Universalis, your very own breviary in pixels...

Saturday, 30 August 2014

"The Truth About Downs Syndrome"

Some very lovely writing about life with Downs Syndrome, and very charitable writing about that jackass theophobe Dawkins in the NY Times.
Recent research indicates that individuals with Down syndrome can experience more happiness and potential for 
success than Mr. Dawkins seems to appreciate. There are, of course, many 
challenges facing families caring for children with Down syndrome, including a 
high likelihood that their children will face surgery in infancy and Alzheimer’s 
disease in adulthood. But at the same time, studies have suggested that families 
of these children show levels of well-being that are often greater than those of 
families with children with other developmental disabilities, and sometimes 
equivalent to those of families with nondisabled children. These effects are 
prevalent enough to have been coined the “Down syndrome advantage.”

I experienced that firsthand a few years ago, I was working with some children on a project, and selected someone for a plumb, but difficult role.
My choice surprised some other adults.
When questioned about it, I told a colleague about my hunch, the boy's unusual self-possession, my certainty that he was somehow wise and responsible and capable beyond his years, and could be utterly depended on.

I said he reminded me, in that, of a slightly older girl whom both knew.

"Funny you should mention her....."

I had not known that the boy, like the teen-age girl, had a developmentally disabled sibling, and that he, like the girl, was a better person for it, and their family happier, and dare I say? holier for it.

"What is the fundamental problem today with the Church’s liturgy?"

Catholic News Agency has a piece by Mons. M. Francis Mannion giving his answer to the question, and it is "clericalism."

Okay, yeah, that can be a problem.
Essentially, there are today two kinds of liturgical clericalism: the “old-fashioned” (a carry-over from pre-Vatican II) and the “new fashioned” (since Vatican II). 

And I like that he identifies it as coming  from different points along the spectrum of... of what? right and left? conservative and liberal? traditional and progressive?

[In the ] old-fashioned kind... the sign of the peace is dropped out; the chalice is withheld from the people....
The second kind of liturgical clericalism ...serves – like the older kind – to focus unduly on the priestly role and to disenfranchise the people, who have a right to the liturgy of the church in its integrity.
The tendency among priests of this school toward excessive personalization, unpredictable intervention, and textual and ritual experimentation has the effect of compromising the objectivity of the liturgy and turning worship into an exercise of personal priestly expression. 
It seems to me very be wrong to imply some parity between a celebrant's exercising valid options, (what he describes in the "old-fashioned",) and his making it up as he goes along, (the "new fashioned.")

little consideration seems to be given to the fact that the people do not understand Latin.
Sorry, but I am not sure I believe him this is an actual problem anywhere, the "not considering." The problem is THAT the people don't understand Latin -- having considered that fact, that priest is finally doing something to remedy it.
 This trend goes with a resurgence of an exaggerated theology of priesthood.
I wish he had gone into this more, not sure what he means.
What is this exaggerated theology of the priestly ministry?
It seems to me the scarcity of those willing to give their lives in the presbyteral ministry indicates rather that the ministry has not been held in high enough esteem by too many people, a diminished and weakened theology of the priesthood, if you will.

But where he and I really part ways is, frankly, in the very word "clericalism."
Because clerics aren't the problem, at least, not clerics qua clerics.
Authoritarianism has very little to do with priestly orders.

And yes, he has, I am certain, a broader perspective on this than I, and surely a different experience of it, though one that I might say is skewed by his own clericalism, and even more by his clerical state.

Because I think most lay people in the Catholic Church in America today would tell him that the find themselves more bullied and bossed by other lay people, (who bully priests less often, or at least less openly.)

That whole class of demi-clerics, out there.
They are far more likely, IME, to play fast and loose with the rubrics, to add fabricated rites, and to brook no dissension from the peons.

And is it a treason to my sex for me to admit that most of them are women?
There's a reason that the little despots running around in sacristies, and pontificating in RelEd offices, and facilitating yet another program are, regardless of their sex, referred to as Church Ladies.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Apparently I have ice in my veins, mourning no longer seems possible for me.
 Found a new old blog, maybe, maybe, MAYBE she'll have some ideas I can try.
Never had this with the deep purpley maroon circles around my eyes before, (mine were much larger, going all around both eyes, out to the sides and top, too, looked like Clayton Moore, vested for Advent....)

