Wednesday, November 30, 2022
Tuesday, November 29, 2022
I post on Facebook a lot. Is this good or bad? Sometimes I feel it's bad, thinking I've been swept up in a terribly modern habit, despite all my pretensions to fogeydom.
Other times I think it might be a good thing. I have a lot of thoughts in the course of the day and Facebook is a good outlet for them. It's very user-friendly-- more so than this blog, which really requires a desktop computer to write. I tap out my Facebook posts on my phone, in a matter of minutes.
Anyway, here are some of my latest ones. They may be of interest. Buckle up...
I've sometimes considered writing a short story which would be a kind of allegory of this experience. It could be a story about a guy who is hugely inspired by a schoolteacher and goes out and lives the beliefs and ideals this teacher instilled in him. He seeks the teacher out thirty or forty years later, only to find that the teacher is puzzled and unimpressed by everything the pupil has done, and tells him he had the wrong idea about him (the teacher) all along.
Anyway, this is definitely my own experience with Irish nationalism. I had an ideal of Irish nationalism which I absorbed in my childhood, and which I sometimes embraced and sometimes consciously reacted against. But the extraordinary thing is that it seems to have been my own ideal even when I was reacting against it.
Essentially it was a belief that there had been some kind of collective decision, made about the end of the nineteenth century, that an independent Ireland was going to go in a very different direction from Britain, America, and the other developed countries. Instead of commerce, cities, technology, modernity etc. it was going to embrace tradition, folklore, myth, culture, rural life, handicrafts, "the things of the spirit."
I took it as read that all the office-blocks named Setanta House and the monuments to the Children of Lir etc. were only the BEGINNING of this collective adventure. I think I really expected we were going to go back to thatched cottages and stone-walls eventually.
Obviously, this idea didn't come from nowhere. There's a little bit of Pearse, Yeats, De Valera, and others in it. I didn't realize that this ideal was abandoned (insofar as it had ever been embraced) way before my birth, and often by people who had fought in 1916, devoted their lives to the Irish language, etc.
It's been a long and painful loss of this illusion. My nationalism has been cauterized. But the ideal is still sublimated into other things.
Tuesday, November 22, 2022
Do you have World Cup fever? Then you'll want to read my four-year-old blog post on the subject.
Do you detest everything to do with the World Cup and want to go into hiding until it's over? Then you'll want to read my four-year-old blog post on the subject.
And while you're out at it, check out Baddiel, Skinner, and Brodie's impish updating of their now-traditional classic. (The Lightning Seeds are one of my favourite bands.) It could have been awful, but I think they pulled it off.
I was contacted by someone who has set up a new online encyclopedia called The Saint John Chrysostom Encyclopedia.
He explains his reason for the venture thus: "If one really looks on the Internet for information, one ultimately ends up with the conclusion that there really is no unbiased, realistic, and true, encyclopedia on the internet, that all (or at least the vast majority) websites promising such a thing are either clearly deceptive (that is, are clearly hateful of the truth or are run/managed by those who are against it), or detail only a few subjects.
"The Saint John Chrysostom Encyclopedia was created as a response to that, so that one may truly have an unbiased and true source in all knowledge of life, whether it be religious, mathematical, scientific, historical, etc. One might already say, "how could an encyclopedia that already has a religious nature be unbiased?", yet that is an ignorant proposition as all men are religious, whether they acknowledge it or not, and all men are biased, simply for the truth or against it.
"Simply put, the goal of this encyclopedia is to learn the truths of life, so that we may follow it to wherever it may lead to, without looking back."
You can access it here. He is also seeking volunteers to help build it up.
I wish all the best to this new venture.
(I'll be a bit curmudgeonly for a moment and admit that sometimes I'm irritated at how the word "truth" is often brandished in Catholic circles. I was having this debate with a Catholic friend just yesterday. Yes, I believe in the truth of the Catholic faith. But Catholics don't have a monopoly on truth (the Pope is not an authority on philately, for instance), and truth-seekers of good faith exist in every religion, and also among non-believers. But there, that's me being a grump.)
Wednesday, November 16, 2022
On Saturday I spent three hours manning the library stand at the UCD Open Day in the O'Reilly Hall. I enjoyed it greatly. That kind of event appeals to me in a way that's hard to explain. I decided that trying to explain it might make a good blog post.
Thursday, November 3, 2022
In recent months, or perhaps recent years (it's hard to tell), I've been taking tremendous pleasure in contemplating one aspect of life. I think the best way I can describe it is the contrast between the almost-infinite freedom of the human soul and the intractability of circumstances. I take pleasure in both these things, and also in their collision, or marriage, or whatever you want to call it.
First of all, the freedom of the soul. Lots of people have rhapsodised about this. "Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage". "I could be bound in a nutshell, and consider myself king of infinite space." Or the line from the Shawshack Redemption: "You get busy living or you get busy dying". There are so many stories of how people have transcended imprisonment, concentration camp, paralysis, etc. etc. to achieve something great or just affirm life. Stories like those of Helen Keller, Christy Brown, etc. Every moment offers infinite possibilities, even in the realm of consciousness and imagination. Louis MacNeice wrote about how Rembrandt made "the little world he knew world without end."
The idea I'm trying to describe is very hard to articulate, but I think Chesterton put it best in "Wonder and the Wooden Post": "I am interested in wooden posts, which do startle me like miracles. I am interested in the post that stands waiting outside my door, to hit me over the head, like a giant's club in a fairy tale. All my mental doors open outwards into a world I have not made. My last door of liberty opens upon a world of sun and solid things, of objective adventures. The post in the garden; the thing I could neither create nor expect: strong plain daylight on stiff upstanding wood: it is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes."
I remember feeling this joy when I was a kid visiting my aunt's farm and I had to walk about a mile to get to the nearest shop.