Category Archives: Uncategorized

_The Last Jedi_: _Star Wars_ is finally honest

When I first introduced my kids to Star Wars, I followed up with an explanation of Dualism, Gnosticism, the “Ray of Truth” concept, and authentic versus dangerous forms of spirituality and spiritual gifts.

C. S. Lewis argues against Dualism that  we cannot define “Good” and “Evil” without an external standard to define them.  If “Good” and “Evil” were truly opposite “forces,” they would not balance; they would cancel each other out.  Even if there were two equally powerful “gods,” one good/one evil, to know which was which there would still have to be a “God” to tell us which was which (e.g., the JW idea that Jesus & Satan are brothers).

“Only Sith deal in absolutes,” Obi-Wan tells Anakin in Revenge of the Sith, and that is the fundamental paradox at work in a Dualistic narrative.  The interesting irony is that the more honest Star Wars is about its flawed philosophical underpinnings, the more the fans complain–first the prequels undermined the narrative that the Jedi and the Republic are “good,” a narrative already flawed from Obi-Wan’s lies to Luke.  I think they’re viscerally reacting against the implicit and now explicit rejection of objective standards.

“Good guys, bad guys: made up words.  It’s all a machine,” says “DJ,” the early Han Solo-esque hacker who takes his money and runs.

Dualists and moral relativists always want to have their proverbial cake and eat it, too.  They want “good” and “evil” to be relative terms when it suits them and then appeal to morality or to vague concepts like “hope” and “energy” and “good thoughts” when it’s convenient.

So we’re supposed to support the Jedi because they’re the “guardians of peace and order,” yet the Sith also insist they want peace and order.  From a Thomistic standpoint, and from what we see of the Republic in the films, the Sith make the stronger claim to promoting “peace and order.”  And the “good guys” seem to ambiguate between whether they want “peace and order” or “freedom,” since the two concepts cannot coexist.  Hobbes tells us what “freedom” means: the war of all against all for all.  It’s the “Outer Rim,” ruled by warring gangsters.  The only way anyone can functionally have absolute freedom is to enslave others to some extent.

In the Force religion, as in Modernism and all other permutations of Gnosticism, we hear about “Hope,” and “Freedom” and “Peace,” but we hear no explanation for what these words mean or imply or why they are good things.

We love Star Wars because it seems to be about “good” versus “evil.”  However, in The Last Jedi, we’re told to “let the past die,” to destroy all the books, to look within for wisdom.  This was really the most honest movie in the Star Wars franchise in terms of expressing what we’ve been hearing all along.

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Wake up!

From Evening Prayer, Friday Week 3:

2b Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials,*3for you know that the testing* of your faith produces perseverance.4And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.5But if any of you lacks wisdom,* he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it.c6But he should ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind.d7For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord,8since he is a man of two minds, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:2-8)

On May 25, the feast of St. Mary Magdalene De Pazzi, OCD, and the feast of the great and “venerable” Englishman St. Bede, Ireland, which St. Patrick prophesied would one day lose the faith but regain it to spread around the world, officially severed itself not just from Catholicism but from basic decency and Natural Law by sentencing millions of children to death by abortion.

About 20 years ago, I had a dream that the Chastisements would begin if Ireland legalized abortion. Prepare your hearts. Repent. Go to Confession. Get baptized if you aren’t. Fast. Pray. Stop blaspheming. Love God with all your hearts, minds and souls. Arm your family with faith, service and sacramentals. This is war. And we’re all soldiers asleep at our posts. Our Lord warns us that when we have done our duties, we should say “I am an unprofitable servant for I have only done my duty.” “You’ve done your duty; nothing more,” said Valjean to Javert.

St. John Bosco had a dream where St. Dominic Savio showed him all the souls he might have helped to bring to Heaven but even his efforts and faith were not strong enough.  One of the saints said that the thing Heaven and Hell have in common is that everyone says “I don’t deserve to be here.”

