Saturday, March 23, 2013

Music on My Mind

Johnny Paycheck, "The Outlaw's Prayer".

It's been a busy two weeks, so the fortnightly book will be delayed a bit until tomorrow.


The soul whose nature is not greatly solicitous for the gathering of possessions, does not require great diligence in order to find within itself impulses of wisdom unto God. For freedom from connection with the world will naturally set in motion flashes of intuition from which it can exalt itself unto God and remain in ecstasy.

When the waters from without do not enter the fountain of the soul, its natural waters arise, viz. the wonderful intuitions that are moving toward God at all times.

St. Isaac the Syrian, Mystical Treatises (Treatise III/section 20)

Friday, March 22, 2013

A Poem Draft


The twilight stars in silence stare
down from mists of higher air
and sing,
deeply chant,
as creeping shadows, sharply cut
(light from moon makes them jut
and crag,
standing out),
are making paths through strips of light.
Swiftly falls the cape of night
to hide,
cover all.
Around the town the streetlights shield
house from darkness of the field;
brightly lit,
our faces shine. All cares aside,
frivolity has been denied,
but word
we now hear.
We hear the story woven, told,
all its glory spoken bold,
and live,
being there,
not watchers but identified
with hero, villain, husband, bride;
and sparks,
said, not seen,
incite the flame inside our souls,
chase the shadows dark as coal
Chanted tale
with human life imbues our minds,
gives us hope, our hearts unbinds.

Gerard on Taste and Genius V: The Varieties and Kinds of Genius

Having given his basic account of genius, Gerard goes on to discuss its diversification. There are many different kinds of genius, and genius in one field does not necessarily carry over to another field. So what leads to this diversity?

Part of the diversity is due to the way in which imagination associates things. Appealing to accounts of imaginative association by Hume and Kames, Gerard notes that in his day it had become clear that imagination does not associate ideas at random. Different people at the time proposed slightly different lists of the basic principles of association; Gerard gives three simple principles of association and three complex principles of association. The simple principles are resemblance, contrariety, and vicinity. The complex principles are co-existence, causation, and order (or organization). The way these principles operate can be easily affected by habit and the passions. Habit has three especially important effects:

(1) "An idea which custom has rendered familiar to us, will be more easily introduced by any present perception, than another idea which is equally related to that perception, but which we are little accustomed to think upon" (EG 126). Thus background experience has an effect.

(2) "[C]ustom renders us more apt to be affected with one of the associating qualities, than with others" (EG 133). So, for instance, if you are a poet and read a great many things in which resemblance is important, this will tend to make resemblances more salient to you than other associative relations.

(3) "Custom not only renders one associating quality more ready to affect us, than other qualities; it likewise renders the same quality readier to operate on the imagination after one particular manner than after another manner" (EG 137). Things may resemble each other in different ways, for instance; but some of these resemblances will be more salient to us because that's the kind of resemblance we've become used to noting.

In the course of talking about various related issues, Gerard has an interesting passage in which he discusses the association between words and ideas. One might think that words and ideas suggest each other equally, but serious regard for experience shows us that this is not so at all: ideas do not suggest words as readily as words suggest ideas. We see this in learning new languages, for instance, where being able to speak and write the language generally requires a much greater facility with the language than simply understanding it. This asymmetry arises because the ideas in question are much more familiar to us than the words. This is actually an interesting point; associative accounts of the imagination usually proceed as if association were symmetrical or else involved asymmetry only in cases where before and after were particularly important. But Gerard's point is that the three effects noted above show that associative principles symmetrical in themselves (like resemblance) can nonetheless have asymmetrical effects due to differences in how familiar we are with the things that are related by them.

