Penn State v. Michigan

Watching Penn State beat Michigan last night was just downright fun, from Saquon Barkley’s opening touchdown 42 seconds into the game, to the seconds that the clock ticked to zero with #2 Penn State over #19 Michigan 42-13.

These sorts of seasons come so infrequently, you just have to relax and enjoy the magic of the season. Penn State hasn’t been this highly ranked since 1999. Penn State hasn’t seen attendance in Beaver Stadium like last night in its history: 110,823 set the all-time record for turnout. And Coach James Franklin hasn’t had a 7-0 start before in his career.

To top it all, ESPN’s College Game Day visited State College, and broadcast from Old Main’s lawn. I took a few photos while watching Coach Franklin’s interview on TV earlier in the day.

Enjoying this for as long as it lasts.

See the light

O world of spring and autumn, birth and dying!
The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;…
All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,…
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?…

Our gaze is submarine, our eyes look upward
And see the light that fractures through unquiet water.
We see the light but see not whence it comes. …

Therefore we thank Thee for our little light, that is dappled with shadow.
We thank Thee who hast moved us to building, to finding, to forming at the ends of our fingers and beams of our eyes.
And when we have built an altar to the Invisible Light, we may set thereon the little lights for which our bodily vision is made.
And we thank Thee that darkness reminds us of light.
O Light Invisible, we give Thee thanks for Thy great glory!

T.S. Eliot

Madeira

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Heading back to Philadelphia today after spending a few days in Cincinnati. Here’s a photo from a walk in Madeira, a neighborhood near Indian Hill in Cincinnati.

It feels like autumn now. When I landed in Cincinnati the weather had a chill in it for the first time, and was a start after how downright hot and humid it was in Alexandria and how it’s been in Philadelphia. Autumn is probably my favorite time of year, but these next few weeks fly by. Trying to be intentional about how I spend this time, and trying not to overthink it, either.

That’s all I’ve got today.

Owners v. debtors

Johnny Sanphillippo writes on “the death of household productivity” (the financialization of housing) and the ways in which it makes American life less resilient. I would add that it also makes life less authentic:

A couple of months ago a friend sent me some images from Florida. He and his family were visiting his wife’s parents who live in a comfortable retirement community. To quote: “Here’s where we’re staying for the next few weeks. Sun City Center. It’s very superficially nice. My father-in-law has had to look things up in the HOA rule book at least three times since we got here on Saturday.” …

The newest developments feature large homes with all the latest bells and whistles, but their physical design is exceptionally limited. The front yard is a little green toupee between driveways. There’s a useless strip between the homes so they are “fully detached” in spite of the collective legal nature of the HOA. The back yard is a patio up against a concrete wall. These are actually luxury apartments by other means. The inhabitants may be proud “homeowners” but the bank owns these buildings and collects rent every month in the form of mortgage payments with interest.

The majority of the American population currently lives in some version of the suburbs. This will remain true for the foreseeable future. The real question is how ever more people with increasingly limited resources under considerably more stress will occupy them – particularly as failing institutions squeeze them for revenue. This is an extraordinarily fragile and vulnerable set of living arrangements and it isn’t going to end well.

You’re not a homeowner until you’ve paid off your mortgage debt. Until then, you’re a debtor paying interest for your home in addition to taxes on the property. That’s often worse than renting, unless the home accommodates many people, multiple generations, multiple uses (living, eating, working, studying), etc.

Metro

I’m in Washington for Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network-related reasons, and snapped this photo as I got in late last night from Philadelphia on Amtrak.

The Metro system is unlikely anything else I’ve seen, such a great example of architectural brutalism that’s somehow not appalling in the way that brutalism, by its nature, tends to be. The dimly lit stations feel elegant rather than dismal, thanks to the contrast of the vaulted ceilings and truly monumental scale of things like the exit stairs at stations like Woodley Park:

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For all of its problems and the complaints of Washingtonians, Metro offers something that basically no other system in the country does: a sense of coherence and consistency and maybe even beauty in its stations. All of this makes travel feel energizing, rather than enervating in the way systems too often do. It shows that there can be a certain beauty in public works, even in a capitalistic society.

Los Angeles does a pretty great job, too, if only because it seems so few use it.

Big little historical moments

Stanislav Petrov died at 77 earlier this year. Why am I remembering him? His incredible discretion and right judgment in an incredible historical moment:

On September 26, 1983, Soviet military officer Stanislav Petrov received a message that five nuclear missiles had been launched by the United States and were heading to Moscow. He didn’t launch a retaliatory strike, believing correctly that it was a false alarm. And with that, he saved the world from nuclear war. …

Karl Schumacher, a political activist in Germany, was one of the first people to publicize Petrov’s story back in the late 1990s. But Schumacher reportedly learned of Petrov’s death this month after contacting Petrov’s home. Petrov’s son Dmitry reported that the man who saved the world all those years ago had died on May 19, 2017.

