Saturday, April 25, 2009

Divided by a Common Language

In Toronto I once brought a group of my fellow graduate students almost to tears of laughter by commenting offhand that I thought that anyone who talked much about supervenience ought to be drug out in the street and shot. It's a common enough idiom, but seems to be largely confined to the Southern U.S. (hence the use of the dialectical 'drug' rather than 'dragged'). They'd never heard the expression before; they recognized it as hyperbole, but still found the lack of proportion hilariously funny. One could imagine, though, some people taking it quite literally and being shocked about it -- so very primitive, barbaric, and bloodthirsty! -- and one can even imagine a few misguided people, trying to be helpful, arguing that, in fact, there could very well be circumstances where you might want to shoot anyone who talks about supervenience.

The fact of the matter is, hyperbole is a standard trope in Texan conversation, and secession is a common topos in Texan discourse.* Except in very rare cases it has nothing to do with separatism; it's a way of expressing (1) annoyance at non-Texans and (2) pride at being Texan, both of which are common themes in Texan rhetoric. I remember reading somewhere, I forget where, of someone's shock that in a recent poll about 1/5 of Texan men and women said that they think Texas should secede from the Union. This is precisely why you should not trust polls; if you know enough Texans, you know it's precisely the sort of thing a lot of us would tell someone regardless of whether we literally believed it. There's no way, from the wording of the question, to tell who means it literally and who means it figuratively. Texan hyperbole, again. You have to remember that we're the sort of people who set up the unsuspecting by casually commenting that Texas is the biggest state and, when the literal-minded reply that Alaska is the biggest state, disdainfully respond, "Only on the outside," or, "The inside of my grandmother's freezer is bigger and more interesting than Alaska," or, "I was talking about the biggest state on God's map." And it really does confirm the prejudices of a lot of Texans that 'Yankees' are pinched-lipped, finger-wagging idiots when people can't see that Ted Nugent is obviously joking or that Perry's comments about secession were standard boilerplate rhetoric in parts of Texas. No doubt it's different elsewhere, and no doubt that's the problem here, but in the context of Texas trying to read anything into comments like that, at least beyond a general expression of dissatisfaction, is as worthless as trying to read what tea leaves tell you about the stock market.

* It is not equally common everywhere in Texas. In my experience the secession topos tends to be less common in urban centers, and also less common in Central Texas -- the latter almost certainly having to do with the influence of Austin, which contains an odd and ever-intriguing mix of the stereotypically Texan, hippy affectations, and cosmopolitan pretensions. It is very common in West and North Texas, however. It's possible that there are other factors.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Two Poem Drafts


The stars fell down; we felt
the light shift vivid red
and somewhere in Orion's belt
you fell down dead.
Your dreams whispered in ears
not made to hear your song
above their sundry fears
as, headlong,
they rushed to frivolous games,
drawn like light to well,
like moth to nova-flame,
like unfound souls to hell;
still you stood, stood still,
unchanged by changing winds,
a quiet rill
opposing tides of men.
All stars fail; in blinding light
they fall and fall
into deep night,
that deepest night that conquers all;
and all too soon,
your words still ringing in our heads,
on some strange, star-encircling moon
your spirit fled.

The Moon Sang Soprano

The moon sang soprano to the bass of the sea:
The fish danced in schools and defined ecstasy
As the waves crashed the shore with an infinite bliss
That was voiced by the deep and eternal abyss.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Blogroll Revision

As you can tell if you aren't reading this by feed, I am redoing my sidebar, especially my blogroll. It hadn't been updated (beyond an addition here or there) in a year, and Blogrolling, which was the means of organizing the main blogroll that I had used since the beginning, went to advertisements. I tried to live with the advertisements; I fully understand that a business has to stay in business. But it finally drove me crazy and I killed it. I'm also doing a bit of reorganizing. Strictly speaking I prefer to have blogs listed on the blogroll that I actually do read, and that requires that the blogger actually post at least semi-regularly. Depending on circumstances I'll allow a bit of flexibility, perhaps hoping that a lull is merely a lull, or because the posts that do trickle out are quite good. But if you don't post, you will eventually fall off the blogroll, however much I like your blog.

Of course, this is a great opportunity to hear what blogs you would recommend.

