Finer Words…”Tense Present”

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I received Bryan A. Garner’s new book, Nino and Me: My Unusual Friendship with Justice Antonin Scalia today.  As I have examined this book as I do most books I receive, I read the inside cover, the table of contents, the dedication, and the acknowledgements.  In this brief perusal, I have learned of the friendship Bryan Garner, David Foster Wallace and Justice Antonin Scalia.  Also, in this glance I learned of a beautiful essay written by David Foster Wallace, “Tense Present”, published in the Harper’s Magazine in 2001.  I hope you enjoy reading the essay for the first time or rereading it.  I hope Garner’s memoir is as fulfilling as the first ten minutes.

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The Silence of the Empty Crib

The silence of the empty crib,

Foretells the silence of the tomb.

Eve who came not from Adam’s rib,

Prepared each bedd with love and broom.

The former an Advent of joy

The latter an Advent of rue.

We anticipate not a toy,

But the Savior who came for you.

Who is he that the world must wait?

Who is he that fishermen mourn?

He is the one who comes tonight.

He is the one who rose this morn.

Mary come see your babe the Christ.

Mary come see the risen Christ.

-Chris Teague

12/24/2017

Spring and Fall


Spring and Fall

By Gerard Manley Hopkins

        to a young child

Márgarét, áre you gríeving

Over Goldengrove unleaving?

Leáves like the things of man, you

With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?

Ah! ás the heart grows older

It will come to such sights colder

By and by, nor spare a sigh

Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;

And yet you wíll weep and know why.

Now no matter, child, the name:

Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.

Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed

What heart heard of, ghost guessed:

It ís the blight man was born for,

It is Margaret you mourn for.

Gifts for a Father

Fives gift ideas that any father would smile upon receiving:

1.  A nice fountain pen and a bottle of ink.


Three places to begin your search: Levenger, Amazon.com, Dromgoole’s.

2.  A reliable fly-fishing pole.


Take a gander at these sites to find such a rod: Orvis, L.L. Bean, Amazon.com.

3. A rugged manly journal for writing in the evening or to jot notes throughout the day.


Dig one up at Rogue Journals, Colsen Keane, Robert Mason.

4. The latest poetry collection by Wendell Berry.

5.  A good pipe and tobacco.


Procure such gifts at Pipes and Cigars, Smoking Pipes, the Briar Shoppe.

A Place Within- St. John Paul II

The Place Within
St. John Paul II
My place is in You, your place is in me.  Yet it is the place of all
men.  And I am not diminished by them in this place.  I am more
alone—more than if there were no one else—I am alone with
myself.  At the same time I am multiplied by them in the Cross
which stood on this place.  This multiplying with now diminishment
remains a mystery: the Cross goes against the current.  In it
numbers retreat before Man.
     In you—how did the Cross come to be?
     Now let us walk down the narrow steps as if down a tunnel
through a wall.  Those who once walked down the slope stopped
at the place where now there is a slab.  They anointed your body
and then laid it in a tomb.  Through your body you had a place
on earth, the outward place of the body you exchanged for a
place within, saying: “Take, all of you, and eat of this.”
     The tradition of that place within relates to all the outward
places on Earth to which I came on pilgrimage.  You chose this
place centuries ago—the place in which You gave yourself and accept me.

A Pope’s Poem

 

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I have seen over the years a title of St. John Paul II’s poetry but never really looked for a copy.  Over Spring Break, I came across a copy of his poetry and few other books at a Half-Price Books store in Houston.  I cannot say enough about visiting and spending time in a brick and mortar book store.  I do 99% of my searches and research about authors and books beginning at Amazon.com, and end up doing about 90% of my book purchases there as well, but it is that 10% that I relish in spending time in a bookstore, particularly stores that focus in used books.  I always have my handy list available my God given noodle, but just in case I am stumped, I pull out my more immediate list I keep on Evernote or if I have gone through it and still have time to search further, I pull up my lists on Amazon.com.

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Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), in 2003 had a formal presentation at the Vatican of then Pope John Paul II’s poetry in which relating how inspiration of verse came to the poet pope from his preaching the Lenten retreat for Pope Paul VI and the Curia in 1976:

In this connection several sentences came to mind that were written by Karol Wojtyla in 1976 when he preached the retreat for Paul VI and the Curia.

“He related the case of a physicist with whom he had carried on a long discussion, and at the end of it, had said to him: ‘from the point of view of my science and its method I’m an atheist …’ However, in a letter, the same man wrote: ‘Every time I find myself before the majesty of nature, of the mountains, I feel that HE exists'”.

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Perusing the poetry collection over Spring Break as well as preparing for Holy Week, the poem “The Place Within” captivated my attention as to the Holy Father’s interior sight and his ability to draw a reader into the poet’s sight as well as be able to reflect on where that reader’s interior sight is pointing without the guide of these poetic words.

