Four Articles and a Poem

Thanks, as always, for reading this post. I am grateful to those readers who find my weekly reading suggestions interesting or even helpful. I also appreciate your feedback. If you want to include a comment below about the article that most strikes you or how it touches you, I would find that helpful. 

Weekly, I post four articles that I found significant and a poem accompanied by some comments about what we can learn from them. Our lives are enriched by seeing better. Each week, one article comes from the world of photography, a discipline that is about seeing. Another article comes from the world of technology, hence seeing something of the future. Another article takes up an aspect of our life together, seeing more clearly the other. Another article refers to faith, seeing the unseen. Finally, the weekly post concludes with a poem, because poetry is about seeing words whose arrangement allows us to see anew.

This week, we look to the space program, book suggestions, a theological spat, Nepal, and All Souls' Day.

  1. Forging a New Consensus on America’s Future in Space. President John Kennedy cast a vision that guided our space exploration, landing us on the moon with the Apollo missions. In these days after the conclusion of the space shuttle program, the United States needs a new vision. Peter Juul, of the Center for American Progress, takes up that question for the U.S. space program and argues for the importance of building a national consensus about what we aim to do in space.
  2. 20 books Mark Zuckerberg thinks everyone should read. Richard Feloni has brought together all 20 books in Mark Zuckerberg's Year of Books in this piece in Business Insider. I sincerely have enjoyed reading the works selected by Zuckerberg. I have put commentaries on this blog, and an index with links to each commentary is found here. Similarly, Business Insider details 17 books Bill Gates thinks everyone should read, and these books as well are timely and important.
  3. Theology and Hate. Fr. James Martin, S.J. wrote an important article reflecting on exchanges between columnist Ross Douthat and theologian Massimo Faggioli.
  4. Rubina's story. Gavin Gough is a British editorial and travel photographer, based in Bangkok, Thailand. After Nepal's massive earthquake, he was on scene to capture some images. He returned six months later and tracked the progress of Rubina, a seven-year-old Nepali, who suffered significant injuries to the lower part of her body in the earthquake. This post provides interesting human insight into the earthquake and life in Nepal.
Tomorrow, we arrive into November, a month to remember our dead. I have not read nearly enough of D. H. Lawrence. Many of his volumes that I have perused had the tidy margin notes in the precise script of the late seminary rector, Fr. John Gerber, C.S.C. Lawrence lived only to forty-four years old, but he wrote extensively. He published 11 novels, four short novels, several collections of short stories and poetry, scores of essays, travel writings, and other non-fiction, and his collected letters amount to seven volumes. Fr. Gerber's collection became almost a full shelf at Moreau Seminary's library.

"Service of All the Dead"
by D.H. Lawrence

Between the avenue of cypresses
All in their scarlet capes and surplices
Of linen, go the chaunting choristers,
The priests in gold and black, the villagers.

And all along the path to the cemetery
The round dark heads of men crowd silently;
And the black-scarfed faces of women-folk wistfully
Watch at the banner of death, and the mystery.

And at the foot of a grave a father stands
With sunken head and forgotten, folded hands;
And at the foot of the grave a mother kneels
With pale shut face, nor neither hears nor feels

The coming of the chaunting choristers
Between the avenue of cypresses,
The silence of the many villagers,
The candle-flames beside the surplices.

The Postman: As Usual, the Book is Better

Recently, I picked up the novel behind a treasured film, Il Postino. Written by Chilean Antonio Skármeta, it had been my intention for years to read the work. The immensely charming film tells a fictional story in which the real life Chilean poet Pablo Neruda forms a relationship with Mario, a simple postman who learns to love poetry. In the film, Mario is played by Massimo Troisi, who died tragically, aged 41, the day after the filming of Il Postino was completed.

Whereas the film is set on an Italian island in the 1950s, the novel was set in Chile, with Neruda living in his home at Isla Negra around 1970.The novel hugs more closely to a history that I know and a place, the home at Isla Negra, that I love.

There are a few differences that emerge in the plot as well, but I will not spoil the experience for those who have not seen the film or read the book. The book is just a short 109 pages.

As the Church has always taught. . .

As an undergraduate, a wise Jesuit told us, "Whenever you hear it said by the church, 'As the Church has always taught,' hold on to your wallet."