Reid on Appeals to Ridicule

An interesting passage by Reid:

Text not available
Essays on the Powers of the Human Mind To which are Added, An Essay on Quantity, and An Analysis of Aristotle's Logic ... By Thomas Reid

The idea that ridicule can be a test of truth was made famous by Shaftesbury; I haven't looked very extensively, but this is the only case I've ever come across of someone accepting it. The problem that's usually raised with using ridicule as a test is that ridicule often suggests more about the mind engaging in it than about the position ridiculed -- a frivolous mind will ridicule anything with which he disagrees.

(My own view is that ridicule is a test of nothing; rather, it's a rhetorical move, and like every rhetorical move is designed to move and influence. The real test is not ridicule but the quality of the reasoning and the accuracy of the representations that lead you to recognize something as ridiculous. That is, what does all the work is not the ridicule but its justness, to use the word Hume would use.)

God's in the Details, and the Devil Is, Too

One of the most difficult things one faces in the history of philosophy (and in many other fields of inquiry, I'd imagine) is generalizing from particular claims and arguments without destroying essential detail. On the one hand, to make sense of things we need to classify them, and classification involves generalization and abstraction from details. On the other hand, if you describe things vaguely enough, with no regard for possible distinctions, you can make anything seem consistent with anything, and anything seem inconsistent with anything, regardless of the actual state of the argument. For instance, you could take two positions that in fact are mutually exclusive and in fact are deliberately opposed to each other and treat them vaguely enough that you end up conflating contrary views. Likewise, you can take two very, very vague terms, like 'science' and 'religion', both of which cover any number of things, and talk about how 'science and religion are inconsistent'. Nobody in their right mind would argue that observing Passover makes it impossible to observe the stars; you certainly wouldn't mean that the Sikh doctrine of the Panth makes it impossible to study butterflies; you don't mean that the Sermon on the Mount contradicts the equations used in quantum physics; you aren't saying that the Catholic Church has commanded its members never to speculate about the Big Bang or the inflationary hypothesis. At least, if you were saying these things, you'd be a lunatic. So you must actually mean something very specific. And if you mean something specific, you have to ask yourself why you are talking about this very specific thing so vaguely, at a level where distinctions are lost and there is danger of unlike things being conflated and like things being misclassified. And if you meet someone who talks this vaguely about anything specific, you have to worry that it's a sign that they're playing a confidence game; only confidence men and snake-oil salesman talk that vaguely about specific things, because it's a way of talking about things that allows you to ignore relevant details and important distinctions. Another thing it allows you to do is to make inferences based purely on verbal similarity and not on anything of substance. Generalizations have to be made; but there is a form of generalization that involves equivocation. And that is to be avoided.

So the natural question is what steps should be taken to handle this potential problem. Are there domain-general guidelines that could be used? Or does it really vary from topic to topic? (Of course, both could be true.) How do you try to make sure that your abstractions and generalizations are abstract and general enough to work with but not so abstract and general that essential and relevant distinctions are lost?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Enlightenment and Authority

The proper effect of enlightenment, accordingly, is twofold: improved knowledge rules out illusory means and, insofar as it entails greater power, multiplies the genuine ones. To destroy the illusion of a means is not to cut the amplitude of choice, for, insofar as it extends to illusory means, choice itself is but an illusion. In an ideally enlightened community, authority would be spared the unhappy task of directing the common effrot, in the darkness of illusion, along a possibly disastrous line. But, inasmuch as an excellent condition of knowledge implies greatly increased power, social science at its perfection would multiply genuine means and broaden real choice. It would, consequently, increase the need fo rauthority as a factor of united action in the cases where the plurality of the genuine means renders unanimity fortuitous.

Yves R. Simon, A General Theory of Authority, University of Notre Dame Press (Notre Dame, Indiana: 1980) p. 45.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Ninth Centenary of St. Anselm's Death

James Chastek reminds us that it is the 900th anniversary of St. Anselm's death; so it's quite a significant dies natale. Michael Liccione kindly pointed to a post I did several years ago on Anselm's ontological argument (also cross-posted here), in which I suggested that it was sound in such a way that it could be rationally rejected; you can go over to one of those and discuss that post if you like. In a previous year I gave some Anselm-related links. Jasper Hopkins has some lovely online translations of his writings. If you do analytic philosophy, by the way, I strongly recommend the Fragmenta Philosophica; Anselm does analytic philosophy as well as and perhaps better than you do. Only the very best works of contemporary analytic philosophy are in the same league as Anselm's tour-de-force analysis of facere.

