Bob Schwartz

Cold Coffee

Cold Coffee

The longer this coffee sits
The colder it gets.
Heat it
To make it warmer
Add ice
To make it colder
Cream makes it lighter
Sugar sweeter
Drink up.

©

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Thomas Merton on Technology

I am ambivalent about the benefits and effects of unstoppable technological progress. It is nearly a force of nature. Rain helps our plants to thrive, our food to grow, our rivers to flow, our thirst to be quenched. But it can also overwhelm and destroy, so that we seek shelter from it in a flood or hurricane. Still, I wouldn’t trade technology in, not all of it, not easily. I am just wary and watchful.

This is from Thomas Merton’s journals. He lived as a monk in a handmade hermitage on the grounds of the Abbey of our Lady of Gethsemani in Kentucky. It is a tiny building that up until 1965 did not have electricity:

“At last the electric line is coming to my hermitage!”

Yesterday in the morning, when I went out for a breath of air before my novice conference, I saw men working on the hillside beyond the sheep barn. At last the electric line is coming to my hermitage! All day they were working on the holes, digging and blasting the rock with small charges, young men in yellow helmets, good, eager, hardworking guys with machines. I was glad of them and of American technology, pitching in to bring me light, as they would for any farmer in the district. It was good to feel part of this, which is not to be despised, but is admirable. (Which does not mean that I hold any brief for the excess of useless developments in technology.)

Thomas Merton Journals, February 16, 1965, V.206–7

More posts about Merton:

Merton: Events and Pseudo-Events

Merton on the Desert

For Me to Be a Saint Means to Be Myself

 

Yom HaShoah—Holocaust Remembrance Day

Birkenau – Gerhard Richter

Today is Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is a memorial day for those who died in the Holocaust, a Greek word meaning “sacrifice by fire.” Established by Israel in 1951, the day is now commemorated around the world. In the U.S., Congress has made it part of the week-long Days of Remembrance.

A new study released today “finds significant lack of Holocaust knowledge in the United States.” Without repeating the painful findings, it is enough to say that if trends continue, in a couple of generations a large majority of Americans will have very vague and erroneous views of what took place, if they know anything about the Holocaust at all. Painful but not surprising, given that Americans’ knowledge of their own history is pretty vague and often erroneous.

In 2018, and at any point in history, the phenomenon of the Holocaust matters for a lot reasons. Here at just a few.

The depths of human depravity exceed our imagination. The heights of human heroism, which the Holocaust also demonstrated, exceed our imagination too.

Whatever identity group you belong to, you can never be confident that you will not be the next despised “other” who must be totally eliminated. Which means that hatred of the other is to be avoided and acceptance of the other is to be applauded.

Science and technology can be very evil. It is true that Hitler couldn’t rely only on sophisticated chemical gas to kill Jews, supplementing that with old-fashioned mass shootings and body pits. But if he had had the opportunity to complete his work on rockets and atomic bombs, for example, who knows what the number of eliminated non-Aryans might have been?

As important as remembrance is, it is not as important as living, acting and speaking in ways to relieve current suffering. Dead and displaced at the hands of an evil leader is not history. It is now. “Never again” cannot be just for what happens to Jews. “Never again” is for everybody, or it is for nobody.

Don Burgundy: You Stay Classy Washington

“I don’t know how to put this, but I’m kind of a big deal.”
Ron Burgundy, Anchorman

I just watched Anchorman for the first time in a few years. There may be some artistic or social subtext there, but it is really just a monumentally stupid and funny movie. I’ve been watching the news, living in Trump America, and I need laughs.

So I checked out some reviews from when it was first released in 2004. Most reviewers liked it and thought it was a monumentally stupid and funny movie.

And then I found Stephen Hunter’s review in the Washington Post. I quote it here because his description of Ron Burgundy and his colleagues reminded me so much of somebody else.

Oh, yeah, I love lamp.


