Friday, April 25, 2008


In the recently completed Art History course I learned about scientific or one-point perspective painting. It originated with Brunelleschi in early Fifteenth Century Italy and was documented by his contemporary Alberti. It's an attempt to create the illusion of three dimensions in the two dimensional work of art. But it is also a way of focusing the viewers attention: an early example of it is, in fact, the three-dimensional San Lorenzo church in Florence, where Brunelleschi orients the entire structure towards the tabernacle.

One of the finest examples of this technique, now sadly in a very poor state of repair, is Leonardo's The Last Supper. The various lines of the painting, for example, the lines where the walls meet the "ceiling" and the "floor" in the painting, when extended, converge at Christ's head, the exact centre of the painting. This point is called the vanishing point, since it is where the orthogonal lines meet and disappear.

And what does all of this have to do with ecclesiology? Well, during the Pope's recent visit I was pondering the meaning of the convergence of so many people with the Pope. He isn't charismatic, like his predecessor. He is a very humble, scholarly, unassuming man. His sermons are long, difficult and challenging. There are no "Applause Here" notes in his text. His late, great predecessor paused frequently for audience reaction. Not so for papa Bendetto. You have to struggle to following the complexity of his thought. If you really want to understand his thought, you have to download and read the text.

So why are all these people drawn to this quiet intellectual? He's the vanishing point that draws our attention to Christ. He never fails to step aside, metaphorically, to point to Christ. Those who are drawn to Christ's body will sometimes find themselves focused on the Pope. When that Pope understands his role properly, he steps aside, so that they are properly focused on Christ Himself.

Credit for Photo: Joan Lewis from her EWTN blog.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Pope and Reason

Rich Leonardi points us to something interesting:

Voltaire is surely spinning in his grave: "The Acton Institute's Dr. Samuel Gregg on how Pope Benedict is challenging the Spirit of '68:

But rather than pursuing an old-fashioned culture war, Benedict’s challenge to Western Europe’s post-’68 consensus has surprised many.

First, Benedict treats his audiences as if they are adults with attention spans that exceed twenty seconds. Perhaps that explains why Benedict has thousands coming to listen to him most Wednesdays in St Peter’s Square.

Second, Benedict engages serious matters with a clarity that cuts through the clichéd empty phraseology of Western Europe’s political classes.

Third, Benedict’s arguments go to the heart of Western Europe’s civilizational crisis. He has forced open public discussion of fundamental questions that ’68ers invariably ignore.

His famous 2006 Regensburg lecture, for instance, not only initiated an overdue conversation about Islam’s understanding of God, but also identified Europe’s problems as flowing partly from modern Europeans’ truncated grasp of the nature of reason.

Is Benedict having an impact? Jürgen Habermas, the atheist German philosopher widely regarded as 1968’s intellectual godfather, is certainly paying attention. He argues Benedict is asking questions about human reason that Europeans cannot avoid if Europe is to have a future.

Voltaire is surely spinning in his grave to know that 21st century Europe’s apostle of reason – reason in all its fullness rather than a narrowly technical-utilitarian understanding – is the Roman Pontiff.

(Via Ten Reasons.)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


shouldn't be neglected in blogging:

Finding Shakespeare and Reclaiming the Classics | An Interview with Joseph Pearce: "

Finding Shakespeare and Reclaiming the Classics | An Interview with Joseph Pearce, author of
The Quest for Shakespeare | Carl E. Olson
' '' ''
' ''

Joseph Pearce is the
prolific author of several acclaimed biographies of major Catholic literary
figures, including G. K. Chesterton, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Hilaire Belloc, as
well as several other works. He is a Writer in Residence and Professor of
Literature at Ave Maria University in Florida, Editor-in-Chief of Ave Maria University
Communications and Sapientia Press, as well as Co-Editor of the The
Saint Austin Review
(or StAR), an international review of Christian culture,
literature, and ideas published in England (St. Austin Press) and the United
States (Sapientia Press).

