Groups, Individuals, and Survival

I’ve been thinking about Chinese society and Western society recently, in part because of shaking my head with lack of surprise at China denouncing the arrest of one of Huawei Corp.’s officers as a violation of human rights. For a government with zero interest in individual rights, they certainly have mastered the use of the West’s ideals to use as a stick to beat their opposition (namely anyone who looks as if they might disagree with China) with.

Which is more important, the group or the individual? In this case, it probably ought to be narrowed down to the government or the individual. China’s answer is the group/government, and that goes back thousands of years. In a way it makes good survival sense. In a way it seems to cripple a lot of what Chinese people might accomplish. Continue reading


Pearl Harbor and a Patrician

December 7, 1941, a day which shall live in infamy, as President F. D. Roosevelt said. It changed the lives of a generation, starting with those directly involved with the attacks in Japan and the Philippines. Then the millions of men called to active duty, the women who worked on the home front or volunteered in the military, and the families they left behind. No one escaped the touch of the war, including those men who would have been considered America’s elites, the wealthy and well-educated, such as George Herbert Walker Bush. When called, they served. Because that was one’s duty as one of the elite – to be a role model, to serve when needed. Or so the temper of the time commanded. Continue reading

Hanukkah and St. Nicholas

We are into the eight nights of Hanukkah, the annual commemoration of a miracle. And in the Western churches, today is the feast of St. Nicholas, patron of fishermen and children, unmarried girls, bakers, and pawn shops (sort of).  Both are about faith in times of trial and miracles, although Hanukkah is the older and more historical of the two.

A modern menorah. Eight nights, and one candle to light the others. Used under Creative Commons/ Fair use. Image from Click image for link.

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Oh Come Thou Shoot of Jesse’s Tree…

“O come, o come Emmanuel,” or “Veni Emmanuel” to use the original name, includes a series of descriptions of Jesus. One that hearkens back to the book of Isiah is “shoot of Jesse’s tree.” Today we use it as a metaphor. Medieval art took it literally, and one of the things I did this summer was take pictures of various Jesse Trees.

Out of Jesse shall come a branch…

This choir-stall is a very simple depiction of the idea, and comes from the Cistercian Abbey of Maulbronn. As you can tell from the fragment of sign, it dates to around 1450, so it is Renaissance. Continue reading

Harvest Home?

“All is safely gathered in/ Ere the winter storms begin…Raise the song of Harvest Home.” This text is from one of my favorite Thanksgiving hymns, “Come Ye Thankful People, Come.” It combines the timely images of harvest and sorting the good grain from the weeds, and from the end of the Christian calendar and the winnowing of peoples described in the Bible.

What I suspect most of us who sing the hymn tend to forget is that a Harvest Home was a specific celebration in England. Harvest Home is the proper name and refers to the large feast and the rituals associated with bringing the last sheaf of grain in at the end of the harvest, bring the harvest home to the farm. Continue reading