The Place Within
St. John Paul II
My place is in You, your place is in me.  Yet it is the place of all
men.  And I am not diminished by them in this place.  I am more
alone—more than if there were no one else—I am alone with
myself.  At the same time I am multiplied by them in the Cross
which stood on this place.  This multiplying with now diminishment
remains a mystery: the Cross goes against the current.  In it
numbers retreat before Man.
     In you—how did the Cross come to be?
     Now let us walk down the narrow steps as if down a tunnel
through a wall.  Those who once walked down the slope stopped
at the place where now there is a slab.  They anointed your body
and then laid it in a tomb.  Through your body you had a place
on earth, the outward place of the body you exchanged for a
place within, saying: “Take, all of you, and eat of this.”
     The tradition of that place within relates to all the outward
places on Earth to which I came on pilgrimage.  You chose this
place centuries ago—the place in which You gave yourself and accept me.

 

 

 

 

Manners, Barbarism, and the Presidency

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Upon reading an Op-Ed in The Wall Street Journal by Neal Freeman reflecting on the birth of the William F. Buckley’s television show, The Firing Line.  He ponders the uniqueness of what Mr. Buckley was able to accomplish for more than 33 years and 1500 episodes, something that has not happened since nor is comparable on our vast cable news channels and even amongst the presidential candidates who all but one claim to truly know the intricacies of policy making.  I snickered and then even laughed aloud while I read Mr. Freeman’s reflection truly bringing Buckley back to life with a few large…over large and long words. Honestly, they were both short words but I had not a clue what they meant and had to use the dictionary. I enjoy using a dictionary, which usually moves me to ponder on other words that my eyes go over while searching for Mr. Buckley’s common vocabulary.  Mr. Freeman honors the time 50 years ago when Buckley made history running for mayor of New York City as he ponders the presidential primaries going on today.

Mr. Freeman’s reflections led to a few of my own: Stumbling into wonder and the seeds of an intellectual life…I remember vividly discovering In the midst of a dimly lit, musty smelling, Ye Olde Books, The local used bookstore I haunted with my mom in downtown Humble.  Where she and I would visit at least weekly to trade paperbacks for more paperbacks…and I was left to wander. I discovered three authors during my many visits that still influence me in some way: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Barry Goldwater. I still read Doyle and Tolkien but have moved on from Goldwater to William F. Buckley (the transformation took about five years from ages 12 to 17).

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I still wear my navy blue NR t-shirts that I purchased upon seeing them advertised in very small print in the back of my first NR issue received via my subscription. I am currently reading Buckley’s fiction and find my myself renewed and reinvigorated as a conservative…I learned early on through Russell Kirk and Bill Buckley that the duty as an American is to vote.  I vote today. When asked if I am a Democrat or Republican, I easily say neither.  Philosophically, I am a conservative as we all are by nature but I also made a reasoned choice early on in adulthood and have not wavered, even if my faculties of reason are more experienced and possibly less romantic.

Bill Buckley is someone who I still want to be when I grow up.  A moment of contrast, I would say happened to me just a few days ago.  I state clearly and believe that this moment of recognition is not of growth, maturity, or progress but possibly of barbarism, demise and self-destruction. I am currently teaching Middle Ages history to fourth grade boys.  One of the elements of the course is to exam the virtue and vices of leaders and the people as a whole of the society in which we study; examples of the our subjects include, the Romans, the Franks, the Vikings, the Gupta Empire of India, the beginning and growth of Islam and such leaders as Justinian, Mohammed, Eric the Red, William the Conqueror, Charles the Hammer, and Charlemagne. We ponder whom should we emulate and why.  We ponder and discuss who is not worthy for us to follow or learn from and why…and most of the time we see the good and bad in leaders. My hope is that the boys recognize the good and noble actions of men and how they were human, thus not perfect.

Since it is February, I take time out of our normal curriculum to study our greatest President, George Washington. We are in the midst of his early life, which we spend the most time reading and discussing who George Washington up to the early days of the American Revolution.  We will wrap up the war itself and his presidency in a briefer manner as I hope to leave the interest and desire to know him for their own studies and the years to come in middle school.

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My fourth graders are taking an in depth reading and study of Washington’s Rules of Civility, which he studied when is he was about 13 years old. They were a resource for young men to learn etiquette and manners in the company of others. The history of these “rules” is that they come from a French Jesuit curriculum of the 17th century.  We do not know how they came to be part of an English curriculum much less in the colonies of America in 1700’s.  Perhaps Washington’s tutor had a French educational background.  Washington would not only study the “Rules” for their own sake but used them as a tool to translate them from Latin to English and back Latin.  Insignificant as this line of study may appear, this is probably the highest form of formal education that Washington received, due to the early death of father.   He also read Roman plays and Plutarch but not much more beyond the bible itself.  Yet, his self-restraint, service toward others and his country has not been surpassed.  This is a man all should admire and study, but particularly those who are receiving an education in America.

I asked a few colleagues after the recent Republican presidential debate held in Houston, TX, if they assigned to their seventh and eighth grade students to watch it.  Before they could answer, I continued and said the assignment should be that the day after such a debate the students should then seek to treat all their parents, teachers and friends as the candidates did each other.   The decorum of the faculty lunchroom was almost turned into one of chaos and a riot.

Has America moved beyond the principles in which we were we founded? Have we progressed and the 18th century is now quaint? Perhaps, we are mistaking barbarism, licentiousness and just a lack of manners what we are supposed to become?

Neal Freeman’s Op-Ed can be found at http://www.wsj.com/articles/a-bill-buckley-lesson-for-conservatism-today-1456530358?mod=djemMER&mg=id-wsj

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