Monday, November 29, 2010

There's no end!

In case my gloomy tone was getting contagious...

$$ \begin{array}{rl}
\mathrm{XI} &\mbox{Fresh baking}\\
\mathrm{XII} &\mbox{Thoroughly opaque curtains}\\
\mathrm{XIII} & \mbox{Sunday brunch with friends}\\
\mathrm{XIV} & \mbox{The voices of infants}\\
\mathrm{XV} &\mbox{That a dull job is really the worst of my troubles}

Friday, November 26, 2010

Some Family History

Against chanting voices, above the din of war hammers, amidst the bleating of scattered sheep, I cried out, "De profundis clamavi ad te..."

My great-grandfather (one of four --- most of us have four!) was a landscape painter. During the Great War the British Army paired him with pilots of those new-fangled biplane things, to sketch the German positions. In his spare time he sketched and painted the soldiers around him; he was not himself a soldier, and did not take part in combat. Being frequently at or even behind the front line, however, he knew the stress of battle, and was caught in "Mustard" gas at least once. When he came home he lived in a small appartment with his wife and their son and daughter. They had one bedroom, which he used at night alone, while the other three slept in the front room.

The reason for this strained arrangement is that he was not a safe companion when sleeping. If disturbed in the night, he'd thrash and throttle the first thing he could wrap his hands around: it was as though he no longer had a working triage mode, and went straight to panicked self-defence.

Now, among Men I was unthought-of before he died, and even his son my grandfather didn't survive to my birthday, I can't claim from any familiarity that the War or any particular part of it was torturous to him. Nonetheless, it's clear that this tale from one branch of my family is hardly unique, and the capacity for reason we all share speaks clearly that something broke the proper relationship between soul and body in him, and it seems likely to have been something he experienced during the War.

This is all by way of bringing both some context and some content to a disputation simmering in my real-world neighborhood.

If anyone suggests to you that "waterboarding" is essentially "a little water up the nose", you might point out that if it's harmless then it shouldn't change the cooperativity of any interrogation subject; you might point out that it's quite a different proposition from offering someone a neti pot (oh! the horror!) or a saline spray. If they admit "sure it's unbearably uncomfortable, but it isn't torture", you might ask how they distinguish between unbearable discomfort and torture. You might alternatively mention "not all is torture that is condemned". The terminology of Gaudium et Spes, quoted at length in Veritatis Splendor is quite broad: as inherently disordered it includes
quaecumque humanae personae integritatem violant, ut mutilationes, tormenta corpori mentive inflicta, conatus ipsos animos coƫrcendi

whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit
It has been said that waterboarding might be favoured by interrogators owing to forensic difficulty in detecting it after the fact: unless the subject develops a suspicious bronchitis, it leaves little visible scarring. Note, however, that the text of the pastoral constitution explicitly distinguishes between mutilation (a direct violation of the body's integrity in itself) and torture of two sorts. We see, then, that our Church recognizes the possibility of a category of illicit act violating the integrity of the person while seeming to preserve the integrity of the body. Ultimately, this willful attempt on personal integrity is the objection to torture, whether physical or mental. Physical torture seeks to coerce by upsetting the primacy of the soul over the body; mental torture seeks to coerce by upsetting the primacy of reason (practical or moral) over will.

I should submit further that mental torture is in fact the more pernicious sort; for in seeking to invert will over reason in others, it acts as a mode of contagion: reason itself, guided by the natural law, should tell us that mental torments are reprehensible, and thus one who attempts it has permitted his will to rule over his reason.

Considering then the soul of the perpetrator, we see the longer-lasting evil done by any evil act; for while torture may scandalize its victim, it otherwise moves the victim closer to God's pity, while moving the toturer further towards God's avenging justice.

What shall it profit a man, though he save for a time the lives of the whole world, if he lose his soul?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Just Between Us Commoners

Dear Fellow Subjects,

(and dear spectators, too, for all of you in republics and Hapsburg lands, &c.)

A modest much has been made recently of the announced engagement between His Royal Highness the Prince and Ms. Katherine. If you want, here's my two cents' worth on the hou-plaugh.