But I also know I've been lucky compared to some people, just the one food, (albeit a ubiquitous one,) or so I thought -- and I am horrified at the prospect of life without pastry.

(That is not hyperbole, Christmas Cookies are very important to me emotionally.)

"...Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand..."

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Abortion Selfies

Read this if you can stomach it. I couldn't.
And I assuredly couldn't follow the link to watch the snuff film itself.

[Abortion counselor and actress wanna-be] Emily Letts wrote that “every time I watch the video, [of herself having an abortion] I love it. I love how positive it is. I think that there are just no positive abortion stories on video for everyone to see. But mine is.” The video is an intentional effort to create a “positive” story. She talks about how similar the experience was to birth (she has no children). “I feel in awe of the fact that I can make a baby,” she says. “I can make a life.” And she can destroy it, too.

Holy Innocents, pray for us

Stem Cells and "Rebranding"

While the culutre of death is scrambling for terms to help gloss over the fact that the use of embryonic stem cells necessitates destroying a hymnal life, whit the term hEsc, the consumer culture is embracing the idea of "stem cells."

Secret Ingredient: Stem Cells For Flawless Skin

With rave reviews from the scientific community to back them up, hyper-renewable stem cells — there are tons of plant and even human and animal varieties — have a phenomenal track record when it comes to repairing all manner of skin issues (think everything from increasing collagen production to reducing inflammation), not to mention, leading the ongoing search for the next big thing in anti-aging.

Of course, most of these are cells from... er, actual stems.

"Outward Signs", Beauty Pointing Us Toward Goodness and Truth

L’Ascension du poilu (French WWI infantryman), 1922, George Desvallieres
Source: http://www.georgedesvallieres.com/actualite2011_10_12_orsay_en.html

Wonderful site, lately I'm discovering all sorts of marvels that have been around, but I missed though my careless searching skills.
Look at this, a perfect Memorial Day, or Remembrance Day  object for meditation and really, devotion.

Oh, hell, perfect today as the entire world is contemplating war, and the possible justice of it.

It's not a style I think I have encountered in Church, (nor would I this painting, it is located in a museum, I believe,)  but it would not be out of place in a chapel, I think.

Where was it, Cardiff? where the cathedral, (C of E,) had great variety in its decoration, ornament and embellishment, much of which co-existed in a way likely to excite top prayer, and some of it just.... well, Jesus on a Spaceship was jarring, beyond ugly.

But I have been doing a bit of soul-searching about beauty and pleasure in regard to the art of the Faith.

I want my positions to be principled, not preference-based.

Someone wants us to help the kids "make their own Mass," and I interrupted to disagree a little too precipitously... okay, a lot too precipitously.
Maybe rudely.

Of course the entire notion of  "creating" the Liturgy, rather than receiving it is problematic, and I don't think the person doing the suggesting knew enough about the subject to be aware of that.
The message that even talking in such terms send is dangerous.

 But I'm also cognisant that the Mass should be "attractive" and different people are attracted by different expressions of beauty.

Here's the thing -- say you're a searcher, a lurker, a fallen-away, a youthful rebel, whatever....
Say you are not a regular, committed believer.
And say something is designed with bringing you in to Mass in mind.

The art, whether visual or musical or oratorical, that lures you in to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass must then convince you, not to like it, not to say to yourself, wow, I'd come to hear/see this again.

It must help convince you that you can do without it, that even in the complete absence of what you "like", even in the presence of something that you hate, that actively repels you -- that even then, the Mass itself is something you can not do without, that you will not let your preferences deprive you of it, that you would come no matter what.

If it doesn't point you towards this truth, that the Mass is so important, so life-giving, so necessary --  that even with having to tolerate the My Little Pony Mass, or the world's ugliest felt banners, or the priest who thinks he's auditioning to replace Seth McFarland on Comedy Central's roasts, or a choir singing dismally flat Gregorian chant, or a neighboring pew sitter with B.O., or the loudest drummer in seventeen states assaulting -- even then, you must have it, you must go, you cannot do without the Mass, the Mass itself. -- if it doesn't form you such that you would forgo your preferred music or style rather than forgo the Mass, that you would brave things you despise and hurt your head and make your teeth itch in order to have the Mass, then it is bad and inappropriate, no matter how much you "like"  it.

And not just the Mass, but the part of it, the essence of it that you can get there and only there, you must be brought to understand and believe fervently that you would put up with anything in order to have that aspect of it.

And that is why, since fellowship, music, preaching, even -sorry, but I have come to believe this - even the scripture readings, since all of that is something you can get or do somewhere else - if any of those don't point you toward Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, they are useless, worse than useless, they are a distraction.

And for too long, Catholics have been acting as if we were Tiffany's trying to lure in custom with "Free Coffee and Donuts!"
We have a precious jewel, and we've been shrieking like barkers, and passing out popcorn.

Christ in the Eucharist is that precious jewel, the Pearl of Great Price for which we should be willing to do and dare anything.
And we cannot have Him so completely, so intimately any other way.

I Love Jeff Ostrowski, don't get me wrong....

... but sometimes I am dismayed by his hyperbole.
Like those in the pro-life moment who don't get the facts quite right in regard to what successes scientists have found by destroying unborn babies so that their parts can be sold for scrap referenced below, we in the... what Reform of the Reform movement? ....need to be charitable and not exaggerate the missteps of those who are not on the same page as we.

So I take his essays with a grain of salt.

I owe him an apology.

I read his initial post on "My Little Pony," but didn't really pay much attention. I know nothing of the MLP theme, (although full disclosure, I have played with the dolls - nieces and baby-sitting charges,) and the ordinary setting he was lighting into was not something I had encountered or thought myself likely to encounter.

Silly me.

Whilst on the road, found myself in one parish at Mass and turned to Himself, speechless - he had the same "Springtime for Hitler" expression on his visage that I'm certain mine wore.

We bent our eyes toward our missals and clenched our teeth. I paged through the music books to see if I could identify it.

After Mass, as soon as the car doors were closed, (no sense in upsetting or insulting the parishioners,) we both shrieked - "That is the worst music I have ever heard in Church!!!!!"

Well, a second blog post at CCWatershed on the same subject confirmed that that liturgical horror was the very piece of which Jeff had been speaking.

All I can say is, Jeff Ostrowski was too kind, too diplomatic, too lenient in his critique.

Oh,  and the parish musicians were decent, some very fine playing by the organist, who managed to make a different piece of sacro/sacchro-pop drek sound dignified, so I'm not blamin' them for this -- this is all on the composer of the Mass of Christ the Savior.

Mea culpa, Jeff! Forgive me for doubting you!

Facts, not factoids, make the best weapons

The Catholic Gentleman has a lovely quote from Blessed John Henry Newman:
If [a gentleman] engages in controversy of any kind, his disciplined intellect preserves him from the blundering discourtesy of better, perhaps, but less educated minds; who, like blunt weapons, tear and hack instead of cutting clean, who mistake the point in argument, waste their strength on trifles, misconceive their adversary, and leave the question more involved than they find it.

Now, I have been reading far too much on the subject of killing the unborn, it is an evil time in which we live,( but no more evil than any other, I believe - it is evil in the exact proportion by which mankind makes it evil through pride, and unwise exercising of the gift of free will - but I digress.)

It is common for pro-life critics of using hEsc, (that's "human embryo stem cells," rebranded,) to declare that for all the hype and celebrity advertising on the glories of using babies for parts, the ONLY actual useful therapies to derive from stem cell research come from adult stem cells.

And cursory reading by non-experts, (of which I am certainly one,) would certainly lead one to that conclusion.
Note the phrasing for instance, (I've added emphasis,)  on this  FAQs page from the government:
The development of stem cell lines that can produce many tissues of the human body is an important scientific breakthrough. This research has the potential to revulutionize [sic] the practice of medicine.... Given the enormous promise of stem cell therapies ..... it is important to simultaneously pursue all lines of research and search for the very best sources of these cells.

Why not use adult stem cells instead of using human embryonic stem cells in research?
Human embryonic stem cells are thought to have much greater developmental potential than adult stem cells. This means that embryonic stem cells may be pluripotent—that is, able to give rise to cells found in all tissues of the embryo except for germ cells rather than being merely multipotent—restricted to specific subpopulations of cell types, as adult stem cells are thought to be. However, a newer type of reprogrammed adult cells, called induced pluripotent stem cells, has proven to be pluripotent.

 Why are doctors and scientists so excited about human embryonic stem cells?
Stem cells have potential in many different areas of health and medical research. To start with, studying stem cells will help us to understand how they transform into the dazzling array of specialized cells that make us what we are.

