Theological musings, spurred by the approaching Solemnity of the Assumption

I’ve always wondered something about free will, God’s plan, and the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Mary, Ever Virgin; the coming of the Solemnity of the Assumption (Friday: It’s a Holy Day of Obligation, so get yourself some Mass.) has re-ignited my curiosity, so I ask anyone more theologically inclined and/or knowledgeable than I to proffer any responses to this Marian query of mine.

Setting aside Divine foreknowledge, and assuming that man possesses free will, and, moreover, knowing that God, intending that He should send Gabriel to her to ask that she give birth to the Savior, to God Incarnate, I ask if it is possible that Mary could have, for whatever reason, declined to accept this incomparable means by which to serve her God? If so, and if she had, what would the ramifications (have) be(en)? How could such a thing happen?; that is, how could the only person, Christ notwithstanding, whom God, through the procreative act, with Joachim and Anne, created in a sinless state, for the specific purpose for which He intended her, say no?

I realize that this reaches the fringes of speculation, and probably borders, in some way, on heresy. Nonetheless, it’s something about which I’ve often pondered, and I should like to learn what others think.

Brooks, Larison, gadget fads

Daniel Larison, spot-on, as always, commenting on David Brooks’ “Lord of the Memes”, from the 7 August edition of the New York Times

I know David Brooks can’t really be serious when he says things like this, but this is at least the second grand pronouncement this week* and it’s getting out of hand:

But on or about June 29, 2007, human character changed [bold mine-DL]. That, of course, was the release date of the first iPhone.

No, human character did not change. One thing that has been consistent and recognizable throughout every stage of competing for status and gadget-collecting is the enduring human temptation to fall prey to the latest fad.

If that one line from Daniel suffices not to convince you of the sheer hyperbole of Brooks’ pronouncement, the argument he continues in the full piece should do the trick. I do, however, believe that Brooks makes a sadly accurate assessment, one revealing the tragic truth of Daniel’s remark, later in the piece:

Today, Kindle can change the world, but nobody expects much from a mere novel. The brain overshadows the mind. Design overshadows art.

I fear that, rather than suggesting, as Brooks avers, that human character has changed, this further evinces that, for too long, human character simply has glided, too comfortably, in a wretched state of intellectual and cultural degeneration; embracing the ultra-sleek medium, rather than the message, is just a recent, particularly distressing manifestation of ultra-philistinism. If luck smiles upon us, mayhap, someday, the electronic devices will even think and work for us.

On the coat-tails of the lament of the death of pub culture, the W.S.J. reminds us of further cultural debasement.

It may be hard to imagine — given our current obsessions with television shows, movies, instant-messaging, Facebook and blogs — but literature was once at the center of American cultural life. In the middle of the 20th century, novels and poems, of varying quality and aspiration, were widely read and widely talked about. And literary merit was discussed and hotly debated by critics whose essays, in Garrick Davis’s words, “courted the educated public with their elegant prose.”

James Seaton reviews Praising it New: The Best of the New Criticism. He offers a very lucid appraisal of the book, with some commentary on the New Criticism and the differences the distinguish it from the Trilling-Wilson camp — and, perhaps, surprising, the similarities between the two. Read it.

Damn the Internet! Damn it, I say!

Nicholas Carr, in the current Atlantic Monthly writes the follow in “Is Google Making Us Stupid?“.

Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. [. . .]

A few Google searches, some quick clicks on hyperlinks, and I’ve got the telltale fact or pithy quote I was after. [. . .]

And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.

Forty-five minutes ago, I had just read the first few pages of Röpke’s A Humane Economy; then, I heard Mail’s new-e-mail alert and, promptly, put the book aside to see from whom I’d received a missive, joke, or notification. I’ve yet to return to the Wilhelm. Replace “Google” with “Internet”, if you, as I, must, and then, straight-faced, tell me that you can respond to Carr with a simple “No.” I can’t.