To get right into it, the office of the Royal Family has always been (this may be controversial) that of the First Family, within the realm; the Crown Monarch has always been the saecular head of the family called Britain. Other expressions have been used. For instance, Henry VIII likened (himself) the King of England to a tiger keeping the "wolves and jackals" (his vassal lords) in line. But as much as we may say that a father is as a king in his house, it's more truely the opposite: that a King is as a father to his people. The authority to rule, whether by direct decree or by assenting to the advice of the assembled lords and representatives... whatever the style of government, if there be a Monarch, his authority is of the same shape as a father's over his family.

But as the saecular head of his or her realm the crown carries (well or ill) the duty of also modelling headship in an ordinary family. And so the significance of a Royal wedding engagement inludes that it particularly reminds us of the nominal arrangement for the family's continuation; it reminds that the nominally-arranged family is the innermost and primary of social circles, the principal of community, the Earthly pattern of living in mutually charitable servitude.

Honesty compells us to acknowledge that the Britannic Royal Family has not always been nor always appeared as a successful model family: they are, after all, merely human. The same Henry VIII thought to make himself both saecular and spiritual head of his country, which really should have been too much for credibility, not to mention confusing greatly just who the Royal Family were; as late as the reign of George III the rivalries recurrent through generations between King and Heir Apparent were notorious abroad. Even in living memory, attempts to place some supposed common good above the good of the actual living Royal Family as a family have had disastrous consequences for the commonwealth's willingness to accede to their Royals; and the Royal Family's renewed endearment to its subjects has followed their living visibly as a family.

But enough of dodgy facts and history half-learned, let's get on with some speculation! There is at this time a great legal tension, a juridical dissonance, amongst British laws for the commonalty, the laws governing the Crown, and the shifting laws of the church which the Crown has arrogated under itself. While the English are legendary for "muddling through", and are masters of diplomatic compromise, it would be wrong to think or name them a willfully stupid or ignorant people (Never mind the chavs. There is naught that is peculiarly English about chavery, anyways). And as long as they have sufficient wisdom to both keep an icon of family life at the head of their Law, and insist that the embodied form of that icon be recognisably a family in the only living and enduring sense, it can only be a matter of time before they realize in what peril they have left the ordinary family whose purpose it is to produce new servants of God, new subjects and electors. I perceive that thence lead only two roads: the canker must be cut out of the law, or the law's head cut off. You all know which outcome I prefer.

God save the Queen!
Her Majesty's good subject, but ...

Monday, November 15, 2010

An Impromptu on Two Prompts

I wonder if Dylan was hoping to read something like this?

Billions and billions;
And yet, if there's too much light
All ends in big crunch.

Anyways... let's see... it's a while since I tried that sprung meter thing; I like trimeter, so let's see, what can we do?

The Weight of Light

Hast seen the Sun's Anvil
The desert's deadliest plain
Where Lawrence's hard will
Bedouin led by night
To Aqaba, with Turks' blood
Sand so clean to stain?
Even i'the Sun's core,
Though packed, the ions hot
Know each the others not
Except that messengers of light
Amongst them swiftest soar.
Time they do not keep
--- Not unto themselves:
In this like Arda's Elves;
Around them still it seeps,
It ripples blue or red.
Ponder not too heavily
this I have here writ:
Yet if thou, underfoot,
Glass shards crunch to grit
Think of the light thus loosed,
Unlock'd windward or lee,
Or falls, to die, on soot.

I know most of the impromptuness is lost in the blog/post/read sequence, but trust me, I've not putting much editing into this. Or maybe my saying so is entirely superfluous?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Seeking Perhaps To Make Oneself Unpopular

Dear unparticular people,

I understand that what I'm about to propose for your consideration isn't a cheerful thought, though I hope there may be hope to find in it. I think it is, fundamentally, informed by hope more than offering any novel hope.

At the core of this idea's uncheerfulness is, in some ways, the motivating event for much of the past decade's news, popular debate, geopolitical reheaval, and particularized insanities. I refer, of course, to the Massacre of New York and Washington which took place in 2001 on the 11th of September.* It is my thesis here that the New York and Washington Massacre should not actually have changed much of anything.