The passions also have an effect, one that is especially important for genius in the arts, where excellent representation of the passions can often be important. There are a number of forms these effects can take. Passions are sometimes closely connected with particular ideas, so that getting angry (for instance) makes you think about other things you get angry about. Passions can likewise make associations more salient. They can make the mind oscillate between its present objects and other ideas entirely, as worry or anxiety often will. Passions will often restrict the kinds of ideas that are likely to be brought to mind by association, focusing our attention on those most closely related to the passions themselves. All these have to do with the nature of the ideas suggested through association, but passions can in addition affect the quantity of our ideas, making it difficult to follow long trains of thought. When we do have a long train of thought while in the grip of the passions, this will often be due to the principles of coexistence and causation; the associative principle that the passions most hamper is order, or organization.

All of this ties into the topic of the varieties and kinds of genius, since Gerard's account of the latter is chiefly associative (EG 185):

From the account which has already been given of the principles of association, it is easy to collect, That there is a broad foundation laid in the nature of the human imagination, for great extent and variety of genius. There are many relations of ideas, which fit them for being associated; almost every perception bears some of these relations to many different ideas; habits and the passions multiply and vary the instruments of association: by these means there are innumerable handles by which the imagination may seize such ideas as it has occasion for. Genius has, in some men, great force and compass; but a vigorous construction of the associating principles is sufficient to account for it, however great it may be; for if they be vigorous, any one perception may introduce a great multitude of others, and that by means of many different relations.

The principles of association affect the force and form of genius most clearly in combination, when they come together in various ways; since genius in Gerard's account is great facility with the combination of ideas, this capacity to associate ideas according to many different relations at once is quite central to his account. Each person, however, will tend to favor some of these principles over others, which will lead to their minds going off in different directions even when they start in the same place. Because of this, the kinds of genius can be relatively easily distinguished. Likewise, we can explain why genius in one field may even hamper thought in another; if the fields require very different associating principles to predominate, precisely what gives a person an advantage in one field may give them a disadvantage in another, at least if the advantage is due to a strong habit of association.

Differences in memory will also diversify the kinds of genius. Two aspects of this are particularly notable.

(1) "[T]he peculiar turn of memory will affect genius, by determining, in many instances, the perception from which it sets out, in its investigations or compositions" (EG 273).

(2) "[T]he particular things which are strongly remembered by a person, will directly influence the ideas introduced, as well as the perception from which he sets out" (EG 275).

Judgment will also have an effect. There are judgments of truth and judgments of beauty, for instance. Judgments of truth can consider either matters of fact or relations of ideas, and in each case it can be certain or probable, intuitive or discursive. Judgment of beauty is also called taste, and all the various factors previously introduced in our look at taste in general (sensibility, refinement, correctness, proportion) can affect genius by being stronger or weaker. On Gerard's account, of course, genius does not directly depend on taste, nor does it follow from it directly; but since someone acting out of genius much judge how his or her work is going, judgment is ineliminable from the actual operation of genius.

All these factors contribute to divide genius into different kinds. The most important division is that between the kind of genius most generally appropriate for production and the kind of genius most generally appropriate for inquiry. These have a very different character to them: "A genius for science is formed by penetration; a genius for the arts, by brightness" (EG 322).

The penetrating genius associated with science and philosophy is concerned with truth and explanation. It depends on acuteness, but also on "a capacity of bringing quickly and completely into view, whatever materials are necessary for our present purpose" (EG 324). It involves being able to keep track of many different relations simultaneously. The bright genius associated with the arts, however, is concerned with adornment. It is far more important for the artist to be able to move swiftly among ideas than to take everything into account all at once. Penetration requires a capacity for being most strongly affected by the most strongly associated things; whereas brightness requires a capacity for moving onto less traveled associative by-roads. The great artist gives us something new and unusual in a way that the great scientist generally does not; whereas the great scientist gives us something comprehensive to a degree that great artists usually cannot.

Likewise, different principles of association tend to predominate with each. Penetrating minds tend to be more strongly governed by coexistence and causation. The dominant principle of association for bright minds, on the other hand, tends to be resemblance. This makes sense, if you think about it. Minds that tend strongly to associate ideas according to coexistence and causation will have an advantage in explanation, which is chiefly structured by causation and heavily affected by coexistent conditions. Minds that tend strongly to associate ideas according to resemblance, on the other hand, will tend to have an advantage in description, since description is greatly facilitated by good analogies, metaphors, and images. Further, given what Gerard has already said about habit, it is clear that people will tend to play to their strengths. Someone who handles causation or coexistence well will tend to be more comfortable with tasks that require appeal to causes or concomitant conditions, while someone who handles resemblance well will tend to be more comfortable with tasks that require producing representations (whether verbal or otherwise).

