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Showing posts from November, 2012

Cognitive Training BCE

"The subject of discussion then is whether reason is absolute master of the passions.  But we have to define what reason is and what passion is, how many forms of passion there are, and whether reason is lord over them all.  Reason, I suggest, is the mind making a deliberate choice of the life of wisdom.  Wisdom, I submit, is knowledge of things divine and human, and of their causes.  And this wisdom, I assume, is the culture we acquire from the Law, through which we learn the things of God reverently and the things of men to our worldly advantage.

"The forms of wisdom consist of prudence, justice, courage, and temperance.  Of these prudence is the most authoritative, for it is through it that reason controls the passions.  Of the passions, the two all-embracing kinds are pleasure and pain, and each of these inheres in the body as well as the soul.  A large retinue of passions attends upon both pleasure and pain.  Before pleasure comes desire, and after pleasure comes joy.  …

How Writers Write, Trollope-Style

"All those I think who have lived as literary men--working daily as literary labourers,--will agree with me that three hours a day will produce as much as a man ought to write.  But then he should so have trained himself that he shall be able to work continuously during those three hours,--so have tutored his mind that it shall not be necessary for him to sit nibbling his pen, and gazing at the wall before him, till he shall have found the words with which he wants to express his ideas.  It had at this time become my custom,--and it still is my custom, though of late I have become a little lenient to myself,--to write with my watch before me, and to require from myself 250 words every quarter of an hour.  I have found that the 250 words have been forthcoming as regularly as my watch went.  But my three hours were not devoted entirely to writing.  I always began my task by reading the work of the day before, an operation which would take me half an hour, and which consisted chiefl…

How Writers Write, Chandler-Style

"What do I do with myself from day to day?  I write when I can and I don't write when I can't; always in the morning or the early part of the day.  You get very gaudy ideas at night but they don't stand up.  I found this out long ago...  I'm always seeing little pieces by writers about how they don't ever wait for inspiration; they just sit down at their little desks every morning at eight, rain or shine, hangover and broken arm and all, and bang out their little stint.  However blank their minds or dim their wits, no nonsense about inspiration from them.  I offer them my admiration and take care to avoid their books.  Me, I wait for inspiration, though I don't necessarily call it by that name.  I believe that all writing that has any life in it is done with the solar plexus.  It is hard work in the sense that it may leave you tired, even exhausted.  In the sense of conscious effort it is not work at all.  The important thing is that there should be a spac…

Harnessing the Horses, or Willpower 101

1.  Know your limits.  Willpower is a limited resource that you draw upon throughout the day.  Better to focus on one project at a time than to try to change everything about your life in one go. 

2.  Watch your glucose levels.  Exercising your willpower depletes your blood sugar, which is why those sugary snacks look so tempting when you've been working hard, particularly when you've been making lots of decisions.  Better to eat slow-burning protein and fat so that you don't crash.  Also, be sure to get enough sleep.

3.  Make a plan, but keep it flexible.  Set monthly rather than daily goals, so that there is room for variation while still keeping to the larger plan.  Declutter--and then make a list of the baby steps (Next Actions) that you need to take first.

4.  Work in brief, regular sessions with plenty of breaks so as to guard against bingeing and decision fatigue.  Start before you feel ready; stop before you feel done.

5.  Monitor your activity; make it public.

6.…

Thanks for the food, God!

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Our Lady of the Birds, a.k.a. the Original Disney Princess

"Sometimes, in order to afford Her sensible relief, innumerable birds would come to visit Her by the command of the Lord.  As if they were endowed with intellect, they would salute Her by their lively movements, and dividing into harmonious choirs, would furnish Her with sweetest music, and they would wait for her blessing before again dispersing.  This happened in a special manner soon after She had conceived the divine Word, as if they wished to congratulate Her on her dignity in imitation of the angels.  The Mistress of all creatures on that day spoke to the different kinds of birds and commanded them to remain and praise with Her the Creator, in thanksgiving for the creation, and for the existence and beauty given to them and to sing his praises for their conservation.  Immediately they obeyed Her as their Mistress and anew they began to form choirs, singing in sweetest harmony and bowed low to the ground to worship their Creator and honor the Mother, who bore Him in her womb…

And in other news...

