now dot andrew belfield dot com


#

John of Salisbury, in the mid-12th century:

Our own generation enjoys the legacy bequeathed to it by that which preceded it. We frequently know more, not because we have moved ahead by our own natural ability, but because we are supported by the strength of others, and possess riches that we have inherited from our forefathers. Bernard of Chartres used to compare us to dwarfs perched on the shoulders of giants. He pointed out that we see more and farther than our predecessors, not because we have keener vision or greater height, but because we are lifted up and borne aloft on their gigantic shoulders.

#

Honestly, this proposal to nationalize baseball sounds incredible.

#

Two of Maggie Nelson’s Bluets:

No. 123. Whenever I speak of faith, I am not speaking of faith in God. Likewise, when I speak of doubt, I am not talking about doubting God’s existence, or the truth of any gospel. Such terms have never meant very much to me. To contemplate them reminds me of playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey: you get spun around until you wander off, disoriented and blindfolded, walking gingerly with a hand stretched out in front of you, until you either run into a wall (laughter), or a friend gently pushes you back toward the game.

[…]

No. 125. Of course, you could also just take off the blindfold and say, I think this game is stupid, and I’m not playing it anymore. And it must also be admitted that hitting the wall or wandering off in the wrong direction or tearing off the blindfold is as much a part of the game as is pinning the tail on the donkey.

#

bell hooks:

Hearing each other’s voices, individual thoughts, and sometimes associating theses voices [sic] with personal experience makes us more acutely aware of each other. That moment of collective participation and dialogue means that students and professor respect—and here I invoke the root meaning of the word, “to look”—at each other, engage in acts of recognition with one another, and do not just talk to the professor. Sharing experiences and confessional narratives in the classroom helps establish communal commitment to learning. These narrative moments usually are the space where the assumption that we share a common class background and perspective is disrupted. While students may be open to the idea that they do not all come from a common class background, they may still expect that the values of materially privileged groups will be the class’s norm.

#

Bart Giammati, the late, former commissioner of major leauge baseball, as quoted in Greg Hillis’s “Quit Trying to ‘Fix’ Baseball”, on the deep structure of baseball:

three strikes, three outs, three times three innings, and its deepest impulse, to go out and back, to leave and to return home

#

At the distressingly young age of 50, Taylor Hawkins has died. I haven’t kept up with Foo Fighters much beyond their Wasting Light album; I saw them live on that tour in Buffalo with my brother Marty and my good friend Tom from high school. It was an electric show, thanks in no small part to Hawkins’s drumming.

Even though they no longer occupy a significant place in my musical landscape, I’ll always hold fond memories of the band, and especially jamming to their songs with Marty and Tom.

#

Ron Scapp, in dialogue about critical pedagogy, with bell hooks:

Sometimes it’s important to remind students that joy can be present along with hard work. Not every moment in the classroom will necessarily be one that brings you immediate pleasure, but that doesn’t preclude the possibility of joy. Nor does it deny the reality that learning can be painful. And sometimes it’s necessary to remind students and colleagues that pain and painful situations don’t necessarily translate into harm. We make that very fundamental mistake all the time. Not all pain is harm, and not all pleasure is good.

#

A good mail day

#

I could share every homily preached by my mentor Fritz Bauerschmidt, and be justified doing so—they’re all terribly good. His homily for this first Sunday in Lent is particularly good. As it happens I was teaching evil as privatio boni to my Catholic theology class on the day Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and was put in the awkward position of saying evil doesn’t really exist on a day when unspeakable evils were underway. Like Bauerschmidt, I used Herbert McCabe’s image of evil as hole-in-sock to try to balance both privatio boni and our real experience of evil as surd. But I wish I’d had this homily to share with my students. (I plan to share it in class this week.)

#

Daniel Walden, in a review of a very bad recent book:

Many of us [on the political left] came to our politics precisely because we do sense that we have unchosen obligations to the people around us, and some people may have childhood memories of strong neighborhood or community bonds that made it easy for them to wander around safely, or of large family gatherings that included people who were not blood relatives but might as well have been. People should be able to let their children wander freely around safe neighborhoods; they should be able to form strong relationships with their neighbors and fellow local citizens, go to silly productions at the community theater, and shop for the things they need at stores owned and run by people who live alongside them. And if the community where they live doesn’t provide what they need to be happy, they should be able to find one that does. I am sure that such communities, were people able to live in them, would develop local traditions and institutions that would help cement people’s connection to one another, and I view it as the role of the state to underwrite the basic necessities of life for every person precisely so that we will be free to form the sorts of communities that will nourish us and let us form the loving relationships that sustain human life.

#

At Playwrights Horizons for Tambo & Bones

#

Whatever the case, he listened, he listened to me.
I missed his listening.
Listening, Sister Ann said, is a memorable form of love.

from “The Road to Emmaus,” by Spencer Reece

#

Over the weekend I picked this chalkboard up from an antique store, so I can write out the week’s reading assignments. The chalkboard surface itself is a little rough so I may sand it down and repaint it.

