Saturday, December 31, 2011


A man’s character is formed by his habits, and his habits are formed by repeated actions. Human actions, though, proceed from the movement of the will, which is elicited by a judgment on the part of the intellect.

What is the intellect? What is the will? Both are powers of the human soul: the intellect is that power by which we know the essences of things, by which we apprehend reality and make judgments concerning things. The will is the appetitive power which follows upon the work of the intellect and orders the activities of the human person. An appetite is a power by which a creature moves itself to act through the apprehension of some good. If the appetite is purely sensible, then the mere sight or smell of the good in question will impel the creature to act. However, human desires are not purely sensible, but are moderated by a rational appetite: the will. The will is that power by which a person moves himself to act through the intellectual judgment of goodness in some potential state of things. Note, though, that the object of the will’s desire originates in the judgment of the intellect, so that a disordered intellect will lead the will astray, and a disordered will will tend to direct a person down progressively worse courses of action, leading to the development of bad habits and the destruction of character. These are the dangers of vice: the man who sins not only commits some injustice, but also damages his ability to return to the true path.

Now, taste is the quality of a man’s character which by which he is disposed to desire some things and reject others. In common usage we think of “taste” with respect to one’s preference for certain particular sensible delights over others. Perhaps I like bluegrass music, while my friend likes jazz or opera. Taste, however, is nothing more or less than the disposition of one’s will toward the good. The “tempering of taste” is a question in particular of the moderation of our appetites. Temperance is the virtue — widely neglected in all ages, but especially in our own — by which a man is able to see not only what is genuinely good in the things available to him, but desires to attain them in the right measure.

We often think of temperance with respect to the three chief sensible delights: food, drink and sex. Temperance is the disposition to enjoy each of these in its proper place, as determined by the divinely established order of nature and the judgments of a rightly formed reason. Properly speaking, though, temperance — and hence the tempering of taste — is much broader than the basic, necessary, regulation of our enjoyment of these three goods. It includes also the enjoyment of art and entertainment, the individual sense of humor, and the general pleasure or displeasure we find in virtuous activity and the proper ordering of things around us: our own lives, our possessions and pursuits, and our communities.

The neglect of temperance is a grave obstacle to the positive development of character. Without temperance the individual is caught up by every passing fancy and will be prone to overvalue lesser goods at the expense of his own fulfillment. But most visibly, the lack of temperance tends to prevent us from working out any long-term plans: the discipline and self-sacrificial attitude necessary to do great things cannot be present in an intemperate soul, leaving instead a trail of half-hearted attempts and ephemeral bursts of energy.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Two lectures by a certain morals prof of mine on the beatitudes (taken metonymically for the evangelical life in general) and ways of understanding them in moral theology:

First Lecture

Second Lecture

Monday, December 12, 2011


The Bet
by Anton Chekhov

It was a dark autumn night. The old banker was walking up and down his study and remembering how, fifteen years before, he had given a party one autumn evening. There had been many clever men there, and there had been interesting conversations. Among other things they had talked of capital punishment. The majority of the guests, among whom were many journalists and intellectual men, disapproved of the death penalty. They considered that form of punishment out of date, immoral, and unsuitable for Christian States. In the opinion of some of them the death penalty ought to be replaced everywhere by imprisonment for life. "I don't agree with you," said their host the banker. "I have not tried either the death penalty or imprisonment for life, but if one may judge a priori, the death penalty is more moral and more humane than imprisonment for life. Capital punishment kills a man at once, but lifelong imprisonment kills him slowly. Which executioner is the more humane, he who kills you in a few minutes or he who drags the life out of you in the course of many years?"

"Both are equally immoral," observed one of the guests, "for they both have the same object - to take away life. The State is not God. It has not the right to take away what it cannot restore when it wants to."

Among the guests was a young lawyer, a young man of five-and-twenty. When he was asked his opinion, he said:

"The death sentence and the life sentence are equally immoral, but if I had to choose between the death penalty and imprisonment for life, I would certainly choose the second. To live anyhow is better than not at all."

A lively discussion arose. The banker, who was younger and more nervous in those days, was suddenly carried away by excitement; he struck the table with his fist and shouted at the young man:

"It's not true! I'll bet you two million you wouldn't stay in solitary confinement for five years."

"If you mean that in earnest," said the young man, "I'll take the bet, but I would stay not five but fifteen years."