I for one know I could and should do much more for God.

I spent years reading books on apparitions.  I’ve always been conflicted on the “Three Days of Darkness,” yet it seems to match up not just with the prophecies of so many saints and approved visionaries but of many secular and Protestant ideas (the “zombie apocalypse,” for example).

Any Cradle Catholic who’s paid attention to their grandparents or “pious old Church ladies” has at least heard of it.  The prophecy is that, in a time such as ours, when the world and the Church herself fall into sin and rebellion and division, God will reveal Himself through various signs and plagues like those of Egypt, and one of the first will be three days of complete darkness (volcano? EMP?) when no lights will work except for the light of blessed beeswax candles.  One candle will last the three days and light a home, but it will only burn in the homes of those who are in a presumptive state of grace.  It will be the inverse of the “Rapture” as understood by Protestants: those who are in sin will be confronted by their sin and by demons and die.  Reanimated corpses will torment the godly in their homes, so doors and windows should be locked and covered, and protected with sacramentals.  Though it’s always struck me as a bit superstitious, too many signs are being fulfilled to not at least be prepared in spirit and in sacramentals:
https://www.cukierski.net/collections/spiritual-goods-collection

Want to stop school shootings? Ban contraception

Teenagers would have been considered adults 100 years ago.
Today, our “culture” coddles biological adults and keeps extending childhood. It’s difficult for those brainwashed by the media and public schools to think outside the box, as it were, but Americans live for self-centeredness and “I don’t wanna grow up! I’m a Toys R Us kid!” Thinking.

Thus, teenagers and now twentysomethings are “just kids” when their bodies are telling them to get married and have kids of their own. Artificial birth control severs the connection of sex, marriage and procreation. Then sex, the primordial sacrament, as CS Lewis calls it, becomes supposedly a form of casual recreation, with people denying the deep physical and spiritual bond it creates between persons.

People engage in sexual relationships without the protection of marriage, “break up,” and are left with emotional wounds that get aggravated by the person “moving on”–same with serial divorce and remarriage–and then express that frustration in varying degrees of anger.  

Abortion becomes a back up to failed contraception and, along with the media, teaches kids that human beings can be eliminated if inconvenient to their ambition or pleasure. My father saw this decades ago in his students’ inability to understand why characters in literature felt guilt or trepidation about murder and said it wouldn’t be long before kids were shooting each other in school. All of these consequences were warned about by GK Chesterton, CS Lewis, TS Eliot and Pope Paul VI, among others.

 

Why Politics Polarize: Mercy and Faithfulness have Parted Company; Justice and Peace have Divorced

I often note how while my underlying political philosophy is traditionalist/conservative, my positions are often more moderate in practice (since US “conservatism,” has rarely been traditionalist).  I got to thinking last night about how all issues of politics and pastoral theology boil down to justice and mercy.

In “same sex marriage,” those who have been raised with a modernist understanding of “love” and marriage see it as a grave injustice that same sex relationships are not treated the same as marriages among voluntarily sterilized heterosexuals?  While even sterilization can be reversed, artificial contraception and sterilization do amount to sodomy and onanism just as much as any same sex relationship, so they have a point there–as I always say, Christians lost the modern culture wars before they even began, at the Seventh Lambeth Conference.  If two people can “marry” with no intention of ever having children because marriage has become essentially a non-binding legal contract to share property  and rights with someone you “love” (“love” being redefined to mean “this person gives me pleasure”) until you no longer “love” them,, then it is an injustice to say that someone can’t legally marry whomever they “love.”  If, however, marriage is a binding covenant that is stronger than any contract or any other familial bond, legally separable only by death, aimed at unity of two people into one legal person and at procreation, then same sex marriage, contraception and no fault divorce are grave injustices against the institution of marriage itself.

