Seven Quick Takes No. 7

More "quick takes" at Conversion Diary.

1. Life lesson for the week: cereal, specifically Grapenuts, really does taste better with milk. And no, it doesn't help to add the blueberries. It still tastes foul without the milk. Is it the sugar or the fat that's missing?

2. Thought for the week: most people believe that sin is real, they just don't believe that the things they do are sins.

3. Juxtaposition for the week: William H. Gass's review in Harper's (August 2009) of Richard J. Evans', The Third Reich at War (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2009) with Henry Suso's meditation on the punishments of Hell in his Wisdom's Watch Upon the Hours, trans. by Edmund Colledge (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1994). Which is worse: imagining a place in which "cruel judges, unjust rulers, clerics greedy for filthy lucre, lascivious monks, violent laymen, shameless women, dancing girls and streetwalkers and all the other kinds of false Christians" are punished, or actually shooting 33,771 human beings in the back of the neck, having made them lie down in a ravine in neat rows? Because, you know, Hell is just a fiction made up by patriarchs to make people feel bad about themselves and submit to the clergy, not a description of what it is like to be separated from God by one's own free will. Right.

4. It makes a huge difference to the feel of a room to have the blinds all the way up, not halfway down as we've kept them for years. It's funny, the windows still seem a bit naked, thrown open to the sky as they are now to let in as much of our gorgeous late summer sunlight as they can. We can even see the trees in all their leafy glory. So why does it make me nervous to be able to see out so clearly? It's only partially a problem of allowing others to see in; our apartment is high enough up that you can't really see anything but our ceilings from the street, and none of our neighbors from across the street seem to be paying any attention to what we're doing.

5. Yet another (apparent) effect of centering prayer: I don't seem to be as interested in keeping up with every last status update on Facebook. I don't really believe all the alarmist accounts of how bad being on Facebook is for you; everything I've experienced has been fairly positive. But it is true that checking on everyone's status can be somewhat distracting, even when one's Friends do post such excellent links. Like this one on the current health care debate. Or this one on what a medievalist (like me!) is doing collecting comics. It's just that it's far too easy to get caught up in worrying whether one has (gasp!) missed something, when "being current" is, in fact, always something of an illusion. Mind you, it's taken me a good 20 minutes to write this "quick take" because I had to go check Facebook first.

6. Do people make places or do places make people? I've spent most of the week when I wasn't reading Henry Suso, praying, doing yoga or fencing (ah, the sore muscles of the first week back after vacation!) editing the parish profile for our rector search committee.* This has involved, among other things, spending far too much time on the web (if not Facebook!) searching for details about institutions and events in our neighborhood. And let it be said, we live in a pretty astonishing neighborhood: more Nobel laureates per square mile than pretty much any place else in the world; historic buildings and landmark parks; six seminaries, more religious orders than you can count (or, at least, than I could), two synagogues, a mosque, and churches on nearly every corner; my own employer; not to mention the President's home. I don't know whether to be honored or daunted that I have the good fortune to live here. I'm certainly not a Nobel laureate, but on the other hand, there I was at our committee meeting the other night, arguing capitalization with the first African American woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate. The daughter of astronaut Michael Collins also goes to our church.

7. Protestants are really missing out not believing in the Real Presence in the Eucharist: God, there in body on the altar, wholly lovable.

*How so much of this work ended up on my plate is another story; suffice it to say that, remarkably, centering prayer seems to help with this sort of thing, too.


  1. I've gotten tired of Facebook. I like blogs better; they're more in-depth. And I could never write my "quick takes" quickly--that, and the fact that I couldn't get to reading everyone else's quick takes being the two reasons I've given up on it.

    Have a great weekend!

  2. I agree: my "quick takes" often take longer than a regular blog post to write. But I enjoy the format for musing on a purportedly random collection of things. I say "purportedly" because it always seems that there is in fact some theme, even if I don't consciously choose the "takes" that way.

    I like blogging better than Facebook, too, in part because it enables me to reach people I wouldn't otherwise. But I think Facebook has its place, I'm just ambivalent about how much time to give it. Blogging, on the other hand, is always a blessing!

    Have a good weekend, too!

  3. A gentle correction: many Protestants do believe in the "real presence" (Lutherans, for example) of Christ in the Eucharist, and they use those words. (I put it in quotes only because the historical meaning of that term is rather messy.) They just don't believe in the occurrence of transubstantiation.

  4. @unentdeckt: Very good point. I meant "transubstantiation." However, for Catholics, of course, to deny transubstantiation is to deny the Real Presence. It's one of the main (if not the main) reasons they won't allow us (Protestants) to take communion with them (Catholics). We (Episcopalians; at least, the ones with whom I worship) are somewhat more lax about what people believe as they receive the Host.


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