Of course, it's important to keep in mind that all the principles of association are always operative, and all genius is separated from even the most remotely contrary kinds of genius by something like a continuum. Someone whose primary principle of association is causation, like Newton, may have a brilliant subordinate facility with resemblances. Because of this Newton's scientific work has some features reminiscent of poetry, but the kinds of resemblance and analogies that predominant are not the kinds a poet would find salient. They are resemblances of one experiment or phenomenon to other. Likewise, poets, driven chiefly by resemblances, may have excellent subordinate tendencies to take into account causation. Such poets would tend to pick out different causes -- more remote, perhaps, or more subtle, the supplemental nuances of causal explanation -- than those who were primarily driven by causal association itself, which would tend to focus, obviously, on the dominant causal lines. The painter's mind may be highly taken with coexistence; but this principle will likely have a looser hold on his mind than it would on (say) a physicist, and the kinds of coexistence that concern him will likely be somewhat marginal to the physicist's interests. In any case, this all contributes to quality of genius: Newton's greatness as a scientist lies not merely in his penetration but in the fact that he had a very keen power of association by resemblance that was subordinated to it. Gerard describes this dynamic as the sun (the predominant principle of association) shining but its own inherent vigor, while the moon (the subordinate principle) reflects this light depending on how it is situated with respect to the sun.

One important difference between scientific and artistic genius is that scientific genius is more seriously hampered by the interference of the passions, whereas artistic genius can find in the involvement of the passions precisely what it requires. In scientific investigations, the interest in truth means that bias is a serious worry. In artistic production, however, the interest in beauty has the result that bias is not a major concern, and, what is more, since part of what the artist is to trying to do is make things vivid, a sense of the passions and how they operate in a particular context is essential, since few things make ideas brilliantly vivid as the passions do.

Another difference is in how memory functions in each. Scientific genius is best aided precise memory, keeping the connections accurate, whereas artistic genius is most greatly strengthened by vivid memory, keeping the sense of experience intact, regardless of whether the connections are kept in order. And, of course, they will often be concerned with remembering different kinds of things.

Genius for the arts is necessarily more imaginative than genius for the sciences, since genius for the sciences is mostly concerned with collecting materials for judgment, whereas genius for the arts can do a much larger portion of its task purely by imagination. This has led some people to treat imagination as having nothing to do with science or philosophy, and to talk as if 'imaginative works' included only works of art. Further, people often treat the arts as involving nothing but imagination. This is false, however. Genius for the arts may in some sense require more strength and sweep of imagination, but it too needs judgment; and genius for science may require more acuteness and vigor of judgment, but it too requires a considerable amount of imaginative work, and while the soarings of imagination may not be as expansive for it, they are there. This is the foundation, incidentally, why Gerard would not accept Kant's later view that genius is properly concerned only with arts of the beautiful: Kant makes exactly the move that Gerard in the Essay on Genius regards as a serious mistake, treating science as purely a matter of judgment. The difference between scientific ingenuity and artistic ingenuity is a difference arising not from any absolute difference but from different proportions of their common constituents, and, Gerard insists, even in genius for science imagination is the predominant element.

Genius for the arts is also not purely imaginative, because artistic ingenuity can go haywire if it is not corrected by good taste, by a good judgment about whether something is beautiful or striking. This judgment of beauty, again, is taste, and so we are brought back again to our starting point. In the next past in this series we will return to the later editions of the Essay on Taste in order to look at the single most important philosophical question in the theory of taste: What is the standard of taste?