I did a little bit of work on my book this past Monday, the first substantive effort I have put into it since hitting the wall back in 2009...and promptly came down with the stomach flu.  I blame the Enemy.  He attacked Mary of Agreda, too, just when she was trying to get started on the second volume of her work on the Virgin Mary. 

As she recorded her experience: "In addition to all the contradictions and temptations already mentioned, and many others not possible to describe, the demon sought to deprive me of my health, causing many aches, indispositions and disorders of the whole body.  He harassed me with insurmountable sadness and conflicting thoughts; he seemed to confuse my understanding, hinder correct thinking, weaken my will power, and sift me body and soul."*

I might find this more comforting, I suppose, if I hadn't had to spend the past several days wary of eating for fear I would throw my guts up.  

*Mary of Agreda, The City of God: The Incarnation, trans. …

The 47.8%

Just so you know, I am feeling pretty discouraged about things at the moment.  Okay, okay, so all you Obamaites won last week--congratulations.  But not all of us voted for him, and not all of us are ready to ride the unicorns into the sunset.  And, no, I don't want you to try to convince me to change my mind about the outcome of our election.  I did that already--after 2008.  Just FYI, I know all of the arguments about why Mr. Obama is going to save us from ourselves; that's why I voted for him in the first place.  But over the past four years--and listen carefully--I HAVE CHANGED MY MIND.  I am certain that there are readers among you who have more background in economic theory than I do; I am likewise certain that there are those of you who have read more about foreign policy than I have.  But based on the reading that I have been doing these past five or sixth months--again, listen carefully--I HAVE CHANGED MY MIND about what I used to believe about how best to vote.

I am …

Field Guide to Socialism and Its Beneficiaries

"Socialism means, among other things, using political agencies to provide goods and services that otherwise would be provided privately in the marketplace.  In its most extreme form, socialism means government direction of the economy as a whole.  Socialism in its milder expressions takes the form of nationalized industries (the Chilean copper-mining industry under Allende, Pakistan's petrochemical sector and heavy industries under Bhutto), government ownership or direction of firms (Alfa Romeo under Mussolini, the Japan National Railway), direct government provision of goods and services (the British Health Service), or government management of nominally private marketplace activities (farm subsidies in France, Fannie Mae in the United States).

"A slightly more technical definition of socialism is this: the public provision of non-public goods.  'Public goods' is a loose phrase, of course, and it means different things to different people [explained more fully b…

For those like nkh who wish I had given a different set of readings on the blog

Oh, alright, I'll give you the full story.  About six months ago, my fellow blogger Prof. Mondo posted a list of books that he had just purchased and was looking forward to reading.  One of them was Jonah Goldberg's The Tyranny of Clichés: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas.  I had been following Prof. Mondo's posts about being a conservative in the academy (in an English department, no less), and I was intrigued.  So I got Goldberg's book on my Kindle and started reading.  It was exhilarating, to say the least, having someone take on so forcefully and, let's face it, wittily so many of the tired ways of talking that I have encountered in my decades in the academy.  I had not read any conservative political criticism since way back in graduate school when my father was recommending me books by P.J. O'Rourke.  It was refreshing taking another look at where the conservative conversation had gone since then.

It is true, most of the books that I recommend are e…

Birthday Dog

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Giving her new elephant a good seeing to.