"Fifteen? Done!" cried the banker. "Gentlemen, I stake two million!"

"Agreed! You stake your millions and I stake my freedom!" said the young man.

And this wild, senseless bet was carried out! The banker, spoilt and frivolous, with millions beyond his reckoning, was delighted at the bet. At supper he made fun of the young man, and said:

"Think better of it, young man, while there is still time. To me two million is a trifle, but you are losing three or four of the best years of your life. I say three or four, because you won't stay longer. Don't forget either, you unhappy man, that voluntary confinement is a great deal harder to bear than compulsory. The thought that you have the right to step out in liberty at any moment will poison your whole existence in prison. I am sorry for you."

And now the banker, walking to and fro, remembered all this, and asked himself: "What was the object of that bet? What is the good of that man's losing fifteen years of his life and my throwing away two million? Can it prove that the death penalty is better or worse than imprisonment for life? No, no. It was all nonsensical and meaningless. On my part it was the caprice of a pampered man, and on his part simple greed for money ..."

Then he remembered what followed that evening. It was decided that the young man should spend the years of his captivity under the strictest supervision in one of the lodges in the banker's garden. It was agreed that for fifteen years he should not be free to cross the threshold of the lodge, to see human beings, to hear the human voice, or to receive letters and newspapers. He was allowed to have a musical instrument and books, and was allowed to write letters, to drink wine, and to smoke. By the terms of the agreement, the only relations he could have with the outer world were by a little window made purposely for that object. He might have anything he wanted - books, music, wine, and so on - in any quantity he desired by writing an order, but could only receive them through the window. The agreement provided for every detail and every trifle that would make his imprisonment strictly solitary, and bound the young man to stay there exactly fifteen years, beginning from twelve o'clock of November 14, 1870, and ending at twelve o'clock of November 14, 1885. The slightest attempt on his part to break the conditions, if only two minutes before the end, released the banker from the obligation to pay him the two million.

For the first year of his confinement, as far as one could judge from his brief notes, the prisoner suffered severely from loneliness and depression. The sounds of the piano could be heard continually day and night from his lodge. He refused wine and tobacco. Wine, he wrote, excites the desires, and desires are the worst foes of the prisoner; and besides, nothing could be more dreary than drinking good wine and seeing no one. And tobacco spoilt the air of his room. In the first year the books he sent for were principally of a light character; novels with a complicated love plot, sensational and fantastic stories, and so on.

In the second year the piano was silent in the lodge, and the prisoner asked only for the classics. In the fifth year music was audible again, and the prisoner asked for wine. Those who watched him through the window said that all that year he spent doing nothing but eating and drinking and lying on his bed, frequently yawning and angrily talking to himself. He did not read books. Sometimes at night he would sit down to write; he would spend hours writing, and in the morning tear up all that he had written. More than once he could be heard crying.

In the second half of the sixth year the prisoner began zealously studying languages, philosophy, and history. He threw himself eagerly into these studies - so much so that the banker had enough to do to get him the books he ordered. In the course of four years some six hundred volumes were procured at his request. It was during this period that the banker received the following letter from his prisoner:

"My dear Jailer, I write you these lines in six languages. Show them to people who know the languages. Let them read them. If they find not one mistake I implore you to fire a shot in the garden. That shot will show me that my efforts have not been thrown away. The geniuses of all ages and of all lands speak different languages, but the same flame burns in them all. Oh, if you only knew what unearthly happiness my soul feels now from being able to understand them!" The prisoner's desire was fulfilled. The banker ordered two shots to be fired in the garden.

Then after the tenth year, the prisoner sat immovably at the table and read nothing but the Gospel. It seemed strange to the banker that a man who in four years had mastered six hundred learned volumes should waste nearly a year over one thin book easy of comprehension. Theology and histories of religion followed the Gospels.

In the last two years of his confinement the prisoner read an immense quantity of books quite indiscriminately. At one time he was busy with the natural sciences, then he would ask for Byron or Shakespeare. There were notes in which he demanded at the same time books on chemistry, and a manual of medicine, and a novel, and some treatise on philosophy or theology. His reading suggested a man swimming in the sea among the wreckage of his ship, and trying to save his life by greedily clutching first at one spar and then at another.

