Friday, August 28, 2009

Woodward: Manolete

Sixty-two years ago today, in the Spanish town of Linares, the man who was probably the greatest bullfighter of all time was killed by a bull which he had, in turn, just mortally wounded.

Few cultural totems of Western civilization challenge political correctness more than bullfighting. Being appalled by it (or pretending to be) is one of the cheaper ways of establishing one's moral refinement nowadays -- more surefire even than professing an abhorrence of boxing, and certainly more welcome at cocktail parties than voicing any ethical scruples regarding abortion or assisted suicide.

Bullfighting is not sport but ritual, which goes a long way towards explaining why it's not understood -- let alone appreciated -- by the modern world.

Woodward: The Feast of St. Augustine

Setting aside the apostles (who must be kept in a category by themselves), a debate on the question of who is the greatest saint might make an amusing parlor game. My candidate would very probably be the man whose feast is commemorated today. Not just a great theologian, philosopher, and pastor, but a great writer. Who has ever understood sin better -- or described its attractions more accurately?

Thus with the baggage of the world was I sweetly burdened, as when in slumber; and the thoughts wherein I meditated upon You were like the efforts of those desiring to awake, who, still overpowered with a heavy drowsiness, are again steeped therein. And as no one desires to sleep always, and in the sober judgment of all waking is better, yet does a man generally defer to shake off drowsiness, when there is a heavy lethargy in all his limbs, and, though displeased, yet even after it is time to rise with pleasure yields to it, so was I assured that it were much better for me to give up myself to Your charity, than to yield myself to my own cupidity; but the former course satisfied and vanquished me, the latter pleased me and fettered me. Nor had I anything to answer You calling to me, Awake, you that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light. (Ephesians 5:14) And to You showing me on every side, that what You said was true, I, convicted by the truth, had nothing at all to reply, but the drawling and drowsy words: Presently, lo, presently; Leave me a little while. But presently, presently, had no present; and my leave me a little while went on for a long while.

Confessions 8.5.12