Silence and solitude

In this age of instant celebrity, regardless of merit (or lack of it), of Facebook and Twitter by which everyone imagines himself a star, of publicly airing views without contemplation or discipline, when people's actions and thoughts are disjointed and incoherent, when the fake is preferred over the real thing, in an age when unrestrained displays of emotion is the norm, one can sometimes think that the lunatics have taken control of the asylum. These words, however, do provide some solace that a little sanity is still out there:

"When you keep going anxiously to the mailbox in the hope that someone 'out there' has thought about you; when you keep wondering if and what your friends are thinking of you; when you keep having hidden desires to be a somewhat exceptional person in this community; when you keep having fantasies about guests mentioning your name; when you keep looking for special attention from the abbot or any one of the monks; when you keep hoping for more interesting work and more stimulating events – then you know that you haven’t even started to create a little place for God in your heart.

When nobody writes anymore; when hardly anyone even thinks of you or wonders how you are doing; when you are just one of the brothers doing the same things as they are doing, not better or worse; when you have been forgotten by people – maybe then your heart and mind have become empty enough to give God a real chance to let his presence be known to you." (from The Genesee Diary by Henri Nouwen)

A Catholic intellectual

Here's a New York Times profile on Robert P. George, Princeton professor of law and Catholic thinker:

"At the center of the event was Robert P. George, a Princeton University professor of jurisprudence and a Roman Catholic who is this country’s most influential conservative Christian thinker. Dressed in his usual uniform of three-piece suit, New College, Oxford cuff links and rimless glasses­, George convened the meeting with a note of thanks and a reminder of its purpose. Alarmed at the liberal takeover of Washington and an apparent leadership vacuum among the Christian right, the group had come together to warn the country’s secular powers that the culture wars had not ended. As a starting point, George had drafted a 4,700-word manifesto that promised resistance to the point of civil disobedience against any legislation that might implicate their churches or charities in abortion, embryo-destructive research or same-sex marriage."

For copy of the Manhattan Manifesto, click here. Sign up and make it your Christmas gift to your kids and loved ones.


Olaf: the other reindeer

. . . is the topic of my Trade Tripper column in this Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld:

Got to thinking about this reindeer Olaf. He’s "the other reindeer." And the one that exposes the darker side of Santa’s entourage, the price of fame, etc. The fact that these reflections come with dollops of double blue Stolich (or was it the half gallon of FIC’s durian ice cream?) does not detract from the pointed grimness of the story that is Olaf.

Everybody knows the eight reindeers: Dasher (the dashing one), Donner (who directed "Superman 2"), Comet (the athletic one), Cupid (well ... we know where his talents lie. Thus, the term "horns on a reindeer"), Dancer and Prancer and Vixen (the triumvirate who produced Queer as Folk and the majestic, sublime, classic -- simply no adjective could do justice to -- The L Word), and Blitzen (the secretive reindeer in charge of Santa’s security).

And then, of course, the most famous reindeer of them all: Rudolph. The origins of Rudolph are as murky as Blitzen’s activities. There is that famous Rankin/Bass hagiography of Rudolph, projecting him as the warm cuddly friend of Clarice, the female reindeer. The movie conveniently forgets that Rudolph was previously known as Rudolf, who in his wild youth, relentlessly dealt in drugs, hence his lifelong friendship with Sam the Snowman (and the movie conveniently brushes aside the reason why he is called "the Snowman"; the movie The Falcon and the Snowman was based partly on his exploits as a turncoat for the Russians. Sam would later sue the Washington Post for libel but the courts threw out his case).

In any event, these reflections are with regard to Olaf. Where is he now? Nobody knows. All we know is that, perhaps in trying to hide common fears relating to globalization and the immigrant influx into the North Pole community, "he used to laugh and call [Rudolph] names," even to the point of excluding him from "reindeer games." Rudolph, however, was the last person Olaf should have antagonized. Rudolph relentlessly read the 48 Laws of Power and, which is even more impressive, actually understood it and got the joke at the end of Law 48. Afterward, he decided to watch marathons of 30 Rock, while eating garlic peanuts. And plotting continuously.

It was Santa who gave him that chance. All of us know that in one "foggy Christmas eve," Rudolph, aka Rudolf (nicknamed in his Siberian hometown as the "Russian Carlito Brigante"), got his break. After that, the rest of the reindeers had no choice but to love him, even to the point of "shouting out with Glee" (Glee being the PR consultant hired by Rudolph to burnish his image and hide his past).

Anyway, from that point, there would be no talk of the ruthless mobster that is Rudolf. From now, it would be Rudolph, the shy reindeer. With the media machinations of Glee (Rudolph would even publish two bestselling books ghostwritten by Glee: The Tipping Blink and The Audacity of the Assault on Reason) and the somewhat unorthodox methods of Blitzen, we came to accept Rudolph as going down in "history." It may have been a slip, nevertheless, but when Bart Simpson sang the Rudolph song, when he got to the part "you’ll go down in history," he added "like Attila the Hun." It was at that point that Homer started choking him. Was Homer under Rudolph’s payroll? Or had Blitzen gotten to him?

