Irish Papist

Irish Papist
Statute of the Blessed Virgin in Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Church, UCD Belfield

Thursday, May 25, 2017

A Request

I have an overactive mind, and when I'm working at a computer (either in work or at home) I like to listen to stuff on YouTube. It doesn't seem to affect my concentration.

However, I very often run out of stuff to listen to, so I'd love suggestions.

The stuff I'd like is fairly specific:

1) Talking heads, either straight to camera or at a lecture/conference.

2) LONG. I don't have the slightest interest in TED talks or anything under ten minutes.

3) Probably not Catholic. I'm tired of Catholic speakers trying to convince me of something I already believe. I don't want to hear the kazillionth refutation of Sola Scriptura or moral relativism or Richard Dawkins.

4) Preferably, something personal and subjective.

5) Nothing too dry, like economics or architecture or epistemology-- human interest stuff.

My ideal is a vlogger called Millennial Woes. Yes, he's Alt Right, and I disagree with him about a lot of stuff, especially about race. But he's extremely thoughtful and intellectually honest. He talks not only about concepts but memories, experiences, feelings, doubts, many ways, he's a (much more successful) example of what I've been trying to do with this blog. One of my favourite of his videos featured him going through his DVD collection for three hours, choosing what to keep and what to throw out, commenting on the various DVDs and whatever thoughts they inspired in him. So, you know...something opinionated but not too preachy, not too shrill.

You know, I'd be happy to listen to a five hour video by a Milwaukee housewife talking about the life lessons she's learned through the years, and her memories. But it's hard to find such videos.

So....I'm listening.

Right Now

Right now-- at this very moment-- people are sitting in cinemas all over Ireland, all over America, all over the world. They are sitting on the plush red seats, drinking in the scent of popcorn and hotdogs, and (for the most part) utterly losing themselves in the enormous images on the enormous screen.

Personally, I don't think like to think of the packed screenings so much. I like to think of the half-empty or three-quarters empty screenings. In fact, I like to think of those parts of the world where it's early afternoon, as I write this, and people are attending matinee screenings where the cinema itself seems like a little suspended reality of its own, as everybody else shops and drives and works outside. I like to think of matinee screenings in cinemas called the Lux and the Adelphi and the Majestic and other deliciously bombastic names. Thirty years from now, in many cases, they'll still remember the film they're watching now, where they saw it, who they were with.

Right now, at this very moment, people are sitting in pubs all over Ireland, all over the UK. They're sitting in bars in America. They are sitting on the cushioned seats, in the welcoming low light, the golden glow thrown from globe lamps and other fancy subdued lights. Everything around them says: "Welcome! Be comfortable! Take it easy! Don't worry, for now!". They might be talking about the Spanish Civil War, or the Narnia books, or fishing. The conversation seems richer, fuller, because of the tang of alcohol or the low fire in the fireplace or the mellowness of the pub's decorations.

All around Ireland, right now, there are hundreds of miles of country roads, leading from one small town to another small town-- many of them places that were never very famous for anything. Down some of them, a car passes every few moments. Down one of them, perhaps, a boy is walking, dreaming, looking at the horizon. Some of them-- and these are the ones I like to think about the most-- are completely deserted.

All around the world, right now, there are people lying in warm baths, steaming rising from the water, the door locked, cocooned from the world outside for a precious little while.

 I like to meditate on all this. It enriches me, even though it makes not the slightest material difference to my life. It adds to the excitement of that most exciting word, one of the most exciting words in the language-- "world". Because a world can be the world of a warm bath, or the world of a boy's consciousness as he walks along a deserted country road, or the object of discussion between two friends sitting in the White Swan or the Castle Tavern or the Admiral of the Humber.

A Gentle Traditionalist on Youtube

Roger Buck, the writer of the acclaimed books The Gentle Traditionalist and Cor Jesu Sacratissimum (both of which I can eagerly recommend) has launched a YouTube channel.

I think this is a great development. YouTube is where it's at. Sadly, many Catholic channels are either incredibly insipid (on one hand) or downright venomous (on the other). I know from Roger's books that his channel isn't going to be either one of those things. I know that, on the contrary, it will be thoughtful, imaginative, gracious and deep. Please do subscribe to it.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Good Post from Edward Feser on Anger

As someone inclined to wrath, I've gone through phases of trying to eradicate anger from my personality entirely. Edward Feser explains how it would be sinful to entirely lack anger, and how the sin of wrath differs from anger.

One of his examples is quite amusing, if you've been following Feser's blog recently:

In light of these facts, opponents of capital punishment, war, and the like are bound to be tempted to conclude that enormous numbers of their fellow citizens are simply depraved. (It does not occur to them that what is in fact going on is that widespread continued support for the death penalty and for just war reflects a residual grasp of the demands of the natural law.) Frustrated by the persistence and popularity of attitudes they regard as immoral, those of what I am calling a “militant pacifist” mindset are bound to become even angrier at these perceived injustices – with a spiral into wrath and its daughters being the sequel.

