Lenten Gameplan, 2019

posted by Mike on March 6th, 2019

Fasting: At last, Facebook has become a miserable enough experience that it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice to give it up. So the likely candidates this year are the old classics: giving up (some) sugar, giving up caffeine, and so on. There are so many fasting fads these days, I might play around with a few, more out of curiosity than spiritual discipline.

Prayer: This year, for the first time in a long time, I’m already doing plenty of praying by myself and with my various communities. My plan is to maintain these, in Lenten form, but not add much extra work.

Reading List: Kugel’s How to Read the Bible (because why not provoke a crisis of faith during Lent?), Hart’s weird New Testament translation (at least the Gospel of John, more if it seems helpful), the Catechism (spread out at around 20 pages per Lenten day, stopping at the nearest chapter/article/section break), and Dorothy Day’s diaries (stopping each day when I’m as inspired or discouraged as I need to be). Lent is 6½ weeks, so that feels like plenty of reading to me. (Looking at the stack, I notice that a bonus Lenten sacrifice may end up being “carrying heavy books.”) In the unlikely event I need to fill more time with reading, I have ebooks of St. Thérèse, Girard’s I See Satan Fall Like Lightning, Spitzer’s How to Find True Happiness, and Pilgrim’s Progress at hand. This might be the perfect Lent to include some books or films on clergy sex abuse, but I am already reading tons on that, believe me.

Scent List: Zoologist’s perfume “Bat,” which Luca Turin observes is built around geosmin, the chemical odor of wet dirt and beets. Maybe the closest thing you’re going to get to ashes, but not incense-y, but not bad. Really only something I’m using on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Lent is not a self-help guide, but about entering Paschal Mystery:

The purpose of Lent, therefore, is a microcosm of the life and worldview of the Christian believer. Knowing themselves to be the sons and daughters of the Resurrection, everything they think, feel, and do is placed in the light and hope of eternity. This gives the disciple of Jesus Christ the strength to forgive an enemy, control their sexual passions, suffer patiently, and selflessly serve others. When the Resurrection is lived and heaven is seen as a real possibility for the righteous, then everything is worth it and everything becomes ordered to it.

Scott Schaeffer-Duffy’s Catholic Worker murder mystery: Murder on Mott Street

posted by Mike on June 3rd, 2018

Longtime Worcester Catholic Worker Scott Schaeffer-Duffy has written a historical-fiction mystery in which “teen detective” Tamar Batterham (aka Dorothy Day’s daughter) teams up with Catholic Worker co-founder Peter Maurin to solve a murder in the New York City of 1941.

Today the book launched at an event at Holy Cross.

I’ve only had time to read the first two chapters of Murder on Mott Street. My review so far: chapter one is a totally legit first chapter to a murder mystery. And I love how Scott closes it with a cliffhanger before devoting the 7 pages of the next chapter to a capsule history of the early Catholic Worker movement.

Sata vuotta sitten – one hundred years ago

posted by Kaihsu Tai on December 3rd, 2017

Pohjois-Haagan veljeshauta
My rough translation of a first-hand account of the Finnish Civil War, from a 1960 book. The citation and a link to the original text is at the end.

On the way to armed struggle

Dr J. A. Pärnänen had been the headmaster of the Workers’ Education Institute [in Tampere] since 1908. He made sure that the lecturers were not only academics with just master’s degrees or mere doctorates, but also professors from universities – occasionally also lawyers. As 1918 approached with all its tensions, he wanted a lawyer to come to explain to the youth about the new Acts on local elections, which were passed after much controversy. The job fell on the secretary of the city council, a young lawyer [the author himself]. Read the rest of this entry »

posted by Kaihsu Tai in Advent, Books, Finland, Hagiography, Weapons | on December 3rd, 2017 | Permanent Link to “Sata vuotta sitten – one hundred years ago” | Comments Off on Sata vuotta sitten – one hundred years ago

Bob Adams: A Theory of Virtue

posted by Kaihsu Tai on April 11th, 2013

There is no liberty that is more important to liberalism than the freedom to form, embrace, criticize, reject, and revise theories of every sort, especially political theories. For this reason it is misguided to suppose the liberal defense of civil liberties is well served by drawing a perimeter of privacy around “comprehensive moral views,” about which disagreement is expected, leaving theories of justice in the public realm, on the other side of the perimeter. It must be expected that in a liberal society political theories, like other moral, religious, and philosophical theories, not only may but will be objects of persistent disagreement. The consensus that a liberal political system certainly needs for its good order will have to be much less theoretical, and perhaps less tidy, than many have supposed. It will involve, most obviously, an agreement on a set of laws, especially constitutional laws, and a sharing of certain customs and habits of political behavior.

Fortunately, such agreement is possible and adequate. Those who have enjoyed the benefits of civil liberties, and the non-violent political participation made possible by democracy, generally recognize the advantages of the requisite agreed arrangements. And, in fact, it is at least as true of any society as it is of a human individual that its integration cannot be the integration of a theory. Even in a society ostensibly governed by an official ideology, most people are likely not to understand the ideology very well; and among those who understand it better, there will probably be implicit if not explicit differences in interpretation. There will also surely be interests and pressures within the society that are by no means in harmony with the ideology.

Robert Merrihew Adams, A Theory of Virtue, ISBN 0-19-920751-8, pages 225 to 226.

posted by Kaihsu Tai in Books, Catechism | on April 11th, 2013 | Permanent Link to “Bob Adams: A Theory of Virtue” | Comments Off on Bob Adams: A Theory of Virtue

Interregnum, relaunch

posted by Kaihsu Tai on March 1st, 2013

Today this blog outlives one whole papacy.

The OSCE has relaunched its magazine as Security Community. Get your free copy here.

posted by Kaihsu Tai in Books, The Papacy | on March 1st, 2013 | Permanent Link to “Interregnum, relaunch” | Comments Off on Interregnum, relaunch

The Grand Harmony

posted by Kaihsu Tai on September 12th, 2012

By chance, a copy of Lee Teng-hui’s The Road to Democracy: Taiwan’s Pursuit of Identity (1999; ISBN 4569606512) came into my possession. In the book, a great deal is made of the former president’s being a Christian. From the Afterword:

… I was able to embrace Christianity because it allowed me to deal with the inner contradictions I had previously struggled in vain to resolve. The moment that is addressed by Christianity is what one might call “reversal of the order of the self and the other.” The most important aspect of this teaching is embracing the God within each of us. By recognizing the inner spirit of God that forgives others through profound love, our tendency to self-centeredness dissipates, and the spirit of love and care to others flourishes.

While I can agree with him on this, I disagree with him on another point. As Lee’s 1996 electoral rival Peng Ming-min put it: Those who risked their lives to cross the Formosa Strait from the continent in earlier centuries … did not do it to extend the territory of China, but to find a new way of life.

Regardless of these disputes, this is really an excuse to post the following ancient Chinese socialist classic, with which Sun Yat-sen and the gentlemen mentioned above could perhaps all agree. It is a text which many of my schoolmates would know by heart. From the Book of Rites at the chapter on ceremonial usages, English translation by James Legge:


When the Grand course was pursued, a public and common spirit ruled all under the sky; they chose men of talents, virtue, and ability; their words were sincere, and what they cultivated was harmony. Thus men did not love their parents only, nor treat as children only their own sons. A competent provision was secured for the aged till their death, employment for the able-bodied, and the means of growing up to the young. They showed kindness and compassion to widows, orphans, childless men, and those who were disabled by disease, so that they were all sufficiently maintained. Males had their proper work, and females had their homes. (They accumulated) articles (of value), disliking that they should be thrown away upon the ground, but not wishing to keep them for their own gratification. (They laboured) with their strength, disliking that it should not be exerted, but not exerting it (only) with a view to their own advantage. In this way (selfish) schemings were repressed and found no development. Robbers, filchers, and rebellious traitors did not show themselves, and hence the outer doors remained open, and were not shut. This was (the period of) what we call the Grand Union.

posted by Kaihsu Tai in Books, Catechism, China, Hagiography | on September 12th, 2012 | Permanent Link to “The Grand Harmony” | Comments Off on The Grand Harmony

Thinking a few steps ahead

posted by Kaihsu Tai on April 27th, 2010

(To appear in Issue 2 of the Oxford Left Review.)