 (and here's the money obfuscation quote)
Have human embryonic stem cells been used successfully to treat any human diseases yet? 
Stem cell research offers hope for treating many human diseases.
 (So that's a "no"?)
Click here to read a description of the current status of stem cells and human disease therapies.
(And if you do that, you get a page with more "hopes,"mays" "thought to offers," "potentials," and "still studyings."   Oh, and "early days yets.")

What will be the best type of stem cell to use for therapy?
 Pluripotent stem cells, while having great therapeutic potential, face formidable technical challenges. First, scientists must learn how to control their development into all the different types of cells in the body. Second, the cells now available for research are likely to be rejected by a patient's immune system. Another serious consideration is that the idea of using stem cells from human embryos or human fetal tissue troubles many people on ethical grounds. Until recently, there was little evidence that multipotent adult stem cells could change course and provide the flexibility that researchers need in order to address all the medical diseases and disorders they would like to. New findings in animals, however, suggest that even after a stem cell has begun to specialize, it may be more flexible than previously thought.
Odd, no, that well, we've only been working with embryonic cells a short time is cited as an excuse for lack of positive developements with embryonic cells, but  no such apology is needed for work with adult stem cell therapy which seems to have been pursued for a shorter time?

Anyway, a quick google search will reveal that almost all reports of "success" with embryonic stem cell research refer to successful creation of lines, or methods of study, or splicing of various component thereof, or growing something inside an animal -- NOT to therapies, cures, actual useful treatment of suffering human beings.
This "success" only in the world where, "The operation was a success, but the patient died," is not a sick joke.

So yeah, virtually all success so far has been acheived with non-embryonic stem cells.

BUT - and its a big but, (hope you heard Pee-wee's voice as you read that,) there may have been a successful hEsc therapy, Dr Robert Lanza's work on eyes at the Jule Stein Center.
The fact that there doesn't seem to be any follow-up news since the sixth month mark or so when it made a big splash in the press may or may not be significant.
It does seem likely that if it had actually worked we would have heard more about it in the past two years, and I am not some master googler, there may be news out there.

But either way, I think we should be cautious about claiming there has been NO successful therapy as a result of embryonic stem cell research, better to make a case with the truth.

(And of course, the success of hEsc is not really germane to the issue of whether it is morally acceptable to take parts from one live human being, in no condition to give consent, to aid another.)

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

The Triple Cross...

... no, not sabotage and spying, gestures.
It is worth pointing out that No. 134's indication for the people to make the triple sign of the cross is a novelty of the third edition of the Roman Missal. It was not found in the corresponding No. 95 of the earlier GIRM from the 1970s, where the gesture was prescribed only for the minister reading the Gospel. In making this indication the missal simply recognizes a practice which had already become almost universal among the faithful over the centuries.
I had wondered about that when the new edition came out, (though not enough to look into it,) and apparently my memory of all that was correct.

(This is timely for me, because I was thinking of devising  "Simon Peter Says, a game of liturgical gestures to play when we need to blow off some energy when things get too rambunctious in RelEd.)

"Object and outline teaching; a guide book for Sunday-school workers. Designed to explain, defend, and exemplify the use of objects, the blackboard, maps, and pictures in Sunday-school teaching"

Yes, this is the name of an actual published book, part of the NYC Library holdings, apparently because in 1871 there was dissension in the ranks of (presumably protestant,) catechists over whether it was right to use anything other than the Bible and the spoken word to instruct ones charges.

'Cause ya know, the blackboard is a "secular machine"...

Hmmm, come to think of that, maybe that's why the day erase board has gained such prominence - its color is more virtuous!

Actually, such struggles go on today in all seriousness - is a comic book graphic Bible more  demonstrably beneficial than potentially harmful on balance?

The author, Henry C McCook expresses sympathy with those who oppose the use of illustration to hand on their faith, "not because I fear its proper  use, but because I see how readily it may be abused, and how great are the evils of its abuse."
I suspect there's a little of the "we're not like those Catholic, who pray to graven images" streak of roundhead iconoclasm in play here.

And of course, he is right - this is, boiled down, the same fight I am fighting regarding pop/rock/folk/classical/mariachi/Victorian ballad/rap/children's song perfectly apt for some particular constituency's devotions, but utterly unsuited to liturgy.

