Palm Sunday during pandemic

Yesterday I walked to Saint Stephen Martyr for confession. Spring is emerging in its fullness in Georgetown, so the walk there was beautiful. I also saw my first Biden yard sign.

It was the first time I’ve stepped foot in a church since the pandemic closures, since I got back from my Longlea retreat three or so weeks ago. As I sat in the empty church after confession, it was reassuring to hear the organist still practicing—knowing Easter will come shortly whether we’re together in person or not.

And today I joined Fr. Charles Trullols via YouTube stream for his noon Palm Sunday Mass:

It’s a beautiful day out, hitting 70 degrees probably, so I’m heading out for a run.

Rose Park in springtime

Washington feels largely emptied out since self-distancing and quarantine/lockdown really came into place in mid-March. And since Mayor Bowser’s formal stay-at-home order, the feeling of emptiness has increased somewhat. I still get out to go for runs, and public exercise is allowable along with other reasons to be out like heading for groceries, etc.

Americans in the millions have lost their jobs over the past few weeks, and unemployment claims are expected to continue to grow by the millions. Depending on how long this lasts, it’s possible we could be looking at Great Depression-level unemployment numbers.

In light of that, I’m especially thankful to still be working. And I’m grateful to be in Washington in this time and to still be able to head into the office periodically to pick up essential correspondence and do what needs to be done in person.

The sings of spring are all around and the days are growing increasingly beautiful. It’s tough to want to be indoors, even as we recognize that this self-distancing is prudent and necessary to contain the spread of the virus and “flatten the curve” of demand on our doctors and hospital staffs. Hopefully we can turn the corner soon, and figure out how to restore work to those who have lost it in the weeks and months to come.

Potomac pandemic run

I’ve been letting too many of the days under quarantine go by from waking to sleeping without meaningfully getting outdoors. As our typical routines have evaporated, the simple interludes in our day that we end up taking for granted or complain about turn out to be key bookends that give structure to our days: our commute, stepping our for coffee or lunch, taking a walk during an afternoon call, heading to an evening dinner or event, heading to noon Mass, etc.

All of that has effectively disappeared, and so now we have to do it intentionally. Today I decided to get out during lunchtime and got in a nice ~5.5 mile run along the Potomac. And tonight I’m meeting a colleague in Arlington for a good walk and conversation.

Simple things are also essential things and it’s good not to take them for granted, but to engage each of them as a gift.

Saint John Paul the Great’s centenary

George Weigel, Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, spoke tonight at the Mayflower. He delivered the annual William E. Simon Lecture, and this year’s theme was “Saint John Paul II: A Centenary Reflection on a Life of Consequence”. EPPC streamed the lecture and I’m embedding it here.

The post-lecture reception was a great one, partly because COVID-19 fears meant that the lecture was about half empty. (Last year it was packed/overflowing.) And that meant a calmer and more relaxed time to be with good people.

The backwards law

After work yesterday I took the Metro with two colleagues home from Farragut West to Rosslyn, mainly so we could continue a conversation we had started and partly because I’m tired of my walk home along M Street. Heading to Rosslyn and walking home across the Key Bridge gave me this:

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How great are the great things in our lives that we don’t need to pursue but simply recognize and enjoy.  Alan Watts wrote about this and Mark Manson riffs on it:

Wanting a positive experience is a negative experience; accepting negative experience is a positive experience. It’s what the philosopher Alan Watts used to refer to as “the backwards law”—the idea that the more you pursue feeling better all the time, the less satisfied you become, as pursuing something only reinforces the fact that you lack it in the first place. The more you desperately want to be rich, the more poor and unworthy you feel, regardless of how much money you actually make. The more you desperately want to be sexy and desired, the uglier you come to see yourself, regardless of your actual physical appearance. The more you desperately want to be happy and loved, the lonelier and more afraid you become, regardless of those who surround you. The more you want to be spiritually enlightened, the more self-centered and shallow you become in trying to get there.

