Sunday, December 30, 2007

Reflections: So, It Can't Happen Here?

This is going to be a longer-than-usual post. But I hope that if you begin it, you will stay with it to the end. I intend it as a striking of the tocsin, and I think that it shines a tiny bit of light on something worth thinking about.

I have, from time to time, when commenting at more politically-oriented blogs, insisted that I see evidence of an organized “power behind the throne” operating in this country. I have suggested that men like George W. Bush are tapped for office by this unseen “shadow government” and trotted out as figureheads to provide to the people, through the media, a semblance of governmental leadership, while they actually do the bidding of powers-that-be operating behind the scenes, beyond the reach of the press and the knowledge of the people. Such speculation on my part is almost always dismissed out of hand as the paranoid ranting of a left-liberal dupe of the Marxist academic elites.

As it happens, I am currently reading The Space Trilogy of C.S. Lewis. I have finished the first two titles, Out of the Silent Planet, and Perelandra. I was, just this morning, coming up on the one-quarter mark of the concluding title, That Hideous Strength, when I encountered the plot element that has inspired this post. I shall have to quote large chunks of two pages of the text, after providing a very minimal summary of the story-line, in order to give the excerpts a bit of context.

I am writing this post because C.S. Lewis provides an excellent depiction of the emergence, in a fictional England, of the kind of “shadow government” for which I see evidence here in America, and of the prevailing attitudes in ordinary people which make such an emergence possible. I am also writing this post because no person in his right mind would accuse Lewis of being a "left-liberal dupe of the Marxist academic elites.”

The scene from which I will quote takes place between a youngish academic named Mark Studdock, and a scary diesel dyke named Miss Hardcastle. Miss Hardcastle (nicknamed “Fairy” by her colleagues) is the head of the private police force of a secretive, but apparently very powerful, NGO called the N.I.C.E. This mysterious entity is recruiting Studdock away from his sociology fellowship at a small, but ancient and prestigious, college in bucolic England. Studdock visits N.I.C.E. headquarters for a kind of orientation. He becomes increasingly frustrated there as he is repeatedly put off by those in charge when asking routine questions concerning his prospective job title, his duties, to whom he will report, his salary, etc. As a result of these prevailing ambiguities, Studdock threatens to leave and return to his fellowship at the college. (The significance of the fact that another individual from his college, who has made a similar decision the previous day, was murdered by persons unknown on his way home, has not registered with Studdock.) At this point he is confronted in a hallway by the formidable Miss Hardcastle and forcefully ushered into her offices, where she proceeds to set him straight with some “friendly advice.”:

Miss Hardcastle tells Studdock, “You haven’t yet realized what you’re in on. You’re being offered a chance of something far bigger than a seat in the cabinet. And there are only two alternatives, you know. Either to be in the N.I.C.E. or to be out of it. And I know better than you which is going to be most fun.”

When Studdock reiterates his demand to know precisely what his title and duties will be, or else depart immediately, Miss Hardcastle informs him that he has been recruited not as a sociologist, but because of this writing skills. His first assignment will be to write a series of articles, to be planted in the newspapers, which will gradually rehabilitate the public reputation of a man who had been executed as a criminal some time in the past. Studdock protests that he is not a journalist, but a sociologist, adding that even if he were a journalist, he’d be an honest one, not a propagandist. He then states that, in any case, he’d want to know much more about the politics of the N.I.C.E. if he were going to write propaganda pieces for it. Was the N.I.C.E. of the Left, or of the Right? Miss Hardcastle’s reply to this question is at the center of my reason for writing this piece, so I shall be quoting it at some length:

“Both, honey, both,” said Miss Hardcastle. “Don’t you understand anything? Isn’t it absolutely essential to keep a fierce Left and a fierce Right, both on their toes and each terrified of the other? That’s how we get things done. Any opposition to the N.I.C.E. is represented as a Left racket in the Right papers and a Right racket in the Left papers. If it’s properly done, you get each outbidding the other in support of us—to refute the enemy slanders. Of course we’re non-political. The real power always is.” [emphasis added]

To this, Studdock replies, “I don’t believe you can do that… Not with the papers that are read by educated people.” Hardcastle’s response to this conjecture is one that should deflate the confidence of all readers of the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and even The Village Voice:

