Novelty

We listen with deep interest to what we hear, for to man novelty is ever charming.

It is impossible to approve in Catholic publications a style inspired by unsound novelty which seems to deride the piety of the faithful and dwells on the introduction of a new order of Christian life, on new directions of the Church, on new aspirations of the modern soul, on a new social vocation of the clergy, on a new Christian civilization, and many other things of the same kind.

Is Humanism a religion, perhaps, the next great religion? Yes, it must be so characterized, for the word, religion, has become a symbol for answers to that basic interrogation of human life, the human situation, and the nature of things---which every human being, in some degree and in some fashion, makes. What can I expect from life? What kind of universe is it? Is there, as some say, a friendly Providence in control of it? And, if not, what then? The universe of discourse of religion consists of such questions, and the answers relevant to them. Christian theism and Vedantic mysticism are but historic frameworks in relation to which answers have in the past been given to these poignant and persistent queries. But there is nothing sacrosanct and self-certifying about these frameworks. What Humanism represents is the awareness of another framework, more consonant with wider and deeper knowledge about man and his world. The Humanist movement is engaged in formulating answers, with what wisdom it can achieve, to these basic questions. It would be absurd to expect complete novelty in either framework or answers. Many people throughout the ages have had a shrewd suspicion that established beliefs were insecurely based. Humanism at its best represents a growth and a maturing of its perspective...I fear that the orthodox idea of religion is something static and given---once for all. The Humanist thinks of his answers as responsible ones, that is, responsible to the best thought and knowledge on the subjects involved. He [they are] is always ready for honest debate... I want to contrast the perspective of Humanism with that of traditional rationalism...There is no Humanist who does not appreciate with respect and admiration the moving story of the Gospels. Seen as one of the culminations of Judaism in the setting of the Roman Empire, it speaks to us of nobility of soul, human love, pity, and comradeship; and this among everyday people fired by moral and religious leadership of high quality. The heroic and the earthly touch meet, and mingle; and so it has been ever since... What have the intervening centuries made possible? The gradual disentangling of ethical principle and example from both the early framework of belief and the later ecclesiastical development of power and dogma which supervened. But the notes of love and self-sacrifice remain as perennial chords. This also, is greatly human. The older rationalism was on the defensive. And so it expressed itself too often in negative terms: not this; not that; not God; not revelation; not personal immortality. What Humanism signified was a shift from negation to construction. There came a time when naturalism no longer felt on the defensive. Rather, supernaturalism began, it its eyes, to grow dim and fade out despite all the blustering and rationalizations of its advocates.

It is clear according to what we have said that these (doctrines) do not only
lead to dogmatic relativism, but already contain it in act; the contempt of the doctrine
commonly taught and of the terms in which it expressed itself are already too close
to it... .The expressions that, during the course of several centuries, were established
by a common consent of Catholic doctors in order to arrive at some understanding of
dogma surely do not rest on such a fragile foundation. They rest, in fact, on principles
and notions taken from the true knowledge of created things; in the research of these
notions revealed truth enlightened the human mind like a star by means of the Church.
That is why it is not surprising that some of these notions have not only been used
in ecumenical Councils but have received such a sanction that it is not permitted to
distance oneself from them. Thus it is very imprudent to substitute for them fl oating
and vague notions and expressions of a new philosophy that are used today and will
disappear tomorrow like the fl owers of the fi eld; this would be to make dogma itself
a reed shaken by the wind. In fact, unfortunately these lovers of novelty easily pass
from contempt of Scholastic theology to a lack of respect for and even contempt of
the magisterium of the Church which has so strongly supported this theology by its
authority.

Good talk is like good scenery - continuous, yet constantly varying, and full of the charm of novelty and surprise.

All wonder is the effect of novelty on ignorance.

A Faint Music -

Maybe you need to write a poem about grace.

When everything broken is broken,
and everything dead is dead,
and the hero has looked into the mirror with complete contempt,
and the heroine has studied her face and its defects
remorselessly, and the pain they thought might,
as a token of their earnestness, release them from themselves
has lost its novelty and not released them,
and they have begun to think, kindly and distantly,
watching the others go about their days—
likes and dislikes, reasons, habits, fears—
that self-love is the one weedy stalk
of every human blossoming, and understood,
therefore, why they had been, all their lives,
in such a fury to defend it, and that no one—
except some almost inconceivable saint in his pool
of poverty and silence—can escape this violent, automatic
life’s companion ever, maybe then, ordinary light,
faint music under things, a hovering like grace appears.