Protect Women Protect Life Rally

I spent this morning in front of the U.S. Supreme Court for the “Protect Women Protect Life Rally” in support of Louisiana’s “Unsafe Abortion Protection Act”. Americans United for Life joined with Live Action, Alliance Defending Freedom, Students for Life, and Louisiana Right to Life and others to put this rally together.

As we were rallying outside, the U.S. Supreme Court was in session and hearing oral arguments concerning Louisiana’s law. We expect a ruling to be handed down in June.

 

National Press Club press conference in support of Louisiana law

We held a press conference this afternoon at the National Press Club in advance of tomorrow’s “Protect Women Protect Life Rally” at the U.S. Supreme Court in support of Louisiana’s health and safety law:

National Pro-life Coalition Holds Press Conference Ahead of Oral Arguments in Landmark Abortion Case

U.S. Senators, Representatives to join Louisiana State Lawmakers and Pro-life Activists to discuss June Medical Services v. Russo

Washington, D.C.—The U.S. Supreme Court will take up June Medical Services v. Russo, potentially the most important abortion-related case in more than three decades. Ahead of the oral arguments, a coalition of preeminent national pro-life organizations and leaders will hold a press conference at the National Press Club on March 3rd at 2 PM to discuss the merits and implications of the landmark case.

The Court will consider the constitutionality of a Louisiana law requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where they perform an abortion as well as whether or not abortion businesses have standing to file lawsuits against pro-life laws, as opposed to lawsuits being brought by individuals seeking access to abortion.

I had the chance to interview Sen. Katrina Jackson this morning. She’s the pro-life Democrat who sponsored the Louisiana law at the center of this U.S. Supreme Court case. That interview will be out next week on our “Life, Liberty, and Law” podcast.

Raise a standard

“Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair.”

I noticed this on an early morning walk to work. I was walking from St. Dominic in Southwest, south of the Mall near L’Enfant Metro. I had crossed Constitution and looked up to see this beautiful classical facade with this timeless aspiration inscribed upon it.

It’s one of my favorites from Washington for both its power and nobility.

Georgetown canal path

I forget that Georgetown has these incredible canal paths. I worked from Capital One Cafe again this morning and later while on a conference call walked along the canal path on the way to the office.

This is definitely one of the nicer stretches of Georgetown’s canals. Certain locks are non-functional or are presently under reconstruction. And I know there’s a longer term (3-5 year) revitalization plan that was recently approved for the Georgetown stretch of the canals.

What we have here is beautiful enough for now and probably one of the best ways to spend an afternoon—and certainly a conference call.

Nothing in common but one word

I’m heading to State College tonight, and I’ve been spending this afternoon in Washington reading and working a bit. Here’s a late afternoon view from M Street near the Key Bridge:

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Here’s a passage from The Road to Serfdom that someone shared earlier today, appropriate for this election season:

There can be no doubt that most of those in the democracies who demand a central direction of all economic activity still believe that socialism and individual freedom can be combined. Yet socialism was early recognized by many thinkers as the greatest threat to freedom.

It is rarely remembered now that socialism in its beginnings was frankly authoritarian. It began quite openly as a reaction against the liberalism of the French Revolution. The French writers who laid its foundations had no doubt that their ideas could be put into practice only by a strong dictatorial government. The first of modern planners, Saint-Simon, predicted that those who did not obey his proposed planning boards would be “treated as cattle”.

Nobody saw more clearly than the great political thinker de Tocqueville that democracy stands in an irreconcilable conflict with socialism: “Democracy extends the sphere of individual freedom,” he said. “Democracy attaches all possible value to each man,” he said in 1848, “while socialism makes each man a mere agent, a mere number. Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word: equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.”

To allay these suspicions and to harness to its cart the strongest of all political motives—the craving for freedom—socialists began increasingly to make use of the promise of a “new freedom”. Socialism was to bring “economic freedom” without which political freedom was “not worth having”.

To make this argument sound plausible, the word “freedom” was subjected to a subtle change in meaning. The word had formerly meant freedom from coercion…

We’re living through the playing out of the logic of centuries-old social/political disputes.