Pearce's most recent book is
The Quest for Shakespeare, due
this month from Ignatius Press (website). He is also editor of the Ignatius
Critical Editions
, a tradition-oriented alternative to popular textbook series such as
the Norton Critical Editions or Oxford
World Classics
, designed to
concentrate on traditional readings of the Classics of world literature. The
three initial volumes of the Ignatius Critical Editions—King Lear,
Frankenstein, and
Wuthering Heights
—will be published this spring by
Ignatius Press.

Carl E. Olson, editor of Ignatius Insight, recently spoke to Pearce about his
book on Shakespeare, the Ignatius Critical Editions, and the importance of
reading classic literature.

Read the entire interview...


(Via Insight Scoop | The Ignatius Press Blog.)

Art News

Visual Arts in pre-Islamic Afghanistan were on a par with or more developed than their European cousins:

BBC NEWS | South Asia | Oil painting 'originated in East':

By Vincent Dowd

BBC News

The Bamiyan Buddhas were destroyed in 2001
Painting with oils was taking place in what is now Afghanistan centuries before such techniques were known to Europeans, researc"

(Via BBC News.)

But Who Takes Out the Garbage?

Finals are over for the term and I'm recovered from an annoying low-grade illness of two weeks or so. Now I discover that I'll soon be superannuated as a male:

BBC NEWS | UK | Scotland | Edinburgh, East and Fife | No sex for all-girl fish species

Amazon Molly fish are all female (Picture credit: Dunja K Lamatsch)
A fish species, which is all female, has survived for 70,000 years without reproducing sexually, experts believe.
Scientists f"

(Via BBC News.)

You Do Have Mukluks, Don't You?

Following up on the previous post, here is the good news: it won't be nearly as expensive to chill your beer:

Global Warming COOLING Consensus Alert: The Ice Age Cometh?: "

This blemish-free sun brought to you by OxyClean!
Submitted for your consideration:
THE scariest photo I have seen on the internet is, where you will find a real-time image of the sun from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, located in deep space at the equilibrium point between solar and terrestrial gravity.

What is scary about the picture is that there is only one tiny sunspot.

Disconcerting as it may be to true believers in global warming, the average temperature on Earth has remained steady or slowly declined during the past decade, despite the continued increase in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, and now the global temperature is falling precipitously.

All four agencies that track Earth’s temperature (the Hadley Climate Research Unit in Britain, the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, the Christy group at the University of Alabama, and Remote Sensing Systems Inc in California) report that it cooled by about 0.7C in 2007. This is the fastest temperature change in the instrumental record and it puts us back where we were in 1930. If the temperature does not soon recover, we will have to conclude that global warming is over.

The author of this story is Phil Chapman, a geophysicist, astronautical engineer, and the first Australian to become a NASA astronaut, just in case you were wondering. No word on whether he’s picked up his briefcase full of cash from Exxon yet or not. Perhaps our local independent media can do some checking on that..."

(Via Acton Institute PowerBlog.)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Coming Ice Age

Remember you heard it here first:

The Experts Speak!

Remember this stuff the next time somebody prophesies doom for Earth Day:

• ‘...civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind,’ biologist George Wald, Harvard University, April 19, 1970.

• By 1995, ‘...somewhere between 75 and 85 percent of all the species of living animals will be extinct.’ Sen. Gaylord Nelson, quoting Dr. S. Dillon Ripley, Look magazine, April 1970.

• Because of increased dust, cloud cover and water vapor ‘...the planet will cool, the water vapor will fall and freeze, and a new Ice Age will be born,’ Newsweek magazine, January 26, 1970.

• The world will be ‘...eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age,’ Kenneth Watt, speaking at Swarthmore University, April 19, 1970.

• ‘We are in an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of this nation, and of the world as a suitable place of human habitation,’ biologist Barry Commoner, University of Washington, writing in the journal Environment, April 1970.

• ‘Man must stop pollution and conserve his resources, not merely to enhance existence but to save the race from the intolerable deteriorations and possible extinction,’ The New York Times editorial, April 20, 1970.

• ‘By 1985, air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half...’ Life magazine, January 1970.

• ‘Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make,’ Paul Ehrlich, interview in Mademoiselle magazine, April 1970.

• ‘...air certainly going to take hundreds of thousands of lives in the next few years alone,’ Paul Ehrlich, interview in Mademoiselle magazine, April 1970.