Anyway, clearly, the same battle has raged for many a year, on many a front.

I must, however, learn more about "the quackery of art in books."

Monday, 25 August 2014

Can God change His mInd?

Yeah, yeah, I know, do not let my Lord be angry, what if I find but 30 righteous men in Sodom?

But seriously, no one thinks Abraham wheedled that out of the Lord, no matter how the dialogue reads on the face of it, do they? it is really just a memorable depiction of the Father's boundless mercy, that he is willing to spare the sinful people if there is the merest shred of decency left in the city. (And there ain't.)

But what about calling the persistent Canaanite woman... well,  a bitch, to her face?

(I meant to write on this a while ago, and found myself deep in the woods, and forgot about it and just remembered it.)

I've heard absurd sermons about Jesus being unspeakably rude, and the woman schooling Him; and slightly less so but still huh?-worthy homilies that by seeming to refuse, teaching that foreign gal both humility and stick-to-itiveness in prayer, (and wouldn't such verisimilitude on His part be, uh... lying?)

But how about this?
And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” But He did not say a word in answer to her. His disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.” He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But the woman came and did him homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children* and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed from that hour.
Matthew 15
That phrase, "He said in reply" -- to whom is He replying?
The Evangleist has already stated that He said not a word in answer to her -so it must be His DISCIPLES to whom He speaks.

It is nothing less than blasphemy to think that He didn't know what His ministry was,  to whom His ministry was, of course He knew -- He is speaking to His disciples, His Jewish disciples, He is acknowledging to them that, yeah, He is there for the "lost sheep of Israel," (as they already believe) --  but then, shockingly, He demonstrates quite clearly that SHE is among these "lost sheep of Israel," that from now on we are ALL of us members of the chosen race, the royal priesthood, the people set apart.

"It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs."

Okay, it is not right, it would not be right -- does He dissemble when he says this? or is He speaking the truth but then goes and does WHAT IS NOT RIGHT by granting her prayer?

Who dares suggest so?

He is acknowledging, very publicly that she is indeed a daughter of God, that she is, that we all are, the Father's beloved children.

One last thought on Teilhard, his "rehabilitation" and a Former Pope...

In what world is "in spite of a not entirely unobjectionable tendency toward the biological approach, nevertheless on the whole grasped them correctly and in any case made them accessible once again," [all emphasis supplied,] speaking in "glowing" terms?

Inigo Montoya quote -  I do not thin' that word means what you thin' it means

How did Blessed Theresa of Calcutta put it, "something beautiful for God"?

Our time, talent and treasure... well, we need to prioritize, right?
Most of life is about balancing conflicting, I'll even say GOODS.
Most people who sin or err don't consciously neglect a Good in favor of an Evil, they neglect a greater value in pursuit of a lesser one. (Slippery slopes, and all that.... sports and physical culture are good, but how many Catholic school systems regularly schedule events on Sunday mornings?)

Anyway, stumbled across mention of the CMAA chaplain on the Interwebs, (have I mentioned how much I love what a "guy" he is? as are so many of the priests one meets at Colloquium.)

I present a quote from Father Pasley, rector of Mater Ecclesiae in Berlin New Jersey, who wrote on the Feast of the Assumption: “The worship of God should not be haphazard. It should not be cheap and commonplace. It should never be rushed to get it over with….Modern secular society has put its time, talent and money into.....self-indulgence, pleasure and material comfort. The world shows us what it considers important. My good friends, we [Catholics] counter with a very different view.”
Or do we?

"Conscious Evolution" and Missionary Zeal

Okay, perhaps allowing myself to be a little too contemptuous of, or at least annoyed by jargon, but I think I have a legitimate beef - I think too often neologisms or phrases are a deliberate attempt at obfuscation.
If what you think is controversial, or arguable, or dissenting, or flat wrong in the minds of those with whom you are pretending to be in solidarity and communion -- say it in a way that incomprehensible, or even essentially meaningless in context, giving you plausible deniability when you are called out on your agenda.
(I have discovered, for instance, that if at the beginning of a conversation you seize the buzz-word "uplifting" and describe, say, Gregorian chant thusly, proponents of sacchro/sacro-pop are pretty much incapable of making any claims for the aptness of praise music for liturgical use other than that people "like" it. "Luminous" and "vibrant" are similarly misused all the time.)

