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What is an Imagineer?

Saturday, March 16, 2019

William Reynolds: Sheep, Wolf, or Sheepdog?

I love the movie American Sniper.  Apart from being a great story of American patriotism and heroism, it contains one very insightful quote on human nature, using the imagery of shepherding.  Mr. Kyle is eating a meal with his wife and two sons, and makes the claim that there are three types of people in this world: Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdogs.  Sheep are described as those people who “prefer to believe that evil does not exist in this world.  And if it ever darkened their doorstep they wouldn’t know how to protect themselves.”  He goes on to describe Wolves as those who “use violence to prey on the weak.”  Mr. Kyle finishes his description of humanity by describing “those who have been blessed with the gift of aggression, and the overpowering need to protect the flock.  These men are the rare breed who live to confront the Wolf.  They are the sheepdog.”
An in-depth analysis of this speech (a very inspiring part of the film) is beyond the scope of the following posts.  We do not need to look far to find very pragmatic examples of sheep, wolf, and sheepdog lending themselves to the support of Mr. Kyle’s statement.  For our purposes we assume here the truth of Mr. Kyle’s description of human nature, and turn to the real topic at hand: a look at The Man Behind the Mask.  
Over the next few blog posts (which will be compiled into a paper) I propose to take a look at Mr. William Reynolds, the protagonist in the film The Man Behind the Mask and through observing his actions determine what kind of man he really is: Sheep, Wolf, or Sheepdog.  

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Defending alone

Satan has struck again.

Once again, there has come to light some very tragic events and crimes committed by representatives of the Catholic Church. 
And once again, it has come to light that the Catholic Church was not on its game in dealing with, investigating, and prosecuting the molesters in question.  

I am of course referring to and talking about the most recent Sex Scandals of Pennsylvania priests against young men and seminarians.  

I am not going to spend precious time arguing at length to say why and how these acts are wrong.  Nor am I going to spend time laying out and talking about the crimes themselves: this information is readily available to any who wish to know (and I would add, if you have not read about these crimes you should.  Do not turn a blind eye but be aware of how Satan attacks the Church).

What I AM going to do is briefly exhort my fellow Catholics to stay strong.  This is a ploy of Satan himself to spread dissention among the Faithful, a ploy which has historically proven very effective.  There has been Human error and sin in the Church from its very beginning.  However, these sins and the faults of the Humans within the Church do not make her message and the Sacraments any less valid or less relevant in our own lives.  

The Church has gone through many rough times, and many of these struggles has resulted in a Schismatic break by some of the Faithful.  Well-meaning, justly-angered members of the Faithful like you and me see ourselves (rightly) as soldiers on the front lines of the fight, upholding the Tradition of the Church and remaining Orthodox Christians while the Clergy and the Magisterium of the Church appears to be going the way of the world.  We find ourselves alone, and so we bunker down.  We dig in, holding to what we see as traditional and letting the Church go its own sinful way.  This is exactly what happened so many times, be it the break in Eastern and Western Churches in Catherine of Sienna's time or the break of the Pius X society with the coming of the Novus Ordo and the Liturgical Abuses which ensued in the aftermath.  

The problem is that we as Faithful Catholics do not see what is really at stake here.  These attacks of Satan are not attacks upon the Church Herself or Her teachings.  Satan fought that fight already, and he lost.  These attacks are upon US, the faithful.  Satan's precise goal is to have us feel alone, that we need to uphold and defend the Church at all costs, even if that means leaving Her.  One we see the Truth as dependent on OUR intervention and defense to exist, we place ourselves on a level with God.  And then it is that we are truly alone, for no one is like God.

The Truth does not need our help or defense.  It will continue to exist, and will never be defeated.  We are simply called to adhere to it and bear witness to it.  Do not waver in your witness of the Truth, a Truth which also calls us to adhere to the Church and in obedience to the Pope.  

I am saddened by this turn of events within the Church, as all Catholics should be.  However, let us not forget whose souls are the ones at stake here.  We are the soldiers on the front lines precisely because it is our own souls, yours and mine, which are the prime targets in this fight.  WE are the end game.  