But it ought to be known, that there are some, whom mother Church tolerates, nursing them in the bosom of charity, and whom she would carry on even to the advanced growth of spiritual age, who sometimes both wear the garb of sanctity, and yet cannot attain to the merit of perfection. For they rise not to spiritual gifts, and therefore they assist those who are connected with them, in the preservation of earthly goods, and sometimes transgress in anger in this defence. But we must not believe that these persons fall into the numbers of hypocrites, for it is one thing to sin from infirmity, and another from wickedness. There is therefore this difference between these persons and hypocrites, that these, conscious of their own infirmity, prefer being reproved by all for their faults, to being praised for pretended sanctity. But those are both sure that they are doing wrong, and yet in the judgments of men are puffed up with the name of sanctity. These fear not to displease wicked men, even by a virtuous action, provided only they are approved by the judgments of heaven; but those never consider what they are doing, but how by every action they can please men. These, according to the measure of their understanding, contend for the causes of God, even in things of the world; but those subserve the design of the world, even in the causes of God; because in the very midst of the holy deeds they make a shew of doing, they seek not the conversion of men, but the breath of applause.

When therefore we behold any persons of no mean conversation defending worldly interests passionately or immoderately, we ought to reprove this fault of theirs charitably, and yet not to despair of them, while reproving them. Because there frequently exist in one and the same person certain censurable points which are apparent, and great qualities which lie concealed. But in ourselves our great qualities often come forth openly, and those which are reprehensible are sometimes concealed. Hence, therefore, our pride of mind must be brought low, because, both their weaknesses are public, and ours are secret: and again, their strong points are concealed, and ours are divulged and made public. Those therefore, whom we blame for their open weakness, it remains for us to venerate from our opinion of their hidden strength, and if our own mind is elated at their open weakness, let it keep itself down in humility, from considering its own secret infirmities. For some persons frequently obey many precepts, and pass over a few; and we pass over many, when we keep but a few. Whence it is frequently the case that, when we see others neglect a command, which we know we observe ourselves, our mind immediately exalts itself with pride, forgetting how many commands it passes over, when there are very few which it observes. It is therefore necessary for us in cases where we reprove others, to bring down the pride of our anxious thought. For if our mind sees that it is more exalted than others, being led, as it were, to headlong heights of singularity, it falls the more fatally. But why the hypocrite abandons heavenly lucre, and labours for that of earth, He still subjoins, under the description of the ostrich, saying: Ver. 17. God hath deprived her of wisdom, neither hath He given her understanding.

St. Gregory the Great, Moralia, Book XXXI, sections 24 & 25

Thursday, March 21, 2013

On Kozinski on the Hart Debate

Thaddeus Kozinski discusses the recent debate over Hart's article on natural law theory. It's interesting in that it shows just how seriously the pro-Hart camp doesn't understand what natural law theorists actually do. The very first sentences make this quite clear:

What is at the heart of the debate over Hart? It is this: both the classical and new natural law schools are wrong if they think that the natural law can be known, lived, and legislated in abstraction from tradition and culture, which is, at heart, theological. The classical view of metaphysics, at least as articulated by Edward Feser, presupposes an extrinsicist understanding of the relation of nature and grace, and reason and Faith, and is, therefore, not Thomistic. It’s as if Feser has not read, or just not digested, the work of John Milbank, Tracey Rowland, and Alasdair MacIntyre.

But, first, who in the natural law schools thinks "that the natural law can be known, lived, and legislated in abstraction from tradition and culture"? Natural law theory is in essence an argument for a practical logic; right back to the beginning it has pointed out that, like logic on the theoretical side, there is a sense in which the natural law is natural to us all (hence the word 'natural') and there is a sense in which it has to be developed out into its consequences, and that obviously requires (and is affected by) education and the like. This is explicitly pointed out by Aquinas; it's a common point among classical natural law theorists; and new natural law theorists, if anything, emphasize it even more. Consider the corresponding analogue with logic: people are wrong if they think that logic can be known, lived, and applied in abstraction from tradition and culture, for the obvious reason that the rational life can't be known, lived, and applied in abstraction from tradition and culture. Human beings don't spring out of the womb engaging in rational discourse proceeding from a pure natural power of understanding; we have by nature the capacity to engage in logical reasoning, but this has to be developed. Natural law theory just applies this same idea to practical reasoning.

