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John J. Reilly


January 25, 2008


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Texas Airship; The Parties Implode; Atheist Spirituality

I have warned in this space, more than once, that airships are a Fortean technology that becomes prominent only in timelines that are becoming less likely. And now look at these reports from Texas:

In the days since the reported sighting [at Stephenville, Texas] which one witness said was of an object in the sky “bigger than a Wal-Mart,” with the addition of many, many strobe lights — officials at the airbase initially said that none of their aircraft were flying on the night in question. But they changed their story on Wednesday: now they say that 10 F-16 fighter jets were indeed airborne between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. local time that night, on a training mission. That includes the 5-minute period when unidentified flying objects were sighted.

Actually, as many reports have noted, that area has a history of anomalous airship sightings going back to 1897, some of which may have been connected with attempts to attract tourists. Nonetheless, this one is not terribly improbable. It's not a secret that the US military has become very interested in airships for observation and for cargo lifting. I would not be at all surprised if the Air Force had a prototype that was almost but not quite ready for public display.

It is true that we see nothing of such rumors at Airship World, but what surer proof of cover-up could one ask for?

* * *

Moving on to Fortean Politics, Peggy Noonan continues to track the simultaneous structural failure of both political parties:

[T]he Clintons are tearing the party apart. It will not be the same after this. It will not be the same after its most famous leader, and probable ultimate victor, treated a proud and accomplished black man who is a U.S. senator as if he were nothing, a mere impediment to their plans. And to do it in a way that signals, to his supporters, How dare you have the temerity, the ingratitude, after all we've done for you?

The fissures in the Democratic Party are more than a question of personalities, but let us look now on the other side of the aisle:

As for the Republicans, their slow civil war continues. The primary race itself is winnowing down and clarifying: It is John McCain versus Mitt Romney, period. At the same time the conservative journalistic world is convulsed by recrimination and attack. They're throwing each other out of the party....The rage is due to many things. A world is ending, the old world of conservative meaning, and ascendancy...On the pundit civil wars, Rush Limbaugh declared on the radio this week, "I'm here to tell you, if either of these two guys [Mr. McCain or Mike Huckabee] get the nomination, it's going to destroy the Republican Party. It's going to change it forever, be the end of it!"

This is absurd. George W. Bush destroyed the Republican Party, by which I mean he sundered it, broke its constituent pieces apart and set them against each other...I believe that some of the ferocity of the pundit wars is due to a certain amount of self-censorship...It hurts to say something you supported didn't work. I would know.

Or even worse: to have been proven right, at least in part, and then have nothing to say when the world changes.

This comment gives me grave foreboding about the coming nominating conventions:

When I attended a Giuliani fund-raiser this summer I saw something I wish I'd noted: The audience was big but wasn't listening. They were all on their BlackBerrys. That should have told me something about his support.

I have never attended a political convention, but I gather that, in the old days, when they really made decisions, they were as much fun as a Shriner's Convention, and they even had better hats. Today, all the deliberation would happen wirelessly, among people who might be 10 feet apart. No one will watch the candidates' infomercials on the Jumbotron. How are these virtual gatherings to be televised?

* * *

On the upside, Fr. Neuhaus at First Things notes favorably, if he does not quite recommend, André Comte-Sponville's recent work, The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality. Fr. Neuhaus remarks on some precedents:

[The author] reminds us, however, that there is atheism and then there is atheism. This is a truth underscored by Father Ranier Cantalamessa, preacher to the papal household, in a recent essay:

“The world of today knows a new category of people: the atheists in good faith, those who live painfully the situation of the silence of God, who do not believe in God but do not boast about it; rather they experience the existential anguish and the lack of meaning of everything: They too, in their own way, live in the dark night of the spirit. Albert Camus called them “the saints without God.” The mystics exist above all for them; they are their travel and table companions. Like Jesus, they “sat down at the table of sinners and ate with them” (see Luke 15:2). This explains the passion with which certain atheists, once converted, pore over the writings of the mystics: Claudel, Bernanos, the two Maritains, L. Bloy, the writer J.K. Huysmans and so many others over the writings of Angela of Foligno; T.S. Eliot over those of Julian of Norwich. There they find again the same scenery that they had left, but this time illuminated by the sun. . . . The word “atheist” can have an active and a passive meaning. It can indicate someone who rejects God, but also one who—at least so it seems to him—is rejected by God. In the first case, it is a blameworthy atheism (when it is not in good faith), in the second an atheism of sorrow or of expiation.”

"Rejecting God" need not mean only rejecting faith, as we see in the successfully appalling novel We All Fall Down. Rejection is consistent with a high degree of intellectual assent.


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