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Thursday, April 28, 2005
The Universal Monarchy of Wit

wit (wit) n. a message whose ingenuity or verbal skill or incongruity has the power to evoke laughter.

I long for music in all things. Which is probably why I am a writer. I hear music in words. If words aren't, in fact, already intrinsically musical.

soporific (`sâpu'rifik) adj. sleep inducing

The word "soporific", learned at age six, caused Dr. Vivian Bearing to later become a scholar and doctor of literature-- or, in her own words, a "force" in the academe. No doubt, she heard music in those four, tongue-tripping syllables, without knowing what they meant. In that one musical moment, at age six, in her father's study, pouring over a pile of read-aloud books, her life found its path.

Beautiful. The word itself, is, beautiful. As ugly, most definitely, is so. The syllables in "beautiful" glide smoothly by, much as a clear, flowing brook would over smooth, fresh water stones. "Ugly", on the other hand, trips gutterally over an annoying bump in the road.

Now, before any more etymological road bumps lead my essay astray, let me go back to Vivian Bearing--the lead character in a searingly profound play by Margaret Edson, simply titled "Wit".

Dr. Bearing is a highly respected professor of English literature, specializing in the brilliantly difficult Holy Sonnets of the metaphysical poet John Donne. A passion that will serve her well throughout her long, humbling months battling stage four ovarian cancer.

John Donne dove deep into the heart of such dark and complex themes as life, death, and of death as being the beginning of life. Her love for John Donne's work permeates every cycle of pain and hope and memory that make up her experience as a terminal patient. After being a tough, cold teacher of such themes, she now lives out every word, every punctuation mark-- finding humor in the face of death, and learning lessons of humility and profound humanity along the way.

Death be not proud, though some have callèd thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not soe,
For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill mee;
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou’art slave to Fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie,’or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And Death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die!

-John Donne, Sonnet 6

The following is a lecture her teacher, Professor E.M. Ashford, gives her on the importance of proper punctuation....and then some.

Professor Ashford:
The sonnet begins with a valiant struggle with death, calling on all forces of intellect and drama to vanquish the enemy. But it is ultimately about overcoming the seemingly insuperable barriers separating life, death, and eternal life.

In the edition you chose, this profoundly simple meaning is sacrificed to hysterical punctuation:

And Death - capital D - shall be no more - semicolon! Death - capital D - comma - thou shalt die - exclamation point!

If you go for this sort of thing, I suggest you take up Shakespeare.

Gardner’s edition of the Holy Sonnets returns to the Westmoreland manuscript source of 1610. Not for sentimental reasons, I assure you, but because Helen Gardner is a scholar. It reads:

And death shall be no more,comma,Death thou shalt die.

Nothing but a breath, a comma, separates life from everlasting life. It is simple really. With the original punctuation restored, death is no longer something to act out on a stage, with exclamation points. It’s a comma, a pause.

This way, the uncompromising way, one learns something about this poem, wouldn’t you say? Life, death. Soul, God. Past, present. Not insuperable barricades, not semicolons...just a comma.

I once asked Rein to pray that we live long enough to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. He said, would you really want to live past 80? I said, I just want to be with you as long as I can. Then pray, he said, for good, happy years, and not just long years. Long years may not necessarily be a good thing. Pray we have a good life here on earth and then, heaven.

John Donne's comma, right there.

simple (sim'pl) adj. Being a fundamental or rudimentary element; basic.

posted by The White Rabbit at 8:16 PM | Permalink | 0 Speak Up!
Monday, April 25, 2005
Why They Ran
The new pope speaks to the inner adult in all of us.
by Peggy Noonan

There were many moving and dramatic moments in Rome two days ago, but this is the one I think I'll remember: the sight of them running.

Did you see them running to St. Peter's Square as the bells began to toll? They came running in from the offices and streets of Rome, running in their business suits, in jeans with backpacks over their shoulders. The networks kept showing it in their wide shots as they filled time between the ringing of the bells and the balcony scene. So many came running that by the end, by the time Benedict XVI was announced, St. Peter's and the streets leading to it were as full as they'd been two weeks ago, at the funeral of John Paul II.

Why did they run? Why did this ancient news--"We have a pope"--representing such irrelevant-seeming truths and such an archaic institution--send them running? Why did they gather? Why did they have to hear? The faith is dead in Europe, everyone knows that. So why did they come? You say, "They just wanted to be there. It's history. People are experience junkies. They wanted to take pictures with their cellphones."

That would be true of some. But why did so many weep as the new pope came out? Why did they chant "Benedict, Benedict" as he stood at the balcony? Why were they jubilant? Why were so many non-Catholics similarly moved? And why in America, where the church is torn in divisions, did people run to the TV and the radio when word spread? People are complicated. You can hit distracted people with all the propaganda in the world, you can give it to them every day in all your media, and sometimes they'll even tell pollsters they agree with you. But something is always going on in their chests. Some truth is known there; some yearning lives there. It's like they have a compass in their hearts and turn as they will, this way and that, it continues to point to true north.

We want a spiritual father. We want someone who stands for what is difficult and right, what is impossible but true. Being human we don't always or necessarily want to live by the truth or be governed by it. But we are grateful when someone stands for it. We want him to be standing up there on the balcony. We want to aspire to it, reach to it, point to it and know that it is there. Because we can actually tell what's true. We can just somehow tell. John Paul II was a great man. We all knew that. Funny how we all knew. And so when word spread that he was dead, they came running. And because they came running, because four million people engulfed Rome after his death, the eyes of the world were suddenly trained on John Paul's funeral, which was suddenly an event.

Because the world watched the funeral, they noticed the man who celebrated the mass and gave the eulogy. John Paul II had picked him for that role. He spoke with love. He said John Paul, the old man who always came to the window to greet the crowds and pray with them, was now, today, right at this moment, at the window of his father's house. It was beautiful and poetic and people--cardinals--who watched and listened to the speaker thought: Yes, that's true. And the man who was speaking, who even 10 years ago was considered too old and controversial for the job, was suddenly seen by his fellow cardinals, one after the other, as the future pope. It was impossible. But it happened. No one was really considering Cardinal Ratzinger until that mass. Those who are pursuing John Paul II's canonization, please note: his first miracle is Benedict XVI.

We are living in a time of supernatural occurrences. The old pope gives us his suffering as a parting gift, says his final goodbye on Easter Sunday; dies on the vigil of Feast of the Divine Mercy, the day that marks the messages received by the Polish nun, now a saint, who had written that a spark out of Poland would light the world and lead the way to the coming of Christ.

The mourning period for the old pope ends on the day that celebrates St. Stanislas, hero of Poland, whose name John Paul had thought about taking when he became pope. We learned this week from a former secretary that John Paul I, the good man who was pope just a month, had told everyone the day he was chosen that he wanted to be called John Paul I. You can't be called "the first" until there is a second, he was told. There will be a second soon, he replied.

It is an age of miracles and wonders, of sightings and warnings, of prophecy, graces and gifts. The choosing of Benedict XVI, a man who is serious, deep and brave, is a gift.

He has many enemies. They imagine themselves courageous and oppressed. What they are is agitated, aggressive, and well-connected. They want to make sure his papacy begins with a battle. They want to make sure no one gets a chance to love him. Which is too bad because even his foes admit he is thoughtful, eager for dialogue, sensitive, honest. They want to make sure that when he speaks and writes, the people of the world won't come running.

What to do to help? See his enemies for what they are, and see him for what he is. Read him--he is a writer, a natural communicator of and thinker upon challenging ideas. Listen to him. Consult your internal compass as you listen, and see if it isn't pointing true north. Look at what he said at the beginning of the papal conclave: It is our special responsibility at this time to be mature, to believe as adults believe. "Being an 'adult' means having a faith which does not follow the waves of today's fashions or the latest novelties." Being an adult is loving what is true and standing with it. This isn't radical, or archconservative. And the speaker isn't an enforcer, a cop or a rottweiler. He's a Catholic. Which one would think is a good thing to have as leader of the Catholic Church.

Ms. Noonan is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal and author of "A Heart, a Cross, and a Flag" (Wall Street Journal Books/Simon & Schuster), a collection of post-Sept. 11 columns, which you can buy from the OpinionJournal bookstore. Her column appears Thursdays.
posted by The White Rabbit at 9:45 AM | Permalink | 0 Speak Up!
Thursday, April 21, 2005
The German Shepherd
Panzer cardinal...God's Rottweiler...and (my favorite!) Papa Ratzi. Barely a week in office, Pope Benedict XVI, a.k.a. Joseph Ratzinger, is already known by many names. This is largely due to the erstwhile Cardinal's reputation as a hardline theological conservative, a strict guardian of Catholic orthodoxy for 23 years. Newspaper sources mention how Ratzinger's writings and comments give "a hint of what his papacy will bring". He has dismissed demands for multiculturism as a "fleeing from what is one's own". His 2000 decree "Dominus Jesus", which touted the exclusive role played by the Catholic Church in human salvation, upset Protestants, Jews, and other non-Christians. And understandably so. As I write this, liberals all over the world are worried about how this brand new pope will handle the crucial issues of homosexuality, women's rights, same-sex marriage, the ordination of gay and women priests, contraception, and the propagation of non-Catholic Christian doctrine all over the globe.