This is why the appeal to Radical Orthodoxy and to MacIntyre doesn't work; none of these people are saying anything that is contrary to the basic idea in all natural law theory, because this tradition-based type of critique already presupposes that we share a human nature that allows us to participate rationally in traditions at all, and natural law theory, like logic, concerns what in human nature is required to participate rationally in the traditions in which we are raised. You can't accuse people of being extrinsicist, and therefore not accepting the Thomistic principle of nature being perfected by grace, if all they are doing is insisting that there is a nature to be perfected.

The same problem laces the entire argument. Kozinski says, "Of course, the error of the new natural law theorists is grave compared to such extrinsicism, namely, the adequacy of practical reason alone to ground and explain ethical theory and practice." But no one says that, whether classical or new. Every natural law theorist, regardless of preferred approach, recognizes that there are elements of practice that don't depend on "practical reason alone"; and if there were any who didn't, this would be a position entirely independent of their natural law account itself.

He then goes on to say:

In my view, both the classical and the new traditions neglect these four realities: 1) the mutually dependent relation of speculative and practical reason; 2) the subjectivity-shaping role of social practices; 3) the tradition-constituted-and-constitutive character of practical rationality; and 4) the indispensability of divine revelation in ethical inquiry and practice.

But classical natural law theory depends entirely on "the mutually dependent relation of speculative and practical reason": that's how classical natural law theorists argue for the first precepts of practical reason; both classical and new natural law theorists explicitly emphasize "the subjectivity-shaping role of social practices" and by extension "the tradition-constituted-and-constitutive character of practical rationality", because that's precisely how they explain disagreements in practical reasoning; and since the overwhelming majority of natural law theorists have been Christians of one stripe or another, they've never denied "the indispensability of divine revelation of ethical inquiry and practice" -- in fact, classically it's been common, going back to Aquinas himself, to point out that problems in our practical reasoning that are uncovered by natural law theory at least suggest a need for divine positive law.

This has been much of the difficulty in the discussion, that the critics in question repeatedly make their criticisms fly simply by attributing to natural law theorists positions that natural law theorists don't seem actually to accept, and never telling us what in the discussions of these theorists is supposed to back up these generalizations.

There are some interesting elements to Kozinski's article, particularly his appeal to MacIntyre's criticism of Maritain's "democratic charter". The problem, however, is that Maritain was entirely aware of the problem MacIntyre raises: it's explicitly noted by him on more than one occasion, he had to deal with it repeatedly in his rights advocacy (I like MacIntyre a lot, but Maritain, unlike MacIntyre, actually had to deal with the practical issues of rights advocacy from a Thomistic perspective on a regular basis, and so had a better understanding of them than MacIntyre's more academic standpoint really allows MacIntyre to have), and it is the foundation for his Communication with regard to the Draft World Declaration of Human Rights (PDF). Kozinski's use (against Feser) of MacIntyre's specific criticism of Maritain requires a conflation of natural law with natural law theory that would not be accepted by Maritain or Feser (or any other natural law theorist worth his or her salt): it confuses, that is, the account with what it accounts for, and thus a theory of reason with reason itself. You don't need a theory of reasoning, much less a correct theory of reasoning, for it to be true that you depend on the principles of reasoning for living any kind of human life. And, likewise, you don't need a theory of practical reasoning (like natural law theory), much less a correct one, for it to be true, if natural law theory is correct in its basic contentions, that living a human life depends on natural law itself.


