Friedrich, I understand your point about God,
As you meant it, you are, of course, correct,
but not otherwise.
Only one’s god has the power to destroy, so
we must know when we utter ‘master.’
Have you noticed those little fishes and flags on cars,
the former chrome, the latter blue with streams of blood
making white a color?
I know, I laugh too that they often ride the same beast
as if the God of the former can reside in a patriotic motel room.
A question: Is movement a product of rider or steed?
Thus, I spoke true when I told you I studied religion
at University though my degree was economy.
- Daniel R. Morehead
By Trevor Butterworth
“The word blogosphere has no meaning,” he said from across a folding table vast enough to support the battle of Waterloo in miniature (the apartment owes much to eBay, the Ikea of bohemia). “There is no sphere; these people aren’t connected; they don’t have anything to do with each other.” The democratic promise of blogs, he explained, has just produced more fragmentation and segregation at a time when seeing the totality of things - the purview of old media - is arguably much more important.
“As for blogs taking over big media in the next five years? Fine, sure,” he added. “But where are the beginnings of that? Where is the reporting? Where is the reliability? The rah-rah blogosphere crowd are apparently ready to live in a world without war reporting, without investigative reporting, without nearly any of the things we depend on newspapers for. The world of blogs is like an entire newspaper composed of op-eds and letters and wire service feeds. And they’re all excited about the global reach of blogs? Right, tell it to China.”
Read the entire article.
Several years ago I started working on what I would come to call a hermeneutic of eye contact by which I meant to suggest that particularity matters. [This concept bears similarity to Emmanuel Lévinas' 'encounter with the face of the other,' but also exhibits significant points of divergence.] The Christian call to love neighbors is the call to take the time to come to see the other as neighbor. Its power lies in the explosion of the limited notion of what constitutes the neighbor. Explosions, however, are dangerous and the danger of the call to love one's neighbor is that the call seems to demand universal application. It doesn't. One must reject the notion that the Christian message calls one to love everyone. This rejection makes sense once one realizes that only God can do this, and any human attempt to embody this expectation will necessarily be a movement toward pride. One might ask, "Doesn't God's power in our lives make this possible?" No. Redemption calls us toward God and true humanity, calls us to Christ, but does not change the created structures of finitude which determine our lives.
God need not be cautious. He runs no risks. There is no need for God, out of prudence or anxiety, to forgo any opportunities for loving. For those of us who are less extravagantly endowed, on the other hand, our readiness to love needs to be more mindful and more restrained. This is to say that the attempt to love everyone will necessarily fall flat. One could also say with Aristotle that love, or true friendship, uncommonly occurs.
Perfect friendship is the friendship of men who are good, and alike in virtue; for these wish well alike to each other qua good, and they are good themselves. Now those who wish well to their friends for their sake are most truly friends; for they do this by reason of own nature and not incidentally; therefore their friendship lasts as long as they are good - and goodness is an enduring thing. And each is good without qualification and to his friend, for the good are both good without qualification and useful to each other. So too they are pleasant; for the good are pleasant both without qualification and to each other, since to each his own activities and others like them are pleasurable, and the actions of the good are the same or like. And such a friendship is as might be expected permanent, since there meet in it all the qualities that friends should have. For all friendship is for the sake of good or of pleasure - good or pleasure either in the abstract or such as will be enjoyed by him who has the friendly feeling - and is based on a certain resemblance; and to a friendship of good men all the qualities we have named belong in virtue of the nature of the friends themselves; for in the case of this kind of friendship the other qualities also are alike in both friends, and that which is good without qualification is also without qualification pleasant, and these are the most lovable qualities. Love and friendship therefore are found most and in their best form between such men.More briefly, Aristotle notes, "One cannot be a friend to many people [in the sense noted above]...just as one cannot be in love with many people at once." Love demands particularity and the only universality in the Christian call to love one's neighbor is of being universally open to the possibility of love. It's a call to question those things which would cause one to dismiss another out of hand, or, said differently, it's a call to timefulness. God stands over and redeems time meaning we no longer need to desperately clutch at time as our only hope. We can lavishly take time to stare deeply into others, can listen and offer kindness, and see if love surfaces in time. The work is to be open to the possibility of love, to make space for love to dwell. The hortatory injunction, "Let us love one another," involves a certain practice, a habitus of those things which make love possible (patience, kindness, trust, hopefulness, etc.) Still, this does not move one any closer to that unhelpful, impossible and universalizing expectation that we must love everyone.