This wise priest was suggesting that, whenever the institutional Church, feels the need to reassert the continuity with doctrine, something new is emerging. I am not at all uncomfortable with that. Looking over Church history and the many councils, they have always introduced something new. If they were not, there would be no need to say anything. It is to bring a new understanding into our present moment. The development of doctrine, as articulated by Blessed John Henry Newman and others, helps us to understand theologically this movement.

To be honest, I do not intend to offer a protracted  theological analysis of the synod at this point. I have not read as closely as I would like the important documents. I have not heard from important participants. I am just writing about what I hear happening a continent away.

And yet I teared up as I read Pope Francis' homily from this morning. Preaching of blind Bartimaeus, the Pope speaks of two temptations for the disciples: not stopping for Bartimaeus and having a "scheduled faith":

There are, however, some temptations for those who follow Jesus. The Gospel shows at least two of them. None of the disciples stopped, as Jesus did. They continued to walk, going on as if nothing were happening. If Bartimaeus was blind, they were deaf: his problem was not their problem. This can be a danger for us: in the face of constant problems, it is better to move on, instead of letting ourselves be bothered. In this way, just like the disciples, we are with Jesus but we do not think like him. We are in his group, but our hearts are not open. We lose wonder, gratitude and enthusiasm, and risk becoming habitually unmoved by grace. We are able to speak about him and work for him, but we live far from his heart, which is reaching out to those who are wounded. This is the temptation: a “spirituality of illusion”: we can walk through the deserts of humanity without seeing what is really there; instead, we see what we want to see. We are capable of developing views of the world, but we do not accept what the Lord places before our eyes. A faith that does not know how to root itself in the life of people remains arid and, rather than oases, creates other deserts.

There is a second temptation, that of falling into a “scheduled faith”. We are able to walk with the People of God, but we already have our schedule for the journey, where everything is listed: we know where to go and how long it will take; everyone must respect our rhythm and every problem is a bother. We run the risk of becoming the “many” of the Gospel who lose patience and rebuke Bartimaeus. Just a short time before, they scolded the children (cf. 10:13), and now the blind beggar: whoever bothers us or is not of our stature is excluded. Jesus, on the other hand, wants to include, above all those kept on the fringes who are crying out to him. They, like Bartimaeus, have faith, because awareness of the need for salvation is the best way of encountering Jesus.

The words are a beautiful reflection, a profound calling. Saturday night, Pope Francis offered his closing remarks in his blunt, bold Argentinian style. When reading such documents, I "enjoy" looking at the footnotes. Sometimes, there are wonderful surprises. While it is likely that Pope Francis' first encyclical letter, Lumen Fidei, was largely written by Pope Benedict, according to commentators, I wonder about the authorship of an early footnote. When I saw it, I wondered if perhaps Pope Francis slipped in the quotation from Friedrich Nietzsche. Last night, the final footnote is breathtaking, especially the last phrase which I placed in bold:

8 An acrostic look at the word “family” [Italian: “famiglia”] can help us summarize the Church’s mission as the task of: Forming new generations to experience love seriously, not as an individualistic search for a pleasure then to be discarded, and to believe once again in true, fruitful and lasting love as the sole way of emerging from ourselves and being open to others, leaving loneliness behind, living according to God’s will, finding fulfilment, realizing that marriage is “an experience which reveals God’s love, defending the sacredness of life, every life, defending the unity and indissolubility of the conjugal bond as a sign of God’s grace and of the human person’s ability to love seriously” (Homily for the Opening Mass of the Synod, 4 October 2015: L’Osservatore Romano, 5-6 October 2015, p. 7) and, furthermore, enhancing marriage preparation as a means of providing a deeper understanding of the Christian meaning of the sacrament of Matrimony; Approaching others, since a Church closed in on herself is a dead Church, while a Church which doesn't leave her own precincts behind in order to seek, embrace and lead others to Christ is a Church which betrays her very mission and calling; Manifesting and bringing God’s mercy to families in need; to the abandoned, to the neglected elderly, to children pained by the separation of their parents, to poor families struggling to survive, to sinners knocking on our doors and those who are far away, to the differently able, to all those hurting in soul and body, and to couples torn by grief, sickness, death or persecution; Illuminating consciences often assailed by harmful and subtle dynamics which even attempt to replace God the Creator, dynamics which must be unmasked and resisted in full respect for the dignity of each person; Gaining and humbly rebuilding trust in the Church, which has been gravely weakened as a result of the conduct and sins of her children – sadly, the counter-witness of scandals committed in the Church by some clerics have damaged her credibility and obscured the brightness of her saving message; Labouring intensely to sustain and encourage those many strong and faithful families which, in the midst of their daily struggles, continue to give a great witness of fidelity to the Church’s teachings and the Lord’s commandments; Inventing renewed programmes of pastoral care for the family based on the Gospel and respectful of cultural differences, pastoral care which is capable of communicating the Good News in an attractive and positive manner and helping banish from young hearts the fear of making definitive commitments, pastoral care which is particularly attentive to children, who are the real victims of broken families, pastoral care which is innovative and provides a suitable preparation for the sacrament of Matrimony, rather than so many programmes which seem more of a formality than training for a lifelong commitment; Aiming to love unconditionally all families, particularly those experiencing difficulties, since no family should feel alone or excluded from the Church’s loving embrace, and the real scandal is a fear of love and of showing that love concretely.

