Farewell Letter ~ Gabriel Garcia Marquez | Jack Hammersley

This is very beautiful, with a hat tip to Rachael Charmley of Changing Skin and Other Stories

Before he died on 17 April 2014 at the age of 87, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Colombia’s illustrious Nobel Laureate for literature, had declared his retirement from public life. He had terminal cancer and sent this letter of farewell to friends and lovers of literature.

_______________________________________________________________

If God, for a second, forgot what I have become and granted me a little bit more of life, I would use it to the best of my ability.

I wouldn’t, possibly, say everything that is in my mind, but I would be more thoughtful of all I say.

I would give merit to things not for what they are worth, but for what they mean to express.

I would sleep little, I would dream more, because I know that for every minute that we close our eyes, we waste 60 seconds of light.

I would walk while others stop; I would awake while others sleep.

If God would give me a little bit more of life, I would dress in a simple manner, I would place myself in front of the sun, leaving not only my body, but my soul naked at its mercy.

To all men, I would say how mistaken they are when they think that they stop falling in love when they grow old, without knowing that they grow old when they stop falling in love.

via Farewell Letter ~ Gabriel Garcia Marquez | Jack Hammersley. Do follow the link.

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St. George’s Day Quiz

6a00d83451bc4a69e20147e37f82a5970bWell, it’s the traditional St. Georges Day, so we should publish something for our English friends. I suppose I could write an article but a quiz would be more fun, and the Telegraph has a pretty good one for us, on England’s historic attractions. So take it and we’ll compare our scores.

Quiz: how well do you know England’s historic attractions? – Telegraph.

How’d you do? I managed 60% which is not optimal but then again, I’ve never managed to get to England either.

I had something else as well but my curating program is broke at the moment, so we’ll postpone it.

I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot;
Follow your spirit: and upon this charge,
Cry — God for Harry! England and Saint George!

Faith in the World Today, and in History

I’m catching up a bit today, while none of these articles is especially time sensitive, I find them both important and uplifting. And, in truth, I got sidetracked with Easter and Cliven Bundy’s confrontation

Over at the Newman site, John Charmley tells us in Cardinal Newman’s words why sometimes we don’t believe what is written (or told) us plainly.

We have in the Gospel for this day what, I suppose, has raised the wonder of most readers of the New Testament. I mean the slowness of the disciples to take in the notion that our Lord was to suffer on the Cross. It can only be accounted for by the circumstance that a contrary opinion had strong possession of their minds—what we call a strong prejudice against the truth, in their cases an honest religious prejudice, the prejudice of honest religious minds, but still a deep and violent prejudice. When our Lord first declared it, St. Peter said, “Be it far from thee, Lord, this shall not happen to Thee.” He spoke so strongly that the holy Evangelist says that he “took our Lord and began to rebuke Him.” He did it out of reverence and love, as the occasion of it shows, but still that he spoke with warmth, with vehemence, is evident from the expression. Think then how deep his prejudice must have been.

This same prejudice accounts for what we find in today’s gospel. Our Lord said, “Behold we go to Jerusalem, and all that is written of the Son of man shall be accomplished. For He shall be delivered to the Gentiles, and shall be mocked and scourged and spat upon; and after they have scourged Him, they will put Him to death, and the third day He shall rise again.” Could words be plainer? Yet what effect had they on the disciples? “They understood none of these things, and this was hid from them, and they understood not the things that were said.” Why hid? Because they had not eyes to see

via Faith and Prejudice — NEWMAN LECTURES.

Archbishop Cranmer asks us to calm down and listen to what Prime Minister David Cameron said the other day about Britain being a Christian country. His Grace also thinks that we might make allowances for the PM to be growing in his faith. It wouldn’t be the first time that a visit to the Holy Land/or the death of a child had that effect. I think there may well be much truth in that, and if there is here, Thank God.

Apparently, No10 had no intention of releasing a transcript of the Prime Minister’s speech to Christian leaders last week: unlike other faith gatherings, it was an impromptu declamation, spoken spontaneously from the heart, and some there felt that the content didn’t merit courtly promulgation, not least because it wasn’t honed, crafted or filtered by aides to extinguish any hint of offence.

But His Grace agitated and agitated, and the oration was made public. And it was seen that the Prime Minister spoke intimately of the loss of his son, Ivan; and of his recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land; and of his quiet times in church; and of the need for Christians to do more “evangelism”. He is a politician; not a theologian: his words were those of a layman, but no less sincere for that.   

And then he released an article in the Church Times - My Faith in the Church of England - in which he demanded the right to speak about his faith “in this ever more secular age”. And he dared to refer to the United Kingdom as a “Christian country”, and again called for Christians to be “more evangelical about a faith that compels us to get out there and make a difference to people’s lives”.

via Don’t condemn Cameron’s claim to Christianity–Cranmer

In Jerusalem, some Lutheran nuns who have provided a guesthouse for Holocaust survivors since 1961 are wrapping up their mission because there are so few survivors left. It reminds me that it is up to our generations now to make sure the Holocaust is never forgotten and especially never repeated. Well done, sisters.

Residents of the Jerusalem’s Talpiot neighborhood who have watched nuns in their white habits go in and out of a house at 10 Ein Gedi Street for the past half century will soon notice their absence. Beit Avraham (House of Abraham), as the sisters of the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary call their home, is closing down.

Since 1961 it has served as a guesthouse for Holocaust survivors. But with so few survivors still alive — and those still living too frail to come visit — the nuns have decided their work has come to an end.

“We received our mission from the Almighty. The Almighty gives and the Almighty takes away. Our job has ended,” says Sister Gratia in a conversation with The Times of Israel in Beit Avraham’s reception room. Sister Gratia, 71, arrived in 1975 from Austria to help run the guesthouse.

[...]

The Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary is a Lutheran-based order, but operates independently. It began as a Christian organization founded in 1947 by German theologian and intellectual Dr. Klara Schlink, along with Erika Madauss. As president of the Women’s Division of the German Student Christian Movement from 1933 to 1935, Schlink refused to comply with Nazi policy barring Jewish-born students from meetings. During WWII, Schlink was summoned twice by the Gestapo because of her uncompromising stance in defense of Jews.

via Lutheran nuns end Jerusalem mission to Shoah survivor–The Jerusalem Connection, hat tip to Irishanglican

And Gene Veith told us the other day how atheism is built on the foundation of Christianity

Theo Hobson, in the British Spectator, critiques the New Atheist insistence that we can have morality–indeed, a better morality–apart from religion.  In doing so, he shows that even today’s secular humanist morality, which the atheists take as axiomatic, actually derives from Christianity.

A truly atheist, Darwinistic morality would look more like Nietzsche’s nihilistic will to power.  In contrast, today’s egalitarian benevolence would be impossible without the Christian teachings of creation and grace.

From Theo Hobson, The return of God: atheism’s crisis of faith » The Spectator:

The problem that confronts them [the new atheists] is as stark as it is simple: our morality has religious roots. Put another way: when God is rejected, the stakes are gulpingly high; the entire moral tradition of the West is put in question.

This was the insight of Friedrich Nietzsche — and for all the different atheist thinkers and philosophers since, it remains just as true today. It’s all very well to say that blind faith is a bad idea, and that we should move beyond it to a more enlightened ethical system, but this raises the question of what we mean by good and bad, and those ideas are irrevocably rooted in Christianity. Nietzsche saw this, and had the courage to seek a new ethos amid the collapse of all modern systems of meaning. Did he find one? Yes, in pagan power-worship — the sort that eventually led to fascism. We think of him as mad and bad — but he was brave. Imagine Ed Miliband trying to follow in this tradition, gazing into the abyss of all meaning, the dark crucible of nihilism.

via Even secular humanism depends on Christianity

And there, in four articles, a cross-section of how our faith operates in the world today, usually well, and a warning to be more discerning in our reading and listening.

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Cliven Bundy and The Rural Way

I said yesterday we were going to look at the confrontation between Cliven Bundy and the BLM today, and we are. But first I want you to read Victor Davis Hanson on it, so here it is:

Works and Days » Cliven Bundy and The Rural Way

I’m sure that Cliven Bundy probably could have cut a deal with the Bureau of Land Management and should have. Of course, it’s never wise to let a federal court order hang over your head. And certainly we cannot have a world of Cliven Bundys if a legal system is to function.

[...]

So Mr. Bundy must realize that in about 1990 we decided to focus on the misdemeanor of the law-abiding citizen and to ignore the felony of the lawbreaker. The former gave law enforcement respect; the latter ignored their authority. The first made or at least did not cost enforcers money; arresting the second began a money-losing odyssey of incarceration, trials, lawyers, appeals, and all the rest.

Mr. Bundy knows that the bullies of the BLM would much rather send a SWAT team after him than after 50 illegal aliens being smuggled by a gun-toting cartel across the southwestern desert. How strange, then, at this late postmodern date, for someone like Bundy on his horse still to be playing the law-breaking maverick Jack Burns (Kirk Douglas) in (the David Miller, Dalton Trumbo, Edward Abbey effort) Lonely Are the Brave.

But the interest in Mr. Bundy’s case is not about legal strategies in revolving fiscal disagreements with the federal government.

Instead, we all have followed Mr. Bundy for three reasons.

One, he called attention to the frightening fact that the federal government owns 83% of the land in Nevada. Note that “federal” and “government” are the key words and yet are abstractions. Rather, a few thousands unelected employees — in the BLM, EPA, Defense Department, and other alphabet soup agencies — can pretty much do what they want on the land they control. And note, this is not quite the case in Silicon Valley or Manhattan or Laguna Beach. The danger can be summed up by a scene I see about once a month on a Fresno freeway: a decrepit truck stopped by the California Highway Patrol for having inadequate tarps on a trailer of green clippings, just as a new city garbage truck speeds by, with wet garbage flying over the median. Who will police the police?

Two, this administration has a long record of not following the law — picking and choosing when and how to enforce immigration statutes, depending on the particular dynamics of the next election; picking and choosing which elements of Obamacare  to enforce, again depending on perceived political advantage; and picking and choosing when to go after coal companies, or when not to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, or when to reverse the order of the Chrysler creditors, or when to allow Lois Lerner to destroy the credibility of the IRS for partisan advantage.

In other words, the Obama administration regularly breaks the law as it sees fit. So we wonder why a federal agency sends out swarms of armed security agents to the empty desert on behalf of a tortoise, when it could just as easily storm Jay Carney’s press conference and demand that the president promise to enforce the Affordable Care Act. Or start apprehending those who are not just violating immigration law, but also serially signing false federal affidavits or providing employers with fraudulent identities.

via Works and Days » Cliven Bundy and The Rural Way.

And that’s the real story here, isn’t it? Cliven Bundy is the old American ideal, doing what he has to do to earn a living in a hard world, asking neither for our help nor tolerating our intrusion. He may be wrong legally (by all accounts he is) but by Anglo-American history he is very nearly the ideal. A man who completely understands what Augustine of Hippo meant when he said, “An unjust law is no law at all”. I can’t speak for you, but I was raised to be a moral, upright, and just man, and so was Cliven Bundy. Crusty and hard to get along with he may be but, he is a real man, as we have understood it since at least the time of Henry VIII.

Now let’s talk about the BLM and Bundy.

I’m not sure that I have heard anyone claim that Bundy is in the right, in court he’s going to lose, and badly but that is not why he got so much sympathy. He got that sympathy mostly from people who believe deeply in the Rule of Law and he got it because the government badly overstepped it proper role. Just like Parliament did in the run up to the revolution.

First, I’m old enough that I remember when we referred to the police as “peace officers,” their role was to protect the peace and fight crime, and to do it legally within the constitution, and they did it superlatively. In that context, the government would have gotten an order from the court and the sheriff would have gone out and done what was necessary, whether it was seizing the land and cattle, or arresting Mr. Bundy. It might have come down to an armed confrontation, or it might not have, either way it would be a local story and almost instantly forgotten.

But now, what we saw was a paramilitary federal force invading like an occupying power with armored vehicles, air support, snipers, and all the appurtenances of modern war, to effect a civil settlement. The means were far beyond the object, and people reacted as Americans always do, against the overreach of arbitrary government power, and so like in Lexington, 239 years before almost to the day, an opposition gathered. And like that day, the government caved, at least for the moment. I also suspect more than a few BLM agents wondered what they were doing there but, that’s another story. And parenthetically, so did the British Regulars on that day.

That’s one thing that must always be remembered, American are very jealous of our freedom, and even the appearance of infringing it brings an immediate reaction. I found it quite telling to see the pictures of the opposition, with not only the national colors flying but, also the colors of every armed service of the country. These were men that know what it is to fight for freedom, and are far better trained than paramilitary federal forces. In the old phrase that has come down from the Civil War, “They have seen the elephant”.

I have said before that America is very tense, right now, and it is. It feels very much like the prairie does before a big thunderstorm. If the government is wise, it will do whatever it must to reduce those tensions. Given the isolation of the government from the people, which is hardly less than that of Parliament was from the colonies, I have little hope of that.

And thus after a long detour we come back to Sen. Reid’s comment. I and many like me see Mr. Bundy as wrong on the issue but right to resist. In truth, we see the government as acting like an occupying power, and are beginning to think of the government as the enemy of the people.

It is hurtful to the peace of the realm when government officials attempt to make us “the other” because that status (and we know this) removes any liability for anything done to us, it also works in reverse, and that is inimical to peace.

