Saturday, July 02, 2005 +

Burckhardt on Greatness

From Jacob Burckhardt, Judgments on History and
(The Liberty Fund Online Library of Liberty), II, 11,“On the Middle Ages”.

The greatness of an epoch or a cause depends on the proportion of those capable of sacrifice, on whatever side
it may be. In this respect the Middle Ages pass muster rather well. Devotion! And not a guarantee of regular pay!

Where does greatness begin? With devotion to a cause, whatever it may be, with complete extinction of personal

Greatness is not dependent on mental superiority, for this can be paired with a wretched character.

Greatness is the conjunction of a certain spirit with a certain will.

See also Contemplating History and Jacob Burckhardt on the Greeks.

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Friday, July 01, 2005 +

The Rockets of Mongo

A brief history of the Planet Mongo Rocket Forces by Emperor Ming of Mongo, currently residing on Planet Vleeptron.


An Audio Age

This is certainly not a literary age, but it is also not primarily a visual age. Rather it is an audio age. Here is some evidence:

1. The best known artists are musicans. Today’s “Christian artists” almost always refers to musicians.

2. Most kids would choose an iPod over a digital camera.

3. People turn on the the television even if they don’t watch the show. Talk radio is the talk of the town. Audio books are popular.

4. With the green screen and computer effects, many movies resemble cartoons which move the audience mainly through sound. People on an airplane will watch a poorly displayed movie as long as they have their earphones. Blind people enjoy movies.

5. From John Maeda’s Simplicity blog:

Architect of the upcoming WWII museum Bart Voorsanger unraveled a mystery for me regarding restaurants. Ever been in a restaurant and you can't hear what the other person is saying because it's so loud from the noise coming from other tables. Apparently this is by design—restaurants that have a noisy buzz tend to be regarded as more popular and trendy. To design the acoustics such that you could actually hear your partner would run contradictory to the marketing effect of the crowd's drone.

I’m sure that others who are more attuned to the culture than I am can provide much more evidence.

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Thursday, June 30, 2005 +

Notes 117

What should it mean to me that Herman Melville was a greater writer than C. S. Lewis?

Not to make something look better, but to raise oneself to see better.

“With the ancients . . . it was all or nothing, with no fear of disaster [including death]. The fall of states, cities, and kings was considered glorious. That is something utterly alien to us.”—Burckardt, Judgments on History and Historians, I, 4.


L O V E     in C O L O R S

2002 Love Stamp by Michael Osborne

Click on a color if you want to change it. Then use the sliders.
Click on the color to the right of the sliders to randomly change every color.

See also LOVE 37 USA + TYPEFACE + Glory.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005 +

02005 06 29 +

54 7D 1B 32 5F 4A 1A 0A 40 43 0B 59 31 28 32 0A
01 60 17 1B 46 06 65 47 38 6C 19 2F 53 69 1D 0D
55 16 61 23 42 3B 41 28 0C 43 5E 7E 70 2F 4B 01
6D 28 38 79 18 0C 62 21 1E 7F 13 2E 2A 1B 58 1C
39 10 63 6A 6F 19 47 6D 37 7C 12 22 63 50 3F 7D
3D 04 65 5D 31 71 0A 25 5E 26 68 57 03 72 75 78
24 1C 15 48 1E 0B 52 06 01 2B 41 52 5C 60 6C 20
62 26 67 4B 24 7E 56 69 67 3A 04 35 45 15 19 01
21 1A 4A 7D 4E 5D 08 18 23 3F 3A 77 55 75 7D 78
11 0E 33 74 1C 3E 51 56 42 1B 35 24 33 23 2F 07
19 67 4F 35 39 4B 71 25 19 09 5A 5E 43 00 15 2C
73 50 54 74 56 5E 3A 52 64 2B 6C 75 36 60 15 4E
12 73 05 0A 5F 16 43 6B 01 55 39 38 34 0B 07 4A
66 10 70 46 65 2E 48 05 23 6F 69 72 6B 6C 51 6B
33 1F 39 6D 15 5D 5D 02 04 1B 67 7A 0C 13 2F 47
3D 3C 71 16 02 36 7A 2F 3D 3E 55 31 5D 76 16 2F
75 2A 1A 5A 7D 20 66 2C 3F 3B 06 5B 02 57 70 16
23 71 49 1E 5E 5E 7F 2C 70 66 78 64 56 19 3D 07
05 4B 45 26 27 39 3A 51 15 10 3A 5F 49 51 0E 4B
51 1C 02 18 6A 5A 1E 74 34 09 79 26 53 29 13 14
4A 0B 4D 7A 32 59 75 0C 21 36 17 32 08 63 50 7B
33 64 3C 55 54 6B 4D 1E 63 4E 19 4F 38 45 73 42
3D 42 1F 18 20 2D 2F 76 6F 20 0F 08 62 65 3E 7A
41 7E 0C 70 20 37 42 25 4C 0A 01 4F 68 0B 7E 16
48 08 4A 29 29 61 58 5A 0C 4A 4E 6C 49 71 2F 61
34 3A 39 54 62 46 61 07 3E 65 47 72 41 15 30 0E
04 4D 0F 22 71 22 0E 7A 0D 59 1C 7D 21 57 53 35
3E 3A 07 22 6B 6F 52 23 59 20 3C 0B 0A 71 4F 50
17 09 59 59 38 2D 0F 6F 7F 6D 15 0C 09 01 4F 31
31 6F 1A 71 65 78 2C 3D 11 36 3F 33 35 33 72 02
14 21 19 61 06 17 3A 73 09 1F 18 6C 38

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Tuesday, June 28, 2005 +

Notes 116

The Church gets the reformation it deserves.