It seems fitting to mark the day with the prayer from the end of the Proslogion (I am using Hopkins's translation).

O God, I pray, let me know and love You, so that I may rejoice in You. And if I cannot in this life [know, love, and rejoice in You] fully, at least let me advance day by day until the point of fullness comes. Let knowledge of You progress in me here and be made full [in me] there. Let love for You grow [in me here] and be [made] full [in me] there, so that here my joy may be great with expectancy and there may be full in realization. O Lord, You command—or, rather, You counsel—[us] to ask through Your Son; and You promise [that we shall] receive, so that our joy may be full. O Lord, I ask for what You counsel through our marvelous Counselor; may I receive what You promise through Your Truth, so that my joy may be full. O God of Truth, I ask; may I receive, so that my joy may be full. Until then, may my mind meditate upon [what You have promised]; may my tongue speak of it. May my heart love it; may my mouth proclaim it. May my soul hunger for it; may my flesh thirst for [it]; may my whole substance desire [it] until such time as I enter into the joy of my Lord, the trine and one God, blessed forever. Amen.

Two Poem Re-Drafts


The room was dark with cloak of night,
but through the shade a glint of light
poured softly down from moon to floor;
I saw her standing at the door.
She drew near, with her palm
pushed hair from my eyes; in voice like balm
said, "Dearest boy"; and before I could flee
seized the pillow and murdered me.


Rich with wild wormwood
bitter in my taste
the triune in my body
deeply interlaced
I am green as glory
bewitchment in my soul
waiting in the glass
for God to make me whole

Wild and unruly
silent and insane
I stand upon the wasteland
waiting for the rain
rain drops down now slowly
sweet and cold as ice
heaven interfuses
I louche to paradise

Shepherd on Association of Ideas

Although an increased attention has been given to the doctrine of the association of ideas as being sufficient to account for most of the operations of mind, yet its nature has been looked upon as too simple and philosophical to require much scrutiny; whereas, that very power of association appears to me the most difficult of comprehension in nature; for how shall any given idea be supposed as associated with some other idea, which idea is not yet supposed to be in existence; one idea only present in the mind, a single simple perception, merely, cannot suggest an after perception, for the suggestion is the perception of the suggested idea itself.

The association of ideas can truly therefore, be nothing more than a compound idea ; than one being of thought, a conception of different qualities in unison. As a state of mind, as a given sensation, it must be immediately united with the action and with the state of the material organs which excite it, and coalesce therefore as one with it: thence merely forming one being, one given state of being.

Lady Mary Shepherd, Essay on the Association of Ideas, and the Interaction of Mind and Body. This is a very interesting sort of argument against Hume-style uses of association. The basic idea is this. Associationism requires us to say that one idea suggests another (according to resemblance, contiguity, or causation, for instance); but if we take association as a primitive (as Hume does) this is utterly mysterious, because it means that an idea that does not exist is called into existence by an idea that does, despite the fact that any number of alternative ideas could be pulled up. Seeing someone who looks like your best friend in third grade may make you think of your best friend in third grade; but only because your mind has already made the required association (that person looks like my best friend in third grade). So the movement from the one to the other can't be association itself; it presupposes it.

Shepherd's own gesture at how to understand associations in the imagination, the conclusion in the second paragraph quoted, is obscurely expressed, but if I understand her properly, she thinks that we should be explaining association of ideas in terms of more fundamental causes -- two more fundamental causes, in fact, the mind, which is capable of directing its ideas this way and that, and the material organs that make up the body. But more than that, her suggestion is that association of ideas is nothing other than the mind directing its ideas this way while the material organs excite the mind that way, and that therefore the sort of cognition involved in association is nothing other than mind and body joined as a single thing at a given moment under certain conditions.

Vinculae et Notanda

* It looks like we are finally going to be putting solar panels in space. Research for this sort of thing, in which solar satellites in space convert solar energy into either laser or microwave to beam down to earth, should have been pushed forward quite some time ago; it's the only way for solar power to become a genuinely significant option. JAXA (the Japanese counterpart to NASA) has had related projects in the works for some time. It's doubtful that it will lead to any sort of major revolution in power, but you never know where it will lead. The difficult and expensive part is just getting something up and running in the first place in order to learn from it. (ht)

* Susan Boyle recorded "Cry Me a River" for charity in 1999. You can hear it here. She apparently sent a demo using this song to a number of record companies a few years ago -- and couldn't find anyone interested.

