Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Toomas Karmo: Apology for Blog-Schedule Breakdown, with Spiritual Remarks

Quality assessment:

On the 5-point scale current in Estonia, and surely in nearby nations, and familiar to observers of the academic arrangements of the late, unlamented, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (applying the easy and lax standards Kmo deploys in his grubby imaginary "Aleksandr Stepanovitsh Popovi nimeline sangarliku raadio instituut" (the "Alexandr Stepanovitch Popov Institute of Heroic Radio") and his grubby imaginary "Nikolai Ivanovitsh Lobatshevski nimeline sotsalitsliku matemaatika instituut" (the "Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky Institute of Socialist Mathematics") - where, on the lax and easy grading philosophy of the twin Institutes, 1/5 is "epic fail", 2/5 is "failure not so disastrous as to be epic", 3'5 is "mediocre pass", 4.5 is "good", and 5/5 is "excellent"): 3/5. Justification: Kmo wrote accurately, but in rather skimpy terms. 

Revision history: 

  • 20170215T2341Z/version 1.0.0: Kmo uploaded an initial, already reasonably polished, version. He reserved the right to make minor, purely cosmetic, nonsubstantive tweaks over the coming 48 hours, as here-undocumented versions 1.0.1, 1.0.2, 1.0.3, ... . 

[CAUTION: A bug in the blogger server-side software has in some past weeks shown a propensity to insert inappropriate doublespacing or inappropriate interparagraph whitespace at some points in some of my posted essays. If a screen seems to end in empty space, keep scrolling down. The end of the posting is not reached until the usual blogger "Posted by Toomas (Tom) Karmo at" appears. - The blogger software has also shown a propensity to generate HTML that is formatted in different ways on different client-side browsers, perhaps with some browsers not correctly reading in the entirety of the "Cascading Style Sheets" which on many Web servers control the browser placement of margins, sidebars, and the like. If you suspect "Cascading Style Sheets" problems in your particular browser, be patient: it is probable that while some content has been shoved into some odd place (for instance, down to the bottom of your browser, where it ought to appear in the right-hand margin), all the server content has been pushed down into your browser in some place or other. - Anyone inclined to help with trouble-shooting, or to offer other kinds of technical advice, is welcome to write me via]

I must apologize tonight to my readers. For (I think) the first time since I started blogging some nine or ten months ago, I have managed to miss, not in a minor way but in a glaring way, my self-imposed weekly schedule - leaving aside, to be sure, my rather natural and predictable and forgivable Christmas-week miss. My self-imposed schedule prescribes a fresh upload in each four-hour Tuesday-morning UTC interval 0001Z/0401Z. Although I was to have uploaded in the interval 20170214T0001Z/20170214T0401Z, I have unfortunately delayed this activity by just under 48 hours. 


In an effort to get at least something uploaded this week, I write to only modest length, confining myself to three simple remarks. All three are on broadly spiritual themes. 


First, I comment on the troubling matter of "hermit vocations". 

Some fortunate individuals are formally professed religious hermits, enjoying some mode of formal recognition form their local archdioceses. In some cases - I think particularly of Sr Laurel O'Neil, blogging at - such archdiocese-recognized hermits proceed under Canon 603 in Church law. 

Clearly I cannot, with my autism, my depressions, and my other frailties, presume to join their distinguished ranks. But should I altogether abandon the hermit ideal? Is it altogether an error of presumption to keep putting into my e-mail footers the boilerplate text pursuing, without vows, perceived vocation as private (non-diocesan) Catholic-layman hermit?

I am happy to hear arguments, from theologically competent authorities, in favour of extinguishing that e-mail footer.