In abortion, the real debate is over perceptions of which party is being treated more unjustly.  If the unborn have human rights, then abortion is (as I believe) a grave injustice.  If the unborn do *not* have human rights, then to make abortion illegal is a grave injustice.  However, because of people’s polarized attitudes, it is difficult to talk of the secondary question: how do we give justice to the unborn and mercy to mothers in crisis pregnancies?

And the latter question pertains to many questions where “liberals” have a point, if not a solution.  How do we show mercy to the mother in a crisis pregnancy without injustice to the unborn?
How do we show mercy to illegal immigrants without injustice to legal immigrants and other citizens?
How do we help people with drug addictions while not performing an injustice against people with legitimate medical needs?
How do we show mercy to people who are financially struggling without injustice to workers who struggle to make ends meet as it is?
How do we show mercy to victims of gun crimes and gun accidents (two separate issues) without injustice to people who are legitimately concerned about self defense (even if they would never own or fire a gun themselves but like knowing they can sometimes save their loved ones by the mere possibility).
How do we show mercy to divorced people who’ve repented without injustice towards the children, wrong spouses, or thoes who have challenging marriages (what marriages aren’t?) and stay together because they believe divorce is a sin?

The Doctor, The Dialogue, and Dean Koontz

“The pilgrim, having passed the Bridge, arrives at the door which is part of the Bridge, at which all must enter, wherefore He says—‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, he who follows Me does not walk in darkness, but in light. And in another place My Truth says, ‘ That no man can come to Me if not by Him,’ and so indeed it is. Therefore He says of Himself that He is the Road, and this is the truth, and I have already shewn thee that He is a Road in the form of the Bridge.”   The Dialogue of the Seraphic Virgin, Catherine of Siena: Dictated by Her, While in a State of Ecstasy, to Her Secretaries, and Completed in the Year of Our Lord 1370

Sr. Theresa Aletheia Noble has provided insightful reasons for Catholics and non-Catholics alike to embrace the practice of “memento mori.”   Many spiritual classics encourage us to keep ever mindful that our paths all lead to one place–to death, to God, to our final judgment.  In a world that has long valued health, fame and fortune, perfection in anything but the spiritual life, the practice of remembering one’s death, one’s judgment before Christ, will always be a challenge.

I struggle with the fear of death, both my own and my loved ones, but God granted me my husband John, now a Third Order Carmelite, whose strong faith enhanced by the extreme medical challenges from his genetic disorder, Marfan syndrome, has allowed me to understand and embrace my mortality through my Catholic faith.  

Are there days when I falter and allow fear to overcome me?  Yes, just about every day. But thanks to God for bringing John into my life, I have slowly come to a better understanding of how to climb the ladder of theosis, to dialogue with God, to explore my interior castle, and embrace the Little Way.  So many times, Christ delights me in the amusing ways He brings my interests together in my life to remind me to get back to the path that leads to Him.

Recently, John chose a book he has owned for years, entitled Praying with Catherine of Siena, by Patricia Mary Vinje, for our family Bible study and saint study.  St. Catherine is a doctor of the Church, a title given for the insights into the Faith she provided in her life and writings.  I just happened to be in the middle of reading The Silent Corner and The Whispering Room by Dean Koontz when we started the studies.  I confess I pouted about being interrupted in the midst of the thrillers when God suddenly reminded me that His Way is the only way, and that He loves irony.

I sat down with the family, and we began reading. Each chapter takes an image from St. Catherine’s Dialogue as a means of meditation and contemplation.  The first one we came to was the “inner cell.” As we pondered the life of St. Catherine who had chosen a cell for her prayer life and was called from there by God to take on politicians who were corrupting Christ’s teachings, and adjure the Pope to go back to Rome, the higher meaning of Koontz’s new series dawned on me.  

Every one of Dean Koontz’s books I have read (most of them published since 2000, the year of his reversion to Catholicism) have made me marvel, laugh at the absurdity of humanity’s pride, be filled with proper fear, squirm in my sinfulness, and repent. His work is a true horror, meant to entertain, yes, but also to bring the reader to reconciliation with God.  And he does provide some great laughs along the way–a skilled mixture of bathos and pathos. Drawing from Flannery O’Connor’s discussion of Biblical exegesis applied to literature in her essay “The Nature and Aim of Fiction,” every one of his books can be considered literally, allegorically, typologically, and anagogically. His new Jane Hawk series is no exception.  

