Matthew Henry John Bartlett

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Tuesday 30 November, 02004

Draft and separation

by Matthew Bartlett @ 10:32 am

What we need to learn is that whenever we create speciality groups, we are creating the dangerous possibility that our right hand will not know what our left is doing. I am not arguing that we should do without speciality groups entirely; that would be to throw out the baby with the bath water. But we must realize the potential danger, and structure our speciality groups in such a way as to minimize it. We are not yet doing so. For instance — because it does not hurt us as a whole — our society developed and currently maintains a policy of an all-volunteer military. Our response to the antiwar sentiment engenered by Vietnam has been to opt for an even more thoroughly specialized military, overlooking the danger involved. Abandoning the concept of the citizen soldier in favour of the mercenary, we have placed ourselves in grave jeopardy. Twenty years from now, when Vietnam has been largely forgotten, how easy it will be, with volunteers, to once again become involved in little foreign adventures. Such adventures will keep our military on its toes, provide it with real-life war games to test its prowess, and need not hurt or involve the average American citizen at all until it is too late.
   A draft — involuntary service — is the only thing that can keep our military sane. Without it the military will inevitably become not only specialized in its funciton but increasingly specialized in its psychology. No fresh air will be let in. It will become inbred and reinforce its own values, and then, when it is once again let loose, it will run amok as it did in Vietnam. A draft is a painful thing. But so are insurance premiums; and involuntary service is the only way we have of ensuring the sanity of our military ‘left hand.’ The point is that if we must have a military at all, it should hurt. As a people we should not toy with the means of mass destruction without being willing to personally bear the responsibility of wielding them. If we must kill, then let us not select and train hired killers to do the dirty job for us and then forget that there’s any blood involved. If we must kill, then let us honestly suffer the agony involved ourselves. Otherwise we will insulate ourselves from our own deeds, and as a whole people we will become like the individuals described in previous sections: evil. For evil arises in the refusal to acknowledge our own sins.

— M. Scott Peck, writing in 1983 in People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil

by Matthew Bartlett @ 7:23 am

Two interesting notes about Genesis 3 from Toby

Monday 29 November, 02004

First quarter

by Matthew Bartlett @ 1:09 pm

And it seems I’ve turned into an old man, just in time for my 25th. This came to me when I saw myself getting annoyed at beer bottles in my garden.

Saturday 27 November, 02004

by Matthew Bartlett @ 7:15 am

GayNZ on the Reformed Church [via Russell B]

Thursday 25 November, 02004

One more for luck

by Matthew Bartlett @ 9:37 pm

Do you know what Thoreau said? Thoreau saw the railroad coming and it gave him the shakes. Not many people had the shakes at that time; plenty of them have got them now, because what we’ve done is just an extension of the railroad that went past Walden Pond. Thoreau said, “They think they’re going to go on with this business of stocks and spades until everybody will ride. But when the whistle blows and the smoke clears away, it will be found that a few are riding and the rest run over.”

— Wendell Berry in a 1974 speech

Notes from over here

by Matthew Bartlett @ 9:23 pm
  • Lately in me the conviction has been growing that God v Mammon is the main battle at every level of life.
  • It was a very good day, but around 3pm I felt very odd, near to fainting for an hour or so.
  • I want to get some of the Masterton farmers of my childhood to read Wendell Berry.
  • It was a very good year, but I’m moving out of the Oriental Bay flat. RDB and Kathy and I are looking for a nice sunny place to rent. We want to be walking distance from town & Kelburn, and have room for a couple of PCs.

Leonard Cohen/Dear Heather

by Matthew Bartlett @ 5:55 am

I am listening to Leonard Cohen’s new album Dear Heather. My first impressions are that he is still a dirty old man, perhaps even more than before, and that he still has a gift for good tunes and truly horrible arrangements, perhaps even more than before.

The bottom

by Matthew Bartlett @ 4:57 am

Patients in therapy all begin by protesting, “I want to be good.” If they cannot accomplish this, it is only because they are “inadequate,” can’t control themselves, are too anxious, or suffer from unconcious impulses. Being neurotic is being able to act badly without feeling responsible for what you do.
   The therapist must try to help the patient to see that he is exactly wrong, that is, that he is lying when he says he wants to be good. He really wants to be bad. Morality is an empircal issue. Worse yet, he wants to be bad but to have an excuse for irresponsibility, to be able to say, “But I can’t help it.”
   [Dante’s] only way out is to see that his pilgrimage to the Heavenly City must be undertaken along the road through Hell. When we lay claim to the evil in ourselves, we no longer need fear its occurring outisde of our control. For example, a patient comes into therapy complaining that he does not get along well with other people; somehow he always says the wrong thing and hurts their feelings. He is really a nice guy, just has this uncontrollable, neurotic problem. What he does not want to know is that his “unconscious hostility” is not his problem, it’s his solution. He is really not a nice guy who wants to be good; he’s a bastard who wants to hurt other people while still thining of himself as a nice guy. If the therapist can guide him into the pit of his own ugly soul, then there may be hope for him. Once this pilgrim can see how angry and vindictive he is, he can trace his story and bring it to the light, instead of beign doomed to relive it without awareness. Nothing about ourselves can be changed until it is first accepted. Jung points out that “the sick man has not to learn how to get rid of his neurosis but how to bear it. For the illness is not a superfluous and senseless burden, it is himself; he himself is that ‘other’ which we were always trying to shut out.”

— Sheldon Kopp in If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him!

Wednesday 24 November, 02004

Meeting Others

by Matthew Bartlett @ 12:59 pm

Said Andrew Basden in a recent ThinkNet discussion:

On Engaging with Secular Thinking
(and indeed any thinking based on other religious ground motives. Some thoughts sent to Aaron x in response to his plea about engaging with Hegel, Husserl, Heidegger 20 November 2004)

I don’t find it frustrating to engage with the secular mind; on the contrary I find it stimulating and rewarding. The reason I now do so, is because I look at secular thinkers and thinking in a new way. No longer do I see it primarily in terms of its antithesis to ‘Christian’ thought and secondarily in reluctant terms of how they might have some insight. Now I see primarily that secular thinkers have genuine insight (with some exceptions below), and secondarily are antithetical to my thought in a particular way.

The reason I see it this way is that secular thinkers are still operating in the wonderful creation-framework that God gave us. The exceptions are when the secular thinker is arrogantly and proudly pushing their own views, solutions, proposals. All of us have these sins. But most good secular thinkers are not primarily that in their thought. Rather, there is something in them that genuinely seeks truth.

THEREFORE, my approach is not to first and foremost seek to identify what is wrong with the thinking, but first and foremost try to (a) identify (b) fully understand the *insights* in their thinking. Even if those insights are only partial or limited.

In your case, for example, don’t ask first “Here’s why Sartre’s critique of Hegel is bad” nor even “Here’s why its good.” The first is too unmerciful, the second too analytical. Rather, ask first, “What real insights does Sartre / Hegel / Husserl / etc. seem to be uncovering in their thinking?” Think intuitively at first. Find out what, in their thought, you find yourself responding to with “Yes, that’s a good point”.

Then examine those critically in the sense of seeking to understand the basic conditions that make their insight possible, or make it ‘work’. Then you’ll likely find it sits uneasily on the foundation of presuppositions they make.

And, in doing so, I look past the words they use and the speculations they make to what they seem to driving at. An example: Hegel spoke about the Great Spirit developing itself. He presumably meant what we mean by God (and we take that at face value) and we get upset and thus reject his ideas, and look for ways in which they are wrong. But if we replace his label ‘Great Spirit’ etc. with ‘the whole Created Cosmos’, then much of what he says makes sense. I have spelled this out in my one and only article in Philosophia Reformata (Basden A, (1999), “Engines of dialectic”, Philosophia Reformata, 64(1):15-36).

Now I am doing a similar thing with Peter Checkland’s Soft Systems Methodology, Latour’s Actor-Network Theory, and Habermas’ notions of Emancipation and Lifeworld. They are aimed at top academic journals in my field. The result is that I can *enrich* the ideas of secular thinkers rather than *destroy* them.

You see, Dooyeweerd’s philosophy is like fertile soil which, if an idea is transplanted into from the infertile soil of the Nature-Freedom Ground Motive in which it is struggling, it suddenly bursts into joyful life.

Do I not find anything wrong with the secular mindset? Indeed I do. I find certain views obnoxious, but I put that feeling behind me when trying to ‘engage’. Because I look at myself reacting, to understand the root of my reaction, and find it is due to a mix of my pistic commitment which differs from theirs plus an aggressiveness and/or arrogance on their part. Once I recognise this, and actively ignore my own reactions, I can then start to see the mindset as infertile soil rather than as poison.

by Matthew Bartlett @ 6:43 am

Doug Wilson on Quality in writing
Comments on Berry’s Collected Poems

Tuesday 23 November, 02004


by Matthew Bartlett @ 4:54 pm

Then he closed his eyes and his head slowly fell forward upon his chest and I thought he had fallen asleep. I sat there, not knowing what to do. Interminable minutes passed. I had decided to go quietly to the door and leave, when I heard him say, his head still upon his chest, “Asher, I want to tell you something. It is important that you listen carefully to my words.” He raised his head and gazed at me unblinking from beneath the rim of the dark hat. “My father, of blessed memory, once said to me, on the verse in Genesis: ‘And He saw all that He did and behold it was good’ — my father once said that the seeing of God is not like the seeing of man. Man sees only between the blinks of his eyes. He does not know what the world is like during the blinks. He sees the world in pieces, in fragments. But the Master of the Universe sees the world whole, unbroken. That world is good. Our seeing is broken, Asher Lev. Can we make it like the seeing of God? Is that possible?”
   He paused a moment, then went on. “Once I told this to Jacob Kahn, of blessed memory. Yes, these same words. And he said to me that an artist, too, must see the world whole, he must somehow learn to see during the blinks, he must see where no one else can see, he must see the connections, the betweenesses in the world. Even if the connections are ugly and evil, the artist must learn to see and record them. I said to Jacob Kahn that a Rebbe, too, must see the connections, and if a Rebbe truly sees, if he is able, through the goodness and mercy of the Master of the Universe, to see as the Master of the Universe Himself sees, then he will see that all is good. Jacob Kahn said to me, ‘It is the task of the artist to see. If what he sees is good, then fine. If not, then not.” But all agree, Asher Lev, that it is the task of a Rebbe and of an artist to see, to look. That is understood?”
   I nodded, slowly.
   “It is understood?” the Rebbe asked again.
   “Yes,” I heard myself say, as if from a distance.
   “It is understood. Good. Very good. Then listen to me Asher. There are things I am able to see that I cannot reveal to you. You must understand that what I will now ask of you comes from that seeing. Listen. I ask you not to return to France tomorrow. I ask you to remain here with us for another week or two. Stay with us. I am told you must go to Paris. I ask you not to go.”
   There was a long silence. I sat very still.
 He leaned forward slightly in his chair. “Asher Lev, I give you and your wife and your children my blessing.”
   With his right hand he made a slight gesture. Then he sat back in the chair and seemed to disappear into the shadows.
   I went silently from the room.

— from The Gift of Asher Lev, by Chaim Potok.

by Matthew Bartlett @ 7:39 am
Rob H on renting his brain
Caseless PC mobile [via RDB]
Wendell Berry audio @ NPR

Monday 22 November, 02004

by Matthew Bartlett @ 10:00 pm

Wendell Berry, in a interview in 1973 said:

I mean I’m completely against this idiocy … that says surfboarding is an acceptable way of life. That’s utterly absurd … surfboarding is not a way of life. People are free to think it is because the care and responsibility for society has been broken up and parceled out to the experts. People who make a life of surfboarding are living off other people. They’re leeches of the affluent society. They’re parasites of a parasite. As long as we have people making some kind of amusement a way of life, you’ll find they’re getting their support from something destructive, like strip-mining or needless ‘development’ or war-making.

by Matthew Bartlett @ 8:26 pm

I was far away in aeroplane-land. In the airport they were far away in cellphone-land. In your seats you are far away in internet-land.

But I saw New Zealand green white blue from my window, and the bus driver forgave me a dollar, and another pilgrim offered to make it up, and I’m back home, and maybe even more so soon.

by Matthew Bartlett @ 8:12 pm

Poem: Wendell Berry/Some Further Words