Pithy quotes from our current reading which give us pause to reflect

  • From Wikipedia: Burdick v. United States, 236 U.S. 79 (1915)
    • "After President Gerald Ford left the White House in 1977, close friends said that the President privately justified his pardon of Richard Nixon by carrying in his wallet a portion of the text of the Burdick decision, which stated that “a pardon carries an imputation of guilt and that acceptance carries a confession of guilt.”
    • So, it would seem to me, an acceptance of God our Father’s forgiveness is a confession of guilt.
  • John 13:34. ““A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
  • If we loved one another, why would we need a commandment to do it?

Gulping down Lost in Thought by Zena Hitz as I drive. Lovely. All the excuses I need to memorize to justify my unpopular areas interest. It’s a PERFECT companion to Jenny O’Dell’s gorgeous book How to Do Nothing .

Lost in Thought , 17% in Calibre.

When we understand that real learning is hidden learning, that learning at bottom must be withdrawn from the pressure to produce economic, social, or political outcomes, we then face two major difficulties, both practical in nature. First, how exactly is hidden learning achieved or nurtured? How can it be extricated from its technical, professional, and political distortions? It is evident that our human core—our inner resources for thought, reflection, and contemplation—cannot be nurtured by mass education, whether that be online learning or large lecture halls. It must be nurtured person to person or it will largely disappear from ordinary human experience, surviving only in disfigured and marginal ways.

A more fundamental difficulty should be evident from the story of my own struggles as a graduate student. If learning is hidden, what use is it? What good does it do? How does it help mend the suffering fragments of the world? I have perhaps already suggested my answer. If human beings flourish from their inner core rather than in the realm of impact and results, then the inner work of learning is fundamental to human happiness, as far from pointless wheel spinning as are the forms of tenderness we owe our children or grandchildren. Intellectual work is a form of loving service at least as important as cooking, cleaning, or raising children; as essential as the provision of shelter, safety, or health care; as valuable as the delivery of necessary goods and services; as crucial as the administration of justice. All of these other forms of work make possible, but only possible, the fruits of human flourishing in peace and leisure: study and reflection, art and music, prayer and celebration, family and friendship, and the contemplation of the natural world.

Such a vision of the work of the mind leaves it open to anyone who has a desire for it. Intellectual life is not a merely professional activity, to be left to experts. Because its central goods are good universally, it belongs in taxicabs, at the beach house or the book club, in the break room at work, in the backyard of the amateur botanist, in thoughtful reflection whether scattered or disciplined, as much as or more than it does at universities.

@vulcanlogician You might have fun with this gem.


From LOST IN THOUGHT: The Hidden Pleasures of an Intellectual Life
by ZENA HITZ (18% in Calibre).

Certain forms of work wear their value on their sleeve. Ironically, these are often those we reward the least: looking after children or the elderly, providing water or electricity, cleaning public bathrooms, collecting garbage, preparing or serving food. Other forms of work may have evident rewards in salary and status, but over the years can leave the stench of pretended usefulness. Which of the forms of work available to us meet or fail to meet real human needs? How do the rewards and visible results of our work connect with their ultimate value? Is there a hidden work that we do, underneath or behind our visible work? How does one become entranced by the rewards of one’s work to the point of neglecting its ultimate purpose?

These questions apply to any of us who work, but the work I know is the work of the mind. What does it mean to pursue learning for its own sake? Is it even possible? Is the joy of learning itself selfish? If not, how could the strands of selfishness in it, the rush for achievement, the thrill of competition, be unwound from its heart?

And yet, without visible results, why should intellectual life matter, especially in a world so suffused with suffering? What role could it or should it play in repairing the broken fragments of our communities or in pushing back the darkness at their margins? These questions, along with a host of others that arise from them, shape the chapters that follow.

What does learning look like, stripped of its trappings of fame, prestige, fortune, and social use? In other words, how is it good for its own sake, because of its effect on the learner rather than because of its outward results?


    Joy & Strength

From “Dominion” by Tom Holland (an ex-believer)

Even in America, where Christianity remains far more vibrant a force than it does in Europe, growing numbers have come to view the West’s ancestral faith as something outmoded: a relic of earlier, more superstitious times. Just as the Bishop of Oxford refused to consider that he might be descended from an ape, so now are many in the West reluctant to contemplate that their values, and even their very lack of belief, might be traceable back to Christian origins.

I assert this with a measure of confidence because, until quite recently, I shared in this reluctance. Although as a boy I was taken every Sunday to church by my mother, and would solemnly say my prayers at night, I found myself at an early age experiencing what I can now recognise as having been an almost Victorian crisis of faith. I still remember the shock I felt when, at Sunday school one day, I opened a children’s Bible and found an illustration on its first page of Adam and Eve with a brachiosaur. Respectful of Bible stories I may have been, but of one thing—to my regret—I was rock-solid certain: no human being had ever seen a sauropod. That the teacher seemed not to care about this error only compounded my sense of outrage and perplexity. Had there been dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden? My teacher seemed neither to know nor to care. A faint shadow of doubt had been brought to darken my confidence in the truth of what I was being taught about the Christian faith.

Holland, Tom. Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World (p. 15). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.


Merv, this sounds like an important and challenging book. I hope you’ll share more now and then.


