Can’t Keep a Lukewarm Man Down

Despite, and to spite, my last post, here I am again.

Try as I might otherwise, the Nicene Creed, the Baltimore Catechism, the stories of the Saints, the old prayers, and the general damn weirdness of Catholicism are what I believe. Now just pray that I can live accordingly.

~A rebel of the Sacred Heart

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Milk of Mercy (reposted)

[B]ide the coming                                                                                                                                    of that final day, counting no man happy                                                                                          till he has crossed life’s boundary free of pain.                                                                                                                  ~Sophocles

To live–that means to be sick a long time.                                                                                                                        ~Plato

An everlasting law is made,                                                                                                                  That all things born shall fade.                                                                                                                                           ~Boethius

It is a misery to be born, a paid to live, a trouble to die.                                                                                              ~St. Bernard of Clairvaux

I have nothing left to say to most people, friends and family included, apart from the inane niceties that make polite conversation possible. I am still working out what I believe, but there is no reason to make a bathetic public spectacle of it, requesting reader participation in my own psycho-drama. Until I feel that I have something worthwhile to print, I bid adieu to this blog. I believe it most fitting to repost a quasi-eponymous post, lightly edited, from 6 January 2011, for this indeterminate conclusion.

Opinions on Bourbon whiskey

Jim Beam: my first

One of the most dizzying pieces that I have ever read is Walker Percy’s essay “Bourbon,” most easily found in his book Signposts in a Strange Land.  Reading this essay will provoke the trifecta of mind, heart, and soul to come together to revel in a timeless truth modulated into a late twentieth century context. Percy’s essay is dark, tongue-in-cheek, trenchant, and delicious. I would suggest it to all who are concerned with truth and the nature of reality, but, in the meantime, I believe a proper proclamation for my sweet love, bourbon, is long overdue.

In response to why Percy drinks bourbon despite all its attendant dangers, he writes: What, after all, is the use of not having cancer, cirrhosis, and such, if a man comes home from work every day at five-thirty to the exurbs of Montclair or Memphis and there is the grass growing and the little family looking not quite at him but just past the side of his head, and there’s Cronkite on the tube and the smell of pot roast in the living room, and inside the house and outside in the pretty exurb has settled the noxious particles and the sadness of the old dying Western world, and him thinking: “Jesus, is this it? Listening to Cronkite and the grass growing?

Percy does not advocate an idiotic absorption of bourbon in order to effect a mind-numbing state of dissipation and disordered freedom. Instead, he touts the inherent ability of this corn-derived whisky “to reduce the anomie of the late twentieth century.” Percy is not concerned with the latent bacchanalian tendencies that bourbon tends to release from below the earth/belly but the “virtue of [the] evocation of time and memory and the recovery of self and past from the fogged-in disoriented Western world.”

For me, drinking bourbon goes far beyond the mere act of ingesting ingredients that will eventually work their way toward my cerebral cortex, acting as a calefacient; rather, drinking is my act of defiance against this stupid and blind day and age that no longer knows what questions to ask in its attempts to understand what it means to be human. What does it mean that we are creatures who traffic and trade in symbols in order to convey our thoughts about reality? How do we explain why we respond to the most favorable of environments in the most inconsistent and unpredictable of ways? Why do we seem to be born to trouble as sparks are bound to fly upwards? Why are we willing to expend all our efforts and energies in the creation of that which is without very much pragmatic and industrial value—art? Why do brief sunsets, stolen kisses, Greek and Southern tragedies, irritating but faithful friends, addictive relationships, and immoderately-consumed bourbon still inspire us to create? My God, what does it mean to create? These questions I ask myself as I shoot back my bourbon in a seamless motion that involves my entire right arm as I reverently bring the consecrated glass to my mouth. My left arm, not to be overlooked in this sacramental act, allows me to rub off into the crevices of my palm what remains on my lips. As I feel the smooth stream of fire slither down my throat and the afterglow work its way over my bones and through to the pores of my skin, I believe that I am drawing closer to the center of Being. I could simply be drawing closer to the ground.

Bourbon, she is indeed a hard mistress, and, because I am a jealous person both by nature and by habit, I like for us to be alone. But afterwards! How I want to share the fruits of our creative love with all. I realize that I do love life because of its darkly comic nature and that we are truly set apart for something great and that I want everyone to be forgiven. William Faulkner once said that between his choice of scotch and water, he would choose scotch any day. Well, between my choice of wallowing in the anomie of a burgeoning twenty-first century, a day and age that refuses to consider humanity and its implicated fullness, and bourbon as my milk of mercy and the liquid of ontological awareness, I will choose bourbon. Western civilization is crumbling, you tell me? We all know that, do we not? Do we still have time, though, before it all ends, for a little bourbon, a cigarette, and maybe a kiss?