But it is natural that such friendships should be infrequent; for such men are rare. Further, such friendship requires time and familiarity; as the proverb says, men cannot know each other till they have 'eaten salt together'; nor can they admit each other to friendship or be friends till each has been found lovable and been trusted by each. Those who quickly show the marks of friendship to each other wish to be friends, but are not friends unless they both are lovable and know the fact; for a wish for friendship may arise quickly, but friendship does not. 
Someone who is devoted to helping the sick or the poor for their own sakes may be quite indifferent to the particularity of those whom he seeks to help. What qualifies people to be beneficiaries of his charitable concern is not that he loves them. His generosity is not a response to their identities as individuals; it is not aroused by their personal characteristics. It is induced merely by the fact that he regards them as members of a relevant class. For someone who is eager to help the sick or poor, any sick or poor person will do.While on the subject of particularity, it is emphatically worth noting that the Christian message is not love. The Christian message is Jesus. Jesus does not come to instruct us on his message of love so that the instructor becomes irrelevant once the lesson is learned. There is no universal concept floating in the ether called love towards which Jesus points. If one wonders what the New Testament means by love, one must look to the life of Jesus. Love as wine, whips, and whores; love as leper, palm leaves, and loaves; love as crèche, cup, and cross. Description trumps definition and when it comes to describing love, these are the Christian descriptions. We have other stories to be sure, but it is from Jesus, God's Word, that all other Christian stories emanate. The particularity of Jesus is the same particularity demanded by love.
When it comes to what we love, on the other hand, that sort of indifference to the specificity of the object is out of the question. The significance to the lover of what he loves is not that his beloved is an instance or an exemplar. Its importance to him is not generic; it is ineluctably particular. For a person who wants simply to help the sick or the poor, it would make perfectly good sense to choose his beneficiaries randomly from among those who are sick or poor enough to qualify. It does not matter who in particular the needy persons are. Since he does not really care about any of them as such, they are entirely acceptable substitutes for each other. The situation of the lover is very different. There can be no equivalent substitute for his beloved. It might really be all the same to someone moved by charity whether he helps this needy person or that one. It cannot possibly be all the same to the lover whether he is devoting himself disinterestedly to what he actually does love or - no matter how similar it might be - to something else instead. 
As I have said elsewhere, theological discussion or argument is challenged when there is not a common life of prayer and eye-contact. By praying together, we embody the displacement of 'my will' as the determining reality of our lives. We share one another's pains and areas for growth. This makes grandstanding less likely and asks each person to be sensitive to one another's stories, wounds, and gifts. Theology is best discussed with those with whom we have that bond. Without that bond, we must be very careful, and slow to speak. In love we come see the other as our neighbor, one whose well-being is important to us for the other's own sake. This coming-to-see requires eye-contact, attendance to the particularity of the other. Theological arguments on blogs, or in print, insofar as they often lack a shared life of prayer and eye-contact, are ripe for abuse. With those with whom we do not share these bonds or even with those from whom we are separated but already have a claim on our affections, we must be careful. In this case, we can engage in theological discussion as a mode of repentance for our separation. This repentance, which seeks to overcome the distance as best as possible, should take the form of seeking to understand the other and asking questions more than sharply countering another's position, both as a means of protecting the future and being open to the possibility of love. Let's not allow the possibility of love to close between us as a result of the distance between us. We will, after all, meet again some day. Let us love one another.
 Harry G. Frankfurt, The Reasons of Love (Princeton: Princeton UP, 2004), 62.
 Aristotle references come from Nichomachean Ethics, book VIII.
 Frankfurt, 43-44.
You know the rules: AYT selects a song he loves, you listen, you comment on the song. Simple enough.
This week's single:
Some People Ride The Wave
by Devendra Banhart
Well, it was cold a couple nights ago here in the District and I climbed out a window to have a smoke. When I came back in, I decided I was done. My available housemates and I had a cigarette cutting party. So, no smoking...at least for a while. Today is: Smoke-Free Day 3.
I felt what I often do when asked to lead in an ecumenical space. Do I charge ahead full-bore ECUSA? Or, do I invite people to learn from my own tradition? I refuse to offer ambiguous prayers to some unspecified higher-power. At the same time, I'm not prepared to ask a Buddhist to join in a Trinitarian prayer. My solution: Perforated Meditation. Perforated meditation differs from, say, guided meditation insofar as it doesn't have as explicit a destination in mind. It asks only to allow small interruptions into whatever practice of meditation, prayer, silence with which a person may be most comfortable.