Stay strong, my friends, and keep fighting the good fight.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

The Cartesian Slavery

Many history books claim abolition of slavery as the leading cause for the American Civil War.  Since that time, the world has seen an apparent war on organized slavery, which is seen universally as intrinsically evil in any nation and for any reason; or is it?  Though physical slavery is largely non-existent in a strictly formal sense, we live in a truly servile world: discursive thought and physical toil are enslaved in a utilitarian mindset, lacking the liberating recognition of a transcendental and leisurely purpose.  Knowledge “for its own sake”, excursions into absolute truth as existing in the mind of God are gone: discovery of truth existing outside the realm of man and not contingent on him is forsaken.  The new philosophy of the world is, indeed discursive: it is an excursion for man to find (in a sense to conquer) truth.  Discovery has given way to “creation”, transcendent realities become proximate, and everyday contingencies.  Man, in his independent search for “the truth”, an entity of itself which must be conquered rather than encountered, feels the desperate need for security in himself and in what little knowledge he can gain, if any.  He needs geometric concreteness, scientific knowledge of everything, including his relationships; his mind needs to be allowed occasionally to wander and be free among fantasies, for it grows tired of being weighed down by the truth.  What happened to the liberation provided by thought, to the notion that “the truth will set you free”?!  In this paper, I purpose to explore these diametrically opposed visions of the ancient philosophical pursuit of truth and the understanding of truth held by modernity.  With this in mind, I visit two fathers in their prospective schools of thought: Augustine and Descartes who, while holding very similar foundational ideas (knowledge within the self) and arriving at the very same idea (cogito ergo sum), somehow demonstrate almost stereotypically the two opposing schools of thought.  
Man’s desire and search for knowledge of the truth is self-evident and universal.  For Augustine, this desire for Truth shows itself truly as a desire for God, who is all Truth and in whom we live and derive everything about us.  Central to Augustinian philosophical thought is his question “Yet how can we love what we do not know [namely, God]?”  Knowledge of God (and therefore of Truth) must therefore somehow be innate to man.  This innate knowledge, far from being an excursion or existing within man is merely a form of memory, of re-cognizing things which already exist within the mind of God: “The mind’s task is not to seek for the beholding of an absent self, but to be sure that the self which is present is clearly discerned: not to know itself as previously unknown, but to distinguish itself from what it knows to be another matter.”  Almost as a side note, Augustine observes that even if one were to doubt the existence of his own mind (that is, the mind which enables man to know God, the true purpose and desire of man), he would immediately see that “if he doubts what has made him doubt, he remembers; if he doubts, he understands that he is doubting; if he doubts, he wishes to be certain; if he doubts, he thinks… A man may doubt anything else, but he should not doubt any of these facts; for if they were not so, he could doubt of nothing.”  From this it is clear that Augustinian thinking is an experience of personal encounter and appreciation of the truth, an experience which is inseparable from a personal encounter with God.
Descartes (known primarily today for his famous Cartesian plane and NOT his contribution to Western thought) presents his philosophical process to his readers in a much different light.  Any desire or encountering discovery of truth is left unmentioned; Descartes rather believes knowledge to be merely a matter of formulaic approach which can be attained by all, for “Common sense is the best distributed thing in the world, for everyone thinks himself to be so well endowed with it that even those who are the most difficult to please in everything else are not wont to desire more of it than they have”  Where for Augustine encounter with God and pursuit of His Love was the base and foundation of knowledge, Descartes praises Geometry and mathematics as examples of true and sure knowledge.  From the assumption of “provable” knowledge Descartes derives a proper method whereby all men can attain certain and concrete knowledge of reality.  Descartes too observes that “Thus, after everything has been most carefully weighed, it must finally be established that this pronouncement ‘I am, I exist’ is necessarily true every time I utter it or conceive it in my mind”; but where Augustine almost casually mentions the fact that the mere act of doubting pre-supposes thought, Descartes uses this idea as a foundation for his new philosophy.  This philosophy tries to use this idea as a starting point to gain similar, essentially scientific and certain knowledge of the whole world, including the existence of God.  Cartesian thought assumes the ability of all men to attain certain knowledge of all realities from a proper application of discursive thought, with a proof of self-existence as a foundation.  
The results of these two diametrically opposing views of pursuit of knowledge are seen in both Augustine and Descartes’ reaction to their own discourses prospectively.  Augustine exhorts his reader to join him in leaving “the flesh beneath our feet and rise to the soul, where we may drink of a purer and more limpid spring.”  Truth for Augustine is nothing less than pursuit of a personal encounter with God Himself, which can be attained at long last by a rejection of the carnal bogs in life, until finally that “instant, that flash of vision that touches you with the word ‘Truth’, hold fast – if you can.  But you cannot: you fall back into this familiar world of earthly things."  Where for Augustine the pursuit and contemplation of truth is ultimately a joyful and freeing experience, Descartes finds himself weighed down and confined by his method and perception of knowledge.  He informs his readers that he finds his meditations have, far from elevating his mind, given him the sensation “as if I had suddenly fallen into a deep whirlpool; I am so tossed about that I can neither touch bottom with my foot, nor swim up to the top.”  After long periods, Descartes observes that his mind “loves to wander and does not yet permit itself to be restricted within the confines of truth [emphasis added],” and so he will “just this once allow it completely free rein, so that, a little while later, when the time has come to pull in the reins, the mind may more readily permit itself to be controlled.”  
Augustine is not concerned with proving knowledge, nor are his discourses a formula or method for truth: Augustine is on a journey, a search where “a further ascent still remains for us, a higher realm in which our search is to be pursued…here we may pause – not supposing we have found what we seek [emphasis added], but having found (as seekers do) the place in which to look.”  This journey is a discovery in awe and wonder of God, hidden within ourselves.  The wanderer who embarks on this journey is filled with transcendent joy at the encounter.  This is the end of Ancient philosophy: the embarkation of a journey.  Modernity on the other hand, is a campaign set on conquering knowledge through concrete proofs which constrict the mind to scientific formulas and geometric proofs.  There is no encounter with the truth for modernity: truth is a goal which must be nailed down and moved on from, while at the same time encasing the would-be conqueror in a prison like “a deep whirlpool.”  
Slavery is alive and well in the world, claiming innocent wanderers of all walks of life to its iron grip.  The headmaster of these slaves does not impose his will on them; the slave owner is no foreign lord.  This is a self-inflicted slavery, with a false understanding of knowledge as the chains.  The joy and transcendent freedom offered by Augustine is no more, for it rests in a humble beholding of the truth which stands apart, yet dwells within the heart of man.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

