In my mother’s kitchen, and taped to the door of a cabinet where cups and plates are kept, is a laminated Catholic Diocese card. The card is divided into two distinct sections. The top part is titled The Corporal Works of Mercy. The “works” are ministrations to be made and observations to be kept in caring for –to name some of them–the poor, the sick, and the dead. The lower part describes The Spiritual Works of Mercy. This section addresses, among other items, forgiveness toward the wretched and prayers for the dead. The Diocese card made it clear that Mercy took the form of both Thought and Deed. Earlier this week, after a spate of cool, damp weather had broken and given way to a
[Authors Note: With the calamity-induced emphasis on teaching remotely, I remembered, fondly as with special friendships or past celebrations with family, a short story I wrote about teaching online and perhaps about “connecting” in that context. It occurred to me to dust it off and share it with readers of this blog. Because it is longer than the usual fare, I attach the PDF.] MORE CERTAIN THAN HOPE10
NOT BECAUSE I JUST EMERGED from long hours indoors during the Wisconsin winter, but rather because of the self-quarantine brought on by the Digital Age and social media, I find it ironic that many people today will easily adopt to their new lives under government-ordered quarantine: after decades of mass human migration toward self-confinement inside the virtual world, a decree, for many, would be a mere formality. Meanwhile, in the same fashion that a virus in your computer can completely disrupt a computer network, the novel coronavirus shut down society. But that’s not the point. The point is whether or not the virus can be removed and the network and data saved relatively quickly, or whether the equipment is useless and the data lost.
IN EVERY introductory economics class, it becomes clear from early on that specialization is the source of greater efficiency or productivity; in the division of labor and in free trade, the secret sauce is “specialize.” In other words, everyone should stop doing what they used to do and begin to do only the things they do best. It even works if they only do the things they do least poorly. This sounds great and all the textbooks have nice charts, pictures, and examples of how much we all benefit from this miracle. The books almost insult us for thinking that we might do things any other way. As a result of the consistent application of these principles over time, a country or an integrated global
IMPORTANT SPIRITS FROM OUR PAST summoned their experiences, perspectives, and talents to deliver blessings and admonitions—invaluable gifts–to posterity. Homer, Shakespeare, Dickens, Hugo, Sappho, Simone De Beauvoir, Ursula Le Guin are just a few that come to mind. They used books, plays, and poems to craft messages and warnings that would be relevant for millennia. After all, the human drama is nothing if not a series of remakes and sequels. Because human group behavior is so repetitive, many such messages and warnings have the clarity of a premonition or a revelation. I just finished reading the George Orwell (his real name was Eric Blair) classic 1984 for about the seventh time. I have read it every four or five years since I was in college and