RelEd is tailor made for such shenanigans, comprising as it does the twin fields of Faith and Education, both of which have fallen on hard times in the common sense department.

Anyway with all the nattering about the LCWR, or whatever order those letters go in, of late, one reads; and I must admit, the great bugbear of "conscious evolution" seems to me a defensible concept - depending on how slippery its meaning is allowed to be.
It seems to me, as a spiritual concept, it ought to mean something closer to intentional metanoia, (see? I'm good at jargon!) a deliberate and if need be arduous conversion.
Evolution, after all, means little more than change, hopefully for the better.

But then its champions start babbling.
 Cardinal [Muller's]  words... [offer] an opportunity to say a few words about conscious evolution and, more broadly, the mutual engagement of science and religion.
The term “conscious evolution” was not coined by Barbara Marx Hubbard, although she has made significant contributions in understanding the implications of conscious evolution for our age. The term itself emerges from the sciences of evolutionary biology, quantum physics and cognitive neuroscience, among others. The term does not belong to science per se but is descriptive of our species, Homo sapien sapien: evolution brought to self-reflective awareness. To use the words of the renowned Jesuit Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, “We are the universe become conscious of itself.”
Seriously,  I know you were a great and wise soul, but we are NOT the universe, conscious, comatose or otherwise.
We're just not.
We're a pretty tiny part of it, actually. (Ya know, you'd think those who often seem more involved with saving the planet than saving souls, saving natural resources than saving unborn lives, would bristle at  hinting at such human exceptionalism, but there you have it.)
And then, this.
 We are the ones “who know that we know” (Homo sapien sapiens); hence it is important to reflect on our choices and decisions for the future. Conscious evolution refers to the idea, expressed by Teilhard, that we humans are the arrow of evolution, the crest of the ongoing evolution of the universe. We are co-creators of an unfinished evolutionary process toward more being.
What the hellenism does "more being" mean in this context?
Co-creator? Okay, cooperators with the Creator...
Unfinished evolutionary process?
All right,  every day, in every way, we're getting better and better -- as we journey toward the Kingdom and our final destination.

But "toward more being"?
What is that supposed to mean?
Greater actualization of potential?
But it could mean anything, and therefore means nothing.

I know Teilhard de Chardin contrasts it, ("plus-etre") with "well-being" and perhaps in French but really..... cant and gibberish.

In fact, I think it is dangerous to use such a phrase alongside the word "evolution" in discussion of spiritual growth, since in the paradigm of evolution of species, yeah, the objective is more- rather than well- being, nature does not care about our happiness or goodness or comfort or beauty or Godliness - the objective of all things in nature is simply to reproduce as proliferately, (profligately?) as possible, to broadcast their genetic material, to blanket the universe with their  DNA, to spread seed -- with an utter disregard for any other creature's existence except as it can be exploited to ones own advantage.

So basically, with Conscious Evolution we could be talking either ecological hegemony, (which seems at odds with the tree-hugger reputation of most of its adherents,)  or, if we mean spiritual evolution, such zealous and triumphant proselytization that it leads to universal conversion, which again, seems to be against the spirit of ecumenism as understood b those seem adherents.

Um... Catholic.

Hmmm.... maybe they are on to something.

RIP, Richard Attenborough

I know nothing about Sir Richard Attenborough's personality, his life, his politics -- nor do I wish to. (I admit to no longer being able to enjoy Peter Fry's performances, thanks to TMI.)

But I have always loved him in movies, his characters, even when morally complex, even when outright reprehensible, always had a core of decency, or at least the potential for decency that is a feature of our common humanity.

We are none of us monsters, even when we behave monstrously.

I watched the Great Escape on late night television, baby-sitting, and despite the screen-time given to some yahoo on a motorcycle, found Attenborough, not just the moral center, but the center of the movie. (I was honestly startled to learn later in what esteem Steve McQueen was and is held by movie buffs.)

I think the first thing I'd seen him in was (again, all that baby-siting,) a heart-breaking thing about labor and unions and strike-breaking whose title I can't recall.

And although remakes are usually stupid/inferior/unnecessary, take you pick; and although the earlier one was a hit and his, I believe, was not, Attenborough's Kris Kringle was a gem and the movie a fitting setting for it.

(I can't even think of the scene with the luminous little deaf actress without choking up, and it's not meds this time...)