The old banker remembered all this, and thought:

"To-morrow at twelve o'clock he will regain his freedom. By our agreement I ought to pay him two million. If I do pay him, it is all over with me: I shall be utterly ruined."

Fifteen years before, his millions had been beyond his reckoning; now he was afraid to ask himself which were greater, his debts or his assets. Desperate gambling on the Stock Exchange, wild speculation and the excitability whic h he could not get over even in advancing years, had by degrees led to the decline of his fortune and the proud, fearless, self-confident millionaire had become a banker of middling rank, trembling at every rise and fall in his investments. "Cursed bet!" muttered the old man, clutching his head in despair "Why didn't the man die? He is only forty now. He will take my last penny from me, he will marry, will enjoy life, will gamble on the Exchange; while I shall look at him with envy like a beggar, and hear from him every day the same sentence: 'I am indebted to you for the happiness of my life, let me help you!' No, it is too much! The one means of being saved from bankruptcy and disgrace is the death of that man!"

It struck three o'clock, the banker listened; everyone was asleep in the house and nothing could be heard outside but the rustling of the chilled trees. Trying to make no noise, he took from a fireproof safe the key of the door which had not been opened for fifteen years, put on his overcoat, and went out of the house.

It was dark and cold in the garden. Rain was falling. A damp cutting wind was racing about the garden, howling and giving the trees no rest. The banker strained his eyes, but could see neither the earth nor the white statues, nor the lodge, nor the trees. Going to the spot where the lodge stood, he twice called the watchman. No answer followed. Evidently the watchman had sought shelter from the weather, and was now asleep somewhere either in the kitchen or in the greenhouse.

"If I had the pluck to carry out my intention," thought the old man, "Suspicion would fall first upon the watchman."

He felt in the darkness for the steps and the door, and went into the entry of the lodge. Then he groped his way into a little passage and lighted a match. There was not a soul there. There was a bedstead with no bedding on it, and in the corner there was a dark cast-iron stove. The seals on the door leading to the prisoner's rooms were intact.

When the match went out the old man, trembling with emotion, peeped through the little window. A candle was burning dimly in the prisoner's room. He was sitting at the table. Nothing could be seen but his back, the hair on his head, and his hands. Open books were lying on the table, on the two easy-chairs, and on the carpet near the table.

Five minutes passed and the prisoner did not once stir. Fifteen years' imprisonment had taught him to sit still. The banker tapped at the window with his finger, and the prisoner made no movement whatever in response. Then the banker cautiously broke the seals off the door and put the key in the keyhole. The rusty lock gave a grating sound and the door creaked. The banker expected to hear at once footsteps and a cry of astonishment, but three minutes passed and it was as quiet as ever in the room. He made up his mind to go in.

At the table a man unlike ordinary people was sitting motionless. He was a skeleton with the skin drawn tight over his bones, with long curls like a woman's and a shaggy beard. His face was yellow with an earthy tint in it, his cheeks were hollow, his back long and narrow, and the hand on which his shaggy head was propped was so thin and delicate that it was dreadful to look at it. His hair was already streaked with silver, and seeing his emaciated, aged-looking face, no one would have believed that he was only forty. He was asleep ... In front of his bowed head there lay on the table a sheet of paper on which there was something written in fine handwriting.

"Poor creature!" thought the banker, "he is asleep and most likely dreaming of the millions. And I have only to take this half-dead man, throw him on the bed, stifle him a little with the pillow, and the most conscientious expert would find no sign of a violent death. But let us first read what he has written here ... "

The banker took the page from the table and read as follows:

"To-morrow at twelve o'clock I regain my freedom and the right to associate with other men, but before I leave this room and see the sunshine, I think it necessary to say a few words to you. With a clear conscience I tell you, as before God, who beholds me, that I despise freedom and life and health, and all that in your books is called the good things of the world.

"For fifteen years I have been intently studying earthly life. It is true I have not seen the earth nor men, but in your books I have drunk fragrant wine, I have sung songs, I have hunted stags and wild boars in the forests, have loved women ... Beauties as ethereal as clouds, created by the magic of your poets and geniuses, have visited me at night, and have whispered in my ears wonderful tales that have set my brain in a whirl. In your books I have climbed to the peaks of Elburz and Mont Blanc, and from there I have seen the sun rise and have watched it at evening flood the sky, the ocean, and the mountain-tops with gold and crimson. I have watched from there the lightning flashing over my head and cleaving the storm-clouds. I have seen green forests, fields, rivers, lakes, towns. I have heard the singing of the sirens, and the strains of the shepherds' pipes; I have touched the wings of comely devils who flew down to converse with me of God ... In your books I have flung myself into the bottomless pit, performed miracles, slain, burned towns, preached new religions, conquered whole kingdoms ...

