Ivan Illich on Crossing the Threshold of the Age of Instrumentality

Cayley: You suggested earlier that a new possibility has been opened by the ending of the age of instrumentality…

Illich: I think so. In this world I couldn’t find a better situation in which to live with those I love, and those are exactly people who are overwhelmingly aware of the fact that they have passed beyond a threshold. And because they are no longer so deeply imbued by the spirit of instrumentality, or of futility, they can understand what I mean by gratuity. I do believe that there is a way of being understood today when you speak about gratuity, and gratuity in its most beautiful flowering, is praise, mutual enjoyment, and what some people, such as those who propose a new orthodoxy* discover, is that the message of Christianity is that we live together, praising the fact that we are where we are and who we are, and that contrition and forgiveness are part of that which we celebrate, doxologically.

Cayley: With praise…

Illich: Yea.

–Ivan Illich & David Cayley, The Rivers North of the Future: The Testament of Ivan Illich, Ch 21, pg 229

*i.e. Radical Orthodoxy

On the Centennial of Armistice Day, November 11th, 2018

On Receiving the First News of the War

Snow is a strange white word;
No ice or frost
Has asked of bud or bird
For Winter’s cost.

Yet ice and frost and snow
From earth to sky
This Summer land doth know;
No man knows why.

In all men’s hearts it is:
Some spirit old
Hath turned with malign kiss
Our lives to mould.

Red fangs have torn His face,
God’s blood is shed:
He mourns from His lone place
His children dead.

O ancient crimson curse!
Corrode, consume;
Give back this universe
Its pristine bloom.

Isaac Rosenberg, 1890 – 1918

Sonnet LXX. (On Being Cautioned against Walking on Headland Overlooking the Sea, Because It Was Frequented by a Lunatic.)

Is there a solitary wretch who hies
To the tall cliff, with starting pace or slow,
And, measuring, views with wild and hollow eyes
Its distance from the waves that chide below;
Who, as the sea-born gale with frequent sighs
Chills with cold bed upon the mountain turf,
With hoarse, half-utter’d lamentation, lies
Murmuring responses to the dashing surf?
In moody sadness, on the giddy brink,
I see him more with envy than with fear;
He has no nice felicities that shrink
From giant horrors; wildly wandering here,
He seems (uncursed with reason) not to know
The depth or the duration of his woe.

—Charlotte Smith, 1797

The Last Thing

First there was the blue wing
of a scraggly loud jay tucked
into the shrubs. Then the bluish-
black moth drunkenly tripping
from blade to blade. Then
the quiet that came roaring
in like the R. J. Corman over
Broadway near the RV shop.
These are the last three things
that happened. Not in the universe,
but here, in the basin of my mind,
where I’m always making a list
for you, recording the day’s minor
urchins: silvery dust mote, pistachio
shell, the dog eating a sugar
snap pea. It’s going to rain soon,
close clouds bloated above us,
the air like a net about to release
all the caught fishes, a storm
siren in the distance. I know
you don’t always understand,
but let me point to the first
wet drops landing on the stones,
the noise like fingers drumming
the skin. I can’t help it. I will
never get over making everything
such a big deal.

–Ada Limón

Kavanaugh: A Question of Credibility and Prudence

Having watched/listened to today’s hearings and reflecting back on the Kavanaugh nomination and vetting process as a whole I’ve come to a few general conclusions. While in some sense both Kavanaugh and Blasey Ford provided testimony that was emotionally gripping and at least partially compelling, leaving the Senate Judiciary committee with the “he said”/”she said” that we were warned of, it seems to me that there were key differences in the testimony of the two witnesses that ought to be decisive for assessing the appropriateness of putting Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court.

Continue reading “Kavanaugh: A Question of Credibility and Prudence”

Kierkegaard on Life Lived Forward

It is perfectly true, as philosophers say, that life must be undertaken backwards. But they forget the other proposition, that it must be lived forwards. And if one thinks over that proposition it becomes more and more evident that life can never really be understood in time because at no particular moment can I find the necessary resting-place from which to understand it.

-Søren Kierkegaard