Archive for the ‘European Union’ Category

On the Day That the Sacrifice Begins

I live half-a-mile from The History Center.  In the New World there is the unsettling in this place, whether on issues of history and memory, like with Church or State.  Had this been the same unsettling connected to the Messiah – in the beginning – dealing in public ministry, as History is used against you? Whether with cameras or like Laws of Church or State can be used against you … as PLACE – the invisible …. in what always has been here – is used against you? This Spirit from where you come … like in The Americas, founded on the back of slavery and Imperialism?

Consider that first day on the job as a Messiah. And the loss of this protected status … in the beginning, closest to home …. later all over Israel. With the entire tradition resting upon purity, washing, dinnerware, bloodlines, and this theology of Purity, ever since the time of Abraham. With Sarah, his half-sister.

Move! Letting go! Sacrifice. Note The Bond, just like for Ishmael in the story of Hagar — speaking of captives and refugees — becoming invisible as you move …. God-like.  Feel the great unsettling of The Spirit of the Lord, connected to authentic sacrifice!  When nothing else is left…. locate the displaced in the story, like the Lakota in South Dakota. Yes, in order to survive, MOVE! — to what the Canadians called the Reserve Land. And then what is left of my center, as a child – as a captive, like Ishmael – looks to their parent(s) as authority figures? But did you feel the alone-ness in the story, for the son?

The noun Targum – Targumim (singular) –refers to “translator, interpreter,” derived from early semitic quadriliteral root ‘trgm‘, and the Akkadian term ‘targummanu.’ A translator of the Hebrew Bible is called a hammeturgem (he who translates). Necessary near the end of the 1st century BCE, with the common Hebrew language in transition, to give explanations, as Hebrew was being used for little more than schooling. Besides denoting the translations of the Hebrew Bible, the term Targum also denotes the oral rendering of Bible lections in synagogue. Other than the meaning “translate,” the verb Tirgem also means “to explain.” Writing down the targum was prohibited. Targum refers to “translation” and “explanation” or argumentation of spoken paraphrases, expansions and explanations of Jewish Scripture by a Rabbi in common worship, in the common language of the listeners, with paraphrasing in the common language after Hebrew Scripture was read.

“…. handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.’ Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.”

In either saving or being saved, locate the comeback in the story …. with an audience that felt that they did not need another authentic sacrifice connected to a Messiah? Hearing of the great unsettling teaching, The Spirit of the Lord, in “their” synagogues …. praised by all. Into the real Promise Land, into the synagogue, Jesus had come back to Nazareth, to where he had grown up, and went according to ‘his’ custom into his synagogue, in public ministry, on the Sabbath day. And there in the House of God was the great unsettling Presence … in The Spirit of the Lord. Living with the invisible loss of language, as PLACE is used against you, as PLACE claims you as its slave? How old were, how blind were, how oppressed were the eyes of all in the synagogue? As your place of birth blinds you to the outside world.

With language directed at intimations of attachment, This Spirit from where you come … founded on the back of sacrifice. The humility,in an endurance for a generation, living under the great Roman Empire. Dealing with loss, for the those who were small, slow, weak? For those who endure, generation after generation, over and over, sacrifice. Loving not your teammates from Rome, but your neighbor. . . but who is my neighbor? Where so many try to choose their neighbor, based upon the choice of domicile. With all the different degrees of closeness to a neighbor, as your child becomes captive …to a PLACE founded on the back of sacrifice! Captive to an identity that they are born into. With a King who bowed down, as the Giant had bowed down in death to David.

Internally displaced? There is this great unsettling, with the loss of this protected status, for the son of David, who had worked as a carpenter in a search for God’s Will? “… and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.” Met with silence? Do you feel the invisible size in another story of sacrifice?

There is this great unsettling, with the loss of this protected status! With the choice of conversion to Islam, death, or exile — threatened the Jewish and Christian communities — and wasn’t this then what happened in the Inquisition to the Jews of Spain, in 1492. What had the prologue said about ‘mostly the same lives’ in that David Remnick book Reporting? There is an unsettling loss of this protected status which is connected to authentic sacrifice, to develop your very own abilities in all areas – intellectual, artistic, social, physical – of accomplishment.


Besides meaning “translate,” the verb “tirgem” also means “to explain.” While Targum refers to “translation” and “explanation” or argumentation of spoken paraphrases, expansions and explanations of Jewish Scripture, writing down the targum was prohibited  — not unlike some communities banning or limiting study altogether of Rabbeynu Mosheh Ben Maimon’s (Our Rabbi Moses Son of Maimon”) The Guide for the Perplexed, as well as his writings on Jewish law and ethics.

According to scholars, otherwise equal under the laws of property, contract, and obligation, dhimmis did not enjoy, as citizens in the Islamic state, certain political rights reserved for Muslims.  Dhimmis — Jews and Christians  — had their rights fully protected in their own communities, but with certain restrictions.  It was obligatory for dhimmis to pay the jizya tax, which complemented the Islamic tax (the zakat) paid by Muslim subjects.  Excluded from specific duties assigned to Muslims, the various dhimmis communities were allowed to rule themselves under separate legal courts in the Ottoman millet system.  Under Sharia Law, the dhimmi communities were usually subjected to their own special laws, rather than some laws that were applicable only to Muslims.

Noting the history of Spain and the subsequent history of the Spanish Empire, the family of Rabbeynu Mosheh Ben Maimon (Maimonides) chose exile. Some speculate that it was likely that Maimonides feigned a conversion to Islam before escaping.  When brought up by a rival in Egypt, his forced conversion was ruled legally invalid under Islamic law.  Maimonides moved about for the next ten years in southern Spain, eventually settling in Morocco.  This was during this time when he composed his acclaimed commentary on the Mishnah in the years 1166–1168.

Yes, I live 800 meters away from The History Center which is somehow directed at intimations of attachment, like the attachment that I got at home from my parents and grandparents, to share a form of secular holiness that often is directed to a home … or a neighborhood … or a city. There was a distinct sense of place in my life which had always been asserting itself, enfolding over time, staking a claim on a people. Before it was lost or overtaken. Or just taken anyway? After you had come to know something about a place.

“… and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him… And he said to them,’Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.’ …They also asked, ‘Isn’t this the son of Joseph?’ …. he said, ‘Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place.’ When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town.” And did you note, how after the reading from Isaiah in his hometown, Jesus became — in THE TRADITION  OF ABRAHAM, ISHMAEL, and ALL the descendants of the sons of Abraham  — homeless?  ‘For we know partially and we prophesy partially…’  So, in search of a Promise Land, Jesus chose exile.  

Note, while reviewing the words of Isaiah, the proclamation: ‘The Spirit of the Lord … has sent me to proclaim …. to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim….,” with the credentials of a carpenter.

Feel the alone-ness in the story, for the son of David.  God-alone prayer seems so selfish, without stories and without sacrifice….. and without a community to give and receive support. And according the the previous verse, Jesus had just come back from his forty days alone in the dessert.  For me, without a community to give and receive support, I would believe in neither miracles nor prayer.  In the God-question – in the perspective as the Receiver of prayer, without others – prayer is self-indulgent, affecting no one else, unless you did belong to a community.

‘They will fight against you but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.’ There is the unsettling loss of protected status, with the choice of exile; did you feel the alone-ness in the story, as a son of David? In Nazareth, “Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.”

