
It's local and European election time and once again there are debates about whether election posters should be banned.
I always try to see all sides of an issue and be moderate in my language. But I do think people who want to ban election posters are life-hating, miserable, self-absorbed, consumerist, atomized, joyless, soulless, embittered, anti-public spirited, tunnel-visioned cranks.
I don't mean to be offensive, though.
I have just watched the film Saving Mr. Banks again, which is about the making of the Mary Poppins film and Walt Disney's relations with the author of the source novels. I saw it for the first time in the cinema, then on DVD a few years after that, and now on TV. Every time I've seen it I've been hugely impressed. A real grown-up film with complex emotions and rounded characters. It understands that the motive of a work of imaginative literature is very often a desire to reshape or redeem one's past. Both painful and ultimately uplifting. A classic, I believe.
Last night I dreamt I was in a hotel bar in America, with a large group of friends. Some guy came in and started being aggressive to us. We mocked him and he left, returning moments later with a gang of cronies which greatly outnumbered us. We all fled up to the higher floors of the hotel as they gave chase. I found myself thinking how accurate G.K. Chesterton's description of fancy American hotels still is. I thought I was in the clear until the original fellow saw me. He said, with great politeness, "You realise we are going to grind your face in the carpet when we catch you, don't you?" "My dear fellow", I replied, "I wouldn't have it any other way". Then I woke up.
(In real life, my response would more likely be: "Please don't hit me! Please don't hit me!")
I am reading The Go Between by L.P. Hartley. The section I am reading
now describes a cricket match between the family and staff of a Manor,
and the local villagers. The Introduction tells me that the book is all
about the loss of innocence, the deceitfulness of memory, and very
serious themes like that. I feel a bit abashed admitting I'm enjoying it
right now mostly for its vivid account of a Hall vs. village cricket
How long before "Sir" and "Madam" are attacked by political correctness? Surprised it hasn't already happened.
The best way to win every debate (or, at least, to impress people in
debate) is to have a very simple formula which you can apply to
everything, over and over-- like "do whatever you want as long as you
don't harm others." But life is too complex to be grasped with a
formula. And so somebody who accepts the complexity of life is already
labouring under a disadvantage when it comes to a debate. They will
sound hesitant, inconsistent, and so forth, when they are actually
trying to be responsible and serious.
Francis Derangement Syndrome gets as tiresome as Trump Derangement Syndrome. I saw one conservative Catholic commentator who I admire very much complaining that there had been no papal tweet about the Notre Dame fire yet. I went to look at the Pope's account and saw that he tweeted about it five hours ago. A bit much, surely...
I post this passage from Samuel Johnson's biography of the poet and pioneering landscape gardener William Shenstone for two reasons. First, the sheer luxurious leisure of the prose itself. Second, because it has long stuck in my mind as an articulation of that question which hovers over all human life: What is worth doing?
"Now was excited his delight in rural pleasures, and his ambition of rural elegance; he began from this time to point his prospects, to diversify his surface, to entangle his walks, and to wind his waters, which he did with such judgement and such fancy as made his little domain the envy of the great and the admiration of the skilful: a place to be visited by travellers, and copied by designers. Whether to plant a walk in undulating curves and to place a bench at every turn where there is an object to catch the view; to make water run where it will be heard, and to stagnate where it will be seen; to leave intervals where the eye will be pleased, and to thicken the plantation where there is something to be hidden, demands any great powers of mind, I will not enquire: perhaps a sullen and surly speculator may think such performances rather the sport than the business of human reason. But it must be at least confessed that to embellish the form of nature is an innocent amusement, and some praise must be allowed by the most supercilious observer to him who does best what such multitudes are contending to do well."