On the Spot News
By Stephen Hunter
Friday, July 9, 2004

Over the past century, film geniuses have erected many a cathedral of style, solemn structures of tradition and cohesion, the highest projection of the imagination: Swedish Realism, German Expressionism, Spanish Poetic Realism, Italian Neorealism, Danish Dogmatism.

To this hallowed list does Will Ferrell’s “Anchorman” petition for admission. Its contribution: San Diego Neo-Infantilism….

The source of much mirth in “Anchorman” isn’t just the self-deluding Burgundy himself — though Ferrell is typically brilliant at projecting a character without a shred of inner life or self-awareness — but also his little coterie of on-air stud boys. They see themselves as four horsemen outlined against a diamond-blue, eternal April sky, but of course they’re really four horses’ asses on a one-way trip toward oblivion. Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd with his own Royal Air Force mustache; why did guys then think that was so cool?) is Mr. Cologne; he knows the right man-perfume dabbed on his neck gets him to chick heaven. Steven Carell is Brick Tamland, the weatherman, whose IQ approaches that of the object for which he’s named and whose continual inability to understand reality is endlessly funny. Finally, sports guy Champ Kind (David Koechner) wears ten-gallon hats, makes poo-poo faces and boo-boo sound effects for comic relief among the guys (how unfunny they are is really funny) and is secretly gay.

The men fight the ascension of Veronica and the new woman she represents; the joke is how ridiculously inefficient their campaign is and how utterly it’s ignored by station management (Fred Willard and Chris Parnell). The guys, it turns out, have no chops, no arguments, no resources, no skills, nothing except the maleness that has been at the center of their entitlement their whole lives. (emphasis added)

Neutron Star

Baseball Crush

Note: I wake up today to find that it is between two Easters, the last day of Passover, and more than a week since Major League Baseball season began. Yet I still haven’t posted about baseball, as I do each year. Here it is.

In junior high school, age 12 or so, the great elation, the walking on a cloud, is having a crush on someone. There is school, there is family, there is the rest of life, but above all there is just that one. The only thing better, the only cloud higher, is actually getting together with that crush. Of course, worst of all is discovering that the crush is unrequited, the crush as crash, but that is not the hopeful stuff of spring.

Except for those romantic crushes, the most intoxicated I felt was the start of baseball season. During free periods, I would go to the library, where with my other baseball-loving friends, I would sit at a table and pore over the papers, inhaling the baseball pages. Scores, standings, player statistics. Another crush.

In the years since, my interest in baseball has shifted, sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less. But it has never, ever gone away. Each spring I still stock up on books that cover what happened last season and what, according to the expanding corps of scientific analysts, will happen this season.

I’ve written before about why baseball matters, but no matter what explanation you concoct or read, the truth is that it is ultimately inexplicable. You get it or you don’t. It just is. Like that crush on that girl in seventh grade. It’s big and forever, and it’s just gotta be.

American Gnostic

Demiurges: Yaldabaoth, Sakla, Samael, Nebro, Azazi’il, Lucifer, Satan.  “At best incompetent and at worst malevolent. Mean-spirited, ignorant, tragic, megalomaniacal, ugly, erroneous.”

From The Gnostic Bible (emphases added):

“Consequently, gnostics provided innovative and oftentimes disturbing interpretations of the creation stories they read. They concluded that a distinction, often a dualistic distinction, must be made between the transcendent, spiritual deity, who is surrounded by aeons and is all wisdom and light, and the creator of the world, who is at best incompetent and at worst malevolent. Yet through everything, they maintained, a spark of transcendent knowledge, wisdom, and light persists within people who are in the know. The transcendent deity is the source of that enlightened life and light. The meaning of the creation drama, when properly understood, is that human beings—gnostics in particular—derive their knowledge and light from the transcendent god, but through the mean-spirited actions of the demiurge, the creator of the world, they have been confined within this world. (The platonic aspects of this imagery are apparent.) Humans in this world are imprisoned, asleep, drunken, fallen, ignorant. They need to find themselves—to be freed, awakened, made sober, raised, and enlightened. In other words, they need to return to gnosis….