As in the story a friend told once about the time
he tried to kill himself. His girl had left him.
Bees in the heart, then scorpions, maggots, and then ash.
He climbed onto the jumping girder of the bridge,
the bay side, a blue, lucid afternoon.
And in the salt air he thought about the word “seafood,”
that there was something faintly ridiculous about it.
No one said “landfood.” He thought it was degrading to the rainbow perch
he’d reeled in gleaming from the cliffs, the black rockbass,
scales like polished carbon, in beds of kelp
along the coast—and he realized that the reason for the word
was crabs, or mussels, clams. Otherwise
the restaurants could just put “fish” up on their signs,
and when he woke—he’d slept for hours, curled up
on the girder like a child—the sun was going down
and he felt a little better, and afraid. He put on the jacket
he’d used for a pillow, climbed over the railing
carefully, and drove home to an empty house.

There was a pair of her lemon yellow panties
hanging on a doorknob. He studied them. Much-washed.
A faint russet in the crotch that made him sick
with rage and grief. He knew more or less
where she was. A flat somewhere on Russian Hill.
They’d have just finished making love. She’d have tears
in her eyes and touch his jawbone gratefully. “God,”
she’d say, “you are so good for me.” Winking lights,
a foggy view downhill toward the harbor and the bay.
“You’re sad,” he’d say. “Yes.” “Thinking about Nick?”
“Yes,” she’d say and cry. “I tried so hard,” sobbing now,
“I really tried so hard.” And then he’d hold her for a while—
Guatemalan weavings from his fieldwork on the wall—
and then they’d fuck again, and she would cry some more,
and go to sleep.
And he, he would play that scene
once only, once and a half, and tell himself
that he was going to carry it for a very long time
and that there was nothing he could do
but carry it. He went out onto the porch, and listened
to the forest in the summer dark, madrone bark
cracking and curling as the cold came up.

It’s not the story though, not the friend
leaning toward you, saying “And then I realized—,”
which is the part of stories one never quite believes.
I had the idea that the world’s so full of pain
it must sometimes make a kind of singing.
And that the sequence helps, as much as order helps—
First an ego, and then pain, and then the singing.

When everything broken is broken,
and everything dead is dead,
and the hero has looked into the mirror with complete contempt,
and the heroine has studied her face and its defects
remorselessly, and the pain they thought might,
as a token of their earnestness, release them from themselves
has lost its novelty and not released them,
and they have begun to think, kindly and distantly,
watching the others go about their days—
likes and dislikes, reasons, habits, fears—
that self-love is the one weedy stalk
of every human blossoming, and understood,
therefore, why they had been, all their lives,
in such a fury to defend it, and that no one—
except some almost inconceivable saint in his pool
of poverty and silence—can escape this violent, automatic
life’s companion ever, maybe then, ordinary light,
faint music under things, a hovering like grace appears.

All wonder is the effect of novelty on ignorance.

A pair of lovers are like sunset and sunrise: there are such things every day but we very seldom see them.

Adversity has ever been considered as the state in which a man most easily becomes acquainted with himself, being free from flatterers.

Allow children to be happy in their own way, for what better way will they find?

Time, with all its celerity, moves slowly on to him whose whole employment is to watch its flight.

A pair of lovers are like sunset and sunrise: there are such things every day but we very seldom see them.

Adversity has ever been considered as the state in which a man most easily becomes acquainted with himself, being free from flatterers.

Allow children to be happy in their own way, for what better way will they find?

Time, with all its celerity, moves slowly on to him whose whole employment is to watch its flight.

The younger and healthier a woman is and the more her new and glossy body seems destined for eternal freshness, the less useful is artifice; but the carnal weakness of this prey that man takes and its ominous deterioration always have to be hidden from him...In any case, the more traits and proportions of a woman seem contrived, the more she delighted the heart of man because she seemed to escape the metamorphosis of natural things. The result is this strange paradox that by desiring to grasp nature, but transfigured, in woman, man destines her to artifice.

But in the case of man, hard as it is for him to learn how to submit to rule, it seems far harder to know how to rule over men, and hardest of all, with this rule of ours, which leads them by the divine law, and to God, for its risk is, in the eyes of a thoughtful man, proportionate to its height and dignity. For, first of all, he must, like silver or gold, though in general circulation in all kinds of seasons and affairs, never ring false or alloyed, or give token of any inferior matter, needing further refinement in the fire; or else, the wider his rule, the greater evil he will be. Since the injury which extends to many is greater than that which is confined to a single individual… nothing is so easy as to become evil, even without any one to lead us on to it; while the attainment of virtue is rare and difficult, even where there is much to attract and encourage us.

Geoffrey also recognized that the opposite orientations of gut and nervous system posed a problem for his claim that insects and vertebrates represent different versions of the same archetypal animal - and he proposed the first account of the inversion theory to resolve this threat to unification. ...Geoffroy pursued the... aim of establishing a unity of type that could generate both arthropods and vertebrates from the same basic blueprint. ...The single grand design includes a gut in the middle and the main nerve cords somewhere on the periphery.