AMC's Ressurection of the Dead

At this point, if someone has not heard of AMC’s smash-hit TV series The Walking Dead they are either a newborn or are probably living without any contact to the outside world, most likely hiding from some alleged Zombie apocalypse and stockpiling their weapons and food (much like the characters in The Walking Dead themselves).  Now in its 9th season with talk of bringing it through to 13 seasons, the series remains immensely popular among Millenials and pre-Millenials alike.  With its premier episode still ranked the single most watched television episode in the world, the story follows ex-sheriff Rick Grimes as he tries to bring his family to safety while fighting off hordes of both the undead and (more often) the living alike.  I tend to think that its popularity is not simply the unpredictable-ness of the story (the screen writers are not afraid to kill off anybody and everybody at any given time, right when you think they wouldn’t dare) or the realism of the “fight” scenes (the show is grotesquely violent at times): I think that the show stays popular because it is not simply intended as a story.  The Walking Dead attempts to present a world as it really is, without the constraints of government or imposed morality.  What is essential to this world?  When the chips are down, what do people hold on to (and more importantly, what gets them killed)?  Well, Religion is definitely not on The Walking Dead’s essentials list: in fact, it has a much more sinister portrayal of Religion than simply not essential in mind.

Set in the backwoods of Georgia, perhaps it is appropriate that Religion has such a prominent place in the culture: after all, Flannery O’ Connor once observed that the South was no longer “Christ centered” but “ is most certainly Christ Haunted (O’ Connor, Mystery and Manners)”-a particularly appropriate observation for a world where the bodily shells of the dead literally haunt the world.  Every person in Rick’s group has had some run-in with God, either by having nowhere else to turn or by being avid Christians themselves.  Those who choose to stay among the believers soon realize that though their Faith might be a nice past time to enjoy by the fire, it has no place “out there”, in the real world.  Those who turn to prayer when there seems nowhere else to turn, are reminded to “I know it's not my business, and feel free to believe in God, but the thing is, you've got to make it okay somehow. No matter what happens. (Maggie Greene, Season 2 Episode 3: Save the Last One)”  Religion does not simply take a back seat, however: it can get you killed, if you are not willing to forsake it now and again to get things done.  

More subtly, The Walking Dead makes the attempt to usurp Religion.  In the early episodes (when Religion was still a viable option for people), Rick finds himself looking for lost child in an old church.  Beginning with I guess you already know I'm not much of a believer. I guess I just chose to put my faith elsewhere. My family, mostly. My friends. My job,” he asks the Crucified Christ for “Some kind of... acknowledgment. Some indication I'm doing the right thing. You don't know how hard that is to know. Well, maybe you do. Hey look, I don't need all the answers. Just a little nudge. A sign. Any sign will do (Rick Grimes, Season 2 Episode 1: What Lies Ahead).  His prayer is answered by his own child getting shot moments later in a horrible accident.  In the later seasons, Rick’s company is joined by a religious minister (Episcopal priest) named Gabriel.  At first Gabriel shows himself to be an utter coward, condemning himself to damnation after shutting his congregation out of his church and causing their deaths.  After they reach what seems to be safety in a community, Gabriel finds enough courage to counsel the community leaders that Rick’s group is like “Satan…he disguises himself as the angel of light (Gabriel Stokes Season 5, Episode 14: Spend).” and none but he (Gabriel) deserves to be let into such a heavenly place.  He is portrayed as nothing short as a demon when a mentally tormented member of the group comes to him for counsel and confession.  Gabriel himself changes, however, and his courage and trustworthiness is proven when he partakes in a battle, after which he proclaims to Rick that he had almost “lost Faith.  But I have found it again.  I have Faith in us.  We will win.  We can do anything (This is a paraphrase, as I cannot remember exactly which episode this is.  The scene is at the end of one an episode in Season 5, I think, or early in the 6th season).”

