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Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category

donald_trump_august_19_2015_croppedIf the firestorms surrounding Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump were literal, America would long ago have been reduced to cinders.

A 10-year-old video, recently shared by the Washington Post, shows Trump and Billy Bush (of Access Hollywood) making lewd comments about women on the set of the soap opera Days of Our Lives.

Let’s state the obvious first: (more…)

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I got a lot of enjoyment out of Terry Brooks’ novels in high school and college.  His philosophy of fantasy closely resembles (more…)

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As many of you know, Blesséd Teresa of Calcutta — more commonly known as Mother Teresa — is set to be declared a saint this coming Fall.

Take a couple minutes to watch the following interview (really, it’s only about 2 minutes long; this video features the same interview three times in a row, for some reason), in which the great saint shares her beautiful philosophy of life.  And have a few tissues ready, just in case 🙂

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handgunWell we’ve seen several more tragic and senseless shootings these last couple weeks, most notably those at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado and at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, CA.

And with the three-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting fast approaching, dealing with these tragedies casts an even greater pall over our holiday anticipations.

There is no way around it: We’re in the midst of an epidemic.  It has not yet reached the level of a Black Plague, but it’s not inconceivable that it will.

As always, to point to a single cause is surely simplistic and potentially irresponsible.  But there are a number of “currents” in our great cultural ocean that feed into this phenomenon (more…)

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For those of you who weren’t aware, Fr. Robert Barron, whom I’ve admired and followed for years now and whose videos I have often shared on this blog, was recently appointed an auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles.  Hence, Into the Dance extends hearty congratulations to him!

Bishop Barron was one of the commentators on MSNBC’s coverage of Pope Francis’ Mass in Philadelphia, along with Brian Williams, Chris Matthews, and Notre Dame professor Kathleen Sprows Cummings.  In this short segment of the commentary, he offers a very concise, charitable, and brilliant defense of priestly celibacy within the Church.  Take a look!

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For parts 1-3, click here

Ok — so where exactly do the issues we touched on in part 1 figure in the analyses of parts 2 and 3?  Well, let’s take them one-by-one, but going in reverse order:

From the perspective of many in our society, even if these Planned Parenthood videos are true, it is irrelevant.  Fetuses lack autonomy, and their “parts” can be made useful without infringing on the “rights” of the “right” people.

Albino ChildNext, the albinos: In part 1, I talked about the sense we all have of the inviolable dignity of the human person.  This sense is fundamental.  It doesn’t go away when we try to deny or suppress it; but it does require more extreme and intense examples in order to be alerted (much like when we find that the more impaired a person’s hearing, the louder we must shout to get his/her attention).

CecilFinally, there is the affair of the animals.  Inattention to certain classes of human beings and over-attention to the beasts can co-exist, and here’s why: Any time you either add or remove items from a scale on a balance, the other is raised disproportionately high or dropped disproportionately low accordingly.  It’s only natural that this should happen, and I think it helps to explain why in some ancient cultures people worshiped animals while immolating their children in human sacrifices.

Pope Francis 2By contrast, we could all benefit greatly from the human ecology of the current (and, contrary to what many people think, the previous) pope, which ties inseparably a legitimate and loving care for the whole created world with a proper understanding of the great “hierarchy of being” — in which the higher care for the lower, and the joy of the Creator shines through all things.

To those who have stuck with me through all four posts, many thanks.  I guess I just can’t say a whole lot without saying a whole lot, if that makes any sense.

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Acknowledgements

1. “Albinisitic man portrait” by The original uploader was Muntuwandi at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Albinisitic_man_portrait.jpg#/media/File:Albinisitic_man_portrait.jpg

2. “Cecil the lion at Hwange National Park (4516560206)” by Daughter#3 – Cecil. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cecil_the_lion_at_Hwange_National_Park_(4516560206).jpg#/media/File:Cecil_the_lion_at_Hwange_National_Park_(4516560206).jpg

3. “Pope Francis Korea Haemi Castle 19 (cropped)” by Korea.net / Korean Culture and Information Service (Photographer name). Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pope_Francis_Korea_Haemi_Castle_19_(cropped).jpg#/media/File:Pope_Francis_Korea_Haemi_Castle_19_(cropped).jpg

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animal rightsLinks to previous posts:

Part 1
Part 2

Please read these if you haven’t already.  This post won’t make much sense otherwise.

We have amply covered the privilege given to autonomy in the world today, as well as its extension from humanity to the animal kingdom and the accompanying exclusion of human beings in utero.  We might also add usefulness as a core modern value, as the prioritization of autonomy will compel us to look for what is useful to that end (both generally and in each instance).

If we are serious about this worldview, it follows that we must do what we can to ensure the autonomy of each and every creature.

Herein lies the problem: It’s impossible.

There are far too many variables, too many uncertainties, too many “moving pieces” for every creature’s autonomy to be able to flourish without restraint.

In fact, this “ethos,” in its various forms and degrees, is what pits one vs. another — both on the individual and collective levels.  The privilege of autonomy, rather than being progressive, takes us back to the old law of “survival of the fittest,” and in this case the “fittest” are those able to exercise what we understand as autonomy (however widely its degrees vary).

One might argue: “Yes, but the kind of ‘survival of the fittest’ mentality you’re worried about belongs to a more primitive state of mind.  Our model is based on reason and science.”

fighter aircraftThat’s fine, except that the danger in question is not something to which the modern worldview is immune.  It simply works its way into the newer framework in subtler ways, and is perhaps the more dangerous for it (consider, for example, ancient warfare where enemies in arms and pillagers alike would face their opponents and victims, versus a modern warfare that is less bloody, but which allows for the decimation of entire populations without knowing the targets as anything other than coordinates on a grid).

Let’s be clear: We all agree on the importance of preserving and protecting the proper dignity of each creature.  But contrary to what some claim, we cannot rely upon arguments about what is “conducive to progress” (and not to be redundant, but I will remind the reader that our society sees the growth of autonomy as an indispensable feature of progress) to ensure that this happens.  In his book Civilization and Its Discontents, Sigmund Freud opined that the Golden Rule (“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”) is actually counter-evolutionary, as the good of one’s neighbor will often detract from the (immediate) good of oneself.

If it’s dignity we want, we must appeal to a system of values.  And of this I make three basic observations:

  1. When we do this, we go well beyond questions of autonomy and its attendant bedfellow, usefulness.  If you don’t get how this could be the case, consider the Freud allusion above.
  2. A system of values places strictures on our urge to do whatever we please, whether according to the whims of pleasure or some higher motive.
  3. Finally, it affords us certain basic rights that have no connection whatsoever with the “usefulness” or “autonomy” or our existence.  It confers on every human being the privilege and responsibility of personhood, as well as conferring on animals the dignity proper to them.

Ok — in the fourth and final post, we will bring these reflections back full-circle to the topics we looked at in part one.  Thanks for reading.

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Acknowledgements

  1. “Shanghai-monkey” by F3rn4nd0 – File:Shanghai man with monkey.jpg. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Shanghai-monkey.jpg#/media/File:Shanghai-monkey.jpg
  2. “Northrop P-61 green airborne”. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Northrop_P-61_green_airborne.jpg#/media/File:Northrop_P-61_green_airborne.jpg

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