[The following particular meditation was for a particular community made up of particular members. I am aware, of course, that Perforated Meditation is by no means a perfect solution since I am still selecting what perforates the time and there are, for example, certain strands of Buddhism which don't practice meditation and which would find the cognitive elements of this particular meditation disruptive.]
If you're interested, you may download and print out this particular perforated meditation. It was designed to be a 30 min. meditation. So, if you wish, set aside 30 min., print out the .pdf file (which includes a blank cover and back page for a reason), and every five minutes or so turn a page. If you desire, read the words. If you desire to linger, do so, it is after all your time.
A tantalizing message from The Mexican arrives in the inbox of America's Young Theologian:
Though sounding like a typical birthday invite, to trained ears this is a call for help. Only three obstacles stand between AYT and a Texas birthday party: 3 days, 1400 miles, and the need for secrecy. The reunification of the NAFTA Crime Syndicate, dissolved temporarily after operations in Germany, is too tempting, an opportunity too important to disregard. Since The Mexican and AYT had been photographed together in Philadelphia in November, the risks of contacting The Mexican directly are too high. AYT places a phone call to "The Crazy Canuck," an expert in procuring transportation and a safe house. All logistics point toward a successful operation.
Turning 27 and having lived in the Republic for over 3 years. It's time for a Lone Star Party. Put on your boots, Wranglers, and Stetsons and come on over. There will be plenty of Lone Star tall boys and various other beverages. We will be grilling before hand, so come by early and then hang out until the morning hours.
Operation Lone Star begins with a commercial flight from Washington Dulles to Houston's George Bush Intercontinental. An "intercontinental" airport? One gets the feeling Texas is compensating for something. Regardless, the NAFTA Crime Syndicate involves three international characters, but it seems fitting that an "intercontinental" airport would bring them together since the long arms of the NAFTACS stretch well beyond North America. AYT arrives a day in advance under dark skies; a noticeable chill takes hold of this Texas oil town.
AYT steps unobserved into the waiting automobile driven by The Crazy Canuck. The first order of business is food, and then shelter for the night. Refreshed by food and friend, AYT and his Canadian counterpart review the plans for the following morning.
The Mexican, unsuspecting, has been lured into a 08:00 meeting by a duplicitous tale woven by The Crazy Canuck. He thinks a high school friend of The Canuck is arriving to discuss the study of religion at Rice University, where The Mexican happily resides in the guise of a graduate student. "Steve," the mythical high school friend, apparently has family in Houston and a busy schedule. The Mexican acquiesces to this early morning interruption.
After a night of sleep (under a heater that overcompensated for the chilled Texas night), The Canuck and AYT depart for their rendezvous. The Canuck enters Empire Cafe, a once-gritty Montrose grotto that now boasts a funky vibe, flanked by AYT. Within Empire Cafe, surrounded by mustard colored walls and provocative portraits, The Mexican rises from his wooden table. Spotting AYT's signature jacket, The Mexican's gaze quickly morphs from early morning malaise into disbelief and amazement. With that, the first objective of Operation Lone Star is accomplished; The NAFTA Crime Syndicate is reunited.
Now the combined powers of the NAFTA Crime Syndicate could focus on the mission at hand: properly celebrating a 27th birthday. All schedules and bets are off, the mission is on.
The threesome coordinates watches and agrees to meet at 11:30a on Rice University's campus at the underground bar Valhalla (Old Norse Valhöll, "Hall of the slain"). The morning passes and all three make their way to a particular door beneath Keck Hall's front steps.
What follows can be described best through images:
The details of Valhalla cannot be fully recounted, but it is worth noting that the price of a Lone Star draft is 85¢. There are Valhalla characters that deserve their own descriptions. For example, there's the crazy-haired old man that walks in and immediately walks behind the bar to procure a pitcher of beer and then places it in the microwave so as to commence with chugging practice. Such details would supply narrative texture, but not plot development. The real question is: Will AYT's four beers before 2pm compromise Operation Lone Star?
[A special thanks at this point goes out to The Canuck for picking up AYT's Valhalla tab.]
It's true that this cellared rendezvous probably was the cause of AYT's nap, but by 8pm the beer had been obtained—Lone Star tall boys, cans, and bottles, the charcoal started, music selected, speakers arranged, and boots and hats on.
They say that party is a success if there are friends and good cheer, a little dancing and wrestling, and plenty of beer.
and Operation Lone Star too,
We salute The Mexican,
Happy Birthday to you!
