Thursday, October 28, 2010

"Not everyone grows to be old, but everyone has been younger than he is now."

The spooky poem of the week is compliments of one of the great English poets, John Donne!

"The Apparition" by John Donne

When by thy scorn, O murd’reuses, I am dead
And that thou think’st thee free
From all solicitation from me,
Then shall my ghost come to thy bed,
And thee, feign’d vestal, in worse arms shall see;
Then thy sick taper will begin to wink,
And he, whose thou art then, being tir’d before,
Will, if thou stir, or pinch to wake him, think
Thou call’st for more,
And in false sleep will from thee shrink;
And then, poor aspen wretch, neglected thou
Bath’d in a cold quicksilver sweat wilt lie
A verier ghost than I.
What I will say, I will not tell thee now,
Lest that preserve thee; and since my love is spent,
I’had rather thou shouldst painfully repent,
Than by my threat’nings rest still innocent.

Today is my favorite author's birthday. One of his pithy lines is being used to title this post. Evelyn Waugh was a British satirical writer whose prose is wicked good. I am a particular fan of Scoop, The Loved One, Vile Bodies and Brideshead Revisited. He converted to Catholicism in 1930 and it caused a big hullabaloo in England.

Joseph Pearce wrote in "Evelyn Waugh: Ultramodern to Ultramontane":

The paradox was both perplexing and provocative, prompting the Express to publish two leading articles on the significance of Waugh's decision. Finally, three weeks after Waugh's controversial conversion, Waugh's own contribution to the debate, entitled "Converted to Rome: Why It Has Happened to Me," was published. It was given a full-page spread, boldly headlined.

Waugh's article was so lucid in its exposition that it belied any suggestion that he had taken his momentous step lightly, or out of ignorance. He dismissed the very suggestion that he had been "captivated by the ritual" of the Church, or that he wanted to have his mind made up for him. Instead, he insisted that the "essential issue" that had led to his conversion was a belief that the modern world was facing a choice between "Christianity and Chaos":

"Today we can see it on all sides as the active negation of all that Western culture has stood for. Civilization — and by this I do not mean talking cinemas and tinned food, nor even surgery and hygienic houses, but the whole moral and artistic organization of Europe — has not in itself the power of survival. It came into being through Christianity, and without it has no significance or power to command allegiance. The loss of faith in Christianity and the consequential lack of confidence in moral and social standards have become embodied in the ideal of a materialistic, mechanized state . . . It is no longer possible . . . to accept the benefits of civilization and at the same time deny the supernatural basis upon which it rests."

Waugh concluded by stating his belief that Catholicism was the "most complete and vital form" of Christianity.

The debate continued in the next day's edition of the Express with the publication of an article by a Protestant member of Parliament, which was followed, a day later, with an article by the Jesuit Fr. Woodlock entitled "Is Britain Turning to Rome?" Three days later an entire page was devoted to the ensuing letters. Seldom has a religious conversion prompted such a blaze of national publicity.

I really love the posed choice of picking between Christianity and chaos. Fr. Fulton Sheen used the same comparison a year later, in 1931, when he wrote, "America, it is said, is suffering from intolerance-it is not. It is suffering from tolerance. Tolerance of right and wrong, truth and error, virtue and evil, Christ and chaos."

I also enjoy this excerpt from one of Waugh's letters to his future wife Laura. He is trying to convince her to marry him. He wrote, 

"I can't advise you in my favour because I think it would be beastly for you, but think how nice it would be for me. I am restless; moody; misanthropic; lazy and have no money except what I earn and if I got ill you would starve. In fact it's a lousy proposition. On the other hand, I think I could do a Grant and reform; become quite strict about not getting drunk and I am pretty sure I should be faithful. Also there is always a fair chance that there will be another bigger economic crash in which case if you had married a nobleman with a great house you might find yourself starving, while I am very clever and could probably earn a living of some sort somewhere."

This weekend is UC's Homecoming! Saturday will be a long day of getting up early to beat the traffic to Clifton, breakfast at the Theta house (sister's sorority), popping by Theta Phi (mom's sorority), then hanging out at the SAE house (my brother's/ dad's/ cousins'/ uncles' fraternity) during the parade, which is conveniently located next door to Theta and in the heart of campus. The parade starts at 9 a.m. My parents were Homecoming Chairs together at UC during their undergrad years, which is one of the many reasons our family goes every year. Then the football game against Syracuse kicks off at noon! Dad got tickets, so I am excited. After that, my parents' friends and their families will be coming over to our house. Sunday is Halloween and is my yongest brother's birthday. He's having his first girl-boy party. So much is ado about the Robster casa!

Have a wonderful weekend and end of October!

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