As we read excerpts from St. Catherine’s Dialogue, my mind reeled with the understanding that Koontz’s “silent corner” is a synonym for the “inner cell.”  Thus began the revelation of the higher meanings of The Silent Corner that I would never have learned if I had tried to bow out of the saint study.  (Pray for me.)   With that realization of the parallels between St. Catherine’s Dialogue and the names and imagery in Koontz’s Jane Hawk series, I continued to find the gems of allusion he had used from Catherine’s spiritual work and incorporated into his fictional yet spiritual masterpieces.

I don’t want to give too many spoilers in my brief analysis, but I would like to provide a few key points.  In her Dialogue, St. Catherine of Siena refers to Christ as the Bridge, and she refers to the importance of having an inner cell of the soul recollected to God, essentially a “silent corner.” In the Jane Hawk series, Jane has a son named “Travis,” which means “bridge.”   The name “Jane” means ” God is gracious” and one of the meanings of the name “Hawk” is “nook” or “corner,” so, her name blended could be construed as “God’s gracious corner.” Catherine in her Dialogue refers to the sin of the world as a “river.” So, extending the imagery, Jane as the soul recollected to God’s grace can use her focus on Christ as the Bridge (Travis) who has overcome the river of sin.  Every hotel room (silent corner, inner cell) she stays in as she pursues and is pursued by the enemy, she considers her actions and inspiration (Holy Spirit) as a means to return to her son and honor his father (so, the Trinity). In that sense, Jane could be the Blessed Mother, God’s full of grace corner.  Dean Koontz made Our Lady a rogue FBI agent! Or, taken another way, Jane is Catherine herself, a soul recollected to Christ, who took on the powers that be to bring them to repentance and to bring them to Christ.

As a final insight, in St. Catherine’s Dialogue she describes the Body of Christ as the staircase to Heaven…the next Jane Hawk novel is The Crooked Staircase...and the fourth novel in the series is The Forbidden Door, yet another reference to Christ in Catherine’s Dialogue.  I can only guess what images will be taken for the fifth, sixth, and seventh books in the series. 

So, if you were looking for a unique way to practice “memento mori,” I suggest reading The Dialogue of St. Catherine and Dean Koontz’s Jane Hawk series.  All of his books since 2000 can be considered a type of “memento mori,” as he encourages us readers to see our good deeds in the work of the heroes and heroines, but also to see our sins in those of the villains, and thus consider our final judgment, all the while providing suspenseful, amusing, inspiring, sobering, and terrifying fiction.

 

—Mary Hathaway

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Can we talk about *Facts* and guns?

Until the last 48 hours, I considered myself a “moderate” on gun control.  I believe in “turning the other cheek,” etc., though realize sometimes physical self defense is necessary.
Let’s set aside the theories a second and talk numbers;
https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2011/jan/10/gun-crime-us-state

https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/murder-rates-nationally-and-state

https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s

https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6345a10.htm

http://www.businessinsider.com/world-suicide-rate-map-2014-4

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate

I’ve heard so many conflicting claims from both “sides” about gun laws, “gun violence,” where murder is worse, etc., and so I took some time to study the actual numbers for myself.

In short, both “sides” are slightly off in their rhetoric:
1) States with stricter gun laws have less “gun violence” or “gun related deaths” per capita.
2) States with stricter gun laws have *more* murders per capita.

For example, DC has approximately twice as many murders as “gun deaths.”  On the other hand, SC and GA have twice as many gun deaths as murders.

Accidental causes are about 1.5% of gun deaths.

The vast majority are suicides.  Looking at the suicide rate (above), it seems to correlate more to being lower in states with more cities and thus more mental health facilities.

