Howth: No Second Troy

Dateline: Howth, Ireland, overlooking the Irish Sea

I made it to Howth, Ireland, just outside Dublin. Howth is the hook that goes out into the Irish Sea. It’s also where W.B. Yeats grew up and wrote his early poetry. My room looks out over the sea wall and tonight the moon is full, which brought us some wonderful tides today. The old abbey ruins on the hill are comforting in the moonlight and the buoys are calling out to the boats out for night fishing.

Yesterday, after arriving at 7 a.m., I took the Eirebus and Dublin Area Rapid Transit train from the Dublin airport to Howth Station. Then walked a half mile in the pouring rain to the King Sitric guesthouse where I’m staying this week. On the train was Yeat’s poem “No Second Troy.” It’s Yeat’s homage to the militant Irish freedom-fighter Maude Gonne. Yeats was in love with her. She was not in love with him. She advocated armed struggle to free Ireland from British rule. Yeats deplored violence and found it empty. In this poem, he compares her to that “face that launched a thousand ships,” Helen of Troy. Yeats found Gonne inspiring and she served as a poetic muse for him, but–like some political figures today–she stirred up a baseness in people that appalled him (“have taught to ignorant men most violent ways”).

No Second Troy
WHY should I blame her that she filled my days
With misery, or that she would of late
Have taught to ignorant men most violent ways,
Or hurled the little streets upon the great.
Had they but courage equal to desire?
What could have made her peaceful with a mind
That nobleness made simple as a fire,
With beauty like a tightened bow, a kind
That is not natural in an age like this,
Being high and solitary and most stern?
Why, what could she have done, being what she is?
Was there another Troy for her to burn?
–William Butler Yeats

Look for more from Ireland in the days ahead!.

A Taste of Eire

by Seamus Heaney

… Our shells clacked on the plates.
My tongue was a filling estuary,
My palate hung with starlight :
As I tasted the salty Pleiades
Orion dipped his foot into the water. …

I’m headed tomorrow for Dublin and then the Dingle Peninsula. I’ve got my copy of the new Sister Fidelma murder mystery, Prayer for the Damned, by Peter Tremayne. I’ve got my Lonely Planet Ireland book. I’ve got my pocket Bible and a paperback of Seamus Heaney’s Station Island.

I’ll be attending a writers workshop in Howth, outside Dublin, with poets Ted Deppe and Annie Deppe, and non-fiction writer Suzanne Strempek Shea. I’m really looking forward to having concentrated time to rest and write.

Then I’m catching the train north to Belfast to visit Anthea McWilliams, founder of the HoiPolloi Dance Company. Anthea’s just completed a fantastic project called Slow Dancing Up Ireland. Part public performance art, part peace initiative, Anthea did sneak dance performances from the tip of Northern Ireland to the bottom of Ireland. She danced on country roads in response to the “sounds” of the land. Check out her project here.

Finally, I’m going out to the Dingle Peninsula to the region of the Gaeltacht, where Irish is still spoken, to visit the ancient monastic beehive hermitages and make the pilgrimage up Ireland’s Holy Mountain (Mt. Brandon).

I’m also planning on downing Irish oysters and tasting a Guiness or two! Look for updates from the Emerald Isle..

Teach Your Children Well?

Beth Brockman, Kristin Saddler, Susan Crane and Steve Baggarly hold signs on the wings of a B-52 bomber: "We shalt not kill" and "Weapons of Mass Destruction. Nothing to Celebrate."  (Sept. 20, 2008, Oceana Naval Base, Virginia)
Beth Brockman, Kristin Saddler, Susan Crane and Steve Baggarly hold signs on the wings of a B-52 bomber.

Air shows are public liturgies venerating our gods of metal,” writes Steve Baggarly in his article Air Shows and Resistance. “They glorify our wars and they indoctrinate our children. Go to and find the air show nearest you. Then grab some friends, some signs, literature, puppets or a bullhorn, and, as Dan Berrigan said, ‘Don’t just do something, stand there!'”

In the photos above Catholic Workers hold a public “teach in” in the midst of the secular worship at the Oceana Naval base’s Airshow. The banner’s say “We Shalt Not Kill” and “Weapons of Mass Destruction. Nothing to Celebrate.” They are watched by a cadre of members of the military AND the many children present on base for the day’s festivities. Below a young girl learns how it feels to stare down the sights of a sniper rifle. Lower right, Susan Crane is arrested. The 4 “banner bearers” were detained by military police along with eight “acolyte” observers.

Who do we want teaching our children? Do we want them to grow up enthralled with the gods of war and proficient in handling their utensils? Or are we raising our children to be full human beings bearing the image of the One Living God and to have no other gods before God?.

Obama v McCain: Is it a “worldview” thing?

We’ve just been treated to another round of Obama v McCain with Tom Brokaw as the referee. Nashville is a great place to hold a debate. You can basically play the candidates’ standard comebacks as the verses in a three-chord country song. “Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be candidates. They’ll never stay home and they’re always alone, even with a nation they love.”

A Catholic priest in California sent in an interesting article by Christianity Today columnist Chris Hansen. Chris blogs at Out of Ur and is on the editorial staff of Leadership Journal (best known for their Church Laugh cartoons that make it into many Sunday bulletins). Below, Chris analyzes the Oxford, Mississippi, debate through the lens of McCain’s modernism and Obama’s postmodernism.

You can listen to every stump speech and read every position paper, but nothing compares to evaluating presidential candidates side-by-side during a debate. Their contrasting styles and views emerge in ways you hadn’t noticed during the long primary season. The candidates practice their lines and prepare their strategies, but the format allows for precious moments of spontaneity and even humor. The best candidates deftly address issues in ways that lodge them in the public consciousness….

The first debate between Senators John McCain and Barack Obama provided no such memorable moments. But it did highlight important distinctions between the Republican and Democratic candidates. Namely, McCain and Obama represent key differences between modern and postmodern cultures. Analyzing their debate through this lens reveals similarities to the church’s own debates about how to respond to shifting cultures.

For the rest of Chris Hansen’s take on the debates, go to The Hansen Report.

The third and final presidential debate will be held October 15 at Hofstra University on Long Island. It’ll be moderated by CBS correspondent Bob Schieffer. You can follow some of the local preparations at Blog Hamptons.

Also note that October 16, Hofstra U will host a blow out rock concert with Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen to benefit … (wait for it) …Democratic Party presidential nominee Barack Obama. Apparently, all the cool bands that John McCain likes are suing him (Heart, Jackson Browne)..

The Hero’s Journey

Chris C., who works for Dow Jones, took this photo on his cell phone during his lunch hour on Tuesday, wandering in downtown New York City. I’ve added a quote below from Joseph Campbell on the making of modern heroes.

Street Art in NYC, October 2008
Street Art in NYC, October 2008

“Man is that alien presence with whom the forces of egoism must come to terms, through whom the ego is to be crucified and resurrected, and in whose image society is to be reformed. Man, understood however not as ‘I’ but as ‘Thou’: for the ideals and temporal institutions of no tribe, race, continent, social class, or century, can be the measure of the inexhaustible and multifariously wonderful divine existence that is the life in all of us.”–Joseph Campbell, The Hero With A Thousand Faces.

‘O spiritual soul’ St. John of the Cross

“O spiritual soul, when thou seest thy desire obscured, thy will arid and constrained, and thy faculties incapable of any interior act, be not grieved at this, but look upon it rather as a great good, for God is delivering thee from thy self, taking the matter out of thy hands … The way of suffering is safer and also more profitable than that of rejoicing and of action. In suffering God gives strength, but in action and in joy the soul does but show its own weakness and imperfections.”–St. John of the Cross (noted in Dorothy Day’s diary for Friday, August 18, 1936).

Caveat Lector

“Let the Reader Beware”
a poetic disclaimer

To err is human. I am
Human. I made this blog.
This blog
May have errors. Beware.

I think, therefore I am.
I get paid to think,
Write, and otherwise
Labor by an employer.

That employer is distinct
And separate from this
Blog. I am, I think, solely
Responsible for

The content of my soul
And this blog. Beware.
My employer is blameless,
For what you find here.

Time marches on
And timed material herein
Will soon appear old.
Sorry. This is the way

The world works. Beware.
Hyperlinks are like shaking
hands. You do it automatically.
Sometimes, you wish

you hadn’t. Beware.
Except where otherwise
Noted, content on this
Blog is considered part

Of the Creative Commons
(attribution 3.0). You can
Use and adapt it, as long
As you cite it. Beware.

On occasion, the content
herein will possibly
offend. That’s not
My intent. Beware.

If legal action is
What you intend,
And money of mine
You hope to rake in. Beware.

All financial claims
Will be limited and
Defined. I won’t pay
You anything, except
Maybe a dime. Beware.

Thank you, dear reader,
For spending your time
Here at this blog in the
Internet bog. Enough,
I say of all this due care!
Read on, dear reader, read on!

By Rose Marie Berger

I’m very grateful to Heidi Thompson for designing and managing the guts of this Web site and to Hilary Doran for creating the artwork/logo. This blog is a personal endeavor and is in no way related to my employer.-RMB.

The First Lesson in Agriculture

In further thoughts on foodsheds, I once interviewed the wonderful farmer-poet Wendell Berry who said:

When you take away the subsistence economy, then your farm population is seriously exposed to the vagaries of the larger economy. As it used to be, the subsistence economy carried people through the hard times, and what you might call the housewife’s economy of cream and eggs often held these farms and their families together. The wives would go to town with eggs and cream once a week, buy groceries with the proceeds, and sometimes come home with money. Or they’d sell a few old hens, that sort of thing.

So that’s the first lesson to learn about agriculture, as far as I’m concerned: It needs a sound subsistence basis. People need to feed themselves, next they need to feed their own communities. That’s what we’re working for now. We want to develop a local food economy that local producers will supply and that the local consumers will support. It’s ridiculous that we should be importing food into this state while our farmers are suffering.


Mapping the Food Shed

Living near 13th and Euclid Sts. in downtown Washington, D.C., means I buy my food from the Giant supermarket in all its pre-packaged glory. This summer I actually had a small pot of grape tomatoes that grew on my front walk. I’d pop one in my mouth on my way in and out of the house, trying to get to them before the little creepy-crawly guys.

After living in Columbia Heights for 22 years, I’m thrilled to see the influx of farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture projects that are available for all economic levels (ie they take credit cards as well as WIC cards and food stamps).

I also take vicarious pleasure in the new generations of “dumpster divers” with whom I am acquainted. Ryan is especially an expert at reclaiming delicious food from the trash at Trader Joe’s. (See The Tao of Dumpster Diving by Ryan Beiler.) He’s trained several other teams as well. The Harris Teeter that’s opened up in the next neighborhood over looks like it will be a great gleaning site.

All this reminds me of an exercise I’d love to explore one of these days…mapping my food shed. This is all part of the ongoing “practice of permanence” that I’m playing at as a faith discipline (see monastic “vow of stability”). Below is an excerpt that lays out the basic food shed idea:

The term “foodshed” is similar to the concept of a watershed: while watersheds outline the flow of water supplying a particular area, foodsheds outline the flow of food feeding a particular area. Your foodshed encompasses the farm, your table and everything in between.

The modern US foodshed includes the entire world. Much of our food traverses the globe to reach our dinner table. In fact, food can often travel back and forth thousands of miles to different processing plants before it eventually reaches you.

Here’s a good section from in the San Francisco area also on mapping foodsheds:

Start exploring your own local food supply. Who is still growing food in the area? What about neighboring counties? What is it like to be a farmer? What are they growing? Where does their farm produce go? How long have they been farming? How do they care for the soil? How do they decide what to grow? Who does the farmwork? How are they treated? What about food products, such as yeast or roasted coffee beans, or value-added products, such as salsa, jams, tamales, or bread? Who are the local producers of food and food products? Are there any you can support? What does your local food shed need? What is missing?

Foodsheds are particularly useful in describing and promoting local food systems. When we look at our agricultural system in terms of the origins and pathways of our food items, then it becomes easier to expand these pathways and focus them at the local level.

Autumn is a wonderful time to do a little food mapping. Figure out the genealogy of your main meals. You’ll get a whole new perspective on who’s coming for dinner..

On Not Being a Consensus-Leader

On January 14, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King took time out of his busy speaking schedule to travel to the Santa Rita prison to meet with and offer his support to anti-war activist and singer Joan Baez, her mother Joan Bridges Baez, her sister Mimi Farina, and others imprisoned for blocking the Oakland draft induction center. In an impromptu press conference outside the jail, King reflected on civil disobedience and the nature and cost of prophetic leadership.

“Henry David Thoreau said in his essay on civil disobedience that noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. I do not plan to cooperate with evil at any point. …

“I’m not a consensus-leader. I do not determine what is right and wrong by looking at the budget of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference or by taking a Gallup poll of the majority opinion. Ultimately, a genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus, but he is a molder of consensus.

“On some positions, cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Expediency asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But conscience asks the question, is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position  that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right.”–Dr. Martin Luther King (January 14, 1968, in front of the jail in Santa Rita, California)

Listen to the whole podcast here.