“That shows you’re still in the nursery, lovey,” said Miss Hardcastle. “Haven’t you yet realized that it’s the other way around? …[It’s] the educated reader who can be gulled. All our difficulty comes with the others. When did you meet a workman who believes the papers? He takes for granted that they’re all propaganda and skips the leading articles. He buys his paper for the football results and the little paragraphs about girls falling out of windows and corpses found in Mayfair flats. He is our problem. We have to recondition him. But the educated public, the people who read the highbrow weeklies, don’t need reconditioning. They’re all right already. They’ll believe anything.” [emphasis added]

There you have it. I ask you to wonder how it is possible that a mediocre failed businessman like George W. Bush could hold what is ostensibly the most powerful position on earth? I ask you to think of an entity such as Halliburton as one division of a shadow organization such as the N.I.C.E. I ask you to consider such an outfit as Blackwater as Miss Hardcastle’s employer. I ask you to recall that the low-level military personnel who committed the atrocities at Abu Ghraib were apparently being supervised by contractors, rather than by their legitimate chain-of-command. I ask you to fucking wake up!

UPDATE: 1/2/08 Kyle R. Cupp's contribution to the comment section made me realize an error in my exposition above. Where I said a left-liberal dupe of the 'Mainstream Media', I should have said a left-liberal dupe of the 'Marxist academic elites'. I have, therefore, made that change.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Reflections: Some Random, Unfocussed Thoughts

Three weeks into it now, the pain of which I wrote below has finally begun to dissipate. For the past couple of days I've been able to walk pretty much anywhere I needed to go, with only a bearable level of discomfort resulting from the effort. I've been able to sleep on my back, as well as on my right side, which has been a great boon to the level and duration of the rest I've been able to get at night. So things are looking up.
The strange thing about it, though, is that there is almost a let-down setting in. It's like the feeling one has after an adventure has run it's course, or something really fun has ended. When one is fighting a lot of pain, 24/7, one is never bored. One may be frustrated, and even a little bit frightened, but one is not depressed. In moments of crisis there is no room for depression. And, at least for me, self-pity does not have the clout necessary to wrest consciousness away from the struggle to endure, to keep going, to do the possible.
But I'm now left intellectually flat. Nothing much has greatly interested me since the pain abated.

I wanted to note the passing of two pretty good jazz musicians during this holiday season: first, the alto sax maestro, Frank Morgan--of all the Charlie Parker clones perhaps the most talented, next to Cannonball Adderley; then piano player, Oscar Peterson, a true giant of the keyboard.
I don't like to embed YouTube clips on this blog much, because it makes it take too long to refresh the screen on this old Dell wood-burner I use at home. But I'm sure that you can find clips on both of these men, and I urge you to take the time to do so.

When I first started listening to a lot of jazz in the mid-'80s, I thought that jazz musicians had to be black to be great. It wasn't until about ten years into it that I bought many albums by white musicians. I had some: Stan Getz, Bennie Goodman, and a couple of others--but not many. Then I started to explore a bit more. Among the white jazzmen I discovered was the pianist, Bill Evans. I knew that he was okay to admire, because Miles Davis used him on Kind of Blue--'nuff said. I also had an old vinyl album featuring baritone sax player, Gerry Mulligan. I met him through Miles Davis, also, on The Birth of the Cool. The vinyl album, on which Mulligan was the leader, included a bunch of cuts featuring Chet Baker on trumpet. I was hooked. I'm not too sure that it's cool to be a Chet Baker fan, but frig that: I'm a Chet Baker fan. This startling confession is something that I plan to write about sometime in the future, when I'm not so mentally blah.

Your assignment, kids, is to get on YouTube and find some Frank Morgan; some Oscar Peterson; some Bill Evans; and some Chet Baker. Check it out. Report back. God speed.

Final note: I'm also reading, due to a second-hand recommendation, a crime novel by Charles Willeford. I'd never heard of him, although I do occasionally dip into the genre. The novel I got from the library in order to check the guy out is Miami Blues. I've read about the first third, and I'm not that impressed. James M. Cain, he's not. Even Elmore Leonard, he's not. Jim Thompson? Maybe. Has anybody read this guy? What'd you think?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Reflections: The Banality of PC

LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- Will Smith is angry over celebrity gossip Web site articles that he said misinterpreted a recent remark he made in a Scottish newspaper about Adolf Hitler.

In a story published Saturday in the Daily Record, Smith was quoted saying: "Even Hitler didn't wake up going, 'let me do the most evil thing I can do today.' I think he woke up in the morning and using a twisted, backwards logic, he set out to do what he thought was 'good.'"