What we really have here is the clash of cultures. One is the old traditional do-it-your-way, mostly rural America, where men are men, and not interested in your forced government charity. The other is the progressive nanny state, which looks a lot like France. This is the baseline battle in our culture, and on it depends the future of America, the free world, and liberty itself.

The real endangered specie here is not some tortoise,

it’s the American.

[Update: Dan Miller has some very good thought on this as well, here.

and Kevin D. Williamson has a very good article at NRO on it as well]

 

 

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The Rhymes of History

This is going to be a two or three-part series, and it’s not going to have many laughs in it. What we are going to talk about is the manifest overreach of the federal government, in especially the last few years. We are also going to dispassionately (mostly) compare it to a similar time some 240 years ago, in the 1770s. We’ll start this morning with some discussion about what the Founders were thinking in those days. So, let’s begin.

And so, Sen. Harry Reid thinks that Cliven Bundy and those with him the other week are domestic terrorists. I suppose he is entitled to his opinion, and we’ll come back to that.

It seems to me that we are starting to tread on ground that we haven’t covered in about 240 years. Yes it may be that serious. And so we need to review the basics. America was founded above all to reclaim the liberties afforded to all freeborn Englishmen, and because of when the settlement happened, we inherited them at their zenith. In fact, in 1775, Edmund Burke said this:

Let the colonies always keep the idea of their civil rights associated with your government-they will cling and grapple to you, and no force under heaven will be of power to tear them from their allegiance. But let it be once understood that your government may be one thing and their privileges another, that these two things may exist without any mutual relation – the cement is gone, the cohesion is loosened, and everything hastens to decay and dissolution. As long as you have the wisdom to keep the sovereign authority of this country as the sanctuary of liberty, the sacred temple consecrated to our common faith, wherever the chosen race and sons of England worship freedom, they will turn their faces towards you. The more they multiply, the more friends you will have, the more ardently they love liberty, the more perfect will be their obedience. Slavery they can have anywhere. It is a weed that grows in every soil. They may have it from Spain, they may have it from Prussia. But until you become lost to all feeling of your true interest and your natural dignity, freedom they can have from none but you. This is the commodity of price, of which you have the monopoly. This is the true Act of Navigation, which binds to you the commerce of the -colonies, and through them secures to you the wealth of the world. Deny them this participation of freedom, and you break that sole bond which originally made, and must still preserve, the unity of the empire. Do not entertain so weak an imagination as that your registers and your bonds, your affidavits and your sufferances, your cockets and your clearances, are what form the great securities of your commerce. Do not dream that your Letters of office, and your instructions, and your suspending clauses are the things that hold together the great contexture of this mysterious whole. These things do not make your government. Dead instruments, passive tools as they are, it is the spirit of the English communion that gives all their life and efficacy to them. It is the spirit of the English constitution which, infused through the mighty mass, pervades, feeds, unites, invigorates, vivffles every part of the empire, even down to the minutest member.

And it seems that history does at least rhyme, because we may have come again to that point.

And so, we find ourselves doing the same things as the founders did, studying the writing of the great philosophers of antiquity as we attempt to discern the way forward. And inevitable after watching the confrontation in the Nevada desert, we gravitate to St. Thomas Aquinas, and his just war theory, in Summa Theologica, he writes of the just causes of war, to wit.

  • First, war must occur for a good and just purpose rather than the pursuit of wealth or power.

  • Second, just war must be waged by a properly instituted authority such as the state.

  • Third, peace must be a central motive even in the midst of violence.

Which is all very well, but leaves us with the conundrum of the “properly instituted authority, such as the state”.

The School of Salamanca expanded on his work in this area thusly:

  • In self-defense, as long as there is a reasonable possibility of success. If failure is a foregone conclusion, then it is just a wasteful spilling of blood.

  • Preventive war against a tyrant who is about to attack.

  • War to punish a guilty enemy.

Which sheds a bit more light, with the introduction the term tyrant.

We often have trouble when arguing in the English-speaking world when we work from sources connected with the Catholic church, for all their learning which is immense and very useful, there is also a dichotomy. The Church is properly called The Roman Catholic Church, and it is no misnomer. That is in no way meant to be a disparagement of the church, but since the empire itself, Roman law has always had the principle that the state is the giver, the top of the pyramid, if you will.

In the English-speaking world, which developed from the old north German tribes (Angles, Saxons, Jutes, and others) who migrated to England after the Roman period and never owed allegiance to the empire we have another model. In our history the government has always been the creation of the people, and the government, the servant of the people. This is the thread of which we have spoken so many times that runs from King Alfred’s Charter to, Magna Charta, on to the English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution and the English Bill of Rights, and continued on this side of the Atlantic with the American Revolution (which many see as a reprise of the English Civil War) and finally the Constitution and its attendant Bill of Rights.