Indeed, many people who pose as purveyors of peace and love give the consistent impression that they are Angry and Enjoying It!

"But my friend Maolsheachlann is not a parrot, I am glad to say."

An unlikely sentence from a blog post by my friend Roger Buck, which you can read here, where he promotes the Irish Conservatives Forum and describes a recent visit to Dublin:
Evening time in Dublin, I walk and walk the streets – shuddering. I shudder at the crassness, the commercialism I see all around me. And I shudder at the sight of Irish people now utterly submerged in the rhythms of global culture and capitalism (the two are not easily separated!) whereas even a few decades ago the rhythms would have been far, far more referent not to globalism, but to Ireland herself and to the Church.

I shudder at a Dublin that is now, in terms of culture, so little distinguishable from London or Liverpool or Los Angeles. Dublin that was once the outstanding exception to all those other great Anglosphere cities – now apes them.


The Irish Conservatives Forum is doing well-- twenty-three members and quite a few threads going. I hope it continues into the future.

Minding Frank Duff's Language

I've been reading The Woman of Genesis, a book of essays (which were, I think, all originally talks given to Legion of Mary meetings) by Frank Duff, the founder of the Legion of Mary. It's a fascinating book. Duff had a powerful conviction that Catholicism was the true religion and that Catholics had a duty to persuade everybody of this truth. Some of the articles on other religions almost make the reader inclined to titter nervously and look over his shoulder, they are so unabashedly critical and sectarian.

For the purposes of this post, however, I'm more interested in his use of language.

Frank Duff was very long-lived-- he died in 1980 aged ninety-one-- and he was very active almost up to the end. Furthermore, the articles are undated, so it's hard to tell what year any particular article was written in. Nevertheless, his prose style doesn't seem to have changed much over the years.

I was particularly struck by this paragraph (from an article about addiction), as a good example of his style in general:

Of course, fun can seem fast and furious as long as the drink is flowing. In those circumstances, people imagine themselves to be witty and brilliant, but tape-recordings of such outpourings have proved that they are not elevated and can merit to be called drivel.

Reader, does this strike you as very different from a paragraph that might be written today? It strikes me in this way. Indeed, I found myself smiling a little, as I read it. There isn't a single word in it that any writer or speaker would hesitate to use today, and yet the entire thing seems quaint, stiff, stilted. It reminds me of the sort of English spoken by well-educated, upper-class Indians or Pakistanis.

If someone were to write this paragraph today, I imagine it would read something like this: "We all know that, when someone is drunk, they can think that they're being very witty and brilliant. But, when they hear a recording of what they said, they realize that they were actually speaking drivel."

Even the substance of the paragraph is rather odd to our ears. The detail of the tape recorder seems unnecessary, over-elaborate, over-earnest.

Admittedly, Duff had something of a pedantic and stiff prose style, perhaps due to his having been a civil servant. So some of this was down to his own personality, but not all of it.

I'm not lamenting this change. I'm only remarking it. It's fascinating that language can change so significantly, even when it remains entirely intelligible.

Trying to improve my Irish made me very self-conscious of language usage. I found myself wondering first of all how a native Irish speaker would use a particular word or expression, what would "come naturally" to them. Then I wondered what "came naturally" to me speaking English. Once you find yourself wondering what comes naturally, it's hard to get a hold of it. It reminds me of the occasions that someone asks me for the lift code in the library, and I realize that I can't tell them, though I use it all the time-- I key it in entirely through "muscle memory".

The same is true of my writing style. If I'm good at anything (on which subject I'm agnostic), it's probably writing. But when I think about style I go completely to pieces. It's only when I think about the ideas I'm trying to express that I can write-- presuming I can write at all.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A Joke

A man went to a counsellor in a state of agitation.

"I've realised in the last few days that I've never loved anybody", he says. "I feel like I'm incapable of love."

"OK, well, let's break this down", says the counsellor. "Tell me about your parents."

"I had the best parents in the world. Loving, supportive, concerned...but I never loved them!"

"Well then", said the counsellor, "are you married?"

"I have a beautiful, caring, devoted wife. But I don't love her!"

"What about children?"

"Two beautiful daughters, everything a father could ask for...but I don't love them either!".

The counsellor extends her sobbing client a tissue and says, "I see. Now, I want you to think very carefully and tell there really and truly nobody in your life that you've ever loved?"

The guy sobs, looks rather embarrased, and says: "It's a bit odd, but my wife's mother. I guess I love my wife's mother."

"I see. Anybody else?"

"My wife's sister. I know it sounds bizarre, but I'm fairly sure I love my wife's sister."

The counsellor smiles and says: "You see then, it's not so bad, after all!"

"How on earth can you say that?"

"Have you never heard? 'Tis better to have loved in-laws than never to have loved at all!".