As a christening blow to the usurpation of Religion, Rick and his group are captured and told that now they belong to a tycoon named Negan (a situation central to the plot of the 7th Season and runs through the 8th).  Negan puts Rick’s willingness to serve him to the test, and tells Rick to take his hatchet and cut off the arm of his own son.  In a moment strikingly similar to the Old Testament’s Abraham and the commanded sacrifice of his son Isaac, Rick’s blow is stopped at the last possible second, only when his service and obedience to this higher power is proven.  I don’t think it is hard to see what analogous role this has the evil Negan playing.

On March 31st, 2013 AMC ran an all-day marathon of The Walking Dead to ramp up anticipation for the season 3 finale.  Herschel Greene, a beloved character killed mid series, states almost in despair: “I can’t profess to understand God’s plan.  Christ promised a resurrection of the dead: I just thought he had something a little different in mind.”  AMC didn’t, though: March 31st was Easter Sunday.  And what better way to celebrate the Resurrection by a 16-episode marathon celebrating undead zombies?

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

What is an Imagineer?

My name is Connor Curley, and I am an Intentional Imagineer.

I find myself too often in solidarity with Saint Paul when he says "For that which I work, I understand not. For I do not that good which I will; but the evil which I hate, that I do (Romans, 7:15)."  It seems non-sense-ical, but my heart and will find themselves turning towards and being captured by things I hate, or things I simply do not want to do.  

If you are anything like me (or most of humanity), you too probably know the feeling.  This passivity towards our own lives, being silent and still while our hearts simply "fall" into a life we do not intend to lead: it makes us weak, perpetuates itself as we harp on our own faults and wonder why things always "happen to me".  How do we take control of our lives?  Intentionality.  

I am a pilgrim, on a path to find myself and meaning in this life.  I did not ask to be born: I was incapable of wanting it.  By the grace of God I have been called forth from my Mother's womb (to whom I owe an eternal debt), and by His grace I discern a path.  I do not seek to remain passive and let the world and my own emotions dictate what I can and can not do.  I do not want to sit and watch every episode of Studio C on YouTube, and then wonder why and bemoan the fact that my job is causing me to put on some jiggling weight: I want to work out, and be both mentally and physically present and up to my work.  I do not want to put off opportunities to socialize with fellow men, and then wonder why I feel lonely and emasculated: I want to seek out opportunities for solidarity, and find legitimacy in my humanity.  I do not want to be distracted by the cares of life and not spend time with those I love and care about, then wonder why it has been so long since I have had a meaningful connection with my Fiance and my God: I want to be mentally present with and for them, to have them share my life and not simply be in it.  This is what I mean by Intentional: seeing myself as a mover and cultivator in my own life, striving after these things which I desire (though knowing that I will at times fail).

So much for my Intentionality.  How am I an Imagineer?

How many of us (men or women) are leading the lives today that they dreamt about when they were children?  I sure am not.  I envisioned myself with a coonskin cap, cut down by ruthless swords as I swung my rifle left and right in a last, desperate attempt to save the fortress from the enemy.  The job I work every day could not be farther from this image: but who I am, the man I saw myself as, he is still alive and is forever growing.

To be Intentional about one's own life pre-supposes actually knowing what you want in the first place.  What do I want? I may not (and probably won't) ever have the ideal situation with every physical thing I would like to have in this world.  What I will have is my imagination.  You have to "dream things out: you set it out in your mind before you, and then you go about making it like you see it in your mind.  If you want a garden, well, I guess you'll just have to dream a garden! (an attempt to quote the book Lantern in her Hand)".  And boy, can I dream!  I dream of slaying dragons, becoming a Mountaineer and wearing a bear hide, of being a true Pioneer.   I slay my dragons every day: I am, in every sense of the word, an Imaginer.  

Now, the subtlety I will point out as a final point is that to be an Imaginer is different from being an Imagineer: the former though indeed powerful is only a response to the reality which is perceived, while the latter is an imagination formed and conducted by a will, not subject to perception and passive sensory intake.  He almost literally "engineers" and shapes what he imagines-he is Intentional.  This is what it means to be an Imagineer.  This is who I am, and who I want to be.