When the power of a culture is based upon a shared literature. In stories. “Mostly they are the same lives, the same stories, over and over,” wrote David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker. We endow our lives with stories, if the power in the ideals of a father – the bonds, the identity, and all the belief – is gonna survive. If the identity in a name is going to survive at another level. When you were forced to somehow start over.  Without a home. And there is the unsettling in this place, whether on issues of Church or State, when a human is displaced.

On the day you became the Authority over your own life – or think that you could do anything that you wanted….alone or together, though this is the perspective only if you were the Master, not the Handmaid.

Note these Victims of sacrifice, followed by the Post Traumatic Stress to anyone who personally knew the Victim – Ishmael, Isaac, Jesus – through stories of such personal sacrifice in the Book of Firsts of the Hebrew Bible as well as in the first book of the New Testament.

Locate all the victims in the Book of Firsts. Did you ever notice all the victims of rape in the Book of Firsts. The daughters of Lot whose own protected status is now connected to their father. Note the rape stories, connected to the daughters of Lot, later to the daughter of Jacob and Leah, Dinah, whose own protected status is now connected to her brothers … or not? Note the barren women, in half-relationships, in arranged marriage, with mostly informed consent? Locate all the victims in the Book of Firsts. Note the unsettling stories, of sacrifice, which includes Hagar, a woman whose own protected status is not connected to a man. Was Lot a rape victim, with all of the sons of his nameless daughters who went on to find their own nations? Did you ever note the chronology, where after the birth of Ishmael comes the story of Sodom? Doesn’t chronology – in the spotlight on the First Born all over the Book of Firsts – mean something? And those Ishmaelites were the folks who ended up saving Joseph so he might save his family as well as all of Egypt. Note the unsettling stories, with the various degrees of informed consent, just like in the story of Hagar’s pregnancy related to such personal sacrifice?

Internally displaced?  Could you connect the lives of the descendants of Abraham to unsettling sacrifice?  And these were the sons who were related to such personal sacrifice. So how is the birth of Abraham’s first born son – on issues of power, ordering, shared dominion and freedom – related to such personal sacrifice?  After the attempted sacrifice of Ishmael on Mount Moriah, after the birth of Isaac, after he is weaned – if you ever noted the chronology – Abraham sets the captive (Hagar) free, along with his own son.  Yes, locate all the victims in the Book of Firsts.  Did you count the barren women in arranged marriage whose sons all became prophets?  Did you count Ishmael?  Had there been agony in the arrangement in Abraham’s marriage, as Abraham was asked to sacrifice his first born son – to banish him when he had reached adolescence.  In the perspective of Sarah, Ishmael was sacrificed in his exile from his father.  And Hagar had been this woman in an arranged relationships, whose son became a prophet.

Living in denial, note the little attention paid to the VICTIM of rape … like Ishmael. In either saving or being saved, locate the need for a body before you ever sacrifice.  With an appreciation for the mothers – before you note these Victims of sacrifice – locate who it was who first gave birth with agony in those days, before anesthesia.  In that the first born son of Abraham was born a slave, was there in the manner that Ishmael was born a slave an imitation of attachment, for Sarah and Abraham?  In a world where birth and motherhood give meaning and purpose to a human life – if your faith in God did not – over time Ishmael becomes unwanted to Sarah.  What did Sarah know about all the agony connected to giving birth, with the various degrees of informed consent?  On the day you became the authority, over your own life – or think that you did – are you conscious of your own protected status which is connected to authentic sacrifice that occurred in the past, over giving birth?  With an appreciation for the mothers and their life cycle as women whose sons all became prophets, note – in the day and age now where so many believe in the organization called Planned Parenthood as well as this authority over your own body and consequential life (or think that you did) – and locate the agony connected to giving birth, with the various degrees of informed consent.  With different degrees of education and experience – like music appreciation in elementary school – note the lack of appreciation connected to your perspective of Hagar, for what she was willing to do out of love.  What did Sarah know about falling in love with a stranger, in that she married her half-brother – Abraham who had always been there – ten years older than she was?  And wasn’t Abraham’s fatal flaw Sarah’s fatal flaw – not understanding what it means to really belong – that Abraham had been forced in the name of love to share with her?  By locating all the victims in the Book of Firsts – focused since the argument of Cain with Abel – in either saving or being saved, what had motivated Abraham to travel first to Mount Moriah with his first born son, per the story in the Qoran.  Was Abraham’s motive to subsequently travel to Mount Moriah with Sarah’s first born son, per the story in the Book of Genesis, the same?  If you compare Abraham to Adam, did you see the same acquiescence to Sarah and her handmaid that Adam had given to Eve, concerning eating the apple?  Were the female prophets married to the male prophets using, in the name of love, the God of Abraham?  Isn’t this especially the same female fear of being used and exploited … connected to creation?  Just as Sarah tried to have this God of a nomad belong ‘to us,’ through her handmaid’s son –through birth – Abraham set forth to Mount Moriah to have this God belong ‘to us,’ through his sons’ sacrificial death.  Yes, locate the need for a body before you ever so personally sacrifice that a mother so well understood.  How did Abraham address the anger of Sarah over the sacrifice of their protected status – like with the various degrees of anger by some believers – with such a perfect son?  And the believers, as a descendant of the Father of Faith or anyone who personally knew the Victim – Ishmael, Isaac, Jesus – through stories of such personal sacrifice, believed that these Victims were perfect, up until the moment on the Mount when they were saved – before the Post Traumatic Stress. And the perfect really have no need for God? Or forgiveness?

Note how closeness and the Truth about closeness, through / with /in love stories, along with a feeling about the misuse of human power – to whom did this Living God really belong? – lead to a stories about Mercy and the birth right of God’s Mercy. As if you are entitled to have this protected status, carrying a name, as a descendant of the Prophet Abraham?  There is the realness of raw emotions after a son seemingly lost his father, of a closeness to his father.  Yes, over time a prophet becomes unwanted, like the presence of Isaiah was an unwanted intrusion, in his native land. When the Victim in each of the stories of sacrifice taught the importance of giving up the protected status that you once had considered to be the inheritance, in the name of Forgiveness. And both of the sons of Abraham – in stories on innocence – had come back to bury their father. Together.

Did you ever notice how you are on-guard with outsiders? Did you note in a relationship, the best humor is always domestic, like about a father or any family member …. if you had once been living in a spirited place? If mostly these are the same lives, the same stories, over and over, there comes the unsettling time in witness or hearing testimony about either true human sacrifice or an act of rape, that the unsettling sets in, again. Maybe like with the circumcision of a grown-up. And there is this long period of recovery, either for the Victim or for anyone, like her/his family, who had come to know the Victim. And there is this long period of recovery, in trying to return to what was once there. When a Victim was so innocent. And somehow this indescribable event is connected to learning how to pray, directed at God-alone prayer with others, out of the alone-ness in the stories. In the three Abrahamic religions, whether in the Old Country or the New World, there is the same unsettling for anyone who personally knew the Victim — Ishmael, Isaac, Jesus — with a closeness. In the three Abrahamic religions, if you were ever going to come to learn how to pray, you needed first an appreciation connected to a body and the stories directed at keeping a reverence for indescribable sacrifice directed at a Living God. But mostly you needed an authentic love relationship connected to a splitting if a sacrifice is ever gonna mean anything.