Will Smith needs to stick to his guns; he needs to stop being angry and immediately begin insisting that he was right in the first place. Human beings, no matter how morally depraved they are, do talk themselves into believing that their agendas are good ones. We convince ourselves of that every time we tell that harmless little lie; make that nasty little comment about a co-worker; perhaps even enact those little thefts, eh? Like that roll of tape from the office to use on Christmas presents, because there just wasn’t time to stop at the store. And besides…they owe you, don’t they?

Hitler is an extreme example, but the principle is the same. Will Smith was exactly correct: Even Hitler didn't wake up going, 'let me do the most evil thing I can do today.'

Hang in there, Will. Your statement was a philosophical and psychological bull's-eye. Political correctness may (very rarely) have its place, but we must not let the hideous magnitude of Hitler’s self-justified crimes so overshadow our own rationalized transgressions that we allow ourselves to dismiss them as “trivial.” Because they are not.

(The full article from which the excerpt above was clipped is here.)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


If you lacked simplicity, how then
should this fall to you that midnight skies
are ashine with? God, who stormed at men,
mild in you now comes to mortal eyes.

That he’s not more great – does this surprise?

What is greatness? Sweepingly his fate
cuts across all human measurings.
No star, even, has a path so straight.
Look, these coming now are great, these kings

dragging to your lap, as presents, things

which, they hold, are greater far than all.
Maybe they astound you, gifts like these –
look, though, how within your folded shawl
he excels already all one sees.

Amber, shipped across great distances,

golden ornaments and fragrant spice
such as makes the heavy senses swim:
these were pleasures over in a trice,
and regretted when their power grew dim.

But (as you will see): joy comes of him.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

(from The Life of Mary, tr. J.B. Leishman)

Image source

Monday, December 24, 2007

Reflections: Remembering Mailer

Back in November, 2007 I noted the passing of the great American writer, Norman Mailer. This morning, in my travels around cyberspace, I came upon this remarkable interview with Mailer, from five years ago. It is full of wisdom and insight into contemporary America, the human condition, politics, the Middle East, the war in Iraq, the implications of hegemony, religion, the evils of flourescent lighting, and much more.

To perhaps pique your interest in reading this long interview, I give you the excerpt below, which is Mailer's take on an observational refrain my own, to which I have frequently referred as cognitive dissonance:

A lot of Americans [in the aftermath of WWII] were very happy to be prosperous, but they also felt secretly guilty. Why? Because we are a Christian nation. The Judeo in Judeo-Christian is essentially a grace note. We are a Christian nation. And the idea, if you really are a Christian and a great many people in America at that point were significantly devout, was that you were not supposed to be all that rich. God didn’t want it. Jesus certainly didn’t. You were not supposed to pile up a lot of money. You were supposed to spend your life in reasonably altruistic acts. That was one half of the collective psyche. The other half: Beat everybody you are in a contest with because you’ve got to win. To a certain extent, and this is a cruel, but possibly an accurate remark, to be an American is to be an oxymoron. On the one hand, you are a good Christian, and on the other, you are viscerally combative. You are supposed to be macho and win. Jesus and Evel Knievel don’t necessarily consort too well in one psyche.

I hope that I can encourage anybody who has never read Mailer to do so now. I believe that he will be known to history as one of two or three definitional voices of the generation immediately preceding my own, and a major, if subliminal, influence on the generations thereafter.

Photo credit

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Riffs: A Musical Gift via the Ohio Magus

A ceremonial yuletide toast to Madscribe! Skol, bro'!

Saturday, December 22, 2007


Reflections: Greeting the Season

These are trying times. The Spirit of Christmas seems swamped; not only by the unseemly, sometimes violent, consumer frenzy that annually bemerdes the season, but this year also by the tedious broadcast bickering of partisan politics; by the grisly news constantly trickling in from the Never-Ending-War; and by the uncertainties of a national economy, the assets of which are being pillaged and plundered domestically by those plutocratic few soaring near the clouds in their steel and glass bunkers, or alternately, sold abroad like boatloads of shackled slaves. Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.

Therefore, by way of an antidote, and in the spirit of my previous post, I invite you to join me briefly on the short line leading to the wisdom of the philosopher Spinoza, whose words below will indicated by italics:

Unable to find an objective good in the usual surroundings of social life, Spinoza finally resolved to inquire whether there might be some real good, having power to communicate itself, which would affect the mind singly to the exclusion of all else.

Spinoza undertook his project having found that the ordinary surroundings of life which are esteemed by men (as their actions testify) to be the highest good, may be classed under three heads—Riches, Fame, and the Pleasures of Sense: with these three the mind is so absorbed that it has little power to reflect on any different good.

Here, Spinoza had pressed his finger against the pulse of the problem: we habitually take as “good” things which are not good-in-themselves, but only objects of desire which, once obtained, leave us always wanting bigger-and-better-of-the-same. And men praise us and stoke our pride to the extent that we vigorously pursue this empty life until we wear ourselves down to stumps and nubs against the abrasive futility of it all.

All the objects pursued by the multitude, Spinoza observed, not only bring no remedy that tends to preserve our being, but even act as hindrances, causing the death not seldom of those who possess them, and always of those who are possessed by them. In these things resides the decadence of our culture; the destruction of the human spirit.

These toxins, Spinoza concluded, arise from the love of what is perishable… But love toward a thing eternal and infinite feeds the mind wholly with joy, and is itself unmingled with sadness, wherefore it is greatly to be desired and sought for with all our strength…[for} while my mind was employed with these thoughts it turned away from its former objects of desire, and seriously considered the search for a new principle…

But, Fear not…search no further…for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

May God’s grace be with you in this joyous season, and throughout the new year to come.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Reflections: Huck Line and Thinker

This is not an endorsement. Nor does it make any kind of political statement, whatsoever. But it is something to think about.

I saw presidential hopeful, Mike Huckabee, being interviewed and commenting on the hot tabloid issue of the day--the pregnancy of Britney Spears' sixteen year-old sister.

Huck said (and I paraphrase from memory): "I'm not going to condemn her. There will be plenty of people lining up to do that. And I always look for the short line."

I always look for the the short line: I like that. I agree with that. I find wisdom in that. Most often, when I find myself in the short line, I find myself in the correct line. I may not be waiting for the most pleasant, the most entertaining, or the least challenging eventuality by hanging in there on that shortest line. But I inevitably find myself in the best company.

Reflections: The Pain of It All

For the past two weeks I have been coping with a considerable level of pain emanating from, but not limited to, a wrenched back. Due, apparently, to related sciatic nerve impingement, any walking has been accomplished only with the help of narcotic pain pills and muscle relaxants (for the first week), and mass quantities of Ibuprofen. The impossibility of finding a comfortable position in which to sleep; the more or less constant, sometimes severe, pain (now, thankfully, beginning to diminish); the lack of mobility, either walking or driving, and the inability to undertake any of life's little routines, including necessities such as bathing and going to the bathroom, without great effort, I find to be a consciousness-altering experience: the whole world has looked different to me. I sit in my familiar recliner, looking at my familiar surroundings, and feel out to sea. It is an alienation from self. I watch other people walking down to street with envy, unable to firmly believe that I will ever again do so myself. But I'm not complaining. It is humbling to be so struck down, and therefore valuable. Every moment of life must be looked upon as an undeserved gift; and even pain as a precious opportunity to transcend the forgetfulness that plagues our existence.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Readings: Chesterton's HERETICS

It had not been my intention to put up any more posts on G.K. Chesterton in the near future, even though I borrowed Heretics from the library immediately upon having finished Orthodoxy. But when I came upon the passage below, from the chapter in Heretics entitled “On Mr. Rudyard Kipling”, it seemed so appropriate to our current national dilemma that I was forced to modify my game plan:

The truth is that exploration and enlargement make the world smaller. The telegraph and the steamboat make the world smaller. The telescope makes the world smaller; it is only the microscope that makes it larger. Before long the world will be cloven with a war between the telescopists and the microscopists. The first study large things and live in a small world; the second study small things and live in a large world. It is inspiriting without a doubt to whizz in a motor-car round the earth, to feel Arabia as a whirl of sand or China as a flash of rice-fields. But Arabia is not a whirl of sand and China is not a flash of rice-fields. They are ancient civilizations with strange virtues buried like treasures. If we wish to understand them it must not be as tourists or inquirers, it must be with the loyalty of children and the great patience of poets. To conquer these places is to lose them. [emphasis mine]


Readers might find it interesting to compare the above to Kyle R. Cupp’s take on Interpreting Nations on his blog, Postmodern Papist.

Friday, December 7, 2007


Among the obituaries in the New York Times the other day was one for the writer, Elizabeth Hardwick. She was aged 91 and I would not have guessed that she had been still alive in 2007. Until quite recently, I had never read anything by her, and knew her primarily as the sometime wife of the American poet, Robert Lowell (with whom she is pictured here), with whose work I was fairly conversant. I first came to read Hardwick when a paperback copy of her short roman à clef, Sleepless Nights, caught my eye in a bin at a fund-raising sale of used books at the public library, and I brought it home.