"Your books have given me wisdom. All that the unresting thought of man has created in the ages is compressed into a small compass in my brain. I know that I am wiser than all of you.

"And I despise your books, I despise wisdom and the blessings of this world. It is all worthless, fleeting, illusory, and deceptive, like a mirage. You may be proud, wise, and fine, but death will wipe you off the face of the earth as though you were no more than mice burrowing under the floor, and your posterity, your history, your immortal geniuses will burn or freeze together with the earthly globe.

"You have lost your reason and taken the wrong path. You have taken lies for truth, and hideousness for beauty. You would marvel if, owing to strange events of some sorts, frogs and lizards suddenly grew on apple and orange trees instead of fruit, or if roses began to smell like a sweating horse; so I marvel at you who exchange heaven for earth. I don't want to understand you.

"To prove to you in action how I despise all that you live by, I renounce the two million of which I once dreamed as of paradise and which now I despise. To deprive myself of the right to the money I shall go out from here five hours before the time fixed, and so break the compact ..."

When the banker had read this he laid the page on the table, kissed the strange man on the head, and went out of the lodge, weeping. At no other time, even when he had lost heavily on the Stock Exchange, had he felt so great a contempt for himself. When he got home he lay on his bed, but his tears and emotion kept him for hours from sleeping.

Next morning the watchmen ran in with pale faces, and told him they had seen the man who lived in the lodge climb out of the window into the garden, go to the gate, and disappear. The banker went at once with the servants to the lodge and made sure of the flight of his prisoner. To avoid arousing unnecessary talk, he took from the table the writing in which the millions were renounced, and when he got home locked it up in the fireproof safe.


Generally worth seeing:
(there are a couple TV shows mixed in, but I'm not going to pick through the list):