….. and then she died.

Perhaps you are able to connect the lives of the descendants of Abraham to unsettling sacrifice. But how was Sarah ever able to forgive Abraham after the attempted unsettling sacrifice of Isaac? How is the birth of Sarah’s first born son – on issues of power, ordering, shared dominion and freedom – related to such personal unsettling sacrifice in the lives connected to the descendants of Sarah? It is Sarah, per the chronology too often ignored – the mother of the sons of Abraham is key to their identity – who dies after The Akedah.

Memory is the key to any identity, touching your emotions in this tremendous bond, touching you deeply, connected to your identity. So “remember that you are dust, and unto dust thou shall return.”

Copyright © 2016.

Paying the highest price possible.

POST SCRIPT: ….. and then she died.

Perhaps you are able to connect the lives of the descendants of Abraham to unsettling sacrifice. Abraham, who discovered at the end of the story of his tremendous human longevity, was, in the dénouement — in the release of tension in the dénouement — coming back home in his lame-duck days, with his great sense of shame after wounding his own fertility, while dealing with loss of mostly power in old age, and starting over. Is pride, involving a desire for power, based upon knowledge – to somehow be more important than others – the most serious of the deadly sins for Chosen People?  Based upon more than surface knowledge, how is the birth of Sarah’s first born son – on issues of power, ordering, shared dominion and freedom – related to such personal unsettling sacrifice in the lives connected to the descendants of Sarah? It is Sarah, per the chronology too often ignored – the mother of the sons of Abraham is key to their identity – who dies after The Akedah. So was it Abraham wondering before The Akedah, or or Isaac wondering afterwards, if he had even mattered, begging to have had mattered, begging to be blessed, so that God would never forget, NEVER forget Abraham, just like THAT Holocaust — or had it been Sarah wondering if Abraham ever really loved her?

Recognize the developments after The Akedah story as Isaac, not Abraham, becomes the protagonist by the time of the dénouement of the story? So how was Sarah ever able to forgive Abraham after the attempted unsettling sacrifice of Isaac? Somehow the movement in the common stories, like the physics after The Akedah, or in Eid Al Fitr— creating something out of nothing, like with the lingering Spirit from a closeness, in the beginning — becomes this birth right, related to Closeness, even after all the splittings and separation  …. with all the lingering human doubts. So was Ishmael, was Isaac, ever able to forgive Abraham after the attempted unsettling sacrifice?   And how did they come to understand this God of Abraham Who had first called the Father of Faith, away from his own father’s home so long ago, giving up a sense of protected status connected to borders?  Since The Call of Abraham …. “Let me show you a Promise Land, a place you do not know….and you shall be a blessing.” … there is this unease over this place you do not know, similar to my unease when I am running late for an important appointment. Only a displaced son carried this unease related NOT to a clock but to an unknown place – a lot like over not belonging here – maybe so much like being a Jew in Germany in 1939, when you carried the unease with your every moment of your life, or like a one of the millions of refugees suffering mass displacement, from Syria in 2016?

Memory is the key to your identity, touching your emotional connection in this tremendous bond, with different degrees of deepness, in the 26 European countries without visible national churches that have abolished passports and any other type of border controls, on imitations of attachment, directed at union.  In a collective memory of forgiveness of others in the name of a forgiving God, on issues of inheritance and birth right — note the discovery of forgiveness through the son, in all the Abrahamic religions — with all the eye-popping tension in the story between those who were not good enough with those who seemed to be too good, there is this indescribable pain which creates memory in a culture — like out of that closeness, in the beginning.  As that closeness, in the beginning, often seems one day lost if not sacrificed, in a more secular world with such free movement.  Did you note how the son really ends up saving the father …or, in the case of Ismael, the mother?   On issues of union, beyond imitations of attachment?  Yes, “remember that you are dust, and unto dust thou shall return.”

This paperless world gives me the heebie jeebies
larry gillick, sj
jorge mario bergoglio, sj and molly mattingly

Daily Reflection Creighton Online Ministries


In What Direction to Take An Ark To Safety?

The view of those who run Europe is that the truth is that its single currency must be saved. And so the story about what rain-makers and bailouts, and a flood of money …in a flood of new money — do to stave off impending doom, like in the 2008 financial collapse.

Before the time of Homer was a story of Noah, when the world was destroyed by flood. In the story of the second creation. In the book Sages and Dreamers, Elie Wiesal wrote of the world in which Noah was swimming in the polluted air of the earth which had resulted after ten generations of creation. In the story of Noah, God was still very conscious of the goings on in the world. The crimes of humanity, the corruption, which Noah was above, are never explained in the lines. Who did what to whom? Noah, who is all that others are not. Creation had become chaos. And the story of Noah, like most of the Genesis stories, dealt with the themes of fertility. Fertility and the pairing up — the fertility that you tried to control, just as your tried to plan your own future. It would be what you would leave behind, way beyond your control. All others die, yet Noah lives. There is a certain irony to read the perspective of a Jewish author who lost each and every one of his relatives in the Holocaust — a man who at war’s end tried returning to his hometown, which had done nothing to help the Jewish population, perhaps feeling like Noah where all he had left was family.

So what had Noah ever done to deserve his role, to save humanity? Little ever is said. All that the Good Book says is that Noah submits to God’s will and nothing more. God has chosen to talk to him. And he built his ark. To save humanity.

The NYU economics professor (former derivative trader) known as Dr. Doom, Nassim Taleb, who had predicted the 2008 crash, in a January 2009 speech about bailouts: “I want them poor. And they deserve to be poor. You cannot have capitalism without punishment.”

And so the stories about what the flood of money in our times has done, and the belief that someone ought to be punished. Because at least money was one value everyone understood. Through a medium of exchange which conveyed a sense of belonging. To a group of people. And then the attempt to pass on that culture. With a sense of belonging, through the stories. Where there were so many problems. About where to go with your money. For safety.

When you shared a heritage, or a culture. But your leaders attempted to form a union with the neighbors. And so the new stories about what a shared heritage, or a culture, pairing up, to save humanity. My fertility as a medium of exchange, which conveyed a sense of belonging. To a group of people. To a land. And then to pass on, in like the eggs. Or the euro.

“One reason the eurozone is tottering is that markets know that its members (by which they mean Germany) could produce the mere two trillion euros required to calm things down, but are refusing to do so.

In Europe “one crisis leads to another crisis unless you find a really effective circuit breaker,” said PIMCO’s El-Erian. The creation of the new government in Italy “is certainly not sufficient. You fundamentally have to convince the people that they have to sacrifice and come up with a set of policies that allows the economy to grow and not just austerity. Europe so far hasn’t come close.” PIMCO continues to favor sovereign debt of nations including the U.S. and U.K. where central banks are keeping interest rates low and embarking on monetary stimulus programs such as debt purchases, said Bill Gross during today’s interview. Canadian and German debt also remain attractive.