Instruction Vouchsafed by the Queen of Heaven

"Admirable, my daughter, is the love, the fidelity and the solicitude with which the angelic spirits assist mortals in their necessities; and most horrible is the forgetfulness, ingratitude and grossness on the part of men in failing to acknowledge this debt.  In the bosom of the Most High, whose face they see (Matt. 8:10) in beatific clearness, these heavenly spirits perceive the infinite paternal love of the Father in heaven for earthly men, and therefore they appreciate and estimate worthily the blood of the Lamb, by which men were bought and rescued, and they know the value of the souls thus purchased with the treasures of the Divinity.  Thence arises their watchfulness and attention in securing the interests of the souls, which, on account of the value set upon them by the Most High, have been given into their charge.  I wish thee to understand well, how by the ministry of these angels, mortals would receive great enlightenment, and incomparable favors from the Lord, if only…

Whom Do We Trust to Spread the Wealth Around?

"The notion that there is a reservoir of wealth somewhere, either in the possession of the government or the rich, which might be made to diffuse 'plenty through a smiling land,' is a delusion to which nearly all the writings of the ethical economists tend to spread, and it is probably the most mischievous delusion which has ever taken hold on the popular mind.  It affects indirectly large numbers of persons, who, if it were presented to them boldly and without drapery, would probably repudiate it.  But it steals into their brain through sermons, speeches, pamphlets, Fabian essays, and Bellamy utopias, and disposes them, on humanitarian grounds, to great public extravagances, in buildings, in relief work, in pensions, in schools, in high State wages and philanthropic undertakings which promise at no distant day to land the modern world in bankruptcy.  It will be very well if the century closes without witnessing this catastrophe in France or Italy, or both, --the two coun…

Hot Button Issues, No. 4: Talking Politics

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At all.  As my liberal friends on Facebook have made me abundantly aware these past several weeks every time I have posted even the mildest endorsements of the candidate running against our incumbent.  As my family has made clear as a condition for visiting at Thanksgiving.  Talking politics in and of itself is a hot button issue.  Unless, of course, you simply agree with me.

Why should this be?  (I know, it's me being naïve again, but here we go.)  "Don't talk religion or politics except to very intimate friends," or so Lily Haxworth Wallace advised way back in 1941 in her New American Etiquette.  On that count, however, I have no intimates, at least politically.  Or the ones that I do have are all at the National Review.  Plus Barry (hi, Barry!), my oldest friend in the world (albeit three months younger than me), and Prof. Mondo, whom I know only from the blogosphere.

And maybe you, if you're reading this now.  (Maybe.)  But why?  Why should politics of all th…

How to Talk to a Heretic (If You Must)*

"It is to be noted that the heretics, being unable to vindicate themselves against the truth of the faith by force, by arguments, or by authorities, in consequence immediately fall back upon verbal sophisms, ambiguities, and evasions in order to avoid being entrapped in their errors.  The use of ambiguous replies is one plain sign by which heretics can be recognized.  One kind of deception which they use is equivocation.  For instance, when asked if they believe in the sacraments of baptism, the Eucharist, penance, matrimony, ordination, and extreme unction, they reply that they do indeed believe, but what they mean by all this is either good will in the heart or an inner penance.  Likewise, they may take 'the true body of Christ' to mean His mystical body, the Church, or the body of any good man, which they say belongs to Christ, as do other bodies also.  So, when asked whether they believe in the body of Christ, they reply ambiguously or with a double meaning.

"Als…

Hot Button Issues, No. 3: Western Civilization

It is surely one of life's more precious little ironies that the only time (thus far, at least) I have featured in an article over at the National Review was some ten years ago when I was being accused (by Stanley Kurtz, no less) of complicity in the "gutting" of our History of Western Civilization core sequence at the University of Chicago.  Glancing over the article now, I well remember my blood pressure going through the roof when I read how I had been the one caught out in lying about the purpose of our changing the title of the sequence from "Western" to "European" so that I and my colleagues could "teach to [our] personal [specialties]," particularly given that the only reason I was serving as chair of the sequence in the first place was because I believed in teaching the history of Western civilization, not just courses in my field. 

Because, you see, and on this I am rock-solid, I believe in Western civilization, and not just as a t…