Four Articles and a Poem

Weekly, I post four articles that I found significant and a poem accompanied by some comments about what we can learn from them. Our lives are enriched by seeing better. Each week, one article comes from the world of photography, a discipline that is about seeing. Another article comes from the world of technology, hence seeing something of the future. Another article takes up an aspect of our life together, seeing more clearly the other. Another article refers to faith, seeing the unseen. Finally, the weekly post concludes with a poem, because poetry is about seeing words whose arrangement allows us to see anew.

Today, we will review the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, take another look at school shootings, see how ten photographers view inequality, hear from an archbishop at the Synod, and remember Rosa Parks in poetry. Have a great Saturday!

  1. How can the development goals be achieved? Last month, the United Nations approved a new set of goals to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are important and worth taking some time with. t doesn’t matter if you can’t remember all 17; it’s just important that you know they exist and that they will be with us until 2030. The World Economic Forum briefly describes each of the 17 SDGs in this article.
  2. Thresholds of Violence: How school shootings catch on. Malcolm Gladwell has a knack for taking scientific studies and drawing interesting conclusions from it. In recent years, he has produced a series of widely read books. While you can argue his conclusions, his writings raise questions. This article from The New Yorker considers school violence. Don't miss this, please.
  3. Ten photographers focus on inequality – a visual story. The Guardian newspaper gathered ten photographers to share some work that reflects upon inequality. I was familiar with the work of only two of them, Brazilian Sebastião Salgado, being one of them. Look at the photos, then follow the link to Salgado's TED talk. By the way, on this day in 1929, Wall Street suffered Black Thursday, the New York Stock Exchange crash that signaled the beginning of the Great Depression. Inequality, nationally and globally, should preoccupy us.
  4. On the Road Together – A new Congregation. One of the personalities to come to light with the ongoing Synod in Rome is the Archbishop of Brisbane, Mark Coleridge. A longtime blogger, this archbishop has caused a bu with his reports from the Synod. Varying reports have come out from the Synod, the veracity of some being difficult to judge. Today, the final document will be approved. Today, Pope Francis likely may choose to speak.Tomorrow, Pope Francis will preside at the closing mass. Archbishop Coleridge, no doubt, will have some worthy words on those occasions. If you have not already, spend some time with this bishop from "Down Under."
It was ten years ago this day that Rosa Parks died. Her witness and courage have moved us forward in the pursuit of equality and justice, but we still have a long way to go. Rita Dove published the poem "Rosa" in 1998. See it and hear her read it here.

Four Articles and a Poem

Weekly, I post four articles that I found significant and a poem accompanied by some comments about what we can learn from them. Our lives are enriched by seeing better. Each week, one article comes from the world of photography, a discipline that is about seeing. Another article comes from the world of technology, hence seeing something of the future. Another article takes up an aspect of our life together, seeing more clearly the other. Another article refers to faith, seeing the unseen. Finally, the weekly post concludes with a poem, because poetry is about seeing words whose arrangement allows us to see anew.