 12 Angry Men 4
 30 Rock 4
 84 Charing Cross Road 5
 A Beautiful Mind 4
 A Man for All Seasons 5
 All About Eve 4
 All the President's Men 4
 Amelie 5
 American Beauty 4
 American Experience: Truman 4
 America's Test Kitchen 4
 Andrei Rublev 5
 Annie Hall 5
 Apocalypse Now 4
 Apocalypse Now Redux 5
 Apollo 13 4
 Au Revoir Les Enfants 4
 Away We Go 4
 Babette's Feast 5
 Band of Brothers 4
 Becket 4
 Bedknobs and Broomsticks 4
 Bigger, Stronger, Faster 4
 Breakfast at Tiffany's 4
 Caché 4
 Capote 4
 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 4
 Children of Men 4
 Chinatown 5
 Citizen Kane 4
 City of God 4
 College 4
 Commanding Heights 5
 Cries and Whispers 5
 Dead Man Walking 4
 Doctor Who 5
 Dr. Strangelove 4
 Erin Brockovich 5
 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind 5
 Fantastic Mr. Fox 4
 Ferris Bueller's Day Off 4
 Finding Nemo (Full-screen) 4
 Finding Neverland 4
 Forrest Gump 5
 Full Metal Jacket 4
 Gandhi 5
 Gaslight 4
 Girl with a Pearl Earring 4
 Good Night, and Good Luck 4
 Good Will Hunting 5
 Goodbye, Mr. Chips 4
 Goodnight, Mister Tom 4
 Gosford Park 4
 Groundhog Day 5
 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix 4
 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban 4
 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone 5
 Henry V 4
 High Noon 5
 Hotel Rwanda 4
 Howards End 4
 Ikiru 5
 Inception 4
 Independence Day 4
 Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade 4
 Interiors 4
 Into Great Silence 5
 I've Loved You So Long 5
 Jules and Jim 5
 Junebug 4
 Ken Burns: The Civil War 4
 Kill Bill: Vol. 1 4
 Kill Bill: Vol. 2 5
 Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance 4
 Kramer vs. Kramer 4
 La Strada: Special Edition 5
 Lawrence of Arabia 5
 Little Women 5
 Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring 4
 Lost in Translation 5
 LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring: Extended  4
 LOTR: Return of the King: Extended 5
 LOTR: The Return of the King 5
 LOTR: The Two Towers: Extended 4
 M 5
 Masterpiece Classic: Pride and Prejudice 5
 Megamind 4
 Michael Clayton 4
 Midnight in Paris 4
 My Bodyguard 4
 Network 4
 October Sky 5
 Orange County 4
 Ordinary People 4
 Panic Room 4
 Pan's Labyrinth 4
 Paris, Je T'aime 4
 Patton 4
 Persepolis 4
 Pi 4
 Pleasantville 5
 Ponyo 4
 Proof 4
 Rachel Getting Married 4
 Ratatouille 5
 Rear Window 4
 Rebecca 4
 Rocky 4
 Runaway Jury 4
 Scenes from a Marriage 5
 Schindler's List 4
 Seven Samurai 5
 Shadowlands 4
 Sherlock 4
 Signs 4
 Smiles of a Summer Night 5
 Solaris 5
 Spider-Man 4
 Spirited Away 5
 Spy Game 4
 Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace 4
 Star Wars: Episode III 5
 Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope 4
 Star Wars: Episode V: Empire Strikes Back 4
 Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi 4
 Star Wars: Return of the Jedi 4
 Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 4
 Terminator: Salvation 4
 The 39 Steps 5
 The 400 Blows 5
 The Bourne Identity 4
 The Conversation 5
 The Diving Bell and the Butterfly 5
 The Godfather 4
 The Graduate 4
 The Hobbit 4
 The King's Speech 5
 The Last Days of Disco 4
 The Last Emperor 5
 The Lives of Others 5
 The Magic Flute 5
 The Matrix 5
 The Matrix: Reloaded 4
 The Mission: Special Edition 5
 The Navigator 4
 The Shawshank Redemption 5
 The Silence of the Lambs 4
 The Sixth Sense 4
 The Sound of Music 4
 The Testament of Dr. Mabuse 4
 The Thin Red Line 4
 The Third Man 5
 The Two of Us 4
 Titus 4
 To Sir, with Love 4
 Topsy-Turvy 4
 Toy Story 3 5
 True Grit 5
 Unbreakable 4
 Up 5
 Up in the Air 5
 Volver 4
 Whale Rider 4
 Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? 4
 Wild Strawberries 5
 Yi Yi 5

Saturday, December 10, 2011


Ten points if you know who this is (not that it matters).

Friday, December 9, 2011


The packages should be thoroughly seasoned, (of wood imparting no taste or odor to the bread,) and reasonably tight. The usual method now adopted is to pack 50 pounds net, in basswood boxes, (sides, top and bottom 1/2 inch, ends 5/8 of an inch,) and of dimensions corresponding with the cutters used, and strapped at each end with light iron or wood. The bread should be packed on its edge compactly, so as not to shake.

Bread thoroughly baked, kiln dried, and packed in spirit casks, will keep a long time but it is an expensive method. If bread contains weevils, or is mouldy, expose to the sun on paulins, and before re-packing it, rinse the barrel with whiskey.
Other Traditional Recipes
Army Hardtack Recipe

4 cups flour (perferably whole wheat)
4 teaspoons salt
Water (about 2 cups)
Pre-heat oven to 375° F
Makes about 10 pieces

Mix the flour and salt together in a bowl. Add just enough water (less than two cups) so that the mixture will stick together, producing a dough that won’t stick to hands, rolling pin or pan. Mix the dough by hand. Roll the dough out, shaping it roughly into a rectangle. Cut into the dough into squares about 3 x 3 inches and ½ inch thick.

After cutting the squares, press a pattern of four rows of four holes into each square, using a nail or other such object. Do not punch through the dough. The appearance you want is similar to that of a modern saltine cracker. Turn each square over and do the same thing to the other side.

Place the squares on an ungreased cookie sheet in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Turn each piece over and bake for another 30 minutes. The crackers should be slightly brown on both sides.

The fresh crackers are easily broken but as they dry, they harden and assume the consistentency of fired brick.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Still trying to get over that Enlightenment funk?  Is the Kantian rejection of metaphysics looming over you like chronic stomach problems?  Do you quiver alone at night thinking about Dei Filius and the knowability of God's existence from reason?