How many heroes live among us, living quiet lives after their moment of proving has come and gone? No doubt this man was one of the least known heroes of the Cold War, but he was one of many who stopped nuclear war:

Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov was 44 years old and working at a missile detection bunker south of Moscow on September 26, 1983. His computer told him that five nuclear missiles were on their way, and given their flight time, he had just 20 minutes to launch a counter attack. But Petrov told his superior officers that it was a false alarm. He had absolutely no real evidence that this was true, but it probably saved millions of lives.

“The siren howled, but I just sat there for a few seconds, staring at the big, back-lit, red screen with the word ‘launch’ on it,” Petrov told the BBC’s Russian Service back in 2013.

“I had all the data [to suggest there was an ongoing missile attack]. If I had sent my report up the chain of command, nobody would have said a word against it,” Petrov said.

“There was no rule about how long we were allowed to think before we reported a strike. But we knew that every second of procrastination took away valuable time; that the Soviet Union’s military and political leadership needed to be informed without delay,” he told the BBC. …

Perhaps importantly, Petrov noted that he was the only officer around that day who had received a civilian education. Everyone else were professional soldiers and he believed that they would have simply reported the attack at face value. The men around him were “taught to give and obey orders.” Luckily, Petrov disobeyed what simply didn’t feel right to him.

Petrov reasoned that if the Americans were going to launch a first strike they’d send more than five missiles, despite the fact that they could still do an enormous amount of damage. He also believed that since the alert system was relatively new it seemed likely that it could be sending a false alarm.

If Petrov had been wrong, he would have compromised the Soviet Union’s ability to retaliate against a nuclear strike. But if he was right, World War III would be averted. Thankfully, he was right.

Natural law’s origins

Bradley J. Birzer writes on Christopher Dawson’s thinking as an historian and meta-historian on natural law:

Certainly, the moment-by-moment unfolding and detailing of the past mattered, but only as these served as a means to understand the larger currents of thought and the human condition. It was the sea changes in thought and consciousness across cultures and over time that most interested him as scholar and thinker.

In the earliest awareness men had of their world, they worshipped the divine—whatever that divine might be. These various forms of worship, Dawson believed, served as the basis of all human culture(s). No Lockean, Dawson argued that men came together because of their mutual interest in defending what they each agreed was sacred, rather than as a compact in which each man sought to protect his own interests against the community. As Dawson viewed it, man’s first step in development was the formation of community based on the interests of the community and the community’s divine, not some recognition of individualism. As the title of Dawson’s first book, The Age of the Gods, suggests, this was an age of the divine. From the worship of the divine, each people developed their own distinctive way of life.

The second greatest moment in human history, Dawson argued, arrived around 500 BC throughout the entire civilized world—in the Mediterranean, in India, and in China. If the first great movement was the Age of the Gods, the second great movement was an age of the “humane” or of “humanism,” as Hindu, Buddhist, Confucian, and Greek embraced a vision of what would become a common humanity that transcends nations, races, and religions. Amazingly enough, each form of humanism—whether in China, Indian, or Ionia—developed within mere years of the others.

What defined this age as brilliant and peculiar was, in fact, its non-peculiarity. Throughout the civilized world, from East to West, each of the great ways of thinking embraced what would one day be called the “natural law,” applicable to all times and all places. The law emanated from the divine toward and upon all, regardless of soil, culture, skin tone, and temporal existence. As Dawson noted, the Natural Law applied to men as well as to nature; thus, natural law allowed human thought to free itself from the cycles of the seasons and the cycles of life, death, and rebirth. …

Though Dawson remained unsure why the Natural Law developed, he did not hesitate to celebrate it. He remained firmly convinced that the development of Natural Law did not randomly emerge from individual genius, but rather believed that individual genius arose out of the various traditions and norms of each people. …

Dawson focused much of his own thought on the first of the great Greek philosophers—indeed, the first philosopher anywhere—Heraclitus. In seeking an answer to the cycles of nature and the human person, he came to believe that all things found themselves rooted in a divine (if very pantheistic) element, Fire, or, in Greek, Logos. The Logos, while not quite god, represented the mind of the universe, and it endowed all persons, everywhere, with Reason, the language of the gods and of men. By speaking the language of Reason, each person could embrace not only the divine in the next realm, but, critically, the divine in each person of this world.

With the Logos, men became human.

This is my first introduction to Dawson, but he immediately reminds me of Will Durant in terms of his interest in understanding history in an integrative way: