Monday, December 4, 2017

"... I do not think it means... what you think it means... "

What a lot of noise about that word...

As it happens, I hold a Degree, the sort colloquially known as "Master of Science". The principal degree requirement for a Master of Science is demonstrated mastery. Of Something. If you like, I wrote a Masterpiece of a Thesis... I'm not particularly proud of it as a Piece of Writing, but I can still tell you what's going on in every part of it, and it definitely all makes sense, while being not-obvious-from-the-get-go. And that was ten years ago.

That's what Mastery is about.

The Latin name for the same degree, from which the English "Master of Science" descends, is Magister Scientis. That's right. I can genuinely speak Magisterially about a small but significant and sometimes-useful bit of Mathematics, and in rather more depth than Baccalaureates are expected to. And it's not because I discovered anything, nor still less invented anything, but because I have mastered it. Got it under my dura, as it were. It was before I was; it now does my bidding (more or less) because I have been conformed to it, and know not to bid it what it will not Do.

Indeed, there is only One Who speaks Magisterially and Creatively in the same pneuma. The Church speaks with Magistras when and because and in how She is Conformed to Him Who Is Ante Ipsa. Her Epi-skopoi speak with Magistras, similarly, when they have mastered Her theology and been conformed to it. Whenever it is Not Her Theology that is spoken, it is not She who is speaking; and whoever speaks opposed to Her teaching has been mastered by Something Else, by something Alien.

I wonder to what extent "Magistras" has taken on the colour of Maiestas in the Public Mind (and elsewhere). They both have that Latinate flavour of Bookishness, haven't they? Not to mention differing only in three letters... easy to confuse? And be not in doubt: the Servus Servorum, and his Antistiti, indeed have maiestas, for instance in authority to discern penitence and so Forgive or Retain; and the SrvsSvrm has maiestas also to order the Episkopoi, defining their Parochia and such; Ligatum/Solutum erit et in Cœlis, remember! However!!! Magistras on the contrary is not about mastery of subjects but of mastery over self in deference to the Truth. (Materialists, btw, will tell you that "the truth" is "what is", whatever else those might be; we can do better: Truth is Who Is).

I don't care who is dropping "Magisterial" into what periodicals over or under what articles: the Magistras (or lack thereof) of anything is, at least in principal, a Falsifiable Proposition, because the Magisterium is a Public Tradition. Our Lord Himself answers those who conspire against him: "I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in the synagogue and in the temple, whither all the Jews resort: and in secret I have spoken nothing."

So There.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Musings wandering about his head

The musings are related, though broad-ranging... the Bat wishes to be clear up-front that, so far as he knows, everything non-obvious that follows in this note should be thought Speculation or a place to begin thinking, and he well may indeed go off his rails at some point; and if anyone knows so, would they kindly explain such to him... nonetheless it seems:

Why God is "Father"

Paul writes "... for this reason I bow my knees to the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, for whom is named all Paternity..."

"Paternity". Paul tells us that (whatever the Accidents of History that led to this situation) God the Divine Person the Father is "Father" before any men are "fathers". That is, it isn't (so far as the Naming of Things is concerned) that Men (or Women) are "More God-Like" or otherwise intrinsically Superior and so we compromise God with the name "Father" after human fathers: it is that All Human Paternity (and all Angelic Paternity... whatever that might be?) is called by (and thus, called unto imitating) the Divine Person the Father.

Since we are, with St. Paul, ignoring the Accidents of History so far as where human words come from, let us remark that Paternity, (rather than "paterity"...) is the Relation of being the Pattern (rather than the pater) of Something That Follows (or Proceeds). Let us remark that, so far as Human Paternity is concerned, not only are men-alone quite incapable of achieving this kind of Paternity, but Mothers Also Participate In Exactly the Same Paternity: that is, children resemble both their parents — in varying degrees and at different times, for Human skulls (weirdly!) change considerably as we mature. More importantly still, good fathers and mothers both provide patterns of living for their children to imitate.

In Brief: "Paternity-as-such" is a relation that both mothers and fathers participate in.

Now, there is, again, a reason that Mother and Father have different names. Mothers do more than pattern their children: they bear and birth them, at considerable hazard, and they feed them of their own living blood. There are different trends in the psychology of human motherhood vs. human fatherhood that follow from (or feed) this distinct role of Motherhood, but they do not obscure the Imago Dei that both men and women bear. The key point, for which cause we do not call God "Mother" is that: to the extent that we are "in God", we never leave ("in Him we move and have our being"), and to the extent that we are outside of God (distinct from... it is indeed a Considerable Extent...) we never were in Him. Or, to put it differently, the Specific Difference that separates Motherhood In Particular from Paternity In General is an Ephemeral Thing; but Nothing In God is changeful. Or again, Motherhood-as-such is a New Creation.

Why Ordinandi are Men

Even that great Falsifier the Worldly Orson Welles could wax lyrical about how Chartres Cathedral was, as are so many Gothic Basilicas, like "a Forest of Stone"; with St. Paul, let us put things backwards and say: The Forests of Old are Foretellings of the Cathedral. But a Cathedral of Stone is itself but a House for an Altar and an Ark. The Ark (in its Tabernacle) is for the Present Hidden God, of course. But what are altars for? Why, for Blood.

Human Priests, before and after Jesus Christ, are not to shed their own blood on God's Altar. Indeed, under the High Priesthood of Jesus Christ, there is only one Sacrifice on God's Altar, re-presented continually down through the Ages, resting only once a year on Good Friday... and it so happens that, shortly after the Forest (... or, perhaps, the Garden?... ) foretold the Cathedral, so too Woman foretold the Sacrifice and the Altar. That is, most women regularly shed their own blood, as a matter of course, and of keeping watch until the Master of the House Return, ... Woman portrays Sacrifice and Priesthood in her living flesh, more closely than we could bear to behold every day. Let these sacred things be veiled, but not eclipsed. Let not any think to Better that image of Man's duty of sacrifice unto God by imposing on a woman the work of sacrificing another's living blood, however great and holy. That were to make her less than she is, even the same which makes a man more than he was.

The priesthood of the lay faithful

There are, nonetheless, real and worthy sacrifices that all the faithful can make, and which No Priest can make for them. "If any man would come after Me, let him first deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me", says Our Lord; and St. Paul answers "with Christ, I am nailed to the cross; And I live, now, not I, but Christ liveth in me". As Abraham did sacrifice Isaac without shedding Isaac's blood, so we are called to sacrifice ourselves; and at the root of how we do that is to Repent of all our selfish sins, to Confess them through a Priest, doing Penance, and Receiving Holy Communion. Now-a-days, they even have wood boxes (usually, but not always, a bit larger than coffin-sized) in which to perform this Self-Immolation.

It takes an Ordained Priest with full Faculties to complete this work, to bind up the wound in Christ's Mystical Body, BUT no-one can begin this sacrifice on any other's behalf — and that is our priesthood; that is a Participatio Actuose!

From the Wilds of Urban Metropolis

Sunday, October 29, 2017

[indeed] temporary embarassing note

HURRAH! all sorted, now. Proceed as if we were normal.

The Bat of the Belfry has lost the password to his Other Email Address. You know, the address that I don't mention here.

In the highly-unlikely event that one of you kind souls has JUST written me and is wondering why I don't write back, that is probably the reason. There is a plan to get things fixed tomorrow.

Many thanks for your patience, prayers, and understanding,

one silly little goose of a bat

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Not for excessive iteration, but...

... the Canonist has some worth-while things to say about the (canonical, theological... ) uses of the word "Received".

If I may, I think St. John the Evangelist also has a useful word or two, in the "Last" Gospel.

In propria venit, et sui eum not receperunt

... To His own He came, and His own received Him not.

(I think that's enough, don't you?)

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Far be it from me...

There is, in certain circles you may have intersected, a trope of asserting something along the lines of
that “active” there is supposed to reflect Sacrosanctum Concilium’s word “actuosa”, which is better rendered as the deeper “actual”.
You may have read these words somewhere else recently, perhaps set in Red? ... Anyways. There is a small problem, however, if you own/have borrowed/stolen/know how to find a "Lewis and Short":
actŭōsus , a, um, adj. actus,

I.full of activity, very active (with the access. idea of zeal, subjective impulse; diff. from industrius, which refers more to the means by which an object is attained, Doed. Syn. 1, 123): “virtus actuosa (est), et deus vester nihil agens expers virtutis (est),” Cic. N. D. 1, 40; so id. Or. 36, 125; Sen. Ep. 39.—Hence, acc. to Fest. s. v. actus, p. 15, subst., an actor or dancer.—Adv.: actŭōse , in a lively manner, with activity, Cic. de Or. 3, 26, 102.

A Latin Dictionary. Founded on Andrews' edition of Freund's Latin dictionary. revised, enlarged, and in great part rewritten by. Charlton T. Lewis, Ph.D. and. Charles Short, LL.D. Oxford. Clarendon Press. 1879.
So. You see the difficulty. There's nothing about distinguishing between "superficial/profound" in there. There's nothing about genuine or feigned. It's almost as if "active" is exactly the right translation from the Latin to our English.

Nonetheless, there is a substantive criticism to be made where the intersecting circles do criticize, and I should like to add my voice to it, BUT USING A BAD ARGUMENT WON'T HELP and repeating carelessly "the word 'actuosa' is better translated 'actual' than 'active'" is a BAD ARGUMENT for two reasons: 1) it misses the point and 2) it suggests an insupportable translation. I've remarked before that we need grammar to translate properly, and not merely words.

"Actuosa" is an adjective. Adjectives are like verbs in that they are attached (grammatically) to (grammatical) nouns. There is therefore a question: what is the noun to which "actuosa" is attached? In the disputed text, that is obviously "participatio". So, then, the distinction should not be between whether "participatio actuosa" is "actual" or "active", but where the activity of the "active participation" is. To put it differently again, within the very same entry we have an adjective and an adverb: It's as though Lewis+Short imagine that the Council Fathers had a choice between "participatio actuosa" and "participans actuose".

In "participans actuose" what becomes actuosus is the participant — and that's the caricature against which the "actually..." counter was tried. For indeed when all are actuosi, all is Babel and Negotio; but we seek Requiem: "Beati mortui qui in Domino moriuntur... requiescant a laboribus suis". In "participatio actuosa" it is the participatio ipsa that is actuosa. Yes, it's easy to imagine the conjunction of both, participans participatio actuosa actuose as it were, but it is hardly necessary. It's perfectly consonant with the idea of "participatio actuosa" that the part one takes (parte quem cipit) is active, lively, full of activity, within the participant. That attending to the Mass (whatever that looks like from the outside) might, as it were, bring life into the soul. HMMM!

Monday, September 4, 2017

scattered thoughts on how the best words go very wrong cut off from tradition

Peace is a good thing, obviously; and the best peace to have is that of Heaven; to attain it is a struggle, a constant battle, a striving against devils, against powers and principalities; and the only sure way to attain it is to surrender to the Divine Will...

Any good Catholic can agree with all of that, but will insist that it is badly incomplete.

Our Peace hath a name: it is Jesus Christ.

Our Struggle is within our very souls, so that we can then love our Neighbour in Truth and Right.

Our Surrender is to take up our Crosses and to die to ourselves (which, among other ways, we do whenever we make a good confession).

Friday, September 1, 2017

Form and formation

A little while ago, in studying for us the "εφφαθα" Miracle, Father cited St. Thomas' proposition that even those of us disabled of some sense, of sight or hearing or reason... still possess an inclination towards those senses, being part of Human Nature; and this was Father's lead-in to another particular inclination integral to Human Nature against which, that very day, there were in our City a number of parades marching under the banner "Bar-y of disordered colours and metals" and the motto "Hubris!"... Oh, how dull. That's not why I'm writing today.

There is a marvellous illustration of St Thomas' contention in the discovery, within neuroscience, of plasticity: it's possible (though probably not a good idea) to inhibit the development of the parts of the brain closest to the sense of sound — in fact, an effective way is to produce a defective ear — ; and then a funny thing happens when wires are connected between ordinary (probably tiny) microphones and some other part of the brain: that part of the brain being tickled in a way that behaves like "sound" will then reconnect itself to behave more like an auditory centre. And that's the basic idea behind cochlear implants.

However, this doesn't mean that, in the ordinary course of things, a cochlear-implant patient develops perfect hearing: plasticity is limited by age, and it seems to get used-up. In a similar way, people can have perfectly well-formed retinas but congenital cataracts; now-a-days such cataracts can be corrected before a child learns to walk (this happened to a ... er... step-cousin... of mine... !) but before we grew so daring, adults given late correction of early cataracts learned to see in greater resolution, but ordinarily couldn't intuit perspective. Seeing and understanding the space we inhabit indeed belongs to our Human Form, but we usually need to be informed by that space early in life. Just as a rhyming point of amusement, I can tell you with certainty that I have trouble seeing the roundness of circles. If you show me a circle as perfect as can be, if it is large enough (which isn't too large), my brain will insist that the shape is being more tightly curved in four corners, top and bottom, left and right; maybe I've been looking at rectangles for too long? (Me! a geometer...)

Anyways, I bring it up — the limits of ordinary plasticity — to highlight just how complete is the Miracle of the εφφαθα: this man was born and lived a long time with sticking tongue and blocked ears, and in the very minute that his ears are opened and his tongue loosed, he is able to speak what he has never heard before, using muscles that have never been trained; and to understanding what he cannot have learned by hearing. Verily, vino torcularia redundabant!

Thursday, August 31, 2017


I've found over my few years that I've known quite a few people whose first language was something Slavic. However, I've never learned much of any particular slavic language, and it's starting to feel a bit embarassing. There's "Lord have mercy", "Господы помелуй", and maybe I could count camels (верблюды!) in the desert (пуштыне), up to about five (what fun, O Swann!). Oh, and I once was asked to learn and sing that choral interpolation on top of Tchaikovsky's 1812, "Spare, O Lord, Thy people and bless Thine inheritance:" "спаси, господы, люди твоя, и благословы достояне твое..."

Anyways, gradually more and more embarassing. Modern Cyrillic script, though, is still a bit weird (to say nothing of the older script actually developed by ... S. Cyril...). So I've decided to work via Polish, and recently bookmarked a table of ancient words and added "Gdasnk 1881" to my Xiphos collection and started on the Ewangelia według św. Jana, because it is probably my favourite writing in any language, and... oh, my goodness!

One could go on (someone already has?) for several dissertations, I'd bet, on the network of words around [SVI]; for instance, Polish has "światłość" (Lat: lux) and "świadectwo" (Lat: "in testimonium") and "świat" (Lat: "[hunc] mundum"... I think because it's what we can see? ... ) and "święty" (Lat: "sanctus"... ok, I pulled this one out of Isaiah, another favourite).

And then there was A colloquial paper about slavic roots (and loan-words) in languages we usually don't think of as slavic at all; that paper suggests that the very Latin "videre" (and hence view, vision...) hail from the same [SVI] family by elision of the initial "s"... which shows up in Polish as "widzieć" (to see), independently of Latin (says the colloquial paper). I'm rather thinking that "Sanctus" is another, or better, of these. (Within Latin, it's hard to connect with its Greek counterpart, "ἅγιος"... does anyone know of any other pairs of words connected by a [nc] ←→ [γ]? There is the pair (septem ←→ ἑπτὰ) for matching an "s" with an aspirated vowel... and then is one of them older???)

There are also some neat jokes one can play: a small egg, in Polish, is "jajko" which sounds "yolky"; the Word that made every thing was "Słowo" which you might like to think has something in common with "λογος"; or "żona" with "γυνή"; or "kora" with "écorce" (French for "rind" or "bark"... no idea where English "bark" comes from...). One must respect the fierce "zwierz".

And now this note is getting długi and my head is feeling tłusty. Time to go back to mathematics, I think.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

... another one of these? how the world wags...

"for, but a year ago, he was 34, and in another year hence (God willing...)"

a mixture of gravity and waggery, shall we say.

I hope you all are well!

en l'union des prières

PS. I'm actually away from the Internet... Did the Sun wink at you? Did it come back again after?

Friday, August 18, 2017

Cantemus Domino gloriose enim magnificatus est

Dear readerfolk, gentles all,

Sometimes a word pops out at you; this evening, rehearsing the Communio for Sunday, that word was "redundabunt".
Here is the verse in full:
Honora Domino de tua substantia et de primitiis frugum tuarum
ut impleantur horea tua saturitate, et vino torcularia redundabunt

Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with thy firstfruits,
that filled may your barns be to bursting, and with wine thy winepresses ...
Well. It is a word not entirely unused in English, but the only example that I can recall is from "Tollers"'s subcreative imagination re. the unique kind of freedom given to Men by The One Creator:
"These too shall find in time that all that they do redounds at the end only to the glory of my work."
It has a majestic sound to it, that's for sure (and the sound of the right word was very important to him), but there's ... well, it's just a bit unfortunate... it's hard to get a sense, from how it sounds in that majestic declaration, what it sounded like to the Latins. For one thing, we're not used, in English, to that shape of the "re-" prefix; one has to cast about recenter Conciliar Decrees to find "Unitatis Redintegratio", which is certainly not about dintegration. But once you've got a handle on that, you'll see quite easily that the word's root is "Unda". Apart from "redound", I can't quite think of another English descendent of that word which is quite free of a Technical or "foreign" tincture. It's unfortunate, because this is one of those special moments that the Latin word feels perfectly right for what it means, even to my English mouth and ears...

Find a quiet place, perhaps by the sea, sit thee comfortably with closèd eyes, and breathe in slowly; pause; and relaxing let out thy breath again. Leaving-off that conscious direction of the flesh, give thanks to God for all these good things.

I've come across two versions of the "Ave Verum" text, and one of them lacks this "unda" word, using instead "aqua" ... (there's also some variability to the ordering around "fluxit"). So "unda" is sort-of about water; however, its later descendents are mostly about waves, "undulating" in English and "ondes" in French. That suggests that "unda" isn't so much about water as a substance, but about how it moves: it is a water that rises and falls, a flood that waves. "Unda fluxit"... and you might just think of a conversation over Jacob's well in the Samaritan country, and of living waters. "Unda" just might be the Swell of the Ocean. And "redunda" might just be about the clash of surf upon the rocks.

So, it's almost as if the Communion Verse promises that, if we honour God rightly, freely making sacred to Him the first of our harvests, in his blessing our winepresses will be as flowing waves of wine, so filled that it won't be clear if the wine is pouring out of the press or flooding back in. (... which, if you think on it, sort-of happened one day at Cana.)

God's generosity can be, frankly, somewhat terrifying, don't you think?

But, oh! what fun!

cantor-culus minimus...

Monday, August 14, 2017

Just for fun

(it's very good to have fun, now and then)

You see, I'd been a bit concerned that the previous version seemed to be set under King Edward's Crown or something similar... which had been, ... I don't know... a bit of a pastiche? (I don't think I've ever really used that word before!) Anyways,it seems to me that if there's any crown the sentiment should be set under, it's the crown of King Eärnur. Here, therefore, we have it!

A high helm, as those of the Guards of the Tower, set with wings of a sea-bird, and at the top was a single diamond (and which I have imagined engraved with the emblem of the Tree)

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

More About Parsing

parsing Scripture, that is...

I was reading, somewhere, I can't remember precisely, but recently, how Matthew's Gospel includes an extra clause in Our Lord's exegesis on the 7th Commandment,
and if a man put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and marry another, he commits adultery...
... the writer I have forgotten was defending the Catholic Tradition against insinuations that the italics above might actually give some sort of loop-hole into serial polygamy, if you should happen to know that all your wives are at some point unfaithful.

As you may guess, given my choice to phrase the insinuation that distastefully, I've an alternative parsing of the "except ...", one that should ring in the heart of any Canonist (... IANAC...), but it starts with the gramatical ambiguity: "whose fornication might excuse?" That is, that word there is a noun with root a verb, which verb involves a subject and an object, and neither subject nor object are clear in the text I have been given. The principles of charity (Oh! what horror to find oneself exerting to be charitable with Charity Himself!) and of Divine Consistency (videlicet, the Holy Spirit speaking in Tradition cannot contradict the Holy Spirit speaking through the Evangelists) impell us to resolve this ambiguity as straight-forwardly as possible.

To be specific, it can happen that Percival, who is free to marry, falls in love with Rowena, who is not; but she conceals this and they proceed through a wedding ceremony. And it then is possible that in one shared act Rowena becomes guilty of fornication while Percival remains innocent; that is, untill he learn the truth. We could switch the names and respective pronouns without changing the content of the narrative.

Such happenings are not unknown; there were at least two Sherlock Holmes Adventures that involved a twist like this. So, the "Except": Percival and Rowena had a wedding, and while he was reasonably ignorant Percival could call Rowena "wife", but once the truth is out he must "put her away", which is to undo the semblance of a wedding as formally as required by law and neighborliness... The point: is he not then free to marry? For he was in fact never married before.

I think, O Reader, that that is what Our Lord is telling us in the "except". For it would be quite feasible, in a spirit of Scruple or of Fencing-Out the Law, to imagine that Percival "ought not" to try marrying again, especially given the bright clarity with which He is in these passages pointing out the Law; but that (I should probably try to finish this thought, eh? Especially if I'm linking hither from the future... here we go... ) Even More Than The Law, Jesus wants us to know that we can always forgive those who have sinned against us, that we can always repent (when we have sinned), and always turn again to Him (if we had turned away), and the Truth will set you free (even when you hadn't). And that is Good News.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Come and talk recent literary/film history with me!

I specifically have one or two questions that Someone Else might be better-equipped to answer:

The Hitchcock film Lifeboat... it has issues, of course, but... well, in a rather peculiar circumstance, it includes a Villain, which villain is
  1. according to the Logic of the Film's Setting
  2. according to opinion spoken by other characters, and
  3. (most importantly) according to his own actions
a Nazi. Whereas plenty of films include "Straw" Nazis (their only dramatic action is to oppose our hero) or "reluctant/in-name-only" Nazis (think of the submarine Captains in both Enemy Below and Das Boot); whereas "Nazi" is often tossed around as an epithet; and whereas "Nazism" and "anti-semitism" are frequently used interchangeably (which is an error)1 in public chatter: Therefore I suspect that the confluence of those three Nazisms in one character (as in Lifeboat) is Comparatively Rare, especially in English-language Fiction.

I have some impression that also there are acting-believing Nazis shown in other English-language films, both as hero (Million-Dollar Baby) and villain (perhaps the Potter saga?), but actually calling it out seems also to be Comparatively Rare.

Are these impressions of probability, do you think or know, correct? Or have you other examples to suggest? (one other film that has been rattling in my mind since I started puzzling this question is La Vita E Bella, whose believing Nazi is a well-dressed woman complaining of arithmetic word-problems in public schools)

1) The existential opposition between any non-Jewish Nazi state and the Jewish Diaspora follows of necessity from the tradition of Jews calling and keeping themselves a People Set Apart while at the same time insisting on staying here amongst these other Gentes. It is, however, not logically impossible that a particular local Jewish Polity should also become National-Socialist — such would be opposed to the Torah Commands to Love thy Neighbour, and to Protect the Stranger and Orphan... but since the Jews are a people and not simply a religion thus they are capable of violating Torah while remaining Jewish. Meanwhile, (recalling that Nazi Germany was also pleased to export its Jews in exchange for gold) Nazi-Jewry-in-Jewish-State would be entirely compatible with Nazi-Germany-in-German-Empire and Nazi-Japan-in-Japanese-Empire and Nazi-Afghan-State-in-Afghanistan... and the latter three together were a genuine live idea during WWII.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A Thought Experiment

Her Majesty is supposed, these days, not to be "Political", as it is called. I remain uncertain as to what this really means, except that "Her Majesty's a pretty nice girl, though she doesn't have a lot to say..."

Who-Was-Saturday recently affirmed "Je suis la mère de Charlie Gard", to which a commentator has replied "Je suis son grand-père". I should like to ask, therefore, of Her Majesty,
What if rather than wee Charlie, it had been wee Prince George?
Would the Decision be so finally left in the hands of the National Health Service? And would they be so keen to suspend extraordinary support? It's not an idle question, either, as the late King Edward's last physician boasted for decades of having hastened that royal succession1 (over loud royal cursing, I might add), and even now I can't recommend Her Majesty anymore visit this particular Crown Realm whence I write, lest in some emergency the local medical establishment show her less care than we once showed to the then-expectant Queen of Holland (in memory of which myriads of tulips are sent hither each year...)

Dearest, Your Majesty, who sit as mother over all your kingdoms, and indeed a great-grandmother, the question is not a political question. It's a question of family.

1) one may note with some interest that Mrs "Simpson" Spencer never did have any children, so with or without King George VI, we'd probably have welcomed Queen Elizabeth II anyways. But that would have been a very Different World.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

"Consent" is, generally speaking, an unhelpful predicate

There's a ... noisy, I think, is the word I want... collection of... er... "social"... activities...

And, there I've gone off the rails before I even start. Wooster, out of my head!

Dear Libertarian,


Sometimes it's needed, sometimes it isn't, sometimes it's impossible, and sometimes it's wrong and, sometimes, irrelevant. Sometimes it Changes the World For Good.

Consent is needed, for example, when a physician advises a patient that surgery may be required for the aleviation of some suffering (or prevention of some untimely catastrophe). In contrast, consent is impossible when a paramedic is confronted with a person in the state called "unconscious victim" — and it may well be wrong to wait for consent to be available, before getting them to a surgeon. (Incidentally, Erich "Houdini" Weiss died as he did because he withheld consent until he was an "unconscious victim".)

Apparently, consent is not needed either when someone wishes to build a Bypass through your House of a Thursday Morning. (You've got to build Bypasses!)

Consent of a particular sort, freely given between a peculiarly-free man and a peculiarly-free woman, Makes a Thing which will persist as long as they two shall live. And hurrah! for that; but we do not dwell on that joy, here.

But sometimes consent is wrong. Sometimes (it is a fallen world) one proposes to another a thing which should not be done. Sometimes the proposal is an outrage against Life; sometimes against Matrimony; sometimes against Just Authority; sometimes against Reason; in any of these cases, consent is wrong.

And yet! There is ever so much noise these days seeking to excuse this-that-or-t'other under the nylon veil of "consent".

So, let me point out one Helpful Case, where consent may be given to some proposition in such wise that the person giving consent becomes thereby the victim of a crime in civil law: these are broadly described as frauds. There are many kinds of fraud and "confidence" tricks, but the common feature of them all is that real consent is given to Some Thing, and thereby a person, of their own consenting, loses some property1. Now, what further circumstance compacts this consensual acquisition into a crime... you will have to review in the Statutes and Ammendments and Judgments et.c.; nonetheless, that part of the crime which, in the law of the Land whence I write, is called "actus reus" is indeed actus when that consent is first sought. And yet one more difficulty, is that consent can be extracted. Consent can be cajoled, tempted, teased, berated and blackmailed into presenting itself. Frauds do sometimes, in that narrow sense of acheiving their object, "succeed".

Still, so long as Law and even (I have some hope!) public sentiment does recognize that this one class of consent does not absolve a crime, perhaps we may hope in time to retreat from the cliff of All-Consenting-to-Consent? I want to hope.

1) Generally, the sense of fraud implies that something is done to which the consenting victim does not consent, but that other thing is, I should argue, distinct, and does not mean that the victim "didn't really consent at all". One who buys snake-oil does not consent to poisoning but does consent to pay.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

So I watched this movie...

... always a risk, that. As is stepping into a Strange church building... I feel the need to pause here, for there is something immensely merciful, at times, in being not able to hear the homily. What a joy the Ancient Usage, the Divine Liturgy of Pope St. Leo, the Forma Extraordinaria... a sermon carefully written and full of orthodoxy is a Good Thing, but such a small thing next to being formed by the tumbled rocks of the old Missal... now, there is vere participatio, where you know just what to pray when and how because they've tried and worked it out carefully for centuries with the aim of helping souls to Heaven; ... when in contrast, some sects calling themselves christian have so much to make it up new every week that they have (I was reminded, in person, today) invented a new god for themselves, with a new name, and after their own image... this particular community calls itself "United", which is a funny tale in itself, for not only is it united separate from the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic, it really only shuffled an outer division when established all those decades back... but I digress. It is risky being present for strange prayers or strange sermons or movies, for one knows not what subtle nonsense the insidious might try boring into a too-patient audience.

But this particular movie (nothing to do with Today's weird adventure) was at worst "too sweet". (Stilwell, I don't expect you'd care for it, but what do I know?) You might not want to watch it twice, but one viewing... should do no harm. It has laughs, and a bad poem, (not an evil poem, just bad), but is basically a sound and decent and cheerfully impossible story. "No Stranger Than Love" is it when a mysterious hole appears in a young lady's living-room floor; and things are lost down the hole, and she tries to hide it, but when enough has been noted as lost down the hole it is found out (of course!), and everyone asks what is this hole? Some answers are proffered, and revelations transpire (of course!)... curiously, I don't think what finally becomes of the hole is ever told, but we do have some happy endings.

So, if you need a bit of a laugh, maybe give it a try.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

A Linguist's bad joke or Accidental Prophecy?

Dear Gene,

I was browsing through Touchstone Magazine and happened upon a meditation occasioned by the DesiLu-era Star Trek episode The Mark of Gideon— you know, the one1 that seeks to contradict my Sci-Fi-Coolness Test, and fails on account of starships can move people and space is huge...

Raedy's Touchstone piece circumstantially connects Mark of Gideon with that dear encyclical Humanae Vitae, to which it seems to allude by popular caricature. And musing on this notion ­— that popular discourse takes place not on the level but by indirection, by repetition of stories misremembered... I was suddenly reminded of the Paramount-era Star Trek:The Next Generation episode, Darmok.

Darmok is a story that Linguists and Psychologists love to tear apart, on the grounds that If a "Universal Translator" is supposed to parse the Underlying Semantics via the Universality of Grammar, and If These Particular Aliens are actually communicating something other than the folktales when they quote their folktales, Then the Quotations are the actual Words that will be Translated, so they should come out sounding like ordinary conversation.

The preceding dismissal misses some important technical technological questions: for instance, if we know that "Darmok" is the name of a hero of legends through several solar systems, then we also know that What These Aliens are speaking sounds very like a language we already know (can you distinguish Romulan from Vulcan?). The "Universal" Translator decides that it is one of these understood languages, and then gives us the translation as if from that language. If the Translator didn't do that, if it were (like Douglas Adams' Babelfish) a mind-reading device, then spies would be immediately found out: no-one could ever talk in word-code... no-one could ever lie.

But more: what Gideon makes clear by being itself a bad example is that when we ponder and argue, often enough it is not in words-as-such and logic, but in long narrative and brief allusion, in innuendo and heartstring play. We already suffer Darmok Syndrome.

Scott King, in Neutralia

1) there are others that ignore the sci-fi coolness principle altogether... what can one do?

Sunday, January 15, 2017

"Quid est mihi et tibi..."

Today's Gospel is, I don't mind saying, one of my favourites. "They have no wine". Oh dear!

It's a funny thing, since God Knows All That Is, that He asks questions. Jesus does it, in person: when he was Twelve and went with Joseph and Mary to the festival (as was their custom), and then stayed behind... The doctors, it is said, were astonished at his wisdom and his questions... The punch-line is that God asks us Questions to reveal something unto us.

(Socrates, famously, tried a trick along similar lines, and got several archistrategoi and other poloi thoroughly annoyed with him...)

Today, we read that Jesus asked: what is that, to me and thee? As it is written elsewhere, "it is a trifle, for God, to make a poor man suddenly rich". What does Jesus' question reveal to us? Replacing the Wine is not the difficulty: that were a trifle; and He adds (indicative, now!) "My hour is not yet come". Or, to put it another way: This is that couple's Wedding Feast, it won't do to up-stage them in front of Their Whole Family.

Jesus tells us he came to serve, not to be served, and so it is the servants to whom Mary speaks next; rather than stepping in for the groom, Jesus supplements the Steward's office; and so even the Steward, never mind the Feasting Family, knows not whence comes the Good Wine. Everyone continues feasting, still more joyfully than before. Indeed, they have so much of such wine that the newlyweds may well be accounted Suddenly Rich. But the servants know, because Jesus spoke to them, and Jesus' disciples, because they were with him; and from that time they believed.

Good wine: proof that God loves us, and wants us to be happy; it's an old joke, and it's in John's Gospel, too!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

"What on Earth is Peter Talking About?"

21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of justice than, after they have known it, to turn back from that holy commandment which was delivered to them. 22 For, that of the true proverb has happened to them: The dog is returned to his vomit; and: The sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.
What's all this about dogs' sick-spew? Why is Peter so Fascinated by ... do you think maybe he thinks dogs being sick is funny? Or ... does Peter himself... puzzle or scry over his own... sick?

And don't get me started on Ford Prefect's whelk obsession...
apologies to the blue-green colour-blind...

I don't know why people go out of their way, sometimes, to make themselves... sound... less literate and knowledgeable than they really are... is it because His Holiness used a Greek word in metaphor? (that's also a Greek Word, by the way... you might like the Saxon "carry-over") Maybe we don't like to be reminded that people we don't always get on with are also intelligent? That they have some erudition? Maybe we don't like the idea that maybe some of the Editorial we... "consume" is indeed one current word for it in English... might be less than wholesome? We already speak this way. We already speak much more coarsely.

Not only that, but scatological metaphor as rebuke has been held good-for-something by the Prince of Apostles quoting King Solomon. This might just be Tradition.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Sticks and stones

Bishops carry crosiers, which is to say long hefty sticks, whose symbolic uses are to pull sheep out of ditches and to nudge them (sometimes, thwack!) back on to the right path.

Now, is it in Deuteronomy? Or Exodus? ... Stoning is the sentence prescribed for convicted adulterers — with, what ought to be famous, the Other Spouse and the principal witness (there had to be Two) casting the First Stones.

We don't literally do that anymore — which is a relief, to say the least (and I rather suspect the judicial/executive requirements were meant from the first as an invitation to the Other Spouse to forgive rather than condemn). Whatever Adulterous Israel had fallen into, first in Egypt and then wandering among the other Nations, even so now “Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, that Her warfare is accomplished, and Her iniquity is pardoned”. It's not that adultery intrinsically merrited stoning before and now it doesn't: it's that adultery itself must be “stoned” out of the soul (as must wrath, and deceit, and pride and...), before and now. One can't be both aeviternally happy and divided in the soul's attachments.

And that's the difficulty I have with the phrasing (well-meant though I'm sure it was) of admonitions against “[treating] the Church’s moral commands as if they were stones [to] hurl”. On The Contrary: the Church's moral commands are the Stones she has to Throw; and She must throw them at iniquity. With Mary and Jesus, She must strike at the serpent's head. I'm sure the author of the phrase means: “it's no good trying to hurt eachother, and false sanctimony makes it worse”. I think I should agree with that contention; but if Peter's Successor once urged us to approach a mere Council assuming its continuity with Tradition, and if I am now to work at approaching that Successor's immediate Successor assuming the same continuity with Tradition — How Much More should I approach the words of the New Testament as being Continuous with the Old? So, Young Peter, God rest ye and preserve: but, please, can we put more care into our choice of words? Most of us will only know you in this passing World by your words.

For the rest, in short, are you attached to some adultery, whether with a strange woman or a strange god? Then know that there are stones in-coming now: so get you out of their way!

Monday, January 2, 2017

about two "chicken" jokes.

Everyone needs levity sometimes.

Q Why did the Chicken cross the Road?

A for revenge.

Q Why did the Chicken cross the Road?

A because he had delusions of priesthood.

Q Why did the Chicken cross the Roads?

A to complete his graduate research in Novel Hybrids.

Q Why did the Chicken cross the [sounds like "roads"]?

A It was a rehearsal for the Invasion of Cyprus... and it didn't go well.

LEFTOVERS I --- Apocrypha Topologica III

Have you contemplated lately that marvelous invention, the revolving door?

The usual application of a revolving door is to compromise between the extremes of an open window and a wall. Specifically, the Revolving Door is a device which can be set in motion by an intelligent force (say, of animal intelligence at least) but not by an unintelligent force (as, say, a differential in air pressure). In the particular case of pressurized buildings, a good revolving door is not driven by the pressure inside, though air will tend to exit the building as the door is driven by people.

Anyways, as several of the other artifacts already mentioned in this very-occasional series, a revolving door exemplifies mechanical separation within topological connectedness. How strange, that! Anyways, the actual story of the moment is how, some time after the invention of anchored submarine mines, first that a clever engineer found a way to dredge harbours for them by towing weighted cables between separated vessels, and secondly that another clever engineer partially foiled that scheme by inventing a Revolving Door For Cables, In a Cable. I do rather wish that there were happier circumstances around this Intrinsically Delightful Invention, but, well, there we are.

Now, I should also tell you that I first heard about the cable-passing cable-joint from Richard Feynman, who likes to sprinkle his works with ... incorrections... just so that intrepid readers don't take his word for everything, and also to ensure that those inclined to calculation have extra fun checking his facts. As I write elsewhere (no, I shan't link, here) sometimes a condensor should be an inductance, sometimes 2:1 should be 1:2. Is a "shaft-passer" or a "cable-passer" actually a thing?

As it turns out, you can build them semi-automatically. Actually, that there is one of two possible implementations. They can also be built with a fixed axle connected to one side, but the principal of the thing is that the Revolving Door Shape itself serves as the guide for the round "walls" of the revolving door's frame, in consequence of the side-angle-side theorem, or some such.

I am dubious whether these things were any sure foil against the undermining of... under... water... mines... (no, originally, "undermining" was part of Castle-Siege warfare)... because of the fiddly coincidences needed to pass the dredging cable from the a suitable angle at the correct depth... building a chain of these links would be a fiddly mess indeed. But perhaps it was effective enough that you could never feel sure that this-or-that harbour was really safe.

Which is to say, we're also discussing an invisible, and nonmechanical means of inducing a local separation: the threat of a perfectly unintelligent, violent force.