A good example of the evil (yes, evil) of YECism and the dishonor it reflects on God. But Jesus will rescue his lost sheep.

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Whoa – that could be a quote from the Lutheran priest who
was my mentor briefly back in the early 1980s!


The author is an academic who came to catholicism in mid life. I’m guessing your Lutheran priest was a brainy type, too. : )

From “Dominion”, Tom Holland. Ch. 2

Here was the manifestation of a subtle yet momentous irony. A body of writings originally collated and adapted by scholars who took for granted the centrality of Jerusalem to the worship of their god was slipping its editors’ purposes: the biblia came to possess, for the Jews of Alexandria, a sanctity that rivalled that of the Temple itself. Wherever there existed a scribe to scratch their verses onto parchment, or a student to commit them to memory, or a teacher to explicate their mysteries, their sanctity was affirmed. Their eternal and indestructible nature as well. Such a monument, after all, was not easily stormed. It was not constructed out of wood and stone, to be levelled by a conquering army. Wherever Jews might choose to live, there the body of their scriptures would be present as well. Those in Alexandria or Rome, far distant from the Temple though they were, knew that they possessed in their holy books—and the Torah especially—a surer path to the divine than any idol could provide. ‘What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to Him?’20

The Romans might have the rule of the world; the Greeks might have their philosophy; the Persians might claim to have fathomed the dimensions of truth and order; but all were deluded. Darkness covered the earth, and thick darkness was over the nations. Only once the Lord God of Israel had risen upon them, and his glory appeared over them, would they come into the light, and kings to the brightness of dawn.

For there was no other god but him.

Holland, Tom. Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World (p. 57). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

In the above, do we hear ancient beginnings of a later repeated theme? The temple is subject to the vagaries of conquest - but here we have something more enduring … a body of writings that cannot be so easily tamed. Somebody of note would later say: “I tell you a time is coming that people will worship God neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem, … but God is seeking those who will worship in spirit and in Truth.”

Could it be that in today’s age, when words themselves become subject to the vagaries of today’s attacks, we now see that even our “printed temple” is itself not to be mistaken as the locus of all worship, but that we are called yet again to set our sights even higher - onto the Spirit of Christ himself who is the very reason such earthly temples ever held any value in the first place?


Our sight to the heights only comes through scripture though, and ‘lensed’ by it, not over it.

From LOST IN THOUGHT: The Hidden Pleasures of an Intellectual Life
by ZENA HITZ (90% in Calibre).


Not long ago it was widely taken for granted that intellectual activity benefited ordinary people. I mentioned earlier the classic handbooks of the early twentieth century How to Live on 24 Hours a Day and The Intellectual Life . To nonacademics with intellectual interests, ordinary people, those little books offered a wealth of practical advice for their intellectual work along with soaring rhetoric to inspire and encourage them. These authors wrote as a great flood of translations of classics were being published in inexpensive editions.

The early twentieth century had its powerful, hard-nosed advocates of practice over theory and its fantasy-driven evangelists of technology. Still, it seems evident that in the age of Everyman’s Library and reading clubs at the Mechanics Institute, publishers, academics, and grassroots organizers built and defended forms of intellectual life that went to the bottom of things and reached out to the broadest of audiences. Even the activists of the early twentieth century did homage to the democracy of serious inquiry: Marxists went to the poorest areas and taught to anyone who would listen intricacies of Hegel and Feuerbach that a modern-day professor would tremble to assign to undergraduates.

In the face of these examples, to justify intellectual activity in terms of its economic and political benefits, as do contemporary defenders of the humanities and liberal education, might seem banal or beside the point. But such defenses are worse than that: they are false and destructively so. For intellectual life to deliver the human benefit it provides, it must be in fact withdrawn from considerations of economic benefit or of social and political efficacy. This is the case in part because, as the little human things testify, a human being is more than an instrument of personal or public benefit. Intellectual life is a source of human dignity exactly because it is something beyond politics and social life. But withdrawal from the world is also necessary because intellectual life is, as I have said, an ascetic practice.

If intellectual life is not an elite property but a piece of the human heritage, it belongs first and fundamentally to ordinary human beings.


He had a PhD in Liturgy and one in church history, and could read at least a half dozen different languages, two of which I know he taught himself.

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        Joy & Strength

  • After all, IMO, human brains commonly have two hemispheres, and at least one of them should be somewhat useful for intellectual pursuits, no?
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Certainly that, but the author is making the point in this quote as well as the rest of the book, that intellectual life is not something that belongs to an elite class, or that even requires a “normal” brain, or even “normal” intelligence.
“Learn the best you can with what you’ve got.” “Learn for the joy of it.”

Thanks for bringing my attention back to this book and thread, @Terry_Sampson. There were a few more parts of this book I wanted to highlight. Fractured attention has not been my friend lately.

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  • If your house has more than one floor, install an elevator or stairs and explore the upper levels of it, eh?
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And if it has one floor, explore the whole thing, add on as “budget” allows.

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From an entirely different source, a substantial body of research into the hemispheres of the brain suggests that for best results, the offerings of both sides of the brain should inform our perspective - with the less vocal side recognized as the wisest.

I believe you started a thread on split brain research recently. Maybe I should comment there.

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