‘One of the most encouraging developments in the emergent intellectual space […] has been a new willingness to advocate the Necessary rather than the merely Practical.’ – Mike Davis, Who will build the ark? New Left Review 61 (January/February 2010)

Political events since mid-2009, especially the parliamentary expenses scandal, accentuated long-standing symptoms in the British body politic, eliciting predictions of doom (in the form of further voter disengagement, among others) and calls for reform. Among these, many an opinion poll suggested the possibility of a hung Parliament, and many a campaign group called for a referendum on reforming the electoral system of first-past-the-post (FPTP). Peter Tatchell outlined the case for electoral reform in the inaugural issue of this Review. Beyond this, the wide Left ought also to think a few more steps ahead. Read the rest of this entry »

A late Lent bibliography

posted by Mike on March 28th, 2010

I’m just now getting into the spiritual and intellectual work I associate with Lent. Barring some quick epiphanies, this work will stretch into the Easter season.

Here are some of the things I’m planning to read and watch. No real curriculum here, just what’s on one man’s shelf.

If anything else comes in handy I’ll add comments or maybe a second post. Probably 2001 (my favorite movie) and Breaking the Waves (my favorite religious film, though not for everybody–I freaked out a friend yesterday just explaining the plot) will find their way onto my screen.

posted by Mike in Books, Lent | on March 28th, 2010 | Permanent Link to “A late Lent bibliography” | 4 Comments »

Just another manic Monday

posted by Kaihsu Tai on February 1st, 2010

At one o’clock Monday morning, I counted the votes to select a parliamentary candidate for the Green Party in the Oxford East constituency, to replace Peter Tatchell who had to stand down due to health reasons. Announcement to follow in due course, soon.

From one o’clock to three in the afternoon, I attended the Green group of councillors to discuss budget proposals for Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council, and election strategies.

From seven to about nine o’clock in the evening, I was glad to be at the launch of the inaugural issue of the Oxford Left Review. There I talked with three journalists (among other radical right-on comrades), from Aamulehti of Tampere, Corriere della Sera of Italy, and Samoa’s Environment Weekly. Very nice people they were.

Here is the table of contents for the inaugural issue of the Oxford Left Review (Issue 1, February 2010):

  • Samual Burt: Equality and Republican Ideals
  • Peter Tatchell: Voter Reform and the Left
  • Stuart White: An End to Labourism
  • Cailean Gallagher: Call to Scottish Labour
  • Matthew Kennedy: The Putney Debates
  • Jeremy Cliffe: A Fourth Way for Labour?
  • Brian Melican: Germany’s Fragmented Left
  • Christopher Jackson: The Return of Keynes
  • George Irvin: Time for a Tobin Tax
  • Kaihsu Tai: The Science of Copenhagen
  • Sophie Lewis: COP15 – Activist’s Perspective
  • Matthew Kennedy: Žižek review
  • Roberta Klimt: Bennett review
  • Noel Hatch: Today’s Lost Generation

Pace Radford, it was typeset in Palatino, to good effect dare I so say. All references to non-L——r party affiliation were cautiously scrubbed, for which I am (to be frank) a bit miffed. Despite that, it was an excellent effort by the editorial team in setting off this worthy initiative.

Near midnight, I refined my letter to the Oxford Times about public ownership of assets, after email-shots to follow up all the interesting discussions I had for the last 24 hours of politicking.

It is amazing that I am not getting paid to do any of this, but certainly it has been more fun than staring at molecules on the computer. Citizenship is a full-time job, and the work of a citizen is never done….

Wisdom against waste

posted by Kaihsu Tai on October 22nd, 2009

貨惡其棄於地也,不必藏於己;力惡其不出於身也,不必為己。 – ‘Lǐ Yùn’ in The Classic of Rites, attributed to Confucius. Translation by James Legge: ‘(When the Grand course was pursued, they accumulated) articles (of value), disliking that they should be thrown away upon the ground, but not wishing to keep them for their own gratification. (They laboured) with their strength, disliking that it should not be exerted, but not exerting it (only) with a view to their own advantage.’

Whoever destroys anything that could be useful to others breaks the law of bal tashchit, “Do not waste.” – Babylonian Talmud, Kodashim 32a (second or third century), quoted in ‘Teachings on Creation through the Ages’, edited by J. Matthew Sleeth M.D., in The Green Bible (2008) San Francisco: HarperOne. ISBN 978-0-06-162799-6.

posted by Kaihsu Tai in Books, China, Environment | on October 22nd, 2009 | Permanent Link to “Wisdom against waste” | 1 Comment »