Now so is the progress of men, as we see the growths of trees to be. For the essence of the future tree is first in the seed, afterwards in the springing, and at last it is carried out into boughs. Thus then, surely the goodness of every one doing works grows up. For it is sown in understanding, it springs up in practising, and at last it is consolidated to the full width of great advancement. But when his understanding uplifts any one, the tree that might have sprung up rots in the seed. And when after good practice he is spoilt by the bane of self-exaltation, it is as if, having already sprung up, it withered. But when neither understanding nor practice corrupt, but its greatness growing up, when the applause of persons commending follows, and overturns from its seat the mind of him that doeth rightly, the tree has encountered the winds of the tongues, and all that had grown up strong in it, the tempest of fame has plucked up by the roots. For in proportion as the tree has risen higher to the regions above, forcibly does it feel the violence of the winds; because the more a man is lifted to a height in good practices, with so much the greater blast is he oppressed by the mouth of those that praise him. Therefore if the tree is still in the seed, there is need to fear lest it should be made rotten by the mere acquaintance with knowledge; if it has now already issued into a shoot, we have to be on our guard that the hand of self-exaltation touch it not, and parch it of the greenness of its conduct; but if it already lifts itself up on high with vigorous strength, it is very greatly to be dreaded lest the over strong wind of praise that is applied pluck it up from the roots.

St. Gregory the Great, Moralia, Book XXII, section 16

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


What is the sum of all the doctrine touching the performance of the works of mercy?

The Apostle has as it were comprised the whole matter in this one saying: Bear (a) one another's burdens: and so you shall fulfill the law of Christ, that is, the law of charity, of which law again he says: (b) If there be any other commandment, it is comprised in this saying, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. And the Apostle St. Peter: (c) Before all things, says he, having mutual charity continually among yourselves: because charity covers the multitude of sins. Which precept, or office of showing mercy or charity, as it is most agreeable to nature and reason: so does it touch even all kinds of men without exception: insomuch as of this we read it written: (d) God has given every man a charge of his nature. And he has given charge in this manner, as Christ interprets: (e) All things whatsoever that you will men to do to you, do you also to them: for this is the Law and the Prophets.

(a) Gal 6
(b) Rom 13; Gal 5
(c) I Pet 4
(d) Ecclus 7
(e) Mat 7; Luk 6

St. Peter Canisius, A Sum of Christian Doctrine, p. 304. I have modernized some spelling and (very slightly) some wording. The Latin is found here, p. 214.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Is, Ought, Can

It's a common dictum, derived from over-reading Hume, that 'is' does not imply 'ought'(INO). But it is also a common dictum, derived from Kant (I make no judgment here about whether it is Kant over-read), that 'ought' implies 'can'(OC). It's notable that these two dicta are inconsistent with each other:

(1) If X ought to do Y, X can do Y. [OC]
(2) If it is false that X can do Y, it is false that X ought to do Y. [(1), Contraposition]
(3) If it is false that X can do Y, X is lacking in the ability to do Y.
(4) If it is false that X ought to do Y, it is true that X ought to do something other than try to do Y [as if Y ought to be done].
(5) If X is lacking in the ability to do Y, X ought to do something other than try to do Y [as if Y ought to be done]. [(2), (3), (4)]

But (5) tells us that an 'is' implies an 'ought', which violates INO. But (3) is clearly a tautology, and (4) is clearly true for anything to which 'ought' can apply at all, assuming that you ought not to try to do things that you ought not to do; which is arguably a tautology itself.

This is a general issue. The reason someone like Hume can accept something like INO is that he has a very restricted and minimal account of modality (i.e., necessity, possibility, etc.). Anyone with a more robust account of modality than Hume has to allow for the possibility that they can, in fact, get an 'ought' from an 'is' that has these more robust modalities. At least it would have to be proven on a case-by-case basis. An 'ought' is just a strong modal operator. It can indeed be difficult to get from a situation that has no well-defined modal operator, or a distinct and isolated null modal operator (as 'true' sometimes is), to one that has a strong modal operator. But it is not generally a problem to get from one well-defined modal operator to another; it just depends on the modal operators in question and how they are related.

Incidentally, this kind of modal situation is not uncommon. Kant has a more robust account of modality than Hume, but almost all of Kant's more skeptical results follow simply from the fact that for Kant all modalities are in one way or another epistemic, having to do entirely with how we know things. If you have a less restrictive account of necessity and possibility than Kant does, you can no longer assume that Kant's conclusions follow from his principles -- it would have to be examined on a case-by-case basis.