“As noted, the demiurge or creator of this world is commonly distinguished from the transcendent deity in gnostic texts. The demiurge is ignorant, tragic, megalomaniacal. In the Secret Book of John he is depicted as the ugly child of Sophia, snakelike in appearance, with the face of a lion and eyes flashing like bolts of lightning. He is named Yaldabaoth, Sakla, Samael, and he is the chief archon and an arrogant, jealous god. In the Gospel of Judas he is given another name, Nebro, said to mean “rebel.” In the Gospel of Truth error behaves like the demiurge, for it becomes strong and works in the world, but erroneously. Similar, too, are the actions of nature in the Paraphrase of Shem, Ptahil in Mandaean literature, the five evil archons in Manichaean literature, Azazi’il in the Mother of Books, and Lucifer or Satan among the Cathars.

 

Field

Field

Beyond the trees
That lace my window
There is the field
That young I woke to.
But out the door
Past those trees
No such place.
Without moving
I have gone
Ten thousand miles
To here and nowhere.

©

Bobby Kennedy on the Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

Lorraine Motel, Memphis, April 4, 1968. The Lorraine is now the site of the National Civil Rights Museum.

And let’s dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world. Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people.
Robert F. Kennedy, April 4, 1968

On April 4, 1968, Bobby Kennedy was campaigning in Indiana for the Democratic presidential nomination. Heading to a rally in Indianapolis, he learned that Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated in Memphis. Kennedy attended the rally, but instead of a campaign speech, announced the tragic news to the crowd. Many had not yet heard about it. Kennedy’s speech is now considered one of the greatest in American history.

Two months later, on June 5, Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles.


Robert F. Kennedy
April 4, 1968
Indianapolis, Indiana

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I’m only going to talk to you just for a minute or so this evening, because I have some — some very sad news for all of you — Could you lower those signs, please? — I have some very sad news for all of you, and, I think, sad news for all of our fellow citizens, and people who love peace all over the world; and that is that Martin Luther King was shot and was killed tonight in Memphis, Tennessee.

Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice between fellow human beings. He died in the cause of that effort. In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it’s perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in. For those of you who are black — considering the evidence evidently is that there were white people who were responsible — you can be filled with bitterness, and with hatred, and a desire for revenge.

We can move in that direction as a country, in greater polarization — black people amongst blacks, and white amongst whites, filled with hatred toward one another. Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand, and to comprehend, and replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand, compassion, and love.

For those of you who are black and are tempted to fill with — be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man.

But we have to make an effort in the United States. We have to make an effort to understand, to get beyond, or go beyond these rather difficult times.

My favorite poem, my — my favorite poet was Aeschylus. And he once wrote:

Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart,
until, in our own despair,
against our will,
comes wisdom
through the awful grace of God.

What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love, and wisdom, and compassion toward one another; and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.

So I ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King — yeah, it’s true — but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love — a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke.

We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times. We’ve had difficult times in the past, but we — and we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; and it’s not the end of disorder.

But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings that abide in our land.

And let’s dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world. Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people.

Thank you very much.

Trump’s Easter Tweet: Do Not Thrust Aside the Alien

It is April 1. Trump’s Easter tweet today is inspired by the Bible:

As it says in the Book of Malachi: “I will draw near to you for judgment; I will be swift to bear witness against those who thrust aside the alien, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.”

No, no, not really. Trump did attend church on Easter, but his actual tweets were different than the one above:

Border Patrol Agents are not allowed to properly do their job at the Border because of ridiculous liberal (Democrat) laws like Catch & Release. Getting more dangerous. “Caravans” coming. Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws NOW. NO MORE DACA DEAL!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 1, 2018

Mexico is doing very little, if not NOTHING, at stopping people from flowing into Mexico through their Southern Border, and then into the U.S. They laugh at our dumb immigration laws. They must stop the big drug and people flows, or I will stop their cash cow, NAFTA. NEED WALL!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 1, 2018

These big flows of people are all trying to take advantage of DACA. They want in on the act!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 1, 2018