Nancy Lazar of Ed Hyman’s ISI Group makes it clear that the Germans are exhibiting an uneasy awareness of the limits of their own less-than-vibrant economy. Expressed as a percentage of Germany’s GDP, German bank exposure to debt from France is 6.1%; Spain, 4.8%; Italy, 4.4%; Ireland, 3%;Portugal, 1%; and Greece, 0.9%. As she comments, the total of German banks’ exposure to peripheral and French debt is equivalent to 20.2% of Germany’s GDP, “high by any standard.” About Germany, Lazar posits that even without capturing fully the fiscal drag and contagion from the crisis, inflation-adjusted gross domestic product, which in the September quarter rose 2.5% year-over-year, will head for zero growth next year. That rather glum prospect is in keeping with recent weak readings of, among other indicators, German business expectations and slowing consumer spending.

Since something like 70% of German exports go to the rest of Europe, German exports have softened. Paced by a 12.1% plunge in demand from the rest of the Continent, September German factory orders were off overall by 4.3%. Corporate earnings have begun to give, with a one-two punch of a weaker economy with the rise in unit labor costs. Retail sales, with diminished consumer confidence, are destined to suffer this holiday season and thereafter.

There was so much irony to read the quote of a French leader that the European Union was set up so that religion would not be the basis of war among nations again. And so the secular nature of Europe, in post war Europe. The EU as the defining instrument of the times, with the euro. When spokesmen for a system of government spent so much time disseminating illusion on issues of unity, if not union. What happens when the confidence is gone? And so the devaluations, the corruption, which came out of one means of exchange for the all nations. And the downward spiral.

Nov 16 (Bloomberg) – Europe has as little as day or weeks to act to avoid a default by a euro-region country, Citigroup Inc. chief economist Willem Buiter said today, “Time is running out fast.” In an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Surveillance Midday” with Tom Keene, Buiter said, “I think we have maybe a few months – it could be weeks, it could be days – before there is a material risk of a fundamentally unnecessary default by a country like Spain or Italy which would be a financial catastrophe dragging the European banking system and North America with it. So they have to act now.”

The irony in the story of this flood of money and ancient Greece. And the mottled German leadership role in all of this, seventy-five years after the Third Reich. When money helps to create the illusion of grandeur in this life. When money was a DEFINING INSTRUMENT OF THE Culture. It was the language we communicated, in western civilization. It was how we exchanged things, beyond words. It was a way of understanding. Money reflected the values of a community. Systems of money were created. Capitalism. Communism. We fool ourselves with the systems of grandeur. By nationalism. Fascism. In castes. Or in Aryan supremacy. In the debates about theologies, and the defining instruments of communication, so often stifled by popes, or about radical authoritarianism, with a missing collegiality. With the missing debate not so much over valuations — about buzzcuts on those holding Greek debt, or just needed pruning back — but how to measure valuation. With a meaningful DEFINING INSTRUMENT of the culture.

You cannot have capitalism, the one size which is supposed to fit all, like really the one size that fits Germany. As people without their own currencies, or their own language, cannot correct their own errors, as their debt compounds. As Germans overvalue their currency and the remainder of the EU’s along with them. Without punishment.

Yeah, up until one month ago the view from Europe was that its single currency must be saved. At all costs. Was there an irony, a certain sense of satisfaction, to see the currency pain in Italy and in Germany at the same time, with their real pain in a devaluation in the use of dynamic equivalence. As old men from Italy led by a German, put in place this currency adjustment, at all costs, affecting the way I prayed? In English.

This devaluation, the change in translation, was not about just prayer but about the medium that I used, that all of us within these borders use. So now comes the change. It was a currency adjustment, a devaluation in the use of dynamic equivalence. As these things happened in international systems of exchange. And with it, a change in the spiritual lives of many in these united states. Mindful of the intense suffering and pain which is part of fertility, it took more than 10 years for all of this to bear fruit. And after the translation comes the real life interpreting, as a church’s true mission has been in the field of interpreting and translating, just like in those services offered for interpreting and translating, to lawyers and court services. With my own ignominy watching the story of the euro play out, I had a certain response – like that found in Germany – that the pain in places all over Europe would not happen here. And I now understood the Occupy Wall Street protest which was now leading to a world-wide movement, about leaders who had no idea where or how they were leading people. The protest like the one over the leadership of the financially chosen people.

From the economic discussion of “Too Big to Save,” came me. Questioning who these leaders were and what they hoped to accomplish — who they thought they were really serving. I felt that somehow my prayer life was caught up in the European wholesale sovereign debt mess, and I was part of the write-downs. It was being packaged as The New Evangelization. And I was a part of the write-offs. And in the aftermath, there was a disproportionate size of Europe’s biggest cathedrals relative to their real life use which would be coming to America. As Germans overvalue their currency and the remainder of the EU’s along with them, there was the missing debate over sovereignty. And like the feelings of animosity towards a distant far-away authority, I empathized so much like the Greeks today and the Spanish tomorrow.

Before the time of Homer, when the world was destroyed by flood, except for the story of a man named Noah. When one man was responsible for carrying on. It was what happened in a world during a devaluation in the use of dynamic equivalence. This was the same story later played out in the past, among Chosen People. Like the perverted story eighty years ago with anti-semitism. And members of a church – the ones who see themselves as chosen people concerning issues of salvation – can, in discovering the subtleness of God, play a critical role. Or not. In interpreting the meaning of Creation. Like Noah. Like my own priest, who in navigating closeness was above all the petty human politics, with a perspective in the broken world about the truth that its single currency cannot be saved. Without punishing the poor in spirit. With his services carried out, like that by the seasoned and professionally trained interpreter, far from the Holy See and its philosophy based upon a single currency.

“In very ancient Greece, Homer tells us, the giants tried to scale Heaven by piling Mount Ossa on top of Mount Olympus, and then adding “wooded Pelion”, another mountain in those parts, on top of that. They failed, of course, and “piling Pelion on Ossa” became a by-word for reinforcing failure.” –Charles Moore in “The Left and Right Should Join Forces Against the Great Euro Take-over”
Copyright © 2011.

On The Theology of Capitalism

A banking system is an act of faith: the system survives only for as long as people believe. In each other. With a face mottled by broken capillaries from working there, a Bank & Trust is an every day act of faith.

The BOND MARKET. The world is in unbelievable bad shape. And I do not hear many church people praying for a financial system on the brink of disaster.

In Russia, people who believed in the theology of communism saw their system collapse twenty years ago. The life of the ruble over ten years was a daily roller coaster ride, especially for people on pensions. In August 1998, when the U S Congress was voting to impeach Bill Clinton, the government of Russia defaulted on forty billion dollars of government bonds.

Credit is the air that business breathe. Bonds. That you should have what I have. When you wanted everyone to have what I had. And your job involved sharing bonds.

On February 11, 2009, I wrote a piece about the financial system crisis, more and more the DEFINING INSTRUMENT OF THE culture. Then and now this was a financial system crisis, not a sub prime mortgage crisis. It was not just the derivative market. It was the entire system. It was everybody. Here.

I understood that foreign governments were required to keep capital reserves for international trade, in US dollars. And it is my understanding that the United States went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, without ever raising taxes. The wars, even before the United States escalated things in Afghanistan, were projected to have a total economic impacted cost $3 trillion, according to Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz and co-author Linda J. Bilmes in “The Three Trillion War” — or maybe $4 trillion. And every country in the world had no voice in the pursuit of these wars which was shared by all those who relied on the U S Dollar.

This now is a financial system crisis, not a sub prime mortgage crisis. It was not just the derivative market. It was the entire system. It was everybody. It was war and cheap money. Willem H. Buiter wrote on January 25, 2009, the impact of the bailout has been virtually nil in the market, which has continued to punish the banks in the stock market, and among the public, which has failed to find a clear message.

There is a lot of illusion in life today.  The illusion is about who we thought we were. Money helps create the illusions of grandeur in this life.  We fool ourselves… with theologies based upon systems. Systems like capitalism and nationalism. Or systems based upon communism.

While living through the crisis in the financial system in 2008, I had lunch with a priest with part of a job description overseeing an endowment fund that would determine the future education of a lot of young people in college.  After a touching on a lot of the fiscal concerns in the world, as to how much they might affect his job in fund-raising, at the end of lunch he asked me how much my identity was based upon money.

Money is a DEFINING INSTRUMENT OF THE culture. It is a language that we all communicated in.  It is how we exchanged things, beyond words.  It is a way of understanding.  Money reflects values of a community.  And values are always debated.  

The perils are all around us in America, especially today in Europe, as the banking system is again on the brink, with the value of all currency, of the things that help sustain illusion. Unetaneh Tokef is a prayer that the Jews recite during the High Holy Days about the perils of the year to come: 

How many shall pass away and how many shall be born,
Who shall live and who shall die…
Who shall be at peace and who shall be pursued,
Who shall be exalted and who shall be brought low…

Those stocks in banks in Europe have been worthless for the past three years. “If drugs continue to be injected which mask symptoms rather than address the disease (medicine in the form of debt destruction), the likelihood of a seismic readjustment increases in kind,” writes Todd Harrison, about the dollar. “As governments take on more risk” as they price assets on behalf of the market and transfer debt from private to public, “the common denominator, or release valve, becomes the currency.”

And it has been. As the euro dies. Maybe because the Chinese did not want to adjust the value of their currency. In the game of liar’s poker, in the markets.

“In the UK, no bank is solvent. And if there is, I do not know,” said Jim Rogers in January 2009. The crisis in the banking system has been accompanied by the collapse of the pound sterling. “Interest rates are on the floor and is expected to fall further, the housing market remains in crisis, the current account deficit is through the roof, economic prospects are very bad, it was have triggered the red in the public accounts and banking turmoil of recent days have come to weaken the currency.”

“I want them poor and they deserve to be poor. You can’t have capitalism without punishment.”
–Nassim Nicholas Taleb (1960–), NYY economics professor, former derivatives trader, at the World Economic Forum, January 2009, concerning the bailout. 

“There is an angry mob out there. Its shape is dimly perceived, but the terrifying shadows cast by its flaming torches are clear enough. This is the bond market in full cry. Its most aggressive participants even call themselves the “bond vigilantes.”” – Stephen Foley, British journalist 

“The US Federal government has taken on massive additional contingent liabilities through its bail out/underwriting of the US financial system (and possibly other bits of the US economic system that are too politically connected to fail). Together will the foreseeable increase in actual Federal government liabilities because of vastly increased future Federal deficits, this implies the need for a future private to public sector resource transfer that is most unlikely to be politically feasible without recourse to inflation. The only alternative is default on the Federal debt. There is little doubt, in my view, that the Federal authorities will choose the inflation and currency depreciation route over the default route,” Willem H. Buiter of the European Institute, then Professor of European Political Economy, London School of Economics and Political Science, wrote at the time.

“Although the US dollar and US Treasury Bills and Bonds are still viewed as a safe haven by many, there will, before long (my best guess is between 2 and 5 years from now) be a global dumping of US dollar assets, including US government assets. Old habits die hard.”  -Willem H. Buiter from his the naked capitalism blog, from three years ago.

We had lived through times when banks quit playing for the community.  When Citibank arrived.  And put that local banker out of business. The last twenty-five years have seen leveraged buyouts, mergers and acquisitions, as regulators ceased regulating. Because a lot of people got drunk on wealth.

Capitalism is on trial. Capitalism is in the news each day, with this world-wide Occupy Wall Street movement. After Communism had been tried and found guilty a generation ago. What now the system here? These are the days. When all those bankrupt banks are going to end up owning even more homes of financially bankrupt people. And there is anger at governments which bailed out bankrupt banks, on the back of taxpayers. If not for taxpayers, it would be the banks which were foreclosed.

There were saved banks….but banks still not fixed.  As a result of big banks in too many businesses, backed by worthless sovereign debt, this republic is threatened, as is the world. The scale of the problem – Bloomberg has reported the total bailout and loan guarantees, the stimulus, total $9.7 trillion now – would have been enough to pay 90% of all US home mortgages. And so the anger, over the choices, over the income of CEOs of banks and on Wall Street. The public concern over economic decay, not unlike the concern over cultural decay, as a political issue, with government over-reach, with the help of a military in international missions, at an economic and political price. On issues of power and might. On these weapons of mass destruction that so few people understood –called currency and bonds.

A calamity, when there was movement in the stories. Or not. When people are stuck. A calamity was a lot like fire… a raging fire, as people cannot buy homes and cars from a banking system where half of the banks are on the brink.  And the rest of us cannot sell. And there was the anger and disappointment. At the system.

Europe has as little as days or weeks to act to avoid a default by a euro-region country, Willem Buiter, who is now the Chief Economist with CitiGroup, Inc, said today. In a banking system, always an act of faith, on a continent where more and more, there is no there THERE, the system survives only for as long as people believe.  Capitalism, as capital is lost, in an old society which cannot replicate itself.  With falling birth rates, and independent contractors.

As the invisible becomes visible, over time. In the old stories where the fear and anger had not been understood when invisible. It might be a good time to stop and pray — ironically on the last Sunday where the English-speaking Roman Catholic world can use the native language at Mass in rooted words which I have come to understand, before the language of English prayer is devalued — to pray like those in flight.  In the way Passover was once commemorated, as the world once again looks at the old prayers, which have come down in the Jewish tradition, passing on, in relationship, in the DEFINING INSTRUMENT OF THE culture, the power in bonds which were believed in:
How many shall pass away and how many shall be born,
Who shall live and who shall die…
Who shall be at peace and who shall be pursued,
Who shall be exalted and who shall be brought low…

Copyright © 2011.


People Watching

Expelled. From the garden. Crime and punishment. What a punishment. To be compelled to discover the world. The mountains. The rivers. Appellations for all of this. Creating artificial borders

The conflicts. Reparations. A lot like for sins, war reparations. Over time.

The “Stans.’ Those countries where the Ubis, the Pakis called home. Or the Kurds. Or the Afghans. Where rivers divide. Where mountains formed by glaciers had underground sources of water. Uzbekistan. Kazakhstan. Tajikistan. Kyrgyzstan. Turkmenistan. East Turkistan, Uyghuristan, and Uyghurstan.

Muslims. In the “_stans.” There was a lot of fear about all the ___stans. After the collapse of the Soviet Union. To discover all of it. The transforming world of glaciers. As icecaps melted. Somewhere bin Laden. Amidst the snow and the wind, still howling like an animal lost off the mountain top. Looking for reparations. And people watching. Amidst the conflict.

Catholics. In Europe. In the Americas. In Africa. In the changing world. The recording of the atmosphere of otherworldliness. In search for “core competencies.” In school. In the real world. People watching.

Expelled. Charlie Weiss was expelled as coach of the Notre Dame football team. There was a time when every Catholic male in the country would care about this news story. That atmosphere of otherworldliness, in South Bend. Were concerns about Notre Dame’s recruiting reflective of problems that the Roman Catholic Church had with the current generation? Way beyond football? Was it poor leadership that had allowed the prestige of otherworldliness to slip away? Was their some kind of identity theft which had occurred over the past generation that was just be discovered now? Was it about social-issue questions. Worldly social issue questions so much focused on sex?

The best consultants use the rhetoric of personal empowerment. A messianic devotion to gurus.

“Outright shamans who sprinkle on the science like so much fairy dust.” Political polling. Politicians. Tax and spend politicians. To build. Land use and global warming. Deforestation. Attention was directed at carbons in the air, but not at the issue of land use.

“Up in the Air.” The book was now a George Clooney movie. About a new sovereign state. Based on airlines. And frequent flying. Where the world was based upon the all-important miles. Flown miles and the control of credit cards. To be compelled to discover the world.

Creating artificial borders
With the firmest tenets. Of liberty. In thin air. In places where business people called home. Airports. Smelling and breathing at the same time.

People watching. Stealth people watching. It was an inhuman time. When the nineties will be remembered as the decade of finance, of computers. And then 2009. Now more sophisticated. More jaded and knowing. Where every question comes down to economics. It was an inhuman time, with bright lights and glamour. Without a lot of emotion or human drama. But style. And now addressing that pain. With the hang over from the Greenspan cheap money era of the last decade, where all the excesses were around at sea level. Prepared for the physical deadlines, the financial deadlines, I faced now. Of the body. Of a tooth ache.

That atmosphere of other-worldliness. Prayer. On mountaintops. Smelling and breathing at the same time. With fewer spiritual pretensions than found at sea level. Oriented over time to something within. Like the melting icecaps. Of the fabled snows of Mt. Kilimanjaro, and the Swiss glaciers. Was global climate change real? Addressing the pain. Nations in Copenhagen seemed to think the clock was ticking.

To be compelled to discover the world. “Core competencies.” Now addressing the crimes. Of endangered places. And addressing that pain. From abscesses and excesses. As an imposed punishment. Of the created artificial borders. Oh to be compelled to discover the world.

People watching. Dramatically inert. Neither knowing nor caring what it is interiorly involved. What’s going on inside the borders of that face? Without my emotional response. Actors. Actresses. “She just stands around.” With a pretty, childlike face. Smelling and breathing at the same time. Without an awareness. It was December. With long stretches of people watching. Without recognizing the border. It all seemed so much like cotton candy. So what should be an appropriate expression, for an adult?

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How Are Things in Glocca Morra

These were times of fear. It came during a sense of great loss. Over wealth. Over freedom. Over loss of life.

Mob rule. Politics. The devil in history.

Addictions. Issues of liberty. Russia Mafiya. Evil. The contract killing. In the wake of the KGB. The devil in history. All the things that came together as a system collapsed.

Mob rule. Politics. The devil in history. In the wake of World War I. The laws passed. Politicians who exploited constitutions, in times of fear. Evil.

Times of fear. The aftermath of genocide.

A lot of the world carried a disbelief in the devil. Evil seemed to be asleep, in the popular view in 2000. Then came September 11, 2001. It was much more than the current American view that evil was directed against one nation. It was much more than those 19 people from overseas? It was what had happened globally. In Spain. In London. In Saudi Arabia. In Morocco. In Kenya. In Yemen. In Somalia. In Turkey. In Mumbai. In Bali. In Jakarta. In the Philippines

Terror. Times of fear. Power. The fight in the north of Ireland. The fight of Basque separatists. The battles within China and within Russia over ethnic minorities that desired power.

The patterns are present which reflect deep currents in global sociology which work against any effort to transcend divisions.

Division. Divide and conquer. It was the mantra of terrorist and political parties.

Hunger and politics were inter-connected. So was politics and religion.

Ireland. Today there was a story in the Boston Globe about the Irish returning once again to Boston. The writer presented an update on how fast the world could change. For ex-patriots returning home in the 1990s. And now headed back to Boston.

Ireland. I have commented in the past about the title one of the more popular books sold in Ireland in 2007, Vanishing Ireland. Technology had changed generation and a nation, so much that the Vanishing Ireland book became a best seller. There seems to be a silent grieving, an expressed longing, a spiritual-type hunger, expecting things to be the same. And in all of its wake, returning to your life, carrying on, amidst the change. All that the Celtic Tiger had done was to get the romance out of the system. When Ireland had conquered the ghosts of the past, with jobs, with peace, a secularism had come in which changed the nature of the Irish. And with it had come a new division. Welcome to the European Union. Where everything seemed based on wealth. And in all of its wake, expecting things to be the same, when everything is based on wealth. The devil in history.

The Ireland these ex-patriots returned to was not the place that they had known. There was no comment upon any ill-will directed at the European Union that had poured money into the place to help the economic boom, which had become an economic bust. Deflation was close to 6% over the past 12 months. There was just an unstated acceptance, about everything, as these ex-pats returned to day to day Irish life.

Wealth and technology. Technology had changed a nation, so that there seemed to be a silent grieving, among the ex-pats. Still with a longing. Nostalgia was also some kind of spiritual hunger, for what forefathers and foremothers always had had. And with silent grieving, the same type of conflict of the hungry with the well-fed. That was always the conflict within religion, a conflict over those who strongly professed religious belief, in conflict for what ever reasons with those others without.

These were times of fear. Over the void left. It came during a sense of great loss. Over wealth. Over freedom. Over change and the effects of change. Over how the void would be filled. Over what had in the past had always been there, at least before many native-born had left the first time. They were now leaving again for Massachusetts.

When you left for economic necessity, how could these former ex-patriots complain? Yet theirs was a witness to how the world had silently changed. Even in a place like Glocca Morra. Or Camelot.

The past is always with us. Sometimes it was not even quite past.

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Dealing With Loss

Being drawn closer to God. . . through a grieving process. That was the lesson learned upon the loss of a loved one. The community comes together to offer support. . . and over time, with reflection, I have learned how to find meaning in past events of my life. And along the way, I have found how to pray better.

There is a growing tension between elements of past and current identity. Over time. All over the world. The tension is over Who I was. Who I am now. Who I was growing into. Individually. Communally.

Loss does not come solely from death. Loss involved issues of health. All kinds of issues of health. In 1982 I lost the recreation place I had spent most of my life; it also was the place that I found my first job. Municipal authority tore the place down and provided a rather artificial multi-purpose replacement. Ten years later due to injury, I gave up my favorite recreational pursuit. Some people now are learning about loss due to their own financial health in 2009.

Loss and change.

There is growing tension in Europe these days between the elements of Christian and European identity, in this Europe in search of European Union. This amidst the tension within the Roman Catholic Church between the left and right, between the hierarchy and the people in the pews, between outside and inside interests. Maybe Catholic politicians, especially Democrats, felt the same tension in the United States. Thoughtful people who were both fully Catholic and representing constituencies which were not Catholic.

