The IM Saturday Monks Brunch: January 25, 2020 — Profound Thoughts Edition

Moon Over the Heartland (2020)

The IM Saturday Monks Brunch: January 25, 2020
Profound Thoughts Edition

Before we pass on a few profound (and not-so profound) thoughts over the Brunch table today, allow me to share a link to a truly profound conversation between “eco-theologian” Michael Dowd and our own Damaris Zehner. Dowd blogs at Post-doom and you can find his interview with Damaris on YouTube HERE or by clicking on the image below. You’ll get a great overview of Damaris’s career and background, and the kind of life she is most interested in practicing and writing about. You can follow her observations and reflections regularly at Integrity of Life. And we will keep the link to the Post-doom interview up on the IM Bulletin Board so that you can continue to access it easily.

Here are a few of Damaris’s profound thoughts that she expresses in the interview:

Mostly, we live daily. Nonetheless, what a good culture would do is to set up our daily lives with the future in mind. So, whether we’re thinking about it or not, whether we are aiming for something specific or not, we are living in such a way that there is something in the future for our children, grandchildren, and for all life on earth.

And if I were to choose a single Bible verse that I think works both spiritually and practically to every audience, it’s Micah 6:8, which is “love justice, do mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” And I really think that that covers it — whether we are talking about how we handle the environment and other species, how we deal with the economy, how we deal with other people, and how we prepare for the future. If we’re living humbly now, we won’t use up what other people will need in the future. If we’re thinking of justice and mercy, we will be considering the whole world around us.

If we are doing that, it goes back to what you were talking about, which is the sense of gratitude. When we’re not front and center, grabbing and shoving out of fear, then we can just sit back and go, “This is a nice world. We like it here. Let’s stay.”

Never again…

This week marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Here are some poignant thoughts expressed about remembering the Holocaust.

But one thing I took from this was a big fear I’ve now got about people of absolute faith. I always thought faith of itself was – could only be a positive thing. Everyone talks about the importance of having faith. Well, these guys had faith, absolute faith. And there’s one really desperately upsetting…ideologically, there’s one desperately particularly upsetting moment where – in the book – where I talk about how Himmler and Hoss most admired, as prisoners, Jehovah’s Witnesses. They pointed to them and said, see that faith? That’s the kind of faith we need in our führer – absolute, unshakable faith. (from an interview with Laurence Rees, Auschwitz: A New History)

Today, you have a young generation of Germans. And I do not believe in collective guilt. So I have absolutely no problem with the young Germans. I even feel sorry for the young Germans because to be maybe sons or daughters of killers is different than to be sons and daughters of the victims. And I felt sorry for them. I still do. (from an interview with Elie Wiesel)

Our age is a different age. The words are not the same, the perpetrators are not the same perpetrators but it is the same evil, and there remains only one answer: Never again. (President Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany)

• • •

A few profound, curmudgeonly thoughts…

• • •

Institutional dereliction…

The always intriguing Mockingbird blog takes note of several recent observations about “the increasingly tenuous relationship between individuals and institutions.” One of the best articles cited is How Did Americans Lose Faith in Everything?  by Yuval Levin. Here are some of his poignant thoughts:

But what we are missing is not simply greater connectedness but a structure of social life: a way to give shape, purpose, concrete meaning and identity to the things we do together. If American life is a big open space, it is not a space filled with individuals. It is a space filled with these structures of social life — with institutions. And if we are too often failing to foster belonging, legitimacy and trust, what we are confronting is a failure of institutions.

…We trust political institutions when they undertake a solemn obligation to the public interest and shape the people who populate them to do the same. We trust a business because it promises quality and reliability and rewards its workers when they deliver those. We trust a profession because it imposes standards and rules on its members intended to make them worthy of confidence. We trust the military because it values courage, honor and duty in carrying out the defense of the nation and forms human beings who do, too.

What stands out about our era in particular is a distinct kind of institutional dereliction — a failure even to attempt to form trustworthy people, and a tendency to think of institutions not as molds of character and behavior but as platforms for performance and prominence.

• • •

And then there’s this…

Barry Blitt, The New Yorker

• • •

Some profoundly eye-catching headlines…

CNN Unveils New Format Where Hosts Just Watch Fox News and Yell at It

Trump Lifts Obama-Era Protections Trapping Gangthor The Malevolent In Tomb Deep Within Murky Depths Of Pacific Ocean

God Is About to Release an Impartation Over You (huh?)

Mennonite Family Adopts “Baby Yoder”

Is Beth Moore Behind the Baseball Cheating Scandal?