It was not what I would consider to be an important piece of fiction, but I enjoyed it for its convincing depictions of life in New York City. Here are a couple of excerpts:

Midtown—look toward the east, toward many beautiful and bright things for sale. Turn the eyes westward—a nettling thicket of drunks, actors, gamblers, waiters, people who slept all day in their graying underwear and gave off a far from fresh odor when they dressed in their brown suits and brown snap-brim hats for the evening’s inchoate activities.

Although I never in my life donned a snap-brim hat, nor knew anybody who owned one, that passage is still familiar to me from my years in New York, and many nights spent on the streets of the theater district on the West Side of Manhattan. Here’s little more, touching briefly upon her acquaintance with jazz diva, Billie Holiday:

And the shifty jazz clubs on 52nd Street, with their large blow-ups of faces, instruments, and names. Little men, chewing on cigars, outside in the cold or the heat, calling out the names of performers… And there she often was—the “bizarre deity,” Billie Holiday.

…She was fat the first time we saw her, large, brilliantly beautiful, fat. She seemed for this moment that never again returned to be almost a matron… The creamy lips, the oily eyelids, the violent perfume—and in her voice the tropical l’s and r’s. Her presence, her singing created a large, swelling anxiety. Long red fingernails and the sound of electrified guitars. Here was a woman who had never been a Christian.

The Times obituary interested me in looking into a least one of the books of short non-fiction pieces Hardwick had published. From the university library I borrowed the collection entitled Bartleby in Manhattan. I was pleased to find that the volume included an article on Simone Weil. It is the only one that I have read thus far. Unlike several of the essays on Weil by literati that I’ve read over the years, Hardwick’s is unreservedly positive. Simone Weil’s life was one of such extremes that many of her contemporaries were simply unable to accept it all as genuine, and not at any time the strange doings of weird poseur.

Characterizing Simone Weil as “one of the most brilliant and original minds of twentieth-century France”, Hardwick noted, “What sets her apart from our current ascetics with their practice of transcendental meditation, diet, vegetarianism, ashram simplicities, yoga, in that with them the deprivations and rigors are undergone for the payoff—for tranquility, for thinness, for the hope of a long life—or frequently, it seems, to fill the hole of emptiness so painful to the narcissist. With Simone Weil it was entirely different."

With the passing of Elizabeth Hardwick, we have clearly lost a woman of keen perception and deep understanding.

Photo source

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Readings: Good-bye to ORTHODOXY

My last post consisted of three excerpts from G.K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy which were controversial enough to evoke a bit of discussion in the comments section. I didn't choose them because they are controversial; they chose me by striking a sympathetic chord in my conscience. That said, I have no doubt that Chesterton meant the ideas presented by each of them to be striking, if not scandalous, to his readers. I've finished reading Orthodoxy now, but I had one last excerpt squirreled away, and I shall present it below. This one is not controversial, I think; but I like it. It describes a state of mind which, on some of my better days, I catch a rare glimpse of:

Plato told you a truth; but Plato is dead. Shakespeare has startled you
with an image; but Shakespeare will not startle you with any more. But
imagine what it would be to live with such men still living, to know that Plato might break out with an original lecture tomorrow, or that at any moment Shakespeare might shatter everything with a single song. The man who lives in contact with what he believes to be a living Church is a man always expecting to meet Plato and Shakespeare tomorrow at breakfast. He is always expecting to see some truth that he has never seen before.

Nice, huh?

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Readings: Chesterton's ORTHODOXY

I've been greatly enjoying my reading of G. K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy. His aphoristic style is a joy in itself, regardless of whether or not you agree with everything he says. I've had occasion, as I've slowly read this beautiful book, to quote from it in the comment boxes of other blogs. An excerpt from Orthodoxy used in my previous post (which provides the requisite links), elicited an appreciation from a new reader, who is also a fan of Chesterton. For all of these reasons, I thought that I would just post a few more excerpts from this great book, and sit back to see if anybody who happens to come across them is inspired to make any pertinent comments:


The essence of all pantheism, evolutionism, and modern cosmic religion is really in this proposition: that Nature is our mother. Unfortunately, if you regard Nature as a mother, you discover that she is a step-mother. The main point of Christianity was this: that Nature is not our mother: Nature is our sister. We can be proud of her beauty, since we have the same Father; but she has no authority over us; we have to admire, but not to imitate.
(On a personal note, as an only child, I was particularly moved by this.)


We have remarked that one reason offered for being a progressive is that things naturally tend to grow better. But the only real reason for being a progressive is that things naturally tend to grow worse. The corruption in things is not only the best argument for being progressive; it is also the only argument against being conservative. The conservative theory would really be quite sweeping and unanswerable if it were not for this one fact. But all conservatism is based upon the idea that if you leave things alone you leave them as they are. But you do not. If you leave a thing alone you leave it to a torrent of change. If you leave a white post alone it will soon be a black post. If you particularly want it to be white you must be always painting it again; that is, you must be always having a revolution.

The Rich:

Christianity even when watered down is hot enough to boil all modern society to rags. The mere minimum of the Church would be a deadly ultimatum to the world. For the whole modern world is absolutely based on the assumption, not that the rich are necessary (which is tenable), but that the rich are trustworthy, which (for a Christian) is not tenable. ...The whole case for Christianity is that a man who is dependent upon the luxuries of this life is a corrupt man, spritually corrupt, politically corrupt, financially corrupt. There is one thing that Christ and all the Christian saints have said with a sort of savage monotony. They have said simply that to be rich is to be in peculiar danger of moral wreck. It is not demonstrably un-Christian to kill the rich as violators of definable justice. It is not demonstrably un-Christian to crown the rich as convenient rulers of society. It is not certainly un-Christian to rebel against the rich or to submit to the rich. But it is quite certainly un-Christian to trust the rich, to regard the rich as more morally safe than the poor. ...For it is a part of Christian dogma that any man in any rank may take bribes.

Tell it like it is, G.K.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Reflections: Why I Read

As I was making the morning rounds of my regularly-visited blogs, I read a gorgeous post on Catholic and Enjoying It which begins like this:

“When Evangelicals ask me why the Church keeps holding up Mary alongside Christ, the best answer I can think of is this: There's one thing that even Jesus cannot do.

”He cannot show us what a disciple of Jesus looks like.”

Mark’s post was inspired, I believe, by the Pope’s recent encyclical. It speaks of the Virgin Mary as “the first apostle”. I was inspired by Mark’s post to submit the following comment:

“As a Protestant, let me ask, with reference to all the beautiful (no sarcasm there) writing above, how Mary is to be considered an exemplar for those of us struggling to attain discipleship?

”As the Immaculate Conception, born without Original Sin, it would seem that Mary would have had to struggle supernaturally to turn away from God; whereas the rest of humanity, born with, in effect, two strikes against it, needs to struggle supernaturally in order not to turn away from God, and this, knowing that we will continually fail. Mary never failed. She never needed to fear failure. I will. I can contemplate her with envy, but I can't do what she so effortlessly did. And I say "effortlessly" knowingly. Each and every one of us will face all of the sorrows that she faced, but we will face them as potentially damned sinners, while she faced them with full confidence of a crown and a heavenly throne for both her Son and herself, once the ordeal had been endured. We face our sorrows in hope, perhaps, in our strongest moments, but also in fear. Mary, ultimately, had nothing to fear.
It's all well and good to tell me to do what she did; but I can't do it. I am a sinner; she was not. And this sinlessness was of her essence; it is not of mine.
If Protestants don't get it, I think this, at least in part, is why.”

Having sent the above comment off, I clicked on “Home” and walked across the room from my computer to my recliner in order to pick up one of the books I am currently reading, G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy.

Okay, so here is why I read:

On the very next page from where I had left off reading last night, in the chapter entitled “The Eternal Revolution”, Chesterton answers the question posed in the opening paragraph of the comment I had, only three minutes before, submitted to Mark Shea.

And here is how Chesterton does so:

“This, therefore, is our first requirement about the ideal towards which progress is directed; it must be fixed. Whistler used to make may rapid studies of a sitter; it did not matter if he tore up twenty portraits. But it would matter if he looked up twenty times, and each time saw a new person sitting placidly for his portrait. So it does not matter (comparatively speaking) how often humanity fails to imitate its ideal; for then all its old failures are fruitful. But it does frightfully matter how often humanity changes its ideal; for then all its own failures are fruitless. The question then becomes this: How can we keep the artist discontented with his pictures while preventing him from being vitally discontented with his art? How can we make a man always dissatisfied with his work, yet always satisfied with working?” [emphasis added]

And thus the demise of my too clever objection to Mary as the ideal for the struggling apostle. Do I thank Mark Shea? Do I thank G. K. Chesterton. Do I file it under “synchronicity”? Or do I thank something Higher?

All of the above.