If I should be better I would be better.


O still has a fever. I’m staying home with her today. This provided (me) a little distraction.

L O V E  37  U S A

2002 Love Stamp by Michael Osborne

See also LOVE in 9 COLORS.

“The Greatness of the Liturgy Depends on Its Unspontaneity”

Excerpts from “Reflections On Saying Mass (And Saying It Correctly)”, by James V. Schall, S. J. Thanks to The Anchoress.

What happens at the amazingly poorly named “kiss of peace” is too amusing to recount. No aspect of the current Mass is more inappropriately placed. It distracts us from what is going on at Communion at the very moment we ought not to be so distracted. I believe at the Brompton Oratory in London it is placed elsewhere. Josef Cardinal Ratzinger, in The Spirit of the Liturgy, praises the Church of Zaire for placing it before the Presentation of the Gifts. He adds that this placing “would be desirable for the whole Roman Rite, insofar as the sign of peace is something we want to retain” (p. 170). That is, we may not want to retain it.

The kneeling, standing, sitting, bowing, genuflecting aspects of Mass and Communion are up for grabs and cause all sorts of needless controversy.

Josef Cardinal Ratzinger has often remarked that today the priest must, like John the Baptist, “decrease.” The show is not about him. He is not there to call attention to himself, expound his own ideas, or entertain the people, a temptation almost endemic, as Ratzinger also indicates, to “turning the altar around.”

For a long time, following publication of the General Catechism and the Code of Canon Law, I have thought what the Vatican especially needs to do is to establish a universal popular Missal, an editio typica, on which all others everywhere in the Church are based. We need to get rid of the leaflet missals, burn them all like Luther, I believe, is said to have wanted to do to Aristotle. Each person in every parish should have his own Missal, which should not be changed every month, or year. The same Missal that we took to Mass at twenty should still be used at seventy. It is a great comfort to die with the same Missal we have used all our lives. I do recognize that many of the current English translations, especially of the collects, range from atrocious to vapid in comparison to the old Latin originals.

Each language group should have a common Missal, easily purchased in expensive or inexpensive versions. On one side is the official Latin text, the same in all missals; on the opposite page the corresponding vernacular—whether German, Greek, Arabic, English, French, Spanish, whatever—in exact translation. Nothing is wrong with old and familiar translations. The rubrics about what the priest should do and wear should be quite clear in the text and easily known by the reader. Latin should be used once in a while, if not often. The translation is right there. Everyone has what is being said or sung right there in front of him.

Even the slightest changes in wording and gesture usually imply a veering in thinking or understanding, even in doctrine. C. S. Lewis pointed out that we cannot say liturgical prayers together if the celebrant or other minister is making up the words as he goes along. The Mass words are very precise, very much expressive of a definite, well thought out understanding of who the Father is, who Christ is, what this sacrifice of the Mass is about in each of its details. Moreover, there is absolutely nothing wrong with reading what is also being said. In fact, it is often a help in praying the Mass, both because rarely in the average church are the acoustics and pronunciations clear enough for everyone to hear and because understanding takes constant repetition and attention.

Josef Ratzinger wrote in The Spirit of the Liturgy, “ . . . The greatness of the liturgy depends—we shall have to repeat this frequently—on its unspontaneity" (p. 166). That is a worthy conclusion to what I want to say here—“the greatness of the liturgy depends on its unspontaneity.” It is unfortunate that we have to repeat this reminder so frequently.

I add:

1. Many people now regularly attend Sunday Mass outside their own parishes. This is a very bad sign.

2. Remove “Take this, all of you, and drink from it” from the Mass, or give Communion under both species.

See also Notes 16 and Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Foreword to U.M. Lang’s Turning Towards the Lord: Orientation in Liturgical Prayer.

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Monday, June 27, 2005 +

Contemplating History

Jacob Burckhardt’s Reflections on History consists of notes from several lectures Burckhardt delivered in Basel around 1870. After Burckhardt’s death, his nephew Jacob Oeri prepared the notes for publication under the title Weltgeschichtliche Betrachtungen. An English translation of Werner Kägi’s 1941 edition, with a long introduction by James Hastings Nichols, was published in 1943 as Force and Freedom. The translation was republished, with a shorter introduction by Gottfried Dietze, as Reflections on History (Indianapolis, LibertyClassics, 1979). In the following excerpts, the page numbers refer to the LibertyClassics edition.