The last pontiff, Pope John Paul the Great, was hailed as such because he seemed to have embraced the world--regardless of race or faith--and made people feel "loved" as human beings first. Whatever they stood for, wherever they came from, came a distant second. We'd all like to believe that God looks at the heart first before anything else. And if it's true that there is something good in all of us, then He sees it, and this gives us hope. This Hope is what was reflected in Pope John Paul II's very being.

However, let us not judge the new pope before he has had a chance to let God's true Light shine through in his life's greatest work. His election was guided by great prayer, after all. Women's rights advocate Sister Mary John Mananzan put it simply: "I believe in the Holy Spirit more than I believe in my human judgement. That is why I am accepting Pope Benedict XVI in faith."

I am one of those concerned about the future of religious unity, particularly (and maybe even especially) among Catholics and Christians of all denominations, but not gravely so. In his first public mass at the Sistine Chapel as pope, Ratzinger said that his "primary task" would be to work without fail to re-unify all Christians. "I welcome everybody with simplicity and love," he said, "to assure them that the Church wants to continue in open and sincere dialogue with them, in search of true good of man and society."

The issues of the 21st century are serious and very real. The heavy cloak of religion will not hide nor heal them. I'd like to think that this new Peter is not just God's appointed, but His annointed as well. That in his weakness, He will turn to God for guidance in all things. That he will truly be a rock for the world to lean on. That this German will be a true Shepherd.
posted by The White Rabbit at 4:25 PM | Permalink | 0 Speak Up!
Monday, April 18, 2005
Note Another Word
As a small tribute to Sweet Plantado's (2nd) wedding to Bam Tiongson (fun party, guys!), as well as to dearest OST Central's impending departure, allow me to wax poetic on the one passion that binds me to them forever. . .

Music, the greatest good that mortals know. And all heaven we have below.
-Joseph Addison, Song for St. Cecilia's Day

And the night shall be filled with music
And the cares, that infest the day, shall fold their tents,
like the Arabs
And as silently steal away.
-Longfellow, The Day Is Done

Sweet sounds, oh, beautiful music do not cease
Reject me not into the world again
With you alone is excellence and peace,
Mankind made plausible, his purpose plain.
-Edna St. Vincent Millay, On Hearing A Symphony of

The man that hath no music in himself,
nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils.
-Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

The music in my heart I bore, long after it was heard no more.
-Wordsworth, The Solitary Reaper
posted by The White Rabbit at 9:30 PM | Permalink | 0 Speak Up!
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
Well Done, Good & Faithful Servant!
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Pope John Paul II (Karol Jozef Wojtyla, 1920 - 2005)

-Ordained in 1946
-Elected to the Papacy in 1978
-The Youngest Pope (58) in 132 years.
-First non-Italian Pope in 455 yrs.
-First Slavic Pope
-Made more than 200 visits to more than 125 countries, including Cuba
-First Pope to visit a synagogue
-First Pope to visit the memorial (at Auschwitz) to Jewish victims of the Holocaust
-Total 26 years as Pope
-Total 127 Canonizations during his term, elevating 354 persons to Sainthood (including San Lorenzo Ruiz )
-Authored 14 encyclicals, covering varied topics on the Life & Mission of the Church, Human Work,
Salvation of Man, Human Rights, Dignity of the Sick and Elderly.
-Learned & scholarly
-Holder of Masters Degrees and Doctorates in Theology and Philosophy
-Time Man of the Year, 1994
-Staunch spokesman for Human Rights
-Had charisma and generated electricity "unmatched by anyone else on earth today", attracting private
citizens, catholics and non-catholics by the millions

Pope John Paul II is also dearly remembered by Filipinos in his 1995 visit when he presided over the 10th celebration of World Youth day. An estimated 5 million Filipinos flocked to see the Pope.

(During his visit, there was zero crime rate in Manila !)

He is considered as a great world figure who devoted his life to defending the values of peace, freedom, justice and equality for all races and religions, as well as man's right to independence.

He will be referred to in history books as Pope John Paul the Great.

So much to say and write about him ! Truly a great man !

(Thanks for the info, hon!)
posted by The White Rabbit at 5:16 PM | Permalink | 1 Speak Up!