Among many notable events and articles this week, I have culled four, as usual: a short biography piece on Jake Olson, a favorite photographer from Nebraska, an interview with Angus Deaton, a reflection on our food choices, an article that speaks about how Pope Francis envisions cities in bringing about change.
  1. Jake Olson's Dramatic Recovery. Jake Olson, a Nebraskan, makes some of the finest portraits, landscapes, and fine art photographs with natural light. He has amazing work, some of my favorite is found here. The first image that I saw from him, Aging Storm, remains my favorite. The story of how Olson came to photography is worth reading. 
  2. Five minutes with Angus Deaton: “If the rich can write the rules then we have a real problem”. In an interview with Joel Suss, Managing Editor of the British Politics and Policy at London School of Economics blog, Angus Deaton, the 2015 Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences, sheds light on some of his work. The Nobel Prize, in this case, celebrates a whole career, in which he has used data to overturn sloppy assumptions, reimagined how we measure the world, and intertwined microeconomics and macroeconomics.
  3. Why your food choices are a political act. In this blog entry from the World Economic Fourm, Paweł Jarczewski reflects on the moral and political implications of our food choices. As powerful as our vote, our food choices have significant impact.
  4. Pope's visit highlights cities' moment. Pope Francis came and went. His visit was full of memorable moments, and, yet, the lasting impact of his visit depends upon us. How will we act upon the "homework" that he has left us? Keeping the Pope's visit before us is an essential act such that the visit bears fruit. This editorial by Bruce Katz and John Monahanin the Philadelphia Inquirer reminds us that: "Unlike the heads of most global institutions, Francis has made it clear that he sees our cities as agents for change in today’s world."
Permit me then to conclude with a poem first introduced to me by Fr. Peter F. Mueller, C.S.C. "The Pulley" was written by George Herbert (3 April 1593 – 1 March 1633), a Welsh-born English poet, orator and Anglican priest, who wrote poetry associated with the writings of the metaphysical poets.

"The Pulley"
By George Herbert

     When God at first made man,
Having a glass of blessings standing by,
“Let us,” said he, “pour on him all we can.
Let the world’s riches, which dispersèd lie,
     Contract into a span.”

    So strength first made a way;
Then beauty flowed, then wisdom, honour, pleasure.
When almost all was out, God made a stay,
Perceiving that, alone of all his treasure,
     Rest in the bottom lay.

     “For if I should,” said he,
“Bestow this jewel also on my creature,
He would adore my gifts instead of me,
And rest in Nature, not the God of Nature;
      So both should losers be.

     “Yet let him keep the rest,
But keep them with repining restlessness;
Let him be rich and weary, that at least,
If goodness lead him not, yet weariness
     May toss him to my breast.”

Four Articles and a Poem

Weekly, I post four articles that I found significant and a poem accompanied by some comments about what we can learn from them. Our lives are enriched by seeing better. Each week, one article comes from the world of photography, a discipline that is about seeing. Another article comes from the world of technology, hence seeing something of the future. Another article takes up an aspect of our life together, seeing more clearly the other. Another article refers to faith, seeing the unseen. Finally, the weekly post concludes with a poem, because poetry is about seeing words whose arrangement allows us to see anew.

This week, we will look up inside of churches, we will hear from a physicist on inequality, we will consider remedies to gun violence, before walking across the prairies with Uncle Walt (a.k.a. Walt Whitman).
  1. Vertical Churches. Richard Silver has gathered an extraordinary collection of churches. His images uniquely look at architecture, building composite photographs from several images that seamlessly reveal a structure’s interior. Among his newest images are a series that captures the insides of New York churches, timed for the Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. soil. The images, composed of 6-10 shots, form a vertical panorama.
  2. Stephen Hawking: ‘Technology seems to drive inequality.’ On the science front, the World Economic Forum website provided a pithy summary to a longer interview of an interview of the physicist on Reddit. Among other comments, Hawking concludes that technology exacerbates inequality. Read the short version from the WEF, but, if you want more meat, take some time with the original from Reddit.
  3. The epidemic of gun violence is treatable. From CNN, Dr. Sanjay Gupta tells of the work of Dr. Gary Slutkin, founder of Ceasefire, now known as Cure Violence. Slutkin, an epidemiologist and a physician who for ten years battled infectious diseases in Africa, says that violence directly mimics infections like tuberculosis and AIDS, thus the treatment ought to follow the regimen applied to these diseases: go after the most infected, and stop the infection at its source. Amid the gun violence that harms so many in this nation, we used this model in South Bend during my time there to great effect.
  4. To gun violence, Archbishop Cupich says 'Enough!' Chicago's archbishop, Blase Cupich, impresses me in so many ways. A recent address to the Chicago Federation of Labor underscored the commitment of the Church to organized labor. In the wake of recent gun violence, both in Chicago and around the country, Archbishop Cupich penned a stirring call to action in the Chicago Tribune.
American poet Walt Whitman, beloved author of Leaves of Grass, wrote "The Prairie-Grass Dividing" in 1860, before he ever visited the Midwest, I believe. Found in the "Calamus" cluster of Leaves of Grass, one of many interpretations is that the land shapes the people who live there. As a native of Kansas, there is something captivating about the poem.

"The Prairie-Grass Dividing"
by Walt Whitman

The prairie-grass dividing, its special odor breathing,
I demand of it the spiritual corresponding,
Demand the most copious and close companionship of men,
Demand the blades to rise of words, acts, beings,
Those of the open atmosphere, coarse, sunlit, fresh, nutritious,
Those that go their own gait, erect, stepping with freedom and command, leading not following,
Those with a never-quell'd audacity, those with sweet and lusty flesh clear of taint,
Those that look carelessly in the faces of Presidents and governors,
as to say Who are you? Those of earth-born passion, simple, never constrain'd, never obedient,
Those of inland America.

Four Articles and a Poem

Weekly, I post four articles that I found significant and a poem accompanied by some comments about what we can learn from them. Our lives are enriched by seeing better. Each week, one article comes from the world of photography, a discipline that is about seeing. Another article comes from the world of technology, hence seeing something of the future. Another article takes up an aspect of our life together, seeing more clearly the other. Another article refers to faith, seeing the unseen. Finally, the weekly post concludes with a poem, because poetry is about seeing words whose arrangement allows us to see anew.

This week, in technology, we will look at a new metric for relationship compatibility: the credit rating. In our life together, we shall look at a graphic detailing shifts in immigration to the U.S. In faith, given the shooting in Oregon, we'll revisit some words of the Holy Father regarding arms. In photography, David duChemin offers some lovely images and reflection upon the intention of those images. Finally, as we begin a new month, we shall take up a poem from Robert Frost that hails this month.

  1. Credit scores and committed relationships. Forget about internet dating and personality tests, the new science in relationships is around your credit score.New research from the Brookings Institute suggests that credit ratings at the beginning of a relationship indicate a great deal about the likelihood of long-term success in the relationships. The research is a great starting point for things that we know intuitively. Couples with strongly divergent money management skills are likely to face greater stress in household financial practices. Similar credit scores, according to this research, suggests a starting point for greater trust between the couple. In other words, knowing the credit score is a better predictor than knowing the Zodiak sign.
  2. From Ireland to Germany to Italy to Mexico: How America’s Source of Immigrants Has Changed in the States, 1850 – 2013. U.S. migration patterns changed plenty from 1850 to 2013. An interactive map, created by the Pew Research Center, visualizes these shifts by showing the origin of the dominant immigrant group in each state for every decade during this time period. The map is a part of a comprehensive report on past and future immigration trends, the main point of which is to highlight the impact of the Immigration Act of 1965. But the map reveals the events, policies, and trends before and after 1965 that shaped the waves of U.S. immigration.
  3. Standing Before Congress, Pope Francis Calls Out the ‘Industry of Death’. Pope Francis called out war profiteers and demanding an end to the arms trade near the end of his address. Pope Francis asked a critical question: “Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society?” This week, a portion of our lawmakers were willing to shutdown the federal government over abortions, but the institution is inert when it comes to the massacres occurring in our elementary and high schools (45 in the U.S. so far this year), college campuses, movie theaters, shopping malls, military installations, and churches.
  4. The Great Bear Rainforest. David duChemin asks great questions. Tis post from his blog does not disappoint. He struggles with what his images mean, what they convey. In these photographs of bears, he raises issues of intimacy with the animals as well as the whether or nor such images may help protect such species.
As we begin a new month, let us conclude with a poem from Robert Frost.

"October"
By Robert Frost

O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes’ sake along the wall.