P. 36: Since mind, like matter, is mutable and the changes of time bear away ceaselessly the forms which are the vesture of material as of spiritual life, the task of history as a whole is to show its twin aspects, distinct yet identical, proceeding from the fact that, first, the spiritual, in whatever domain it is perceived, has a historical aspect under which it appears to change, as the contingent, as a passing moment which forms part of a vast whole beyond our power to divine, and that, second, every event has a spiritual aspect by which it partakes of immortality.

P. 43: In the realm of mind we must simply strive for the higher, the highest we can attain.

P. 43: The truest study of our national history will be that which considers our own country in parallels and in relation to world history and its laws, as a part of a great whole, illumined by the same heavenly bodies as have shown upon other times and other peoples, threatened with the same pitfalls and one day to be engulfed in the same eternal night and perpetuated in the same great universal tradition.

P. 87: Every time heresy appears, it is a sign that the dominant religion no longer quite fulfills the metaphysical need from which it sprang.

P. 104: The arrogant belief in the moral superiority of the present . . . has only fully developed of late years; it makes no exceptions, even in favor of classical antiquity. The secret mental reservation is that money-making is today easier and safer than ever. Were that menaced, the exaltation it engenders would collapse.

P. 126: The greatest technical and artistic geniuses were powerless to make any change in the utterly uncouth royal fortresses of Nineveh. The meanness of their ground plan and the slavishness of their sculptures were law for centuries.

P. 190: Heresies . . . at times . . . harbored the best minds and spirits of their age.

P. 216: It is part of the wretchedness of life on earth that even the individual beliives that he can only attain a full consciousness of his own value if he compares himself with others and, in certain circumstances, actually makes others feel it.

P. 220: The only lesson to be drawn from an evil deed successfully perpetrated by the stronger party is not to set a higher value on earthly life than it deserves.

P. 225: Castes . . . such as the priesthood [before the Reformation] and the old French nobility [before the French Revolution] are absolutely incorrigible even when a large number of their members clearly see the abyss. For the moment, it is more unpleasant to join forces with men of like mind and be doomed to certain destruction than to have the feeling that a cataclysm may come. And quite apart from any such calculation of probability, conditions may already be so far gone that castes can no longer hope to reform themselves. There may already be an overwhelming likelihood that other elements from outside will make themselves masters of the movement once it has been set going.

P. 248: All spiritual growth takes places by leaps and bounds, both in the individual and . . . in the community. The crisis is to be regarded as a new nexus of growth.

P. 280: To give tangible form to that which is inward, to represent it in such a way that we see it as the outward image of inward things, as a revelation—that is a most rare power. To re-create the external in external form—that is in the power of many. But the other awakens in the beholder or listener the conviction that the creator of this work could do this, but no other, and so that he is indispensible.

P. 288: Greatness in the true sense of the word, however, is only attributed [among architects] to Erwin von Steinbach and Michelangelo. Immediately after them we might name Brunelleschi and Bramante. . . .

P. 289: Mozart and Beethoven may become as incomprehensible to future humanity as Greek music, so highly praised by its contemporaries, would be to us. They will then remain great on faith, by virtue of the expressions of delight we have uttered, not unlike the painters of antiquity whose works have been lost.

Pp. 289–290: When the man of culture sits down to the banquet of the art and poetry of past times, he will not be able, or wish, to resist the lovely illusion that these men were happy when they created their great works. Yet all they did was to rescue the ideals of their time at the cost of great sacrifice, and wage in their daily life the battle we all fight. It is only to us that their creations look like youth rescued and perpetuated.

P. 298: The fate of peoples and states, the trends of whole civilizations, may depend on the power of one exceptional individual to endure cerain acute stresses at certain times.

P. 299: Power has never yet improved a man.

P. 315: Great men are necessary to our life in order that the movement of history may periodically wrest itself free from antiquated forms of life and empty argument. And for the thinking man, reviewing the whole course of history hitherto, one of the few certain premises of a higher spiritual happiness is an open mind for all greatness.

P. 323: [After the Reformation] Catholicism again became a religion, which it had almost ceased to be.

Pp. 327–328: Every individual—we too—exists not for his own sake, but for the sake of all the past and all the future. In face of this great, grave whole, the claims of peoples, times and individuals to happiness and well-being, lasting or fleeting, are of very subordinate importance, for since the life of humanity is one whole, it is only to our frail powers of perception that its fluctuations in time or place are a rise and fall, fortune and misfortune.

P. 334: We must always be on guard against taking our historical perspectives for the decrees of history.

P. 339: Imperceptibly we have passed from the question of good and evil fortune to that of the survival of the human spirit, which in the end presents itself to us as the life of one human being.

See also Burckhardt on Greatness and Jacob Burckhardt on the Greeks.

Gleizes 1934

Sunday, June 26, 2005 +

02005 06 26 +

Kathryn W— graduated today from Albany High School. She will attend the Newhouse School at Syracuse University in the fall. Because O has a fever, I was the only one of us three to go to the party. All the W— girls were there, and many other friends and family members.

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