That is a very long way of saying that the people are sovereign and may set up their government as they please. And that gives us the properly instituted authority, that Aquinas demands, the people are the highest authority, in our world.

Even the law codes reflect this, in the Roman world we hear such terms as the Justinian Code and the Code Napoleon, which signify law written from scratch by the ruler and imposed on the populace. But in our world we have the Law of the Land, by which we usually mean the Common Law, and it reflects what we have said, instead of being imposed by the ruler, it has been built one case at a time over the centuries, by the people themselves, and their needs.

The clearest manifestation of the difference is in this. In most of Europe it is assumed that you can do most anything if you get the permission of the government. In the UK and even more in America it is assumed you can do anything you please unless it is specifically prohibited by law. It is a very big difference, isn’t it?

That’s all fine and good, but do we have the individual right to resist the government. In some ways that is a question that you have to answer for yourself, but if we go back to St. Augustine we’ll find that while he considered self-defense to be a bit sub-optimal, he did recognize it and further recognized a right to defend the weak and/or defenseless. He recognized that one could be faithful to God and still be a soldier, although it could at times present a decided dichotomy between obedience to God and obedience to the state. In the last analysis, you’re going to have to talk it over with God.

That’s the general background that supported the Revolution, and would have to be satisfied to justify another one. Echoing everyone who ever thought about this Thomas Jefferson said this in the Declaration of Independence:

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security..

So we need to think long and hard before doing anything like that, and make sure we can’t do it peacefully. But of course, it’s not entirely up to us either.“

In our next post, we will analyze the confrontation between Cliven Bundy and the BLM.

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Thou Shalt Not

The Promulgation of the Law at Mount Sinai, by...

The Promulgation of the Law at Mount Sinai, by the illustrators of the Figures de la Bible, 1728 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I want to pick up on something Jess said this morning about how the world perceives us as Christians, she said this in her article.

 

Yet, how divided we appear to the world. How unable to take on board His message that we should ‘be one’ and that it would be through our mutual love that we would show the world who our Lord was. We say much, but too often what we say to each other sounds to the listening world negative and limiting. Pope Francis was not saying we should not talk about sexual sins and abortion, indeed he has rightly said abortion is a dreadful crime against humanity, but he was reminding us that there is a media out there which will always take the chance to make us sound as though we are obsessed with negative – ‘do not do this’. Yet we are reminded, on this greatest of days, that Jesus’ formulation of the Law was a positive one:

 

And she is right, the world often perceives us as entirely negative. But in reality, we are by far the most permissive people in the world, even as our Jewish forebearers were before us. We have only ten rules, laws, commandments, whatever you care to call them.

 

I wrote this a while back, as the start of a post, and never managed to bring it to completion, but it fits well here, and makes the point I want to make today.

 

Three little words, what a change they have made in the world.

 

Three little words, repeated ten times, with various simple clauses that have transformed the ancient world of thugs and tribes to the modern world

 

Three little words, from God’s lips to our ears (and eyes).

 

But it’s important to remember that God reserves judgement to him, not us.

 

It’s also remarkable that there are only ten.

 

There are no long lists of proscribed things

 

Nor are there long lists of prescribed things, only ten proscriptions.

 

In any time and place it’s a very permissive code of conduct, and yet because of that very fact, it has allowed civilization to flourish, especially western civilization.

 

And that is the key, isn’t it? It’s very permissiveness has allowed the modern world to develop, and the reason it has developed most in Northern Europe and the parts of the world descended from it, is that the laws of those principalities, have followed suit. They have taught us what we must not do, and left us free to do all else.

 

This isn’t true elsewhere, if we look at Roman law codes or Islamic law, we will find that you must do these things and you must not do anything else, unless you first get permission from the prince. And those societies have stagnated over the centuries.

 

GK Chesterton had this to say

 

“The truth is, of course, that the curtness of the Ten Commandments is an evidence, not of the gloom and narrowness of a religion, but, on the contrary, of its liberality and humanity. It is shorter to state the things forbidden than the things permitted: precisely because most things are permitted, and only a few things are forbidden.”

 

And he also said, and this is quite pertinent to history that,

When you break the big laws, you do not get freedom; you do not even get anarchy.

You get the small laws.

 

But, you know while Easter is the holiest day of the year for us, we all remember how excited we were about the easter bunny coming,when we were kids, so let’s lighten up for a few minutes, and celebrate our child like status, after all we were all reborn in our faith this morning

 

 

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