I post a lot on Facebook and I'm getting steadily less apologetic about this.
I have a lot to say. I get along best with people who have a lot to say. The people I find hardest to get along with are those who are reluctant conversationalists and who restrict themselves to small-talk.
I'm not talking about shyness. I know all about shyness. I was excruciatingly shy for most of my life and I still struggle with it. I'm talking about people who are not at all shy but still make no effort. (In fact, I've noticed that some people are out-and-out extroverts, always in company, always eager to engage others in conversation...and still have nothing to say.)
I'm not saying they are bad people. Some of them might be saints for all I know. I just find it hard to interact with them.
I'm not saying I'm any better than anyone else for having a lot to say. Maybe I'm just a tiresome gasbag. The Bible is full of exhortations to silence and reserve in speech. But it's just the way I am. I put it down to being very shy and withdrawn in childhood. I was forced to develop "a rich inner life", as the personality profile of the INFJ puts it.
Anyway, I have a lot to say and Facebook is a good channel for saying it. Many of these little snippets are so miscellaneous that they're not exactly the kind of thing I could say out of the blue to a friend, colleague, or stranger. Some of my Facebook friends have been kind enough to say my Facebook page is a home for interesting discussions.
I also think it's good writing practice, as long as you're not just getting into tiresome flame wars and the like. (I don't do this.) If you're writing something that takes some effort to express, I think it can be good writing practice.
At its worst, it's a good filler for my blog when I'm too busy to write a blog post.
Anyway, judge for yourself! Here goes. (Regarding the post on titles: I realize I've written on this subject before and mentioned many of these specific titles before. What the heck.)If Irish people just made an effort to say "Dia dhuit" and "slán leat" regularly, that would increase the use of Irish in daily life about a million per cent.
As I've said before, I have mixed feelings about the website Where Peter Is, especially how far it is embracing the language of identity politics. But I do often look at it-- as I often look at Edward Feser's blog, the Catholic Herald, Fr. Dwight Longenecker's blog, and the many other websites that are generally on the opposite side of the "Francis wars".
One feature that is very interesting is "Which Pope Said This?", a series of quotations from Popes of the past which appear to reinforce the "hermeneutic of continuity". Here is a quotation from St. John Paul II which is most interesting. We could obviously go all around the houses on infallibility, etc. But it's still interesting. He said it in Mexico 1979.
The thing that caused me most distress in Francis's pontificate was the fear that Amoris Laetitia contradicted Veritatis Splendor. I've overcome this, but I do have sympathy with both sides in the Francis wars, as long as the discussion is conducted with respect for each other and the Holy Father.
As for the claim that we have to perform mental gymnastics to find an orthodox reading of Pope Francis's words, I don't put much stock in this. Protestants make the same accusation of Catholics; secularists make it of Christians. For instance, it seems obvious in the New Testament that the inspired writers expected Jesus to return in their lifetime, and I can understand how Arians felt they were on solid ground with John 14:28, "The Father is greater than I". You could hardly get plainer than that, it seems. This applies to the non-religious, as well. Atheists have to perform mental gymnastics to explain the origin of life, the existence of consciousness, and the stupendous "fine-tuning" of the universe for life.
Anyway, here's the quotation:
"The Pope who visits you, expects from you a generous and noble effort to know the Church better and better. The Second Vatican Council wished to be, above all, a Council on the Church. Take in your hands the documents of the Council, especially “Lumen Gentium”, study them with loving attention, with the spirit of prayer, to discover what the Spirit wished to say about the Church. In this way you will be able to realize that there is not—as some people claim—a “new church”, different or opposed to the “old church”, but that the Council wished to reveal more clearly the one Church of Jesus Christ, with new aspects, but still the same in its essence.
"The Pope expects from you, moreover, loyal acceptance of the Church. To remain attached to incidental aspects of the Church, valid in the past but outdated today, would not be faithful in this sense. Nor would it be faithful to embark, in the name of an unenlightened prophetism, on the adventurous and utopian construction of a so-called Church of the future, disembodied from the present one. We must remain faithful to the Church which, born once and for all from God’s plan, from the Cross, from the open sepulchre of the Risen Christ and from the grace of Pentecost, is born again every day, not from the people or from other rational categories, but from the same sources as those from which it was born originally. It is born today to construct with all the nations a people desirous of growing in faith, hope and brotherly love."
1) Cultural diversity-- the real sort, not the nominal, skin-deep sort. That specialness and character should be preserved against the tide of sameness. I worry about this all the time, incessantly.
2) Poetry. Poetry seems ever more important to me. Poetry seems, not only essential in itself, but the necessary corrective to all that is utilitarian, banal, and dehumanising in society. And it seems to me that poetry has never been more marginalized in the life of society than it is today.