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Yeah, Another Post Like This

This is the Hope Sandoval circa ’94 that today I would marry in a New York-Adderall minute. Goodness to the graciousness of all existence and wonder, this darling is a number of ideals incarnate. I find amusing the lackadaisical reaction of the jaded audience; I guess they were all waiting for Pearl Jam and Eddie Vedder’s vowel abuse. Also, the way that she is holding one arm with the other behind her back is a classic tell-tale sign of introversion; I should know as an introvert who has to play an extrovert in the classroom and at the bar. Oh, Hope, let us go back to ’94 and simply sit in the same room together, passionately ignoring each other while surreptitiously studying every move.

Postscript: there is a waitress at one of my local restaurants that reminds me of Hope. That could be why I shamelessly flirt with her every damn time I see her. Though the gap in age is too great for any serious consideration, her sultry eyes, sharp smile, dark hair, shapely figure, and crooked teeth (not really like Hope in most of the aforementioned ways; I may just enjoy flirting with her) bring a bitter man like I more joy than I find in most of my day-to-day activities. This is why I could never have been a priest. Sorry, Fr. ____________; even you told me that I was running from God by not entering the seminary, still, beautiful women are necessary for my well-being. [I recall one homily in which a radtrad priest intimated that those who may feel called to the priesthood but do not pursue it may lead not only themselves but the ones they love to hell.] If I wanted to work with a group of loudmouth harpies, effeminate priests, and masculine nuns (modern Catholic Church) for “social justice” and open borders and niceness,  I would have become a social worker–Lord knows Mississippi needs ’em.  As it now, I would rather study classical Latin (not ecclesiastical), read pagan philosophers, memorize decadent Decadent French poetry, drink more bourbon than I should, and think about the three to five women that I should have married (not all at once, mind you, wags) but did not because I was a coward–mostly because I was afraid of committing mortal sin simply by being in a relationship. [Note to reader: if you have never experienced a certain theological strain of Catholicism, that preceding dilemma will ring hollow to you.] That is the real shame: I wish I had gotten married back when I was still idealistic and flexible (time-wise/career-wise/location of living-wise, not morally or, um, physically). Now, after all, I could care less if the world burns–I just want to be left alone with my books, Internet connection, and bourbon. Granted, if the world burns, I may lose two to three of those.

Why the hell not? True:

One of the most agonizingly beautiful covers:

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Indulgent Interview: Because I Ask Myself the Best Questions (reposted)

Another reposted publication–this time from Jan. 18, 2011. (I was rather active that month; where did the magic go?) This particular submission harkens back to when I was a much more serious Catholic. Also, if one is so curious as to read the comments from this particular post, one will see a comment left by my perceptive ex-fiancee. Goodness, I wish that I was still this clever. I think my heavy drinking has taken its toll….

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I interrogating me 2017.

Me1: Thank you for granting me this request.
Me2: Thank you for allowing me to talk about myself.
Me1: Always a fascinating topic, if I can say so….
Me2: You most certainly can, and you’re telling me.
Me1: Yes, clever; I am…I….
Me2: Me?
Me1: Yes, you. So you tell me: Why did you choose the obscure twelve century Flemish saint St. Drogo as your patron saint?
Me2: What’s not to love about a saint who grew a tremendous tumor on his face—to the point that women and children would cry out upon seeing him? He became so hideous that he built a cell adjacent to a church and fashioned a small window through which he could receive food and the Eucharist without having to burden anybody with his ugly visage in church. I wish more parishioners would do the same—especially those who wear track pants to Mass.
Me1: Strong words. I hear that he is the patron saint of ugly people, the insane, and coffee lovers.
Me2: You’ve heard correctly—all guilty pleasures of mine.
Me1: ???
Me2: I didn’t know a person could speak in question mark-ese.
Me1: Takes dedication and symbolization. However: ???
Me2: Saint Drogo is the patron saint of outcasts, in my opinion. You know, it would be like Johnny Depp becoming a saint…but just not as winsome and good-looking.
Me1: Well, your opinion usually is spot on.
Me2: And spotted, if you know what I mean.
Me1: I don’t, but that has never stopped me in the past.
Me2: Nor should it.
Me1: Speaking of the “Catholic Church”…
Me2: We weren’t.
Me1: Speaking of the “Catholic Church”…
Me2: Yes?
Me1: How can you still believe in an institution that has become nearly synonymous with corruption, hypocrisy, and manipulation? Not to mention the multitude of beliefs and practices that are required of you in order to remain a card-carrying member…
Me2: A church of the corrupt and of the hypocritical and of the manipulative? Hot damn—that is where I belong. Also, I like carrying cards in my wallet, especially the kind that will get you discounts at Hobby Lobby.
Me1: Okay, point taken…
Me2: Point was first freely given, for something cannot give what it does not have.
Me1: Touché.
Me2: Do you mean “touch,” as we say in God-elected America?
Me1: No, and please don’t touch me, in America or anywhere else. So, all the baggage? All the beliefs—you know, like, you know, death, heaven, hell, and final judgment? Really? Not to mention all the other stuff about birth control and purgatory and crazy saints. Really?
Me2: Shit, brother, we talk about these things while drunk, while not believe them while sober?
Me1: You’re ever sober?
Me2: You caught me. Did I mention “hypocritical”?
Me1: I am reminded of Walker Percy’s mildly perverse character Dr. Tom Moore in Love in the Ruins:

I, for example, am a Roman Catholic, albeit a bad one. I am believe in the Holy Catholic  Apostolic and Roman Church, in the God the Father, in the election of the Jews, in Jesus
Christ His Son our Lord, who founded the Church on Peter his first vicar, which will last until the end of the world. Some years ago, however, I stopped eating Christ in Communion, stopped going to mass, and have since fallen into a disorderly life. I believe in God and the whole business but I love women best, music and science next, whiskey next, God fourth, and my fellowman hardly at all. Generally I do as I please. A man, wrote John, who says he believes in God and does not keep his commandments is a liar. If John is right, then I am a liar. Nevertheless, I still believe.

Me2: Apropos—except I love whiskey much more than I’ll ever love science.
Me1: Duly noted. And you should. How much whiskey do you drink, by the way?
Me2: Shhhhhhhh.
Me1: How do you think a nation founded on abstract propositions (Ex: [A]ll men are created equal yadda, yadda, yadda…) as opposed to one expanding from an organically developed ethno-history can now maintain a functional yet multicultural unity with no higher regulating ethos than efficiency and consumer geo-capitalism?
Me2: Hell if I know.
Me1: True, knowledge does bring moral culpability, and an awareness of unconfessed culpability will lead to…
Me2: Shhhhhhhh.
Me1: I like your strategy in avoiding hard moral truths.
Me2: Such training begins at home.
Me1: Speaking of “home”…
Me2: We weren’t.
Me1: This again?
Me2: I usually have to repeat my lines twice before I learn them.
Me1: You’re reading from a script?
Me2: Well, Oscar Wilde used to prepare quips the night prior to a social engagement and then direct the conversation so as to create opportunities then to unleash what he had rehearsed the night before.
Me1: Would you sink to such a level of artifice?
Me2: No need to sink any lower than I already have. But, yes.
Me1: You strike me as a man with very strong views, especially on subjects like place and local responsibility.
Me2: Believe me, such ugly rumors are strongly overstated and overrated.
Me1: How can you say this? You started them.
Me2: Somebody had to, for crying out loud.
Me1: Cry? Do you cry much these days?
Me2: Only when I don’t have money for bourbon.
Me1: Let’s talk about place.
Me2: Let’s not.
Me1: Why not?
Me2: Why talk about a subject that will invariably lead to an examination of modern (whatever that damn term means) man’s anomie and intrinsic restlessness, his inability to commit to the joys and triumphs and failures of a particular place, and his specious belief that life will reveal itself as more authentic if he can just get in his car and leave his zip code behind in his mirror. Besides, I might start crying…
Me1: Can’t have that, for I am fresh out of pity.
Me2: Thank you.
Me1: Ever think that you are really more of an aesthete than you are a Catholic? I mean, we know how much you appreciate—if not live for—beautiful women, literature, music, art, food, and drink.
Me2: Oh, I think that all the time—usually while in the presence of beautiful women, listening to good music, talking about fine literature, and eating and drinking to my gut’s content.
Me1: Your thoughts?
Me2: I am a rotten Catholic.
Me1: What do you think about beautiful women?
Me2: Not enough of them.
Me1: Music and literature?
Me2: Makes being a human in general and a Catholic in particular tolerable.
Me1: I see. Drink?
Me2: Is the first round on you?
Me1: Yes.
Me2: Let’s.
Me1: Before we do, though, let me ask…Wait! Are you sipping from a flask?
Me2: Couldn’t wait.
Me1: Very well. Interview finished.
Me2: Sip sip.

 

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Where Have All the Pinball Machines Gone? (reposted)

Because there is nothing quite like quoting myself, here is another repost. I first published this Jan. 7th, 2011. This still remains one of my favorite posts. I have lightly edited it for republication.

