Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Tabloid Headline of the Day (The New York Post, With Exactly What You Knew Was Coming)

“HUMA CUTS OFF WEINER”—New York Post front-page headline, August 30, 2016

Earlier today, a phone call came in to a certain former New York congressman and mayoral candidate, who is getting through Part 3 of a scandal of his own making: “Mr. Weiner? My name’s John Wayne Bobbitt. I just want to tell you that I know EXACTLY how you feel…Hello?...Hello?”

Quote of the Day (Isak Dinesen, on Sorrows and Stories)

“All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story or tell a story about them.”—Danish author Karen Blixen, aka Isak Dinesen (1885-1962), quoted in Hannah Arendt., The Human Condition (1958)

Monday, August 29, 2016

Photo of the Day: The Sky as a ‘Miraculous Achievement’ in Hilton Head

I snapped this image late in the day while on vacation, in November 2014, in Hilton Head, S.C. Looking at the photo now, it brings to mind these lines from Lewis Thomas’ 1974 bestseller, The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher:

“It is hard to feel affection for something as totally impersonal as the atmosphere, and yet there it is, as much a part and product of life as wine or bread. Taken all in all, this sky is a miraculous achievement. It works, and for what it is designed to accomplish it is as infallible as anything in nature."

A glorious sky is not to be taken for granted, any more than life itself should be.

Quote of the Day (David Sedaris, on When a School Subject Becomes Handy)

“When asked ‘What do we need to learn this for?’ any high-school teacher can confidently answer that, regardless of the subject, the knowledge will come in handy once the student hits middle age and starts working crossword puzzles in order to stave off the terrible loneliness. Because it’s true. Latin, geography, the gods of ancient Greece and Rome: unless you know these things, you’ll be limited to doing the puzzles in People magazine, where the clues read ‘Movie title, Gone____the Wind’ and ‘It holds up your pants.’” —David Sedaris, Me Talk Pretty One Day (2000)

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Quote of the Day (St. Ignatius of Loyola, on Desolation and Patience)

“Let him who is in desolation strive to remain in patience, a virtue contrary to the troubles which harass him; and let him think that he will shortly be consoled, using all endeavors against the desolation in the way explained in the sixth rule.”— St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), The Spiritual Exercises: Rules for the Discernment of Spirits (Fourth Edition Revised)

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Photo of the Day: Episcopal Cathedral of St. John, Providence RI

Last October, on a short vacation in Providence, I was struck, from across Main Street, by the sight of this building, and decided to take a picture and identify the structure. As I drew closer, I was stunned to find the following notice on the door: “The Cathedral parish has suspended services and the Cathedral building is not currently open.”

In researching this blog post, I discovered that the building needed major repairs and that the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island did not believe the parish’s dwindling congregation could sustain the expense. Still, I suspect that so much more was involved with the decision to close.

I’m not Episcopalian, but as a Catholic, I know that the decision to shutter this kind of institution can be traumatic. People are correct that at the heart of a church are people, not buildings. 

But by the same token, a house of worship is not simply a building, even one of architectural or historic influence (as this one, with a cornerstone laid in 1810, surely is). For its parishioners, it’s a symbol of their history—where they or members of their families were baptized, took communion, absorbed the lessons of their faith, wed, or were buried. Something in the heart dies when this kind of institution is no longer used.

A couple of months before I visited Providence, the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island announced that the cathedral would undergo a new use, becoming purportedly the first museum to explore Northern involvement in the African slave trade. It is a deeply and painfully personal matter for the diocese, which acknowledged its own complicity in perhaps the central tragedy of American history.

I hope this reuse will move the spirit of those who will behold this stunning building when it reopens under new auspices. But, in contrast to what was here before, the spirits of visitors will be moved to lament rather than to experience joy.