• • •

Jim Lehrer’s Rules of Journalism

May he rest in peace and his tribe be restored a hundred-fold

• • •

On my winter playlist…

51 thoughts on “The IM Saturday Monks Brunch: January 25, 2020 — Profound Thoughts Edition

  1. But while some sea-going mammals can carry coronaviruses (such as the Beluga whale), the market also has live wild animals, including chickens, bats, rabbits, snakes, which are more likely to be the source.

    “Cantonese [Southern Chinese] will eat anything on four legs except the table (and I’m not sure of the table).”
    — alleged Northern Chinese proverb


  2. There is some evidence the deline has troughed at this point

    “Troughed” as in “bottoming out”.


  3. Social Media may even be more a RESULT of such decline, symptomic, more than causal.

    The two may be acting synergistically, each supercharging the other.

    Like the Games People Play example of a “Bitch and Nag” married to a “Drunk and Proud of It”. Each one’s destructive behavior goes synergistic with the other’s (providing a reason/excuse for their own destructive behavior) “and they live unhappily ever after”.


  4. Again, remember the movie Contagion.
    The filmmakers said the movie was actually about TWO epidemics. One the original pathogen (a highly-contaigious analog of SARS), the other the accompanying epidemic of social media panic and snake-oil quackery.


  5. Welcome to the movie Contagion.
    But apparently the death rate from Huwei Coronavirus is only somewhat higher than influenza, nowhere near that of SARS (which the plague in the movie was based on; the actual design of the fictional pathogen was “a highly-contagious SARS”). I wonder how long before the Sure Cure Herbal Extracts and Crystals surface on social media?

    …contagious before it becomes symptomatic.

    Which is bad. When you’re infected, you first become a carrier. That was what made AIDS so bad; you could be an HIV carrier for years before it surfaced.


  6. Rule-of-Thumb:
    It’s why you take greater precautions with pork (including thorough cooking) than any other meat.


  7. Today the Chinese health minister said Huwei coronavirus is contagious before it becomes symptomatic. That makes it hard to track contacts of people with the virus for potential future cases in a timely way. This would seem to be a game changer, if it is true, and might explain why it is developing so suddenly in so many places.


  8. I really appreciate that Robert. I try and learn from a lot of good, knowledgeable people. In this case, my partner is brilliant. I am just happy that I could absorb some of that.


  9. And so, the rise of the megachurch. We are a society of detached spectators, when we once valued participation in community. I can vouch for the financial implications of that transition. We are a two income earning family. Up before five and in bed by 9. Too busy catching up with family life on the weekend and too doggone exhausted to do much else. I have become the person I promised I would never become.


  10. Agree, motordom played a large roll. In many ways middle-class prosperity has tendencies towards self-strangulation; it devours, or at least neglects, it’s own moorings.


  11. I read somewhere that the guy who invented K-cups is extremely regretful about it; he is appalled at all the packaging waste they have generated.

    Take a few minutes to process your coffee beans in a burr grinder, and make the coffee in a French press. You will be astounded at how good it tastes!



  12. Thanks, PS. My husband has worked on fire crews in different capacities for many years, and has met some Australians along the way come to help us. We’re glad to help you, too. And I know folks on this board continue to pray for relief for your land and people (and all its creatures).



  13. “….there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.” Immortal thoughts, and always timely words, from JRR Tolkien. I think I shall make it my mantra: There is light and high beauty for ever beyond darkness’s reach.

    We sit together on the grieving bench for the loss of those firefighters’ lives. May they rest in peace.


  14. Yes, the rapidity of development is what has called my attention to it. I don’t normally feel the level of personal anxiety about these outbreaks that I do now, and I attribute that to the rapidity with which this story is breaking and developing in comparison with earlier ones.


  15. Thanks, Klasie. I trust you as a sober, measured source of information within your competence and knowledge (which seem to be very wide-ranging indeed!), and appreciate your calming influence.


  16. My biggest concern is how far it might have spread before the major lockdowns were put in place. Also, this seems to be developing a whole lot quicker than SARS did…


  17. I generally follow H5N1 as the blogger is fairly careful on where he collects the stories. In a post on the 24th he gives an extensive quote from the New England Journal of Medicine

    and a link to the original

    As it stands it seems most of us outside of China should be more concerned about the flu.

    China btw is closing down a lot of travel and canceled many events which given this is the start of the Lunar New Year festivities would be like the US closing down during Christmas/New Years.


  18. Institutional decline in America began apace in the 1950s, long preceeding Social Media. The peek rate of decline ran was in to 1970s-1980s. There is some evidence the deline has troughed at this point – so blame laid on Social Media is very dubious IMO.

    Social Media may even be more a RESULT of such decline, symptomic, more than causal.


  19. RIP, Jim Lehrer. Media standards have fallen badly since his day.. The country would be a calmer, better-informed place if its reporters/commentators/pundits went back to the ones Mr. Lehrer outlined for himself.


  20. Institutional decay is a feedback loop, and at its root is mostly economic decline|stress.

    When institutions are full of people they behave/function better. When they become thinner and leaner – most often by necessity as fewer people participate – it becomes much easier for them to become someone’s or some interest group’s platform.

    This can happen because (a) the institution succeeds! It becomes so expected, and its fruit so taken for granted, that people stop paying attention to it or (b) [more often in America] the citizens have less resources – including time – to contribute and thus the organization begins to atrophy or becomes captive to some individual or group.

    For public sector institutions there is also (c) the powers-that-be want the institution(s) to fail and thus starve it of resources, and then they can shout “See, see, how useless and incompetent they are!”

    Going through small towns and cities in the Midwest and seeing all the grand old Masonic halls and Elk halls and Grange halls…. mostly empty, derelict. And the communities around them show the story.


  21. From what I’ve heard, Wuhan anxiety is extremely infectious and can be transmitted easily via social media contact with someone who’s already been infected. The most effective preventative measure at this stage, assuming you don’t live in China, is to not allow the internet to get you unduly worked up. We often have a tendency to get really worried about new and unusual health threats while ignoring preventative measures for more mundane illnesses (e.g. the flu, or measles) that actually kill a lot more people.


  22. The terrible suffering of the 35,000,000 Chinese people under various levels of quarantine is impossible to imagine. The quarantine itself will cause untold suffering to these people, many of them poor, even if the vast majority of them remain otherwise untouched by the disease. Just horrible.


  23. I’ll try again:

    Robert, my partner is an epidemiologist. While we haven’t discussed this per se, suffice to say a potential epidemic coming out of east Asia is no surprise. That being said, some things are noted:

    – The Chinese government is doing everything right – isolating the whole area, rapidly creating extra hospital capacity
    – The infection rate is between 1.4 and 2.5 – this means each patient infects between 1.4 and 2.5 people. For reference, SARS was 3. Normal flu is between 1 and 2. Ebola is 1.5 to 2.5. But measels is between 12 and 18, and smallpox between 5 and 7.
    – The SARS epidemic helped a lot in preparing us for the next one. We are in a better place in dealing with this.
    – This is serious, but beware wild alarmism.


  24. Ah – my partner is one! We haven’t discussed this, but she has said for a long time that the next epidemic will come out of East Asia. The apparent infection rate is high enough to be seen as equivalent to SARE – each patient infects between 1.4 and 2.5 people. It does appearthough that the Chinese government is doing all the right things. Restrict movement, create additional hospital facilities etc.

    The BBC lists the origin of the out break as
    “…. The coronavirus cases have been linked to the South China Seafood Wholesale Market, in Wuhan.

    But while some sea-going mammals can carry coronaviruses (such as the Beluga whale), the market also has live wild animals, including chickens, bats, rabbits, snakes, which are more likely to be the source.

    Researchers say the new virus is closely related to one found in Chinese horseshoe bats.”


  25. Is there anybody out there in the know about epidemiology? The very recent development and sudden spread of the recent coronavirus outbreak in China is alarming. There is a lot of talk on the internet and in the media about it, but how is a layman to know what is true? I recently read that its viral attack rate is 8 times worse than SARS, which could potentially put it at the same virulence level of the 1918 Spanish Influenza Pandemic. Is there anybody out there?


  26. The loss of trust in and the ability to rely on our institutions reminds me of the message a Tibetan abbot sent another monk who was staying in a remote village, cut off from his monastery, in response to his query about what to do in the wake of the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1950 (as related in a talk given to Christian and Buddhist monks and nuns in Bangkok by Thomas Merton on the last day of his life): “From now, Brother, everybody stands on his own two feet.”


  27. Cafetiere/French press FTW. Low tech (you don’t even need electricity, as long as you have some way of boiling water), low waste, and the ability to make coffee as you like it, not as a machine thinks you should have it.


  28. “There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.” The Return of the King, JRR Tolkien

    In a country and a world that seem a little bit more like Mordor every day, I find this an encouraging thought.

    As an Australian, I would also like to express to the Americans here how grateful we are for your assistance in the bushfire crisis, and how grieved we are that three of your countrymen lost their lives giving that assistance.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: