Sunday, April 15, 2012

Did the Enlightenment use CF bulbs?

If my NVCC students were paying attention in class (no guarantee of that, I can't say I am the most scintillating lecturer), they would have picked up on the fact that I am not a fan of the Enlightenment. Most of the ideas propagated in Enlightenment France have turned out to be a steaming load of doggie bombs or led to fun little cultural events like the Reign of Terror. Add to that the fact that the Enlightenment led to the sense of cultural chauvinism which could not accept the idea that any other system of thinking could be civilized. Hence, any religious or spiritual practice was the product of superstition, and a more advanced people would abandon these beliefs soon enough. And if they didn't, a little cultural genocide could be a good thing. Merci bien, M'sieur Robespierre. 

Another result of the Enlightenment is it killed any sense of imagination in the Western world. If it can't be quantified, measured, replicated, duplicated, dissected, filed, or otherwise run through the bureaucratic thinking that has become modern academia, it doesn't exist. And if the text states something that doesn't fit in with our narrow, Enlightenment thinking, it is to be understood as superstition (that word again) and dismissed as evidence of the primitive nature of the people and their thinking. 

I like to mess with my students' heads and tell them I believe in dragons. Every culture in the world has some image or tradition about dragons. Now, most Enlightenment-conditioned scientistic thinkers will tell you that these accounts were the result of digging up bones and making up stories. But why do all these cultures show pictures of these dragons that are so similar? What real evidence is there that dragons do not exist? We haven't seen them is the usual answer. I ask how many of my students have seen Antarctica. We accept that exists from the reports of others. 

All this is inspired by a rally on the Mall in DC on the 30th of March, held by atheists. One of the speakers was Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, who put out a challenge to his fellow atheists: 

"Mock them. Ridicule them! In public! For example, if they say they're Catholic: Do you really believe, that when a priest blesses a wafer, it turns into the body of Christ? Are you seriously telling me you believe that? Are you seriously saying that wine turns into blood?"

My answer, as a Catholic: "Sure, why not? What evidence do you have that it doesn't happen?" Obviously,  he could point out that after any number of tests there is no difference in the material of bread and wine, blah blah blah... which is another way of saying "We have no way of quantitatively measuring it."  

This proves their point, doesn't it? Perhaps. Unless you consider a statement made by Arthur C. Clarke, that the atheistic crowd likes to haul out now and again:

"Any sufficiently advanced technology would be indistinguishable from magic."

So, could it be that the change in the substance of bread and wine to the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ are simply the result of some technology that can't be measured by our admittedly inferior and limited instruments? Of course not, because that would imply that science can't answer it all. 

The funny part is, Dawkins looks at the faith a Catholic might have in the Blessed Sacrament and considers it absurd, but he is willing to accept another wild leap of faith: that, without an agent, a swirl of chemicals managed to find each other in absolutely favorable conditions, creating amino acids, which proceed to slam together to produce protein chains, that eventually jump into a primordial mosh pit, producing DNA molecules, which somehow manage to figure out how to develop into single celled animals, which then figure out how to develop a multiple -cellular structure, which then determines the need to develop specialized organs and then how to fulfill that need, developing finally into vertebrates with complex brains and opposable thumbs. Not bad. When asked how this might occur without some agent of some sort, Dawkins provides one: aliens. 

And all without a single observed instance of evolution. Keep in mind, evolution and adaptation are not the same thing. Adaptation goes on frequently. But there has never been a single moment where scientists have been able to state definitively, in a reproducible manner, that higher species developed from another, which is evolution. Why do you think it is still a theory.

In fact, the high priest of evolutionism, Stephen Jay Gould stated that he couldn't prove evolution, but he believed in it, because he must. Sounds like faith. Or superstition, if you are one of those Enlightenment figures. 

Do I believe that creation occured in a 6-Day, 24 hour cycle? Not necessarily. But I do believe that before the Enlightenment we possessed the imagination to correctly understand the story as it was told. 

I'll let the scientists and the Enlightened have the world of facts and data, with all the drab implication it contains. I'll take the world with dragons. It's more interesting, and requires a greater intellectual effort.

Better living through chemistry, you know. Just ask the Vietnamese. And the soldiers who were able to enjoy the benefits of Agent Orange. 

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery: The Crucifixion

[35] And after they had crucified him, they divided his garments, casting lots; that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: They divided my garments among them; and upon my vesture they cast lots. (St. Matthew 27.35)

[26] And the inscription of his cause was written over: THE KING OF THE JEWS. [27] And with him they crucify two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left. [28] And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith: And with the wicked he was reputed. [29] And they that passed by blasphemed him, wagging their heads, and saying: Vah, thou that destroyest the temple of God, and in three days buildest it up again; [30] Save thyself, coming down from the cross. (St. Mark 15.26-30)

 [39] And one of those robbers who were hanged, blasphemed him, saying: If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. [40] But the other answering, rebuked him, saying: Neither dost thou fear God, seeing thou art condemned under the same condemnation? [41] And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this man hath done no evil.[42] And he said to Jesus: Lord, remember me when thou shalt come into thy kingdom. [43] And Jesus said to him: Amen I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with me in paradise. (St. Luke 23.41-43)
 [30] Jesus therefore, when he had taken the vinegar, said: It is consummated. And bowing his head, he gave up the ghost. [31] Then the Jews, (because it was the parasceve,) that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the sabbath day, (for that was a great sabbath day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. [32] The soldiers therefore came; and they broke the legs of the first, and of the other that was crucified with him. [33] But after they were come to Jesus, when they saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. [34] But one of the soldiers with a spear opened his side, and immediately there came out blood and water. (St. John 19.30-34)
The journey has come to an end, and Our Lord hangs on the cross, to die. He is raised up at the sixth hour, about noon, and His agony is to last three hours. A surprisingly little time, if one considers the nature of death by crucifixion. Essentially, it is death by suffocation, not loss of blood. As you hang on the cross, your weight rests squarely on your rib cage, stretching out your diaphragm. Your lungs can't fully expand and take a full breath. As you hang there, the sheer effort of breathing exhausts you, and more of your weight falls on your diaphragm. 
Death like this could take a day or more. To help you along, the Romans would break your legs, thus taking away any support you might have, and more than likely bringing on a case of shock. Either way, you would die a little more quickly. 
How generous.
Leave it to the Romans to think of a method of execution like this. The inhumanity of it all is absolutely incomprehensible. How might you stand by and watch this sort of thing?
But people did. They did, and mocked the dying Lord who was dying for them. The only ones who did not mock were Our Lord's Blessed Mother, and St. John, who stood nearby. All others had abandoned Him, including His most devoted, St. Peter. Who can blame Jesus for His cry, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani? He was utterly abandoned, feeling so even by God. 
In the face of all this, God grants Jesus some grace. Two thieves were his companions on the cross, and one, even then, taunts him. But the other realizes who Jesus is, and asks only for a remembrance. And Jesus grants forgiveness, from the depths of His Sacred Heart, He forgives. He forgives all around Him. He is in utter agony, His back has been shredded, His hands, not so much earlier bringing healing and life, pierced by iron nails, his feet likewise. His head crowned with thorns, He can find no peace, no solace, no respite from the pain for 3 hours. And still, He forgives.
In light of this, what claim do we have to being insulted? "He said something offensive"? "She insulted me"? "He disrespected me"? How incredibly petty we all seem when we make these claims to being insulted, to being betrayed, to being harmed. In the face of Our Suffering and Dying Lord, what insult can be so bad that you cannot forgive? 
Perhaps, if we were forced to stand before Our Lord and explain why our sense of outrage is so much greater than His, we could learn to forgive. Perhaps we could learn to then bear with the insults if we were to only think of the insults that we have subjected Our Lord to, to bear humiliations, if we only realize the humiliations we doled out to Our Lord, to forgive betrayal, when the weight of our betrayal presses down upon us. If, perhaps, the weight of our sin began to suffocate us as it did Our Lord, then we might be more able to accept the sins of others, realizing that we all are the Pharisees, the Romans, the people standing on the sides of the road on the Via Dolorosa, spitting and offering only hatred to the One who loved us so much.
If only.
God, grant me the grace of final perseverance.