* A fascinating and somewhat chilling lecture: Elizabeth Warren discusses The Coming Collapse of the Middle Class. (ht)

* Michael Flynn:

The best argument for final causes is the existence of laws of nature, like E=mc^2 or that a species evolves toward better fitness in a niche. In any case: a common course of nature. A causes the generation of B and not of C or D.

Exactly. The opposite of what occurs ex intentione is what occurs a casu; either things are simply coincidences arising from the unusual circumstances of unusual cases, or there is something that determines things to happen in a certain way always or for the most part. And that to which things are determined or disposed in this way is the end or final cause.

* The Alain Locke Society has a blog.

* The worrisome return of Mein Kampf.

* An internet list of the 50 most brilliant atheists of all time. As one might expect, there are a few errors (e.g., Epicurus was not an atheist, and the gods, despite being thoroughly uninterested in us and not being involved in the order of the world, seem to serve a vital function in his philosophy as ethical exemplars), a few odd choices (e.g., PZ Myers may have a certain charm if you are an atheist of a certain type, but putting him on a list like this makes it look like you are stretching to find enough brilliant atheists for the list), a few debatables (e.g., I wouldn't, but a lot of people, including a lot of atheists, would complain when it comes to Ayn Rand's place on the list), and a few strange omissions given the rest of the list (e.g., absolutely no eighteenth and nineteenth century atheists are listed except, oddly, for Andrew Carnegie -- no Diderot, no d'Holbach, no Eliot, Shelley, Feuerbach, Marx, Nietzsche). It is an extraordinarily parochial selection, overwhelmingly white and male (there are, for instance, exactly three women -- an author and two actresses), and it seems to lean deliberately bourgeois and American. But despite the utter absurdity of the headline, there are some good selections. I came upon it through Sean Carroll, who seems to think Voltaire was an atheist. No such luck, Sean; you'll have to look for him on a list of 50 brilliant theists. Voltaire had almost no patience for atheists, even if he had even less patience for Catholics.

* The list does make you think a bit. I'm trying to think of major scientists prior to the late nineteenth century who were atheists, and the only one I can think of offhand is Halley, and even there I'm not sure whether he was an atheist in the proper sense, because his contemporaries usually applied it to him in the loose sense the term often had in those days. But one would imagine that there are a few more. (In the humanities it's very easy; I can name more than a dozen off the top of my head.) Does anyone know of any?

* A thermal lance made from bacon.

* An interesting article on cognitive enhancers. It makes a point that is usually overlooked but in fact is quite important: cognitive enhancers don't generally improve general cognitive performance, but instead intensify one particular cognitive function. Thus while they almost always make you feel like you are performing better, you might not actually be performing better -- and, indeed, might even be performing worse. And the effect varies considerably from user to user. (You can see this even with something quite mild like caffeine: lots of people get a wake-up from caffeine, because it makes them feel less tired; but others, like myself, don't get that at all -- it keeps me awake but doesn't seem to make me feel any less tired than I otherwise would. Drinking caffeine to stay awake has always been disastrous for me: if I drink enough, I don't fall asleep but I get increasingly tired and muddled.) Cognitive excellence really requires the integration of a number of rather different cognitive functions and activities; arbitrarily enhancing one of these is as likely to throw things out of whack as to improve things. For most people, the old ways are the only reliable ones -- lots of challenging intellectual stimulation, regular exercise, good sleep, good diet.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Library on My Bedroom Floor

There is quite a pile of books on my bedroom floor, put there for all sorts of reasons -- some I'm in the middle of reading, some I used for some particular purpose and have never gotten around to putting on a shelf again, some I intend to get around to reading or re-reading. I thought I would gather together all the titles that are piled on my floor and post them here. It perhaps gives some notion of my interests although, of course, not all of them are equally liked.