#

Paul Griffiths, on the LORD as theology’s topic:

When Christians prepare to approach the LORD in eucharistic worship, they do so haltingly, repeatedly underlining in the words they speak that what they are about to do cannot be done. Even after the bread and wine have been consecrated before the congregation’s face and offered to it, and even after the declaration is made that those who can receive the body and blood are happy—blessed—to be able to do so, the congregation declares that it is incapable of receiving what is offered, echoing, in doing so, the scriptural words of the Roman centurion who asks Jesus to heal his servant: non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum meum, sed tantum dic verbo et sanabitur anima mea (I’m not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed). All theological discourse works under this rubric: non sum dignus … tantum dic verbo. Theologians, whether believers or not, lovers of the LORD or not, need to remember this so that theology, rather than something else, is what they do.

#

Abraham Heschel:

To us a single act of injustice—cheating in business, exploitation of the poor—is slight; to the prophets, a disaster. To us injustice is injurious to the welfare of the people; to the prophets it is a deathblow to existence: to us, an episode; to them, a catastrophe, a threat to the world.

#

I’m not sure what to make about this essay, but there’s some truth to this point, at least:

When I become singularly captivated by another human being, what I want is to possess the good for all time. I want that she and I create something good and pass it on to the future. That is why, when you meet someone just right for you, it feels like the future; and that is why the past can open up at the same time, with the thought that you have always known each other—because time is stretching both forward and backward. And we can have this feeling not only when we want a family with our own cells, but also when we want to adopt—or when children aren’t involved at all, when we want to crusade for the good alongside the person who is just right for us.

#

From yesterday’s mail. I defended in October so this isn’t exactly news, but it feels good to have the diploma in hand.

#

From David Graeber & David Wengrow’s The Dawn of Everything:

American citizens have the right to travel wherever they like – provided, of course, they have the money for transport and accommodation. They are free from ever having to obey the arbitrary orders of superiors – unless, of course, they have to get a job. In this sense, it is almost possible to say the Wendat had play chiefs and real freedoms, while most of us today have to make do with real chiefs and play freedoms. Or to put the matter more technically: what the Hadza, Wendat or ‘egalitarian’ people such as the Nuer seem to have been concerned with were not so much formal freedoms as substantive ones. They were less interested in the right to travel than in the possibility of actually doing so (hence, the matter was typically framed as an obligation to provide hospitality to strangers). Mutual aid – what contemporary European observers often referred to as ‘communism’ – was seen as the necessary condition for individual autonomy.

I’m not sure if Graeber & Wengrow invent this distinction—I assume not—but distinguishing ‘formal’ freedoms from ‘substantive’ freedoms is helpful. My sense is that the political left in the United States has largely ceded talk of “freedom” to the right; you don’t often (or, at least, I don’t often) encounter arguments for leftist politics on the basis of freedom. But in fact, I think, the left does want “freedom” for people and their proposals can help facilitate such freedom. The difference is the left is less concerned with formal freedom (the concern of the right) than it is with substantive freedom.

This is one piece of Graeber & Wengrow’s work that I really appreciate. They repeatedly stress that American indigenous peoples had a worldview closer to the contemporary US than European Enlightenment thinkers, because American indigenous peoples were concerned with (substantive) freedom. It’s a clever rhetorical move: both the original inhabitants of the American continents and the present inhabitants of the American continents are interested in freedom; the difference is, in what that freedom consists.

#

Dispatches from the southern tier of New York, taken around 6:45 this morning

#

My actual favorite band from these is The National, but Death Cab for Cutie could be me in a few years (God willing): What Your Favorite Sad Dad Band Says about You

#

Julia Claire, “In Defense of Shame”

#

David Bentley Hart, on one’s just deserts before God:

I remain convinced that no one, logically speaking, could merit eternal punishment; but I also accept the obverse claim that no one could merit grace. This does not mean, however, that grace must be rare in order to be truly gracious, as so many in the infernalist party so casually assume it must. Grace universally given is still grace. A gift made to everyone is no less a gift, and a gift that is intrinsically precious need not be rare to be an act of the highest generosity. Conversely, that gift becomes no more precious—indeed, it becomes much less so—if it is certified in its value by being distributed only parsimoniously.

#

Fantasies of theology’s haloed past too easily become policies for church police in the present.

Mark Jordan, in Transforming Fire: Imagining Christian Teaching

#

“Look – the fact that something is real in your mind does not mean that it’s real in reality. I can conceive in my mind a blue horse with ten legs.” (He didn’t say this – this is my example. It’s funnier.)

Thomas Merton, glossing Gaunilo’s objection to Anselm’s ontological argument.

#

Pope Francis in Fratelli tutti on forgiveness and accountability:

Nor does this mean calling for forgiveness when it involves renouncing our own rights, confronting corrupt officials, criminals or those who would debase our dignity. We are called to love everyone, without exception; at the same time, loving an oppressor does not mean allowing him to keep oppressing us, or letting him think that what he does is acceptable. On the contrary, true love for an oppressor means seeking ways to make him cease his oppression; it means stripping him of a power that he does not know how to use, and that diminishes his own humanity and that of others. Forgiveness does not entail allowing oppressors to keep trampling on their own dignity and that of others, or letting criminals continue their wrongdoing. Those who suffer injustice have to defend strenuously their own rights and those of their family, precisely because they must preserve the dignity they have received as a loving gift from God. If a criminal has harmed me or a loved one, no one can forbid me from demanding justice and ensuring that this person – or anyone else – will not harm me, or others, again. This is entirely just; forgiveness does not forbid it but actually demands it.