[ADDED LATER: A phrase accidentally was dropped out that made (4) read oddly, and this mistake was propagated through the rest of the argument. I have fixed it.]

Lent XXX

Spiritual needs are relieved by spiritual acts in two ways, first by asking for help from God, and in this respect we have "prayer," whereby one man prays for others; secondly, by giving human assistance, and this in three ways. First, in order to relieve a deficiency on the part of the intellect, and if this deficiency be in the speculative intellect, the remedy is applied by "instructing," and if in the practical intellect, the remedy is applied by "counselling." Secondly, there may be a deficiency on the part of the appetitive power, especially by way of sorrow, which is remedied by "comforting." Thirdly, the deficiency may be due to an inordinate act; and this may be the subject of a threefold consideration. First, in respect of the sinner, inasmuch as the sin proceeds from his inordinate will, and thus the remedy takes the form of "reproof." Secondly, in respect of the person sinned against; and if the sin be committed against ourselves, we apply the remedy by "pardoning the injury," while, if it be committed against God or our neighbor, it is not in our power to pardon, as Jerome observes (Super Matth. xviii, 15). Thirdly, in respect of the result of the inordinate act, on account of which the sinner is an annoyance to those who live with him, even beside his intention; in which case the remedy is applied by "bearing with him," especially with regard to those who sin out of weakness, according to Romans 15:1: "We that are stronger, ought to bear the infirmities of the weak," and not only as regards their being infirm and consequently troublesome on account of their unruly actions, but also by bearing any other burdens of theirs with them, according to Galatians 6:2: "Bear ye one another's burdens."

St. Thomas Aquinas, ST 2-2.32.2

Monday, March 18, 2013


Corporal need occurs either during this life or afterwards. If it occurs during this life, it is either a common need in respect of things needed by all, or it is a special need occurring through some accident supervening. On the first case, the need is either internal or external. Internal need is twofold: one which is relieved by solid food, viz. hunger, in respect of which we have "to feed the hungry"; while the other is relieved by liquid food, viz. thirst, and in respect of this we have "to give drink to the thirsty." The common need with regard to external help is twofold; one in respect of clothing, and as to this we have "to clothe the naked": while the other is in respect of a dwelling place, and as to this we have "to harbor the harborless." Again if the need be special, it is either the result of an internal cause, like sickness, and then we have "to visit the sick," or it results from an external cause, and then we have "to ransom the captive." After this life we give "burial to the dead."

St. Thomas Aquinas, ST 2-2.32.2

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Three Poem Drafts


Anticipating resurrection,
I am here in quiet calm
as brightest breath of benediction
rests on me like soothing balm.
Alas, O Lord, what hard religion
as a yoke you ask us bear,
not consolation but derision
marks this ever-winding stair;
and yet another count of failing,
yet another task is laid,
as all is hidden in a veiling
woven with an iron braid.
But you, O Lord! in all your glory,
you alone are worth it all,
and all the promise of your story,
however often I must fall.
From you, O Lord, I ask remission
of my never-ending sins
and rise anew in grand commission,
taking up the tasks again.

In you my weak, my failing, side
soars to do the wondrous thing;
this weariness breaks only pride,
so that this humbled heart might sing.


I must be silent, friend;
the secret must be unrevealed.
To you my will might bend,
but fate my word and voice have sealed.

As fish beneath the wave
must swim, or drown in violent air,
within my heart I save
the burden of an oath of care.

In silence I remain
taht none my oath held secret hear;
no matter what the pain,
still God alone may see my tear.

De Hebdomadibus

From the starry peak Olympus
to the tarry, earthen mass,
the circles of the different
encircle mental hebdomad
proceeding from the one alone,
as monad's image recreated
in its entering itself,
for thus the gods are born.
And hebdomadic splendor
then births new hebdomadic law,
exuberant in number
yet coming from the one.