Saturday, April 23, 2011
Whit and I have been having an antic day of it, and of course it's you-know-whose fault. I took it in mind that we should go out and photograph a dogwood blooming at the edge of 12 new acres of Moscato Ottonel being planted nearby, to let our chums in California know what a Virginia vineyard looks like.
Ever since, prescient seer that he is, of aromatics which exist only still in one's mind, he has been wondering when we are going to see the first harvest. How do you tell a guy like that, "3 years," when he's already dressing the part of a dashing Epicurus on break from serious worldly cares, such as where to download his next mp3? You know he's bound to pull out his cruelest ace-in-the-hole of protest, But I'll be Old By Then, practically dead, and way too decrepit to enjoy it.
We live with this kind of effrontery all the time, with Whit, and if pressed into even greater candour, we could say we almost really don't mind. Balancing the soothing precognition that he probably does walk on water, is the practice of the well fed soul in him, that knows the hour of his guaranteed outings will not vary more than a stride or two of the minute hand (an admitted decade, in canine time), and that with the slightest fly-by of an errant cardinal he may assert the divine right of chase without due application for a warrant.
In fact we have not been immune to this invasion of curiosity, either, as to when it will be time for jebbiebeans and summey madness, that promised reward for waiting patiently (can you stand it?) for the Resurrection to lift the restraints of Lent. Honestly, when you think of the harshest residual consequences of Rome's imperious misrule, does any of them compare with postponing jellybeans until after Easter Communion, never mind the itchy pants? To think: we might have had Cy Twombly an entire century, perhaps a millennium sooner, if they could have done their decline and fall thing with kindlier efficiency.
But there we are. It's not as if they couldn't have worked it out, to let Easter fall on a Friday afternoon, for example, even if this might have meant stabbing Caesar at home some 40 years before, instead of at the office. Just by accelerating a phalanx or two of Scipio's centurions against Hannibal by an inch of time, you can well see the multiplier effect of centuries on that courtesy, hastening all our happiness and peeling years away from our decay as we speak. So, yes, on an April afternoon in the country, an English dog wants his summer madness now, thank you very much, and doesn't care if he looks ridiculous as he claims it.
Does it mean anything, that history takes forever to unravel injustice's horrors? The question touches intimately on a Virginian's way of life, of course, so one doesn't wish to press it too sharply, on this most sweetly meditative of afternoons.
Meanwhile, there will be several more Sundays in itchy pants for us, and eons of English Cocker melodrama before we taste that Moscato. Just have to send to California, to ship us some.
Thursday, April 21, 2011
There is talk of calling our custom of taking the lives of others by judicial processing a "death penal-ty," yet mightn't this confuse people, if a penalty is an excise upon a breach of law, and many are spared extermination for the same offense? Some would like to refer to this as a "capital punishment," which it would be, if anyone were able to say it will be inflicted. It seems reasonable, then, to call our custom the thing it was this week, some 2 millennia ago: a murder by undue popular influence, sufficient to excite conformity to something extra-judicial that we somehow can't bring ourselves to confess.
i, another country
i, another country
For my own peaceful lot and happy choice;
A choice that from the passions of the world
Withdrew, and fixed me in a still retreat;
Sheltered, but not to social duties lost,
Secluded, but not buried; and with song ..
.. open it where you please. First comes the thesis - ultrum - whether such a thing be thus or otherwise; then the objections - ad primum sic proceditur; next the answers to these objections - sed contra est .. or respondeo dicendum. Pure advocacy!
And underlying many, perhaps most, of its arguments you will find a logical fallacy which may be expressed more scholastico by this syllogism: I do not understand this fact save by giving it this explanation; it is thus that I understand it, therefore this must be its explanation. The alternative being that I am left without any understanding of it at all. True science teaches, above all, to doubt and to be ignorant; advocacy neither doubts nor believes that it does not know. It requires a solution.
The distinction between arduous personal faith and ecstatic evangelism is often lost, to hoist another generation on a rack of endless horror. Look to your left, look to your right in its trial - the second fragment cited above is from a martyred Basque Professor of Greek at the most glittering college of Spain - and there is the hideous temptation he describes, in comments on Aquinas. This is the creed of the rabble in control of the American Congress, the present incarnation of the epistemology of Golgotha. What it will wreak upon us we already know. There is no shelter, Wordsworth knew, in any still retreat.
Homo sum; nullum hominem a me alienum puto.
I am a man; no other man do I deem a stranger.
ii, Ivan Terestchenko
Miguel de Unamuno
Del Sentimiento Trágico
de la Vida
J.E. Crawford Flitch, translator
Macmillan & Co., 1921
Dover Publications, 1954©