Jaroslav Pelikan, The Melody of Theology.
Diana Wynne Jones, Unexpected Magic.
Gilles Deleuze, Spinoza.
Flann O'Brien, Further Cuttings from Cruiskeen Lawn.
James J. Murphy, Rhetoric in the Middle Ages.
Rosemarie Putnam Tong, Feminist Thought.
William Earle, James M. Edie, and John Wild. Christianity and Existentialism.
Plato, Gorgias.
Martha C. Sammons, A Guide Through Narnia.
Stanley Hauerwas, Suffering Presence.
Lady Charlotte Guest, The Mabinogion.
Philip Jenkins, The New Anti-Catholicism.
Isaac Asimov, The Caves of Steel.
Annette T. Rottenberg, The Structure of Argument.
Roger Lancelyn Green, King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table.
Yves R. Simon, A General Theory of Authority.
J. R. R. Tolkien, The Book of Lost Tales I.
Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, and Michael Flynn, Fallen Angels.
Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White.
Samuel Butler, Erewhon and Erewhon Revisited.
Edgar K. Browning and Mark A. Zupan, Microeconomic Theory & Applications
Christopher Priest, The Prestige.
Thomas Aquinas, Disputed Questions on the Virtues.
Nicolas Malebranche, Dialogues on Metaphysics and on Religion.
Thomas Aquinas, On Law, Morality, and Politics.
Guy Consolmagno, Brother Astronomer.
Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason.
Christine de Pizan, The Book of the City of Ladies.
G. K. Chesterton, Charles Dickens.
David Scott, On Malebranche.
David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding.
Benedict Spinoza, Theological-Political Treatise.
Robert L. Causey, Logic, Sets, and Recursion.
Immanuel Kant, On History.
Norman F. Cantor, Medieval Lives.
Allen Mandelbaum, The Odyssey of Homer.
Rhoda Hendricks and Lisa Padol, Latin Made Simple.
Francis de Sales, The Catholic Controversy.
Gary Lachman, Rudolf Steiner.
Jacob Neusner, Judaism as Philosophy.
Burton Watson, Hsun Tzu: Basic Writings.
Jacob Neusner, The Transformation of Judaism.
Martha Nussbaum, Sex & Social Justice.
Orson Scott Card, The Changed Man.
J. R. R. Tolkien, The Shaping of Middle Earth.
Paul Woodruff, Euripides: Bacchae.
Werner Heisenberg, Physics and Philosophy.
Anne Rice, The Road to Cana.
James Blish and Robert Lowndes, The Duplicated Man.
J. F. Donceel, Philosophical Anthropology.
Agatha Christie, Miss Marple: The Complete Short Stories.
John Stuart Mill, The Six Great Humanistic Essays of John Stuart Mill.
Thomas Reid, Inquiry and Essays.
Berel Lang, Heidegger's Silence.
Dorothy L. Sayers, Hangman's Holiday.
Susanna Clarke, The Ladies of Grace Adieu.
Sheridan Gilley, Newman and His Age.

Childishness in Different Clothes

George Will tries to impress everyone with his infinite fuddy-duddiness:

Denim is the infantile uniform of a nation in which entertainment frequently features childlike adults ("Seinfeld," "Two and a Half Men") and cartoons for adults ("King of the Hill"). Seventy-five percent of American "gamers" -- people who play video games -- are older than 18 and nevertheless are allowed to vote. In their undifferentiated dress, children and their childish parents become undifferentiated audiences for juvenilized movies (the six -- so far -- "Batman" adventures and "Indiana Jones and the Credit-Default Swaps," coming soon to a cineplex near you). Denim is the clerical vestment for the priesthood of all believers in democracy's catechism of leveling -- thou shalt not dress better than society's most slovenly. To do so would be to commit the sin of lookism -- of believing that appearance matters. That heresy leads to denying the universal appropriateness of everything, and then to the elitist assertion that there is good and bad taste.

And no doubt denim is the MacGuffin that writers use to hide the fact that they cannot think of anything better to write about. The fact of the matter, of course, is that neither denim, nor cartoons, nor games are any indication of good or bad taste; that denim is not considered formal wear is entirely an arbitrary convention; and clothes do not make the man or convey deep truths about the soul.

What bothers me about the essay is that Will's sense of what is juvenile and adolescent is completely absurd. Suppose we all accepted his recommendation and, like some weird cult all dressed like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Suppose we stopped playing video games and only watched Paramount musicals. Suppose all that. What then? We'd have adolescent, juvenile men dressing like Fred Astaire. In fact we already have had such a thing. Today's self-indulgent, adolescent men in jeans were the sons of yesterday's self-indulgent, adolescent men in khakis. People who locate masculinity in ties and bourbon, Fedoras and cigars, are no more reasonable or tasteful than people who locate masculinity in jeans and beer, ballcaps and pizza. The great and terrible self-deception in Will's essay is the assumption that Will's generation, or perhaps Will's father's generation, produced men who were not juvenile and adolescent. But the childish self-indulgence, where it wasn't forced out of a person by the Furies or bad fortune, can be traced as easily then as now.

There is, indeed, only one path to maturity, and that is to set one's sights on higher things than oneself, whatever you happen to be wearing. Maturity is nothing other than gracious prudence, practical wisdom laced with good will toward others. It can be found in jeans and ballcaps. It can be lacking in slacks and a tie. And these days few indeed can be said to have it, not because of what they wear or how they play, but because they have sterile hearts that shirk the burdens that come with loving one's neighbor.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Quasi modo geniti infantes

In Catholic calendars nowadays, today is called Divine Mercy Sunday (dominica de divina misericordia). But one of its old colloquial names was derived from its opening words in Latin (from 1 Peter 2:2-3, and pre-Vulgate):

Quasi modo geniti infantes, rationabile,
sine dolo lac concupiscite ut in eo crescatis in salutem
si gustastis quoniam dulcis Dominus.

Quasimodo Sunday has a certain indirect literary fame, in that it is the holy day that gave its name to the central character of Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame. In the story, a little deformed baby is left on the steps of the Cathedral of Notre Dame on Quasimodo Sunday; and the theme of the verses that open that Sunday haunts the rest of the tale.

Listen, Listen, Tramp, Tramp, Tramp!

From Julia Goddard's "Lenore":

Text not available
the new monthly magazine

It's not the sort of thing that would usually bear up in poetry, but I like the

But listen, listen, tramp, tramp, tramp!

and the

And hark, the wicket bell doth ring,
So lightly, softly, kling, kling, kling;

in this context. The figure of speech, here, which is known as epizeuxis, is very difficult to do well. A sign that Shakespeare knows what he is doing (if you needed one) is that he is a master of it; some of his are famous, like Hamlet's "Words, words, words," or Macduff's "O horror, horror, horror" in Macbeth, and he takes it to a fine art in Lear, with

Howl, howl, howl, howl!


Thou'lt come no more,
Never, never, never, never, never!

But it's hard to write. We do it in speaking all the time, but in speaking you can pause. In writing you could never do more than designate a pause, and you don't even have that many resources for doing so; and people will, regardless of what you do, just read the words rapidly, one after another, without care for timing. And onomatopoeic epizeuxis (say that three times fast!) is often laughable. But the balance here between the two instances of epizeuxis, in a stanza that marks a sharp and emotional turn in the action, is reasonably well done. Goddard's "Lenore" suffers from excessive repetition, which she uses too often as an emotional indicator. But this stanza does quite nicely, I think; as you will find if you don't merely read it but say it aloud as if you were telling a suspenseful story (which every version of Burger's "Lenore" is).

The most recent draft of my own version of "Lenore" is here.

A Sufi Parable

A devotee once prayed all night, calling upon the name of God until he grew tired. And Satan appeared to him, saying, "How long will you keep calling on the name of God? Has He answered you yet? Be silent, for no answer is coming."

And the devotee became ashamed and was silent.

After a while, however, he had a vision of a prophet, and the prophet said to him, "Why have you ceased to call upon the name of God?"

And the devotee replied, "Because I called and called, and he did not answer, "Here I am," nor did he send me any messenger although I yearned for an answer."

And the prophet said, "God has given me this word to give to you. Who was it that summoned you to the service of prayer? Can you pray without the assistance of God? When you called, 'O God,' that very thing was my saying, 'Here I am.' When you yearned, your very yearning was my messenger to you. All of your tears, and all of your cries, and all of your prayers, were drawn to me as to a magnet, and it was I, and I alone, who gave them wings."

Not a Needy Person Among Them

All the believers were one in heart and mind.
No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own,
but they shared everything they had.
With great power the apostles continued
to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus,
and much grace was upon them all.
There were no needy persons among them.
For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them,
brought the money from the sales
and put it at the apostles' feet,
and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.

Acts 4:32-35 (NIV)