You came upon me carving some kind of little figure out of wood and you said, "Why don't you make something for me?"
I asked you what you wanted, and you said, "A box."
"To put things in."
"Whatever you have," you said.
Well, here's your box. Nearly everything I have is in it, and it is not full. Pain and excitement are in it, and feeling good or bad and evil thoughts and good thoughts—the pleasure of design and some despair and the indescribable joy of creation.
And on to of these are all the gratitude and love I have for you.
And still the box is not full. 
Ad Astra Per Alia Porci
 From the dedication of Steinbeck's East of Eden. Throughout his life Steinbeck signed his letters with his personal "Pigasus" logo, symbolizing himself "a lumbering soul but trying to fly." The Latin motto Ad Astra Per Alia Porci translates "To the stars on the wings of a pig."
"Well my ship's been split to splinters and it's sinking fast
I'm drownin' in the poison, got no future, got no past
But my heart is not weary, it's light and it's free
I've got nothin' but affection for all those who've sailed with me"
From "Mississippi," written by Bob Dylan, recorded by Sheryl Crow in 1998 and recorded by Bob Dylan in 2001. Dylan's recording is better.
(L to R: Captain Inertia, AYT, The Mexican)
This photo, taken in late November in Philadelphia, shows the converging of two narrative worlds. Officials were carefully watching such movements at this year’s annual gathering of AAR. On the condition of anonymity, one commented, "Any time you see operatives like this in the same room, we're concerned. It's potentially explosive. It shows that these relationships are not simply a European or North American phenomenon, but global in reach."
Click Here to Read the Article from The Nation.
This is a long article, but a richly rewarding one of intellectual history. It asks AYT's politically inclined friends to wonder, "What does the United States' assimilation history/myth do when the United States becomes the largest foreign policy power broker?"
For those with whom AYT spent a summer in Freiburg:
"In 1928 Levinas traveled to Freiburg to study with Husserl. But his enthusiasm for the author of Philosophy as a Rigorous Science waned quickly. In Levinas's view Husserl's philosophy, like that of Descartes, remained too beholden to the paradigm of the ego, or "consciousness." What interested Levinas was a series of existential concerns that transpired outside the parameters of consciousness. Soon he was introduced to Heidegger, and his allegiances shifted entirely. As Levinas put it: "I had the impression that I went [to Freiburg] thinking to visit Husserl and found Heidegger instead."For AYT's theologically-minded friends, who sometimes need a carrot to read philosophy:
In order to decipher the "origins of the Other," [Samuel] Moyn suggests we examine instead the 1920s German Kierkegaard revival, as represented by Karl Barth's "dialectical theology." We know that Levinas avidly read Barth during the 1920s and '30s. In steadfast opposition to the secularizing vogue of historical biblical criticism, Barth reconceived divinity, in Moyn's words, as "qualitatively different from finite, everyday objects." As "Other," God is "'transcendent' and opposed to the immanent." As Moyn perceptively concludes: Despite the philosopher's manifold protestations to the contrary, "Levinas may never have given up the habit--the hankering for God's command that he merely internalized to the human realm--of theology."Most of all, AYT had Abby in mind while reading this article; she borrowed Lévinas from AYT's library and an affection for Lévinas lingered when the books were returned.
From his obituary:
"The consequences of this fame were to exhilarate him, to involve him in profound grief, to engage him in fierce controversy, to turn him into an embittered fugitive from the public, to accentuate his individualism to the point where he became a loner, to give him a special sense of his own importance, to allow him to play an enormous role in the growth of commercial aviation as well as to be a figure in missile and space technology, to give him influence in military affairs, and to raise a significant voice for conservation, a concern that marked his older years."
Moral to the story: Be careful what you do when you are 25 years old.
This week's song:
Love Love Love
by The Mountain Goats
Of course, if you already have The Mountain Goats' album The Sunset Tree, you can play for free. Alternatively, if you'd like to play, but $1 is too steep, email me.
This is the view through my window in DC. Sometimes I climb through it and sit on the roof of the oriel window of the floor below. This is my perch, my place to be alone, to smoke a cigarette, or to simply observe.
A poem follows (written in Germany during the summer of 2005) on a related subject:
I Know Why Birds Like a Perch
I know why birds like a perch,
somewhere between sky and earth,
unbothered by the pedestrian’s feet
yet not too far from a world to greet
A place to sing morning songs,
or in sublimity rest when days prove long,
so too I should like a balcony
to light, to await the food of imagery
- Daniel R. Morehead