Overall, the US suicide rate is in the lower-middle range worldwide.  Most states’ rates are about equal.  So while guns are the preferred means in states with more guns, those in states with stricter gun laws choose other methods.

So this idea that people are going around killing each other simply because guns are available is not supported by the facts.

 

“Hey! I know her!”

The Aiken Community Playhouse Youth Wing is putting on Kate Hamill‘s award winning, 2016, off-Broadway adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and SensibilityFrom their website, the showings are:

February 16, 17, 23, 24 at 7:30 . February 18 at 3 pm
School show: Feb. 22 at 10 am. Interested schools should contact the Box Office at 803-648-1438

Now, it should be noted in the interest of both journalistic ethics and apparently federal law, my daughter is in the play and I got to see the dress rehearsal for free because of that.
That said, I really did think it was fantastic, and I strongly recommend it.  I considered trying to do the whole “Snarly Judge who everyone loves to despise” thing, as Mr. Lunt puts it,  and try the whole reverse psychology thing, but I really did like it too much to say anything bad.
One of the marks of professionalism in a performance is the ability to go with the flow when things go wrong, and these kids did great.  I got so wrapped up in it I kept forgetting two things: a) that it was a dress rehearsal (in fact, we previously had free tickets to ACP’s adult dress rehearsal of Beauty and the Beast, and that was so good I forgot it was a dress rehearsal) and b) my daughter was in it.  I barely recognized her.
A basic rule of performance is the ability to go with the flow if something goes wrong.
I kept telling my daughter about William Shatner’s “big break” as Christopher Plummer’s understudy in a Toronto production of Henry V.  On the night when the critics wrote their reviews, Plummer was ill and Shatner took his place.  He kept forgetting his lines, but his pauses to remember them were so dramatically effective the critics loved him.
So these kids were consummate professionals: I noticed a couple times where one of them would stammer, and it fit so well with the story it was either really good acting because they stammered intentionally or really good acting because they actually stammered with good timing.
The only other mistake I noticed was a feedback problem near the ending, and it happened when a character was in angst, so again, it was impressive that the young actors just kept going with the scene.
There were some interesting choices for the incidental music, some of which was at times a bit too anachronistic, but it was emotionally effective nonetheless, and had me listening to the Piano Guyseponymous album on repeat for two hours after the show.
Between the superb acting, the effective dramatization of Austen’s classic, and the music, with the added impact of my daughter’s debut (almost 11 years to the day after her unofficial stage debut as a volunteer audience participant in a dinner theater), I spent the next hour after the show in pure Joy/Sennsucht.

The play was so good that I’d go back even if my daughter wasn’t in it.

As for my daughter, Alexandra Hathaway, in the role of Mrs. Dashwood, she has a tendency to be a bit too fast in her delivery, but in this case it was like the opposite of William Shatner’s King Henry.  They all had to speak quickly to deliver the extensive dialogue, and she came off very effectively as a frazzled and desperate widow.  Like Estelle Getty in Golden Girls, she was one of the younger members of the cast, but a little make-up added to her Marfanoid physique, and her eldest sibling “Little Mother”/babysitting skills made her extremely convincing as a 40 year old mother.

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Alexandra “Mrs. Dashwood,” standing (Photo Credit: Christina Cleveland, Aiken Standard)

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Photo Credit: Me.

10 years ago, she couldn’t see. Now, she has lens implants that give her vision like her mother’s. 10 years ago, her aorta “enlarged.” It stopped growing and even shrank a bit, such that her cardiologist calls her the “miracle girl.” She is in constant pain from ankles that sublux all the time, yet she’s enduring the pain to do this. Whether this is the first step in an illustrious career in theater or valuable experience that will help her in a future path, we are impressed at what she has accomplished, and she deserves accolades and lots of ticket sales, and Aiken Community Playhouse deserves a lot of ticket sales for giving her this well-earned opportunity.