Category Archives: Noted In Passing

“Need is Not Belief”

A friend sent me this poem by Anne Sexton.  I’m adding it to my contemporary psalter for the doubting hearts. “Need is not belief.” Amen.

 

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The FishBike Scale of Big Mistakes

The best thing I’ve read on the internet today, from Metafilter user FishBike.  Below is the G-rated version, the original has an instance of more intense profanity.

This is probably as good a time as any to publish the FishBike scale of Big Mistakes. Basically, you rate the size of a mistake by which field of study is affected by it.

Category 1: Journalism. Your mistake is big enough to be reported in the news somewhere.

Category 2: History. School children decades from now will be reading about your mistake in their textbooks.

Category 3: Geography. Your mistake is bad enough that maps are different afterwards. Entire towns or cities may have disappeared, or people change place names so they can forget about your mistake.

Category 4: Geology. Millenia from now, scientists will be wondering what made that giant hole in the ground or why that mountain isn’t there any more.

Category 5: Astronomy. Scientists on other planets, peering at our solar system through their telescopes, will see a bright flash and ask themselves “What the heck was that?”

I am happy to report that I have made no big mistakes this week, and I bet you haven’t either.  Be gracious and don’t sweat the small stuff.

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The Struggle For Authenticity

“In the world to come I shall not be asked, ‘Why were you not Moses?’ I shall be asked, ‘Why were you not Zusya?’”

– Rabbi Zusya

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The Vagaries of Google

These are some things that people who stumbled upon my blog searched for yesterday:

  • the water cycle start to finish
  • alice disney
  • who to get to dimantel a barn and to rebuild into a house
  • princess games
  • why did fundamentalists oppose all forms of evolution
  • alasdair macintyre are we entering a new dark ages

By my count, that’s four completely disappointed people, one fairly disappointed person, and one semi-satisfied surfer.

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Saint Jack on Irksome Prayer

I knew that I was echoing something C.S. Lewis wrote when I mentioned the “irksomeness of prayer.”  I looked up the original passage, from Letters to Malcolm. He was dealing with a different kind of frustration, but I still appreciate it when the dear don acknowledges that prayer, for him, isn’t a stream of endless delight.

Well, let’s now at any rate come clean.  Prayer is irksome.  An excuse to omit it is never unwelcome.  When it is over, this casts a feeling of relief and holiday over the rest of the day.  We are reluctant to begin.  We are delighted to finish.  While we are at prayer, but not while we are reading a novel or solving a crossword puzzle, any trifle is enough to distract us.  And we know that we are not alone in this.  The fact that prayers are constantly set as penances tells its own tale.

It should also be noted that “irksome” is a delightful word and needs to be employed more frequently, whether in reference to prayer or anything else.  Like “the irksomeness of Yo Gabba Gabba.”

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The Myth of Spielbergian Sentimentalism

Director Stephen Spielberg speaking at the Pen...

Image via Wikipedia

Not one of my normal topics, but I loved this insightful comment from Prospero at Metafilter:

But see, the thing is (and I love ET, just as I love almost all Spielberg movies) that when people talk about “Spielbergian sentimentalism,” and so on, I don’t quite agree. Steven Spielberg is one of the bitterest commercially successful directors working. No mainstream director is as consistently subversive; no director is so fully committed to depicting the failure of the ideal of the 1980s American nuclear family.

Time and again in his movies you get a nuclear family that’s abandoned by its father figure to chase some wild-eyed fantasy, because in Spielberg’s world families just aren’t meant to hold together, for people prefer idle idealistic fantasies to the family structure that’s supposed to be the realization of the American dream. In Jaws the family gets abandoned for some guy to chase a giant shark. In Close Encounters of the Third Kind the family (which is even more deliberately annoying, especially the screaming kids) gets abandoned for some guy to chase a spaceship. In Hook the family gets abandoned for some guy to play Peter Pan. And ET is a pretty clever trick, because while you, the audience member, are distracted by the little animatronic alien making its quirky noises, just as if you’re the standard Spielberg protagonist, you don’t have your eye on the ball–you’re not noticing the single mother in the kitchen who drifts off to the edge of the frame and cries for a little while, then turns and re-enters the action with a false smile on her face as if there’s nothing wrong. And listen to the wisecracks that the doctors make over ET’s corpse–that is a complicated and bitter movie, with a deliberate sugarcoating to make the subversion commercially palatable.

The further in Spielberg’s career we go, the more cynical he gets, and he still gets a sentimental rap. In A.I. we even get a movie that ends with [spoiler] a child cheerfully climbing into bed with the corpse of his own mother [end spoiler] and the general consensus is still, “Well, that movie was great, until it turned into a Spielberg movie.”

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Thought for the Day

“He who begins by loving Christianity better than truth, will proceed by loving his own sect or church better than Christianity, and end in loving himself better than all.”–Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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