Unless you have investigated a problem, you will be deprived of the right to speak on it. Isn't that too harsh? Not in the least. When you have not probed into a problem, into the present facts and its past history, and know nothing of its essentials, whatever you say about it will undoubtedly be nonsense. Talking nonsense solves no problems, as everyone knows, so why is it unjust to deprive you of the right to speak? Quite a few comrades always keep their eyes shut and talk nonsense, and for a Communist that is disgraceful. How can a Communist keep his eyes shut and talk nonsense. It won't do! It won't do! You must investigate! You must not talk nonsense!
I'm in the process of setting up a new blog, without cartoons. Practically speaking, that won't really affect this blog, since my initial intention was always just to post my cartoons, but I probably won't post my sermons over here any more. There may still be the occasional philosophical ramble and/or rant, and miscellaneous personal reflections which you don't care about.
I'm writing the message for an upcoming memorial service - not for a particular individual, but for a group of people who are unconnected except that they were cared for by our hospice. That makes it difficult to focus: they (probably) don't want a sermon, but I need to try to say something meaningful.
I found this quote, while looking for another (which has eluded me, and I've spent way too long looking for it already), attributed to the German philosopher Martin Heidegger:
“What was Aristotle’s life?’ Well, the answer lay in a single sentence: ‘He was born, he thought, he died.’ And all the rest is pure anecdote.”
Regardless of whether he said it or not, it captures some of what I want to say, in an inverse form: what we really care about is the anecdotal aspect. We are our stories, and that's what needs to be told. That said, I doubt I'll use the quote for the memorial service, so I thought I'd leave it here instead.
I was driving away from a patient's house earlier this week, and wondering about all the questions I didn't ask. Some of them seem cliched - "Where is God in all of this?" - and yet I drove away feeling like a second-rate Rogerian therapist rather than a chaplain. Sometimes I feel like I do better in a crisis, rather than in a long-term situation, when there's really nothing to do other than sit with someone and let them know that they're not alone. The advantage of the long-term situation, of course, is that I'll (probably) be able to go back and ask those questions at a later date.
The title is another placeholder, the title of a sermon that I haven't yet written - but something that was inspired by a recent sermon by my wife, particularly when listening to people speak out of the silence. The Sabbath is supposed to be a time of rest: is that punitive? Or part of the joy of recognizing that one is a Child of God? God didn't work for seven days straight. Are you more important than God?
I said I was going to talk about Nozick yesterday, and this isn't quite the post that I had intended, for various reasons. However, it's a start, and something that I've been meaning to address for a while now. So, Nozick wants to dismantle the social contract (and part of this not being the post I had hoped for is not having a page reference from Anarchy, State, and Utopia for that). He's interested in negative rights, which is to say, the limits that other people's claims can have on the individual. (Again, a lot more to say there, but not today). Three particular things that Nozick is interested in terms of property rights (because what other kinds of rights would we be interested in, after all?). He describes them as "Original Acquisition of Holdings," "Transfers of Holdings," and "Rectification of Injustice in Holdings." The idea here is that, if you obtained something legally (your original acquisition), then it's yours: no one can take it from you (particularly the government, in the form of taxes). If you have something, you can sell it legally (the transfer of holdings). Note here, if you buy stolen property, you're out of luck: if the original acquisition somehow went wrong, then the transfer of holdings doesn't hold. You're not permitted to buy or sell things that don't have a "clean" original acquisition. We need to enforce property rights! Finally, Nozick recognizes that there needs to be something to "rectify" any problems that come along, i.e., the property transferred back to the rightful owner. And he also recognizes that, in some cases, simply giving back the thing itself will be insufficient, because there will be other costs involved. If your grandpa stole $100 from my grandpa after the war - let's say in 1948 - then you don't merely owe me the original $100, because that's now worth approximately $1000 today (and that's setting aside interest, etc). Note that you're assumed to have benefited from your grandpa's theft, and therefore are liable for his debts. All in the name of preserving property rights! Here's the thing: what happens if we apply this to, for instance, the Cherokee Nation? What happens when we apply to the descendants of African slaves? Fill in the blank yourself: in what ways has "original acquisition" gone wrong? Are you really willing to defend "Manifest Destiny" (and who knows, maybe you are, but you can't do it using Nozick). If the holdings weren't acquired justly, then they can't be transferred justly. If something has gone wrong, there ought to be a rectification of injustice. What might that even look like? (After writing this, I decided to Google "Nozick and Reparations," and came up with this post by Matt Bruenig, which is worth reading if you found my blog post interesting.)
My guiding sense of "what a cartoon should be" has really been shaped by the New Yorker. Not that I have any sense that I'm going to be published there: I've read about what it takes, and I just don't do it, for a variety of reasons.
I don't think I've ever done a "desert island" cartoon, though, even though I once did an analyst's couch. It seems to me that Mr. Miro might be perfectly happy on one.
When I'm driving around, I often come up with things that I want to write on my blog - clarifying statements, positions on various issues, etc. And yet somehow when I'm actually at the computer, it all leaves me. But as I've said in the past, this blog was always intended to be primarily about the cartoons. This one was inspired by a conversation that happened a couple weeks ago. I didn't actually say Mr. Miro's part out loud, though.