• Ehrlich also predicted that in 1973, 200,000 Americans would die from air pollution, and that by 1980 the life expectancy of Americans would be 42 years.

• ‘It is already too late to avoid mass starvation,’ Earth Day organizer Denis Hayes, The Living Wilderness, Spring 1970.

• ‘By the year 2000...the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America and Australia, will be in famine,’ Peter Gunter, North Texas State University, The Living Wilderness, Spring 1970.

General rule of Thumb: Righties use militarist apocalyptic catastrophe scenarios to manipulate people with fear. Lefties use environmentalist apocalyptic catastrophe scenarios to manipulate people with fear.

The key word to remember here is neither 'militarist' nor 'environmentalist'. It is 'manipulate'."

(Via Catholic and Enjoying It!.)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Presenting Richard Warman

The spotlight is on Mr. Warman. It is an interesting read:

MUST-READ Warman Article from Maclean’s: "

Original Link

Righteous crusader or civil rights menace?

Richard Warman says he’s fighting hate. Critics say free speech is the real victim.

Our Copy (no page breaks)

Hat-tip, The Shaidle of Evil


(Via Free Mark Steyn!.)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Conform--or Else!

The British Columbia College of Teachers has achieved significant new milestones in muzzling non-conformist teachers. For example, teachers may not publicly communicate their opposition to same-sex "marriage", even if they are in the process of running for public office and discussing the issue in the context of legislation they might have to address in office. Teachers speaking freely on their own time is a danger to the cultural ascendancy of the elite. It must be stamped out.

Conduct Unbecoming a Free Society: "By Chris Kempling'
April 9, 2008 ( - On the first day of the counselling psychology class, the instructor asked us to share what was the most important fact about ourselves. Jim (not his real name) identified himself as gay. I identified myself as a Christian. I decided to..."

(Via Headlines.)

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Centre Stage: Richard Warman

He was conspicuously absent from the March 25th public hearing on his complaint against Marc Lemire. But now, perhaps, the full light of the public scrutiny will be shown on this amazing person:

Richard Warman Tells Canada’s Top Conservative Bloggers: “SILENCE!”: "

The rubber has met the road. The game is afoot. Richard Warman, a former employee of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, who has famously taken the inside knowledge of the workings of section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act to create himself a lucrative channel of cash, has taken his hurt feelings to the court system, serving the National Post, Kathy Shaidle, Kate McMillan, Ezra Levant and Free Dominion with a lawsuit for defamation.

What he is really saying to every single Canadian Conservative who writes anything on the internet is ‘Shut the hell up!’ He wants us silent, so that he can go on extorting funds from libraries, students, and everyone who dares to think differently from his brand of political orthodoxy.

This lawsuit will be won, but the costs are being footed by the defendants in these early stages. Their fight is our fight. Their fight is for every conservative voice in Canada. I for one stand behind them 100%.

If you read this, stand up for freedom of speech. Pick one or all of the defendants, and give through their sites to their paypal, to support their defence. Not all of them have responded on the net, but here is Kathy’s post on the subject - a link to her paypal is at the bottom. Here is Ezra’s. Here is a post from Free Dominion.


(Via ThePolitic - Canadian Political Weblog.)

Philosophy 101

Be prepared for overconfident answers that make no sense to you:

Using "Bad" Philosophers: "In the April 2008 issue of First Things, Fr. Neuhaus recommends a small, pocket-sized book by an eminent historian of ideas, Leszek Kołakowski of Poland, who is now working at Oxford University. From what I can tell, Kołakowski sounds like a modern 'Renaissance man' with proficiency in a wide range of intellectual domains, including theology. Here is how Neuhaus describes him:'Kołakowski is one [of] the great wonders of our age. Author of the classic Main Currents of Marxism and of many books on philosophy, religion, and the history of ideas, he is one of the very last of those Central European intellectuals whose learning is such as to force most of us to confess that our education is, by comparison, slapdash at best.' The recommended book, Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing? compiles 23 questions from several great Western philosophers (unfortunately, the English translation of the Polish original cuts down on the number of philosophers discussed). As an old philosophy major, I was surprised at my reaction as I progressed in reading the book (I have not yet finished). Several of the great philosophers struck me as astoundingly absurd. For whatever reason, I don't recall having that strong of a reaction in college. Kołakowski notes the great self-assurance of some of the thinkers--the implication is that such self-assurance is indeed amazing given the lack of evidence produced for their bold proposals. My conclusion is that it is very perceptive of Kołakowski to focus on a compilation of 23 questions as the key to his short survey of Western philosophy--because few of the philosophers really offer any satisfying answers to their questions. The questions are vastly more important than many of the proposed answers.