Nevertheless, it seems to me at the moment that a lay hermit endeavour - alongside that other, less eccentric-seeming, personal imperative which is the study of maths, astronomy, and physics-of-radio - is what God desires of me. I see it like this, that at the time of judgement: (a) the unfaithful ones do not get slapped, punched, or kicked - still less do they get burned  - for having neglected their vocation. Rather, a reassuring Marilyn Monroe (chewing her bubble gum, as I have previously remarked on this blog) walks into view a couple of seconds after one's biological death, saying, "We was worried about you, Honey." But all the same (b) those unfaithful ones are given to understand that something did not - to God's sorrow, and to the detriment of the Kingdom for whose earthly coming we have been taught to pray daily - get done correctly in their too-comfortable earthly lives. 


Second, I remark on the possible need to bring together two seriously Catholic Toronto friends, "UVW" and "XYZ", perhaps ultimately along with their respective wives. 

From UVW I have received, among other notable and weighty gifts, a small pectoral crucific, I think in steel, clearly (this is seen from the detailed lettering in its die-stamping or casting) in the Benedictine monastic tradition. 

With XYZ I have several times chatted on Benedictine spirituality, with repeated reference to the Archabbey of Saint Vincent in Pennsylvania. XYZ and I have particularly discussed the Benedictine Oblate outreach of that monastery. 


Third, I remark on a matter that has been on my mind over the past three or so weeks, and which I suppose I might due course discuss also with one or both of UVW and XYZ (whether in two-way meetings or, conceivably, in an outright three-way). This matter could be called the "Spirituality of the Sea". 

My 1970s Oxford college was fortunate to have a significant Old Testament authority, Dr Anthony Phillips (author of the "Cambridge Bible Commentaries" Deuteronomy volume), as its Anglican Chaplain. I recall Dr Phillips telling some of us, perhaps in a small gathering in his Front-Quad rooms, how the Hebrews feared the sea. 

And yet I also think how discernible a marine note sounds in popular piety. 

Everyone who reads the Gospels must from time to time think not only of the Nativity and Passion, and of the Sermon on the Mount, and of the Prodigal Son, but also of the storm on the Sea of Galilee (at the outset of which which Our Lord is said by the practical-minded evangelist Mark to be asleep "on a cushion" in the stern). 

From Marian devotion in specifically Catholic circles, we have the haunting phrase Stella Maris - "Star of the Sea" - as for instance in the hymn at

Hail, Queen of heaven, the ocean star,
Guide of the wanderer here below,
Thrown on life's surge, we claim thy care,
Save us from peril and from woe.
Mother of Christ, O Star of the sea 
Pray for the wanderer, pray for me. 

The permanent canon of high English literature includes Tennyson's "Crossing the Bar": 

Sunset and evening star,
      And one clear call for me! 
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
      When I put out to sea,

   But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
      Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
      Turns again home.

   Twilight and evening bell,
      And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
      When I embark;

   For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place
      The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
      When I have crost the bar.

(I should perhaps explain, for benefit of  readers far from tidewater, that "bar" here is "sandbar". The tide has to be judged accurately, as by an experienced harbour pilot, if the keel is to ride safely clear of the sand.) 

At a more secular level, but still in the high world of canonical English letters, there is another sometime Poet Laureate, Masefield, with his "Sea Fever": 

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

Outside high English literature, there are abundant current-day practical examples to instruct us ethically and spiritually - for instance, explorer Arved Fuchs, with his Dagmar Aaen. The length is around just 20 metres, making this inutterably beautiful 1931 vessel look perhaps vulnerable when tied up. In fact, however, the Dagmar Aaen features a distinctively strong oak construction in its hull, such as is appropriate for Mr Fuchs's Arctic work. When airs prove favourable, driving power can be supplied by up to 220 square metres of sail. A three-cylinder diesel additionally yields 180 horsepower (i.e., in laboratory units, 1.3e5 joules per second). 

Do not waste time with me today, folks: have a look, rather, at the various available Dagmar Aaen Web materials, such as (1) (this page has plans of deck and accommodations), or (2) the 43:04-duration 2014-06-03 YouTube upload of YouTube user "Free Documentary", under title "SAILING ACROSS THE ATLANTIC Part 1/5". In my corner of the Web, the video is reachable as A check of YouTube statistics as at UTC=20170215T2226Z shows it to have already received 511,711 views. 

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