Pinball Machines - Desktop Wallpaper

While waiting for my water to heat up for my oatmeal this morning, I scanned the weekly slick, American Profile, which comes with the local paper. Two curiosities: a Korean Christian comedian from Tennessee (“South Korean”—ha ha) who specializes in clean comedy and a pinball machine collector in Las Vegas. The latter, an article by Audrey T. Hingley, profiles one Tim Arnold, a former video arcade operator, who now runs the Las Vegas Pinball Collectors Club, a nonprofit social club for pinball aficionados. As someone who, from time to time, considers the present plight of the noble pinball machine, I read the article with more zest than I usually allow myself prior to breakfast. What stands out most strikingly to me is Arnold’s comment: “It’s man versus machine.”  With that comment, the ball fell into the gobble hole.

Walk into an arcade or a restaurant that still maintains a game console, and what do you see? Probably a creepy diminutive man watching young boys. What do you not see? Pinball machines. Why?

Pinball machines are all Incarnation, no Gnosticism.  From the moment that you apply compressive stress to the plunger to that heady moment that you let go—with an explosion of fingers—of that rubber-capped spring, everything about the pinball machine experience is concrete and physical. Absorb the vibrations of the machine as it dances in place, bumpers and slingshots calling the dance steps. Look around. Nobody is watching—nudge it a bit. Press your body against the machine. A bit more. Full tilt! You just learned a poignant lesson in excess. Multiple balls? Keep them in the flow if you can. If not, abstract what romantic axiom you can from this loss.  Finally, despite all valiant efforts, the flipper proves a few centimeters too short (ahem).

Video games, for the most part, currently seek to create a theatre immersion experience for the gamer. Absent is the battle of man versus machine. In its stead: a man (or what is left of him) merges with the machine. While the overall experience affects one as more engrossing, the I-Thou separation—the conflict—seems less sharp and dramatic. As a result, the victories fail to be as triumphant, and the losses are more consoling.

Yes, consolation. Losses do not sting as violently. It is one thing to watch a pixilated character perish, another to watch and to feel the metallic orb—once so alive—roll into a pit of oblivion. Is the trend to foster immunity against loss (in whatever form) the culprit in the disappearance of pinball machines? Must we be inured against loss in even our games? If we cannot lose in play, then what about in those areas where a risk might make all the difference? Moving to a new city. Moving to a new country. Learning a new language. Going back to school. Telling your boss to note the mistletoe tied to your derriere. Working up the courage to say: “Walk away from me if you must, block my calls, and de-friend me on Facebook, but evening is coming, and—dammit—I love you.”

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Never Catch the Covert Look

I have been posting too many videos of ephemera these past few weeks. To rectify this: let me quote from Graham Greene’s The Heart of the Matter, though some wags may say the ephemera posting continues. I underlined this passage when I first read it nearly a decade and half ago, and I still stand by it:

He had no sense of responsibility towards the beautiful and the graceful and the intelligent. They could find their own way. It was the face for which nobody go out of his way, the face that would never catch the covert look, the face which would soon be used to rebuffs and indifference that demanded his allegiance. The word “pity” is used as loosely as the word “love”: the terrible promiscuous passion which so few experience. 

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My Humilating Christian Music Background

Unlike the whippersnapper Christians of today with their iPhones and magic no-sex elixirs, my generation had to have serious conversations as to what constitutes acceptable Christian art. Names/terms like Francis Schaeffer and reformed apologetics and Thomism and Image Journal and the three denominations of reality (not those kinds: the Good, the True, the Beautiful) were tossed around in the mix over coffee or beer. (Good heavens, I miss those days.) We took seriously the possibility that certain rhythms might have been intrinsically vile, thus making certain forms of music–regardless of the lyrical content a la the medium is the message–inappropriate for Christian production and consumption. You young X-tian punks have no damn clue. No damn clue. For the most part, technology and culture–neither Christ nor His church–have dictated was is acceptable, and I suppose that this is unavoidable. For example, a recent Rod Dreher column (find it yourself, my dears) blames the dearth of marriages on the availability of easy, easy sex. I tend to agree. Why marry–unless you are uber-religious–if you can get exciting, thrilling, porn-star sex for little-to-no cost? I cannot think of counter-arguments that do not involve sentimental attachments to sacramental forms that most no longer believe as true or do not involve the term hell, which, for all its possible realities, does not seem like a counter-argument that will presently appeal to many. (Traditional Catholics–ones for whom I have great respect–wept.) Some may counter that marriage (as in between a man and a woman–the only ontological reality for marriage) is necessary for the formation of healthy and well-adjusted children. Okay, and how many Christians are a). not on birth control and are actually having children and b). willing to speak such things in the presence of their adorable gay friends and their valiant single-mom friends? Right.

Given that I am still working on my musical autobiography submission, let me, in the meantime, post a litany (he-he-he) of “Christian” videos. No commentary will be provided, so do your homework.

 

…and this because Ronnie realized what a joke CCM is/was.

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