Yet, while most of the philosophers seem to fail in offering any cogent and persuasive answers to their own questions, we do get insights, sometimes very practical and perceptive insights along the way. As N.T. Wright notes in one of his biblical commentaries, sometimes what is important in life is not the particular earthly destination we are pursuing at a particular point in our lives but rather the journey itself to that earthly goal, even if the goal is never in fact reached. Wright gives the example of St. Paul who mentions near the end of his Letter to the Romans that he is planning a missionary trip to Spain. Even if St. Paul never made it to Spain (we are not sure), the planned Spanish trip did play a role in getting him to write the seminal Letter to the Romans--he was apparently planning to use Rome as a way station en route to Spain. Likewise, in the course of trying to answer questions they cannot answer, many of the philosophers do give us noteworthy insights into life, even if the philosophers do not actually reach their philosophical destination.

In the famously pessimistic philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), we can recognize, as Christians, the emptiness of life without Christ or God:

Here there is no God, no soul and no free will: everything in the world, and therefore also in life and in human behaviour, is governed by implacable necessity. . . . [T]he true reality, the world that is independent of our mind, is will--unknowable, aimless, and impersonal. Here is true metaphysical horror. . . . Neither moral nor even mathematical categories are applicable to it; it is not evil or good; it contains neither number nor any other products of the human mind.

łakowski, p. 176.

For Schopenhauer, what he chose to call 'will' became the ruthless driving force of a reality without purpose or meaning. We can see this same fatalism and nihilism today in the lives of many: the life of the despairing (remember that appearances can be deceiving: the despairing can smile a lot for photos and be very busy doing many 'exciting' things) is one in which everything becomes acceptable and permissible simply because it happens or has happened. We see this fatalism all of the time in our society when many, as one of the Old Testament prophets said, have forgotten how to blush or how to be outraged at evil or injustice. In many ways, that morally indifferent fatalism is what our popular slang labels being 'cool.' In my opinion, that despairing fatalistic strain is why some Eastern philosophies, such as Buddhism, are popular in the West.

A more familiar name, Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), paints a similar picture that also captures a lot of what we see in the United States and other places. In the Nietzschean world, the 'word 'evil' is unnecessary; only the word 'bad' is meaningful, and 'bad' means hostile to life, hostile to the expansion of the strong, triumphant life' (Ko
łakowski, p. 197). Let's be more direct: for Nietzsche what is bad is what blocks the urges of the ego. So today, many are willing to say that abortion is 'bad' but not evil. Many are willing to label the effects of fornication, such as STDs, as bad but refuse to label such sexual activity as evil. The ego can learn to live with and get around the 'bad' by trying to be safer and drowning out memories of the past, but calling something 'evil' would mean an impolitic disruption of the ego's urges and too much personal discomfort and dissonance.

Nietzsche's world sounds a lot like the world of striving modern competitors for success:

Reality is a collection of an infinite number of centres of will to power, each of which struggles to enlarge the domain of its power at the cost of others. Each of us is such a centre. But there is no direction, no aim and no meaning in this struggle.

łakowski, p. 198.

St. Paul would likely have agreed with the above description as applying to life apart from God--Paul paints as bleak a picture of such a reality in Romans 1:18-32 (reread Romans 1 and be astounded at how contemporary it is). Yet, the religious cannot be smug at all: throughout history, many of the outwardly pious remained and remain 'centres of will to power.'

Sometimes the 'bad' philosophers give at least an honest and stark picture of reality apart from God. Sometime we can use them to rip off the veil that blinds us to the reality around us and within us.


(Via Catholic Analysis.)