Santa (aka St. Nicolas, aka alleged senior Coke executive) would still occasionally use Rudolph, always in "foggy" nights, in cohorts with the shady Blitzen. The rest of the time ... well ... reportedly Rudolph gets into his drunken haze, womanizing and gambling, forgetting that Clarice is back home turning into a raging alcoholic, until Santa would get Blizten to come for him and use his special "red nose" talents. Glee, of course, would then be ready with the press releases and photographs, lauding the "heroic" accomplishments of Rudolph.

But of Olaf, we know nothing of anymore. Some say he went into hiding, terrified of what Rudolph might do by way of vengeance. Others believe he has merely reinvented himself, composing Lady Gaga’s hit "Poker Face" to counter the popularity of Rudolph’s jingle. Historians would do well in getting to the bottom of Olaf’s story. After all, the world benefited from knowing what a bare-faced liar Obi Wan Kenobi is (nobody in his right mind would think that the words "I ... hate ... you ...," uttered by someone suffering from incredible lava burns after a vicious light saber duel, are meant to imply "your father wanted you to have this [light saber]).

Like any of mankind’s greatest mysteries: the Marie Celeste, the Yeti and Loch Ness monster, the existence of the remains of Noah’s ark, the qualifications of Noynoy, uncovering the fate of Olaf, the other reindeer, should serve as a challenge to everyone.

That’s it for 2009. A Merry Christmas and a better New Year to all.

Pope Benedict on laws

Pope Benedict XVI, wisely and correctly, speaking on why natural law must guide positive law:

"... only those laws are equitable that protect the sanctity of human life and reject the legalization of abortion, euthanasia and limitless genetic experimentation, those laws that respect the dignity of matrimony between a man and a woman, that are inspired in a correct secularity of state -- secularity that always includes the protection of religious liberty -- and that pursue subsidiarity and solidarity at the national and international level.

If not, what John of Salisbury calls the 'tyranny of the sovereign' or, what we would call 'the dictatorship of relativism,' ends up taking over -- a relativism that, as I recalled some years ago, 'recognizes nothing as definitive and that has as its measure only the self and its desires' (Misa pro eligendo Romano Pontifice, homily, April 19, 2005)".

For a full text of the translation of the address Pope Benedict XVI gave last 16 December 2009 at the general audience in Paul VI Hall click here.


Tea with the TT: Sherlock Holmes

. . . is the topic of my Trade Tripper column in this Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld. Excerpt:

"Considering he has had occasion to work on cases involving high international politics, what does he think of the Philippines? 'Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself; but talent instantly recognizes genius,' he says quite enigmatically. He was getting bored. I ask if there is anything he wishes to add. 'Yes,' he said with a twinkle in his eye, 'to the curious incident of Noynoy Aquino’s record before he ran for president.' So what is it that Noynoy did before running for president, ask I. 'That,' he says, stubbing his cigarette and taking leave, 'was the curious incident.'"


64 squares

. . . is the topic of my latest Trade Tripper column in this Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld. Excerpts:

"19. e5! Qxa1+ 20. Ke2 Na6 My personal favorite is Tigran Petrosian. His penchant of eliminating chance and decimating his opponent’s moves is really quite interesting. Prophylaxis is cool. Although the sharp aggressive style of Alekhine is profoundly fascinating as well. I’ve always had the highest respect for people fanatical about their devotion to their profession and Alexander Alekhine is certainly one of them. "What I do is not play, but struggle," he was once heard saying.

21. Nxg7+ Kd8 22. Qf6+! Nxf6 Filipino Wesley So just beat Ivanchuk and Gata Kamsky. His victories represent the best of Filipino achievements. It demonstrates our capability for intellect and mental toughness, and the benefits of having our creativity focused by discipline and method. If the Philippines doesn’t support and nurture this kid, then this country has truly lost its way."

Unfortunately, as reported in the New York Times:

"Among the players who lost in Round 4 were Wesley So of the Philippines, No. 59, who had beaten Vassily Ivanchuk of Ukraine, No. 6, in Round 2 and then Gata Kamsky of the United States, No. 27, in Round 3. Kamsky was the defending champion, so his defeat was somewhat surprising, but less than Ivanchuk’s, which was shocking and left Ivanchuk so despondent that he reportedly briefly considered retiring (an outburst that has added to Ivanchuk’s reputation as a mercurial person). So lost to Malakhov in a playoff, but he is only 16 and is clearly a rapidly rising star."

Clearly, the Philippines has to take care of So, otherwise other countries (such as the US or China) will. Who knows, they may even perhaps offer citizenship to him. And we would have lost another jewel to another country.