Tuesday, December 6, 2011


The link between study and the apostolic aims of the [Dominican] Order was thus clear from the very beginning. The primitive constitutions state: "Our study must aim principally at this, that we might be useful to the souls of others." Blessed Jordan makes this point vividly when, in his encyclical letter of May 1233, he complains that brethren who are uninterested in study, "apart from neglecting their own benefit and depressing their teachers . . . deprive many people of a chance of salvation, when they could have helped them on their way to eternal life if only they had studied properly, instead of being careless about it." The Lives of the Brethren recount the story of a certain friar in the early days of the Order who, because he neglected study for the sake of long prayers and works of asceticism, was accused by the brethren "of making himself useless to the Order by not studying." With his usual clarity, Blessed Humbert of Romans, the fifth master general, sums it up nicely: "Study is not the purpose of the Order, but it is of the greatest necessity for the aims we have mentioned, namely, preaching and working for the salvation of souls, for without study we can achieve neither."


Light-mindedness (levity)

The monk who instead of concentrating on himself looks curiously at others, trying to judge who is his superior and who is his inferior, will see things to envy in others and things to mock.  Thus it is that the light-minded follow their roving eyes and, no longer pinned down by proper responsibility, are now swept up to the heights by pride, now cast down into the depths by foolish envy.  Now the man is consumed by foolish envy; now he grows childishly pleased about his own excellence.  In one mood he is wicked, in the other vain.  In both he shows himself to be proud, because he makes it a matter for self-congratulation both when he grieves to be outdone and when he is pleased to outdo others.  He displays these changes of mood in his speech: Now his words are few and grudging; now numerous and trivial; now he is laughing; now he is depressed; but there is never any reason for his mood.  Compare if you will these two stages of pride [i.e., this and curiosity] with the last two steps of humility [namely, restrained speech and containment of one's interests] and see whether the last does not quell pride and the last but one light-mindedness.  You will find that the same is true for the rest, if you compare one with another.

Monday, December 5, 2011


The Twelve Steps of Humility and Pride
according to St. Bernard and St. Benedict


1. Curiosity about what is not 
one's proper concern.
12.  Containment of one's 
interests, which shows itself in 
a humble bearing and lowered 

2.  Light-mindedness:
chatter and exclamations about
things which do not matter.

11.  Quiet and restrained speech.
3.  Laughing about nothing; 
foolish merriment.

10.  Reluctance to laugh.
4.  Boasting and talking too much

9.  Keeping silent 
unless asked to speak.

5.  Trying to be different: 
claiming special rights.
8.  Regarding oneself as having 
no special rights in the community.

6.  Thinking oneself holier than others.
7.  Thinking oneself less holy than others.

7.  Interfering presumptuously 
with the affairs of others.

6.  Thinking oneself unworthy to take initiative.

8.  Self-justification.  
Defending one's sinful actions.

5.  Confessing one's sins.

9.  Insincere confession.
4.  Patience in the face of accusation.

10.  Rebellion against superiors.
3.  Submission to superiors.

11.  Feeling free to sin.
2.  Desiring no freedom 
to exercise one's will.

12.  Habitual sinning.
1.  Constant watchfulness against sin.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


The first step of pride is curiosity. You can recognize it by the following signs. You see a monk of whom you had thought well up to now. Wherever he stands, walks, sits, his eyes begin to wander: His head is lifted; is ears are alert. You can tell from his outward movements that the inner man has changed. "The worthless man winks with his eye, nudges with his foot, points with his finger" (Prov 6:12ff).  These unusual bodily movements show that his soul has fallen sick. He has grown careless about his own behavior. He wastes his curiosity on other people. "Because he is ignorant of himself, he must go out to pasture his goats" (Song 1:7).

The goats, of course, which signify sin, are rightly called eyes and ears: for just as death entered the world through sin, in the same way sin enters the mind through these windows. Therefore the curious man occupies himself pasturing these, while he does not care to know in what sort of a state he has left his inner self. And truly, oh man, if you should vigilantly attend to yourself, it is extraordinary if you should ever attend to anything else. Listen, curious man, to the words of Solomon; hear, oh foolish one, what Wisdom says. "With all defenses, it is said, guard your heart" (Prov 4:23): so that all of your senses may keep watch over that from which life proceeds. For to what do you retire, oh curious man? In the meanwhile to what do you commit yourself? Why do you dare to lift your eyes to the heavens — eyes that sin in the heavens? Look to the earth, so that you may think of yourself. It will show you to yourself, because you are earth and will pass into the earth.