3) Something I can only evoke by a term such as "folklore", or "oral tradition". Ballads. Parlour games. Campfire tales. Local legends. Everything that is not commercialized, commodified, passively consumed, or mass marketed.
I am always preoccupied by these subjects. I don't claim they are more important than others. But they feel most urgent to me.
And what about the Faith? Of course, the Faith. But the more I learn of the Faith the calmer and surer I feel of it. Our Lord's promise to St. Peter is a sure rock we can rest on. We need the Church to save us, not the other way round. That victory has been won already.
I know I bitch a lot about the banality and soullessness of modern life. What kills me is that it takes so little to mitigate it. I don't expect to live in Rivendell.
For instance, this backdrop in a Lidl on Talbot Street (I think) of old Dublin. A small thing that makes a big difference.
It's funny how evocative simple things can be. I spent a lot of my twenties in the cinema. Having gone to the cinema a grand total of seven times up to 2001, after that the floodgates opened and for about a decade I went hundreds of times, sometimes several times a day. It trailed off slowly. I think the peak was around 2005.
As ridiculous as it sounds, I was nervous about asking for a cinema ticket before that. I thought there was some mystique to it, like ordering in a fancy restaurant. How I persisted in this belief considering I had gone to the cinema once on my own, to see the terrible Irish film The General in 1998, I don't quite understand. All the previous visits were with my parents, mostly in childhood. (I vividly remember each one: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in 1984, Young Sherlock Holmes 1985, Biggles 1986, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade 1989, Batman 1989, Michael Collins 1997.)
People identified me with the cinema so much that the first thing they would ask me was "Have you seen anything at the cinema lately?". I got so self-conscious about this that I stopped going for months, at one point, in my contrarian way. I was also very self-conscious about going on my own. One of the ways the prevalent misandry of our time manifests are snide comments about men who go to the cinema on their own. On reflection I see how stupid I was to pay any attention to this. Going to the cinema in company has its own pleasures but going alone also does. You can disappear into the film in a way you can't really when you're accompanied. I did sometimes go with other people but it was never quite the same. I was always conscious of having to entertain that person.
Anyway, this Carlton ident really sums up this period for me, and fills me with nostalgia for it. It was apparently used in Ireland till 2014. It really expresses what's magical about the cinema: the sense of awe, wonder, magnification.
Of course my cinema-going was partly a religious quest, a search for meaning, that found fulfillment in the Faith, but I hate to reduce things like that. It wasn't just that. It had its own justification. The cinema is about the biggest experience you can have at a reasonable price, and it also makes life itself seem bigger, grander, more significant. (Life Itself is the title of both the biography and biographical documentary of Roger Ebert, the great film critic.) Of course, life is fully worthy of such awe, but the cinema helps us see it better.
Even now the image of a cinema audience expresses something for me that nothing else can. The background image on my phone and my Gmail account is a cinema audience, the light from the screen illuminating their faces.
A city is mostly its suburbs. That's where most people live. I get frustrated when cities are identified with their city centres. It's the suburbs that need to be beautified and celebrated and have events held in them. City centres have enough already.
I am trying to develop the ability to look at my environment-- even the places I'm most familiar with-- as somewhere I've never been before and may never be again.
I love evocative titles. I very often comes across them in the library. I decided to begin a cumulative list of titles I love. Here's a beginning. Many of them are for books I haven't read, films I haven't seen, etc. Suggestions welcome. I'm looking for evocative, not just strange or wacky or whatever.
The Jungle is Neutral (war memoir by F. Spencer Chapman)
Goodbye Hessle Road
My Dream of You by Nuala O’Faolain
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
Too Small a World: The Life of Francesca Cabrini
A Prayer for Owen Meaney
All the Way to Bantry Bay (Benedict Kiely)
Puppet Show of Memory (autobiography of Maurice Baring)
Teems of Times and Happy Returns by Dominic Behan
The Road to Wigan Pier
Mornings in the Dark: The Graham Greene Film Reader
Light Moving in Time: Studies in the Visual Aesthetics of Avant-Garde Film
The World That Came In From the Cold (history of post-Cold War world)
The Parade’s Gone By (a history of silent film)
Goodbye to All That
A Girl in Winter (novel by Philip Larkin)
Farewell Dublin but never Goodbye (memoir by Donal McKenna)
Sex, Lies and Videotape
The Breakfast Club
On Golden Pond
Postcards from the Edge
Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean
Never Say Never Again
The World is Not Enough
Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Ice Cold in Alex
There is a Light That Never Goes Out
The Wonder Years
Mad About You
Love and the Russian Winter
Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating in Space