In Europe, Rocco Buttiglione was a lawyer who joined Silvio Berlusconi’s new government as the European Union Policy Minister. From 2005-06 he was Minister for Cultural Assets and Activities in Italy. He was nominated in 2004 for for the European Commission with a designated portfolio of Justice, Freedom and Security. During his hearing before the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice And Home Affairs, he was asked about his stance on homosexuality. As a Roman Catholic, Buttiglione reported believing homosexuality to be a sin. He was quoted, “The family exists in order to allow women to have children and to have the protection of a male who takes care of them.”

The Party of European Socialists, Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, and European Greens – European Free Alliance groups “expressed reservations” regarding his ability to take positive political action in the area of citizens’ rights, in particular as regards to combating discrimination, and threatened to reject the entire proposed Commission. The committee voted by 27-26 not to endorse Rocco Buttiglione’s nomination.

In subsequent comments Buttiglione remarked, “The new soft totalitarianism that is advancing on the left wants to have a state religion. It is an atheist, nihilistic religion –but it is a religion that is obligatory for all.”

Thus, this Europe that does not see many Catholics attending Mass. Thus the Church that Benedict reigns over has more than simple sterile ideological battles. John Allen, Jr. addresses the new realities of Europe in a column on February 13th and whether the Treaty of Lisbon will trigger the reign of the anti-Christ.

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“Rocco Buttiglione episode is merely the best known example of a spreading ‘No Catholics Need Apply’ mentality in some secular circles. On the side of the Church, meanwhile, some worry that the Vatican sees things only in the most negative terms, and tends to view Catholics working to articulate the faith in Europe’s new cultural milieu — working, in other words, to find a new way of being Catholic on a changing continent, one marked by considerable religious and ethical pluralism — with suspicion, as if these pioneers somehow risk betraying the teaching and tradition of the Church.

“I have listened to these voices carefully, and as an American, my instinctive reply cannot help but be: ‘Welcome to our world.’

“What I mean is this: With allowances for the obvious historical differences, all of the above could have been said, and certainly was said, of Catholicism in the United States at various points in our history. During the 19th century, our own elite makers of culture — who were not secularists, but rather Protestants — also hung out ‘No Catholics Need Apply’ signs, and generally abhorred Catholicism as a foreign presence in America’s body politic. At the same time, those American Catholics who attempted to craft a form of Catholicism that could be at home in the competitive religious marketplace of the United States, one that could do justice to the country’s multi-faith and democratic ethos, were viewed with deep suspicion in Rome.

“In the mischievous corner of my soul thus takes delight in the current predicament of European Catholicism, because we American Catholics, for once, can play the senior partner in a conversation with our European brothers and sisters.

“Here’s the good news: In the short space of a century, the standing of American Catholicism, both in Rome and among our fellow citizens, has improved considerably. Consider that in 1899, Pope Leo XIII essentially invented a heresy called ‘Americanism’ in order to condemn those Catholics in the United States who defended our form of separation of church and state, indirectly suggesting that we ought to be more ‘European.’ In 2008, meanwhile, Pope Benedict XVI traveled to our shores to deliver a tribute to the American approach to church/state relations, arguing that in the United States the ‘wall of separation’ between church and state means freedom for religion, while laïcité in Europe often means freedom from religion. In effect, Benedict expressed a certain longing that Europe should be more like us!”

“Of course, I am not suggesting that European Catholicism should look across the Atlantic to find a model for its own way forward. Our histories and cultures are too different to simply transplant strategies from one continent to the other; and in any event, there are important aspects of American Catholicism that are still very much a work in progress. Rather, my point is that, from a historical point of view, a new culture is emerging in Europe today, with new legal and political institutions and a new set of values, and it is hardly surprising that Catholicism is struggling to adapt. If there is a lesson to be learned from the path that American Catholicism has walked over the last century, it is that efforts to express the faith in a new world often initially generate tumult and alarm, but can eventually come to be seen as a gift to the universal Church.

“Before Catholicism can foster the ____, or of the broader human family, we must first do a better job of being unified among ourselves. The new questions being asked in the 21st century are extraordinarily complex, and there is obviously more than one Catholic opinion about how we ought to respond. If we fall back into the familiar patterns which have characterized our internal life in the 50 years since the Second Vatican Council — of fractures between left and right, between ad intra interests and ad extra, between the hierarchy and the base, between the avant-garde and the defenders of tradition, between what Jacques Maritain once rather colorfully termed the ‘Sheep of Panurge’ and the ‘Ruminators of the Holy Alliance’ — we run the risk of paralysis, of serious new fractures and new heartache, which will make it impossible to articulate a compelling response to this changing world.”

It is said that the art treasures in the Vatican cost so much to maintain and restore that the art amounts to a net drain on the Vatican budget.

Through power, through change, through a loss of power, through the grieving process. In dealing with loss, there is this ‘being’ drawn closer to God.

Best Supporting Actor

It was Academy Awards month. Movies. Video stores. Academy Awards. We have lived through an age when video has replaced the written word as a media of significant communicating.

Academy Awards. The movies of 2008. Stories with relevance.

Stories with relevance. “Last week the Federal Reserve released the results of the latest Survey of Consumer Finances, Paul Krugman wrote today. The bottom line of this a triennial report on the assets and liabilities of American households “is that there has been basically no wealth creation at all since the turn of the millennium: The net worth of the average U.S. household, adjusted for inflation, is lower now than it was in 2001.”

“At one level this should come as no surprise. For most of the last decade America was a nation of borrowers and spenders, not savers. The personal savings rate dropped from 9 percent in the 1980s to 5 percent in the 1990s, to just 0.6 percent from 2005 to 2007, and household debt grew much faster than personal income.”

How did this all affect you? Market manipulators. Those stock brokers. Wanting money to manipulate.

How did this all affect you? Falling incomes. Now in a failing economy. If you did not know, it was worse overseas. In Latvia. In Ireland. With the banks of Austria and England.

In the crises of these times, what was the message in the most recent creations? If God is going to continue to influence our times, on a conscious level. In the 1930s, as the great American economist Irving Fisher pointed out, “attempts to sell assets and pay off debt deepen the plunge in asset prices, further reducing net worth. Attempts to save more translate into a collapse of consumer demand, deepening the economic slump, Krugman wrote. When they realize they have too much debt, the things people and companies do tend to be self-defeating. When everyone tries to do them all at the same time.

And we are in deep trouble. Deeper trouble than most people realize even now, Paul Krugman wrote.

Academy Awards. A feast when you realize that famine is real.

Real stories. Remember the year 2000 problem? It was only supposed to involve our computers. Not out net worth. Wanting to run away and start over. The New Millennium.

It has been quite a decade. With hanging chads. With September 11, 2001. And now all this.

Life. When you realize you are gonna die. Foxholes. People finding religion in foxholes. God as the main actor in creation. God now cast on too many days, in His humble role as a supporting actor. Or God simply now a part of my audience. Aware of me. And me of Him. His past was an actor, the main player. And now as some kind of Producer and Director, for some of us. The actors needed to pay more attention?


The battle of culture. Executive pay. And China that was now funding this.

At Davos last week, Chinese premier, looking at the system of capitalism, Wen Jiabo lashed out at the ‘blind pursuit of profit’ in some countries in what he called the ‘American financial crisis.’ The view from China was that stocks and bonds were an American system.

Certainly Wen Jiabo could have known of salaries, in lieu of management of companies. His system allegedly did not believe in a class system. ‘There was no effective management of the astronomical salaries of those greedy senior executives.”

Wen Jiabao said that the quality of financial assets must be assured. Max Weber opined 100 years ago that religious movement fostered capitalism. What happened in a secular society? What happened in a society that does not foster religious belief? What happened in the world to religion when money becomes a scarce good? When traditional churches were suffering a drought. The latest Gallup poll on the influence of religion. What would the affect be? That was the social question. On all of us?

One of the most profound lessons to be learnt from the ‘American financial crisis,’ Wen Jiabo commented, was the relaxation of the supervision or ‘even no management at all’ of the financial industry.”

In an arson, fire investigators looked for 3 factors. Motive. Opportunity. Accelerants.

Wen Jiabo seemed to have discovered the affects of moral relativism on Western culture. Money was the motive. Wall Street and its profits were the opportunity. Moral relativism was the accelerant in this current economic fire.

The New Cold War


It is twenty degrees below zero Fahrenheit here where I write.  Outside.  You begin to lose feeling fast in such an environment.  


People who do not communicate well.  In families it was called dysfunction.  It was the result of history.  Those dysfunctional Slavs.  Russians.  Ukrainians.  And natural gas.  In their lands Stalin had once used food as a weapon, starving at least 7 mullions Ukrainians to death.  They say Stalin killed 30 million of the people he ruled over.  His own. 


Dysfunction.  That was then.  This is now.  I have spent a couple nights in Bratislava, 

Today they wait in Bratislava for natural gas to be turned on.  It was not a question of supplies.  While the rest of Europe watches, in the bone chilling cold of their homes and offices, those dysfunctional Slavs.  Russians. Ukrainians, fight over the price of gas and the power that comes with having the gaslines.  Adminsistering the talent and resources that you were blessed with. 


Those other Orthodox in Bulgaria wait.  Power.  Authority.  People watching in disbelief.  Man-made conflict with natural resources.  Paybacks?  I wonder where the common heritage, in bloodlines, in belief was.  Where was the patriarch of Moscow in all of this?   Coule he get over the the pipeline and get the correct valves open? 


Power and authority.  Human authority administering justice with divine resources.  In Bratislava, in Bulgaria, the trust in Gazprom in Russians, in the Ukrainian pipeline company was lost.  It would take a generation to get it back.  When it was twenty degrees below zero Fahrenheit where you were, you had a lot of human compassion for the cold and the hungry.  You took the news a lot more personal.  And in all of this, God and his message seemed a lot more real. 

In Search of An Audience



Identity theft. In the European Union.  A nation without a language is a nation without a soul.  The EU seemed to be simply an idea about the Americanization of Europe.  It was just the way the world was becoming.  What was it that had changed over a period of time in the culture in the age of television, with the generation formed by television?  But Europe had never been a pluralist community.  When all across Europe attitudes are stiffening toward immigration, does this all sound like a replay of the 1930s?  With a vanishing Christianity in Europe.  


When stock markets soar, people think they are geniuses, making money because of their own great thinking.  In down markets, in great depressions, people look for villains.  The expectations changed.   The politicians are likely villains.  And there will be others when fear is growing.  Social formation has changed the people.   


Identity, national, religious, was an idea that was being eroded.  In Ireland the best seller was a book titled Vanishing Ireland.  The Celtic Tiger had eroded a way of life.  Or something had changed.   


There were people there who had dedicated their live to Celtic music.  To traditional Irish music and the culture that had produced it.  the music was not about just notes drawn on paper.  It was about a sense of mystery.  Of people coming together to express something.  It was geography, language, religion, art, and all the classes assigned to young people to learn expressed in music.  Traditional music.  And the music and this identity was a civilization in a particular place and time.  Identity was a proper noun that was no longer being capitalized.   


Sugar in the diets and the affects on memory, according to a study published in the December issue of Annals of Neurology, spikes in blood sugar can take a toll on memory by affecting the dentate gyrus, an area of the brain within the hippocampus that helps form memories.  Since glucose regulation worsens with age, the study may help explain normal age-related cognitive decline.  Or the study may help explain why the sugar-coated media age was having an affect on the way people in a democratic society elected representatives, in the way people reacted to religion.  What would the effect be on memory, history and civilization?   “If we conclude this is underlying normal age-related cognitive decline, then it affects all of us,” said lead investigator Dr. Scott Small, associate professor of neurology at Columbia University Medical Center.


To lose an identity, the “idea” of a Catholic identity, was to lose a sense of significance, to become anonymous.  In the age of television, we were all forgetting who we were.  And that in a secular world was the concern about identity theft. 


Georgetown is a Catholic Jesuit university that promotes a concept of religious pluralism.  Its student population is 51% Roman Catholic.  Georgetown does not keep statistics on its faculty.  Institutions that did not want to be sued had human resource departments that would not make such information available.  In a 2003 book “A People Adrift,” Peter Steinfels states that 55% of the faculty at Notre Dame was Catholic.  So what makes it a Catholic university?  Even of the 51% of the students, of the 55% of the faculty?  In a nation where 20% of the population was Catholic, how many actually attended there because of the Catholic idenitty?  Or just to get ahead?  To make money?  Was there a mysterious power about the institution because of Catholic identity?  What did it mean intellectually to be Catholic?  What contributes to a Catholic identity when the student population of Catholics is close to a minority?  What did it mean to be baptized anyway, in going about a job?  What did it mean to be Catholic?  Either at Macy’s or in Congress?  Or what makes Notre Dame a Catholic university?  Was it only what went on in the theology departments?  At a Catholic hospital did all of the physicians need to be Catholic?  At a Catholic hospital were only Catholic patients treated?  Identity: What did it mean to be Catholic? 


Why Catholic schools?  Why did Catholics need their own place to learn how to read?  What is the purpose of the institution?  Or how to remain a Catholic school in these times without priests and nuns?  Why a religious dimension to any institution?  Catholic identity, for the best and the brightest.  For a few good men.  For a few good women.  Basic training?  If the purpose was to train leaders for the future, what happens when a Catholic instituion becomes so enamored with the financial, political, and academic sucess of its students in the secular world that it forgets its initial mission and identity?  Is there a concern about the ideals of John Carroll, S.J.?  How can you expect these leaders to continue the mission, to pass on its tradition if its board of directors lose sight of its purpose.  How can you ask young people to carry on the tradition, to give their life unconditionally to others, to truly set the world on fire? 


Because as Gordon S. Woodsome writes, there is a need for some kind of an audience as an essential necessary part if a historian, if God, is “going to influence the consciousness of our times.”  And public schools in a secular world were no longer going to pass on the religious dimension.  And that was the threat in the modern age.  Vanishing Christianity, whatever the denomination, was faced with a shortage of clergy for the next generation.  It had happened and was continuing to happen.  But why?


Sugar-frosted flakes. Sugar Pops are tops?  The ability to regulate glucose starts deteriorating by the third or fourth decade of life.  That was about the same affect television had on politics, starting in the 1990s.  Cognitive decline was affecting civilization.  In a sense, I think the reaction in the Muslim world was a gigantic scream against what television had done to their history, to their world.  Before Alzheimers afflicted their culture.   


To lose an identity was to become anonymous.  And an inability to cope, those with an undirected spiritual nature, in a secular world

When fear is growing, amidst cognitive decline, in the search for villains, as violence grew more rapidly.  My goodness.  The threat to my goodness.     


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