Yet you might lift your eyes inculpably for two reasons: either so that you may ask for help, or out of devotion. David lifted his eyes to the mountains, so that he might implore aid (Ps 120:1): and the Lord raised them over the crowds, so that he might help them (John 6:5). The one did so wretchedly, the other mercifully — both inculpably. If, taking the time, the place and the occasion into consideration, you too lift up your eyes because of your brother's need, not only do I not blame you: I praise you greatly. For wretchedness excuses it, and mercy commends it. But if you lifted up your eyes for some other reason, then I would call you not an imitator of a prophet or of the Lord, but of Dinah or Eve, or even more so Satan himself. For when Dinah went out to pasture her goats she was snatched away from her father, and her virginity was taken away from her.  Oh poor Dinah! You wanted to see the foreign women (Gn 34:1)! Was it necessary? Was it profitable? Or did you do it solely out of curiosity? Even if you went out idly to see them, you were not idly seen. You looked curiously, but you were looked on with more than curiosity. Who would believe that your idle curiosity, or curious idleness, would not be idle in the future, but pernicious for you, and for your family, and even for your enemies?

And you, oh Eve! You were placed in paradise to work there and guard it with your husband (Gn 2:15), and if you had done what you were told you were to have passed to a better life in which you would not have to work or be concerned about guarding. Every tree of paradise was given to you to eat, except the one which was called the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Gn 2:16). For if the others were good and tasted good (Gn2:9), what need was there to eat of the tree which tasted bad? "Do not know more than is appropriate" (Rom 12:3). For to taste what is evil is not sensible but senseless. Therefore protect what has been entrusted to you, expect what has been promised; avoid what has been prohibited, lest you lose what has been given to you. Why do you look so intently on your death? Why are you always glancing at it? What is the good of looking at what you are forbidden to eat?

"I reach out with my eyes, not my hands," you say. "I was not forbidden to look, only to eat. Can I not look where I like with the eyes God gave me?" To this the Apostle says, "Everything is permissible for me, but not everything is expedient" (1 Cor 6:12). Even if it is not a sin, it is a token of sin. For if the mind had had not been keeping insufficient watch over its own curiosity, curiosity would not have had empty time to fill. Even if it is not a sin, still it is the occasion of sin, and a sign of commission, and the cause of what is about to be committed. For when you are intent upon something, in the meanwhile the serpent slips secretly inside your heart, speaking seductively. He imprisons fear with lies, and reason with flatteries. "By no means will you die," he says (Gen 3:4). He adds to your cares while arousing your appetite; he provokes curiosity, while building up carnal desire. Finally he presents what is prohibited, and obtains submission: he holds out the apple, and snatches away paradise. You drink the venom and will die, and you are about to give birth to those who will also die. Salvation is destroyed, and you have not even finished giving birth. We are born, we die: and for this reason we are born dying: because we who are about to be born have died long ago. Therefore this heavy yoke falls upon all your sons, even up to the present day.

— St. Bernard of Clairvaux, De gradibus humilitatis et superbiae 
(revision of the G.R. Evans translation by me)

Saturday, December 3, 2011



INTELLECT         —      WILL          .

   (1) Apprehension      —      (2) Simple Volition
(3) Judgment of Possibility      —      (4) Intention                     .

(5) Deliberation      —      (6) Consent     .   
(7) Free Judgment      —      (8) Free Choice  .

     (9) Command      —      (10) Performance
(11) Passive Fruition      —      (12) Active Fruition

1.  "Hmm, look at that."
2.  "Wouldn't it be nice if..."
3.  "Well, I could do it..."
4.  "I'm going for it!"
5.  "But how could I bring it about?"
6.  "I'm ready to do what's necessary."
7.  "That's the best way to do it."
8.  "I'm going to do it that way."
9.  [Act! Says the intellect.]
10.  [And the will does it.]
11. - 12.  [And the person rests in the accomplished act.]  (Not entirely sure what the distinction is.)


Trying to work your way out of that enlightenment funk?  Is Kant's presence in your life feeling more and more like an endless philosophical hangover?