31 December 2008

Adios, El Blog-o

Obviously this blog has been on hiatus for quite a while - and this post makes it permanent. Lots going on - mainly the arrival of the little sweetie above - so no energy for this blog. I do have a Delicious page with links to articles & essays of interest to me (sermon fodder, &c.), which was the main point of this blog, anyway. Also, I'm on Facebook.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year & Thanks -

Church of the Holy Communion
Caritas Fellowship

24 September 2008


A Wired piece on Jay Walker's library.
Nothing quite prepares you for the culture shock of Jay Walker's library. You exit the austere parlor of his New England home and pass through a hallway into the bibliographic equivalent of a Disney ride. Stuffed with landmark tomes and eye-grabbing historical objects—on the walls, on tables, standing on the floor—the room occupies about 3,600 square feet on three mazelike levels. Is that a Sputnik? (Yes.) Hey, those books appear to be bound in rubies. (They are.) That edition of Chaucer ... is it a Kelmscott? (Natch.) Gee, that chandelier looks like the one in the James Bond flick Die Another Day. (Because it is.) No matter where you turn in this ziggurat, another treasure beckons you—a 1665 Bills of Mortality chronicle of London (you can track plague fatalities by week), the instruction manual for the Saturn V rocket (which launched the Apollo 11 capsule to the moon), a framed napkin from 1943 on which Franklin D. Roosevelt outlined his plan to win World War II. In no time, your mind is stretched like hot taffy.

Wearing a huge can-you-believe-it grin is the collection's impresario, the 52-year-old Internet entrepreneur and founder of Walker Digital — a think tank churning out ideas and patents, it's best-known for its lucrative Priceline.com. "I started an R&D lab and have been an entrepreneur. So I have a big affinity for the human imagination," he says. "About a dozen years ago, my collection got so big that I said, 'It's time to build a room, a library, that would be about human imagination.
Here's the whole thing.

18 September 2008

The Virtues & "Morality"

Edward Skidelsky on our enfeebled contemporary notions of and about morality:
Morality is once again on the lips of politicians and commentators. David Cameron has warned that we are "becoming quite literally a de-moralised society, where nobody will tell the truth any more about what is good and bad." He is echoed by Richard Reeves, new director of Demos, who argued in last month's Prospect that Britain's poor lack not only the material but also the moral resources to better their lot in life.

Behind these comments lies a flickering recognition that our nation's central problems are moral, not economic. But any deeper reflection runs up against a principle entrenched in the liberal mind—that individuals are sovereign in their own sphere, and that only when someone infringes on others may he be rebuked or punished. "Neither one person, nor any number of persons," declared John Stuart Mill, the originator of this principle, "is warranted in saying to another human creature of ripe years, that he shall not do with his life for his own benefit what he chooses to do with it."

Mill's principle has come to shape western public doctrine. It lies behind the social legislation of the 1960s and the anti-discriminatory legislation of the past four decades. Neither left nor right dares reject it openly. Yet in historical terms, it is an anomaly, a departure from the common sense of our species.

The ethical traditions of the pre-modern world focused on those qualities of character making for a good and happy life—the virtues. The exact nature of these virtues was open to dispute. The ancient Greeks singled out courage, temperance, prudence and justice. Christians added faith, hope and charity to the list, and downgraded pride (for the pagans a virtue) to a vice. Other virtues have had a more temporary vogue. The Renaissance favoured boldness, the Puritans thrift and industry. The east has traditions of its own. Confucius stressed filial piety, Lao Tse spontaneity. But all agreed that the virtues—some virtues—must lie at the heart of the moral life.

The virtues, for these pre-modern traditions, are the natural excellences of the species. They are to us what speed is to the leopard or strength to the lion; they are not matters of choice or self-expression. This is not to say that they develop unaided. They require years of training—you cannot possess the virtue of gratitude unless you have first been taught your Ps and Qs. And this training does not end with childhood. Throughout life, the virtues can be encouraged, if not compelled, through legal arrangements designed to minimise temptation. Law is part of morality, and not, as in Friedrich Hayek's metaphor, a set of traffic rules for avoiding collisions. The state is an association of people come together to lead the good life, and not a night watchman or boundary patrolman.

These various pre-modern traditions, eastern and western, represent a style of thinking about ethics that has become almost unintelligible to us. Under the influence of Mill and others, we have come to think of morality as a system of rights and obligations, and the philosophical problem as one of defining these rights and obligations. But where there is no right or obligation, morality is silent. A man who, having fulfilled his obligations to others, settles down with a six-pack to watch porn on television all day may be foolish, disgusting, vulgar and so forth, but he is not strictly speaking immoral. For he is, as the saying goes, "within his rights."

Virtue clearly has no place in morality so conceived, for virtue is what calls forth love and admiration, not what may be demanded. Unlike obligation, virtue is never "fulfilled"; it suffuses the whole of life. This explains much that seems to us bizarre in pre-modern ethical systems. Take the sin of gluttony, analysed by medieval scholastics into the five vices of eating praepropere, nimis, ardenter, laute and studiose (too quickly, too much, too keenly, extravagantly and fussily). This strikes us today as insultingly intrusive. Surely if someone eats quickly or fussily, that is his business. It may be bad for his health, and bad manners, but it has nothing to do with morality.

Here's the whole thing.
Via Arts & Letters Daily.

10 September 2008

"A Single Moral Community That Includes Everyone"?

This, too, is only tangentially a Palin post.

Michael Gerson has an important piece, dovetailing with Camiile Paglia's below, regarding the contradiction at the heart of the Democratic party's (and liberalism's more generally) stridently and adamantly pro-abortion stance:

The wrenching diagnosis of 47 chromosomes must seem to parents like the end of a dream instead of the beginning of a life. But children born with Down syndrome -- who learn slowly but love deeply -- are generally not experienced by their parents as a curse but as a complex blessing. And when allowed to survive, men and women with an extra chromosome experience themselves as people with abilities, limits and rights. Yet when Down syndrome is detected through testing, many parents report that genetic counselors and physicians emphasize the difficulties of raising a child with a disability and urge abortion.

This is properly called eugenic abortion -- the ending of "imperfect" lives to remove the social, economic and emotional costs of their existence. And this practice cannot be separated from the broader social treatment of people who have disabilities. By eliminating less perfect humans, deformity and disability become more pronounced and less acceptable. Those who escape the net of screening are often viewed as mistakes or burdens. A tragic choice becomes a presumption -- "Didn't you get an amnio?" -- and then a prejudice. And this feeds a social Darwinism in which the stronger are regarded as better, the dependent are viewed as less valuable, and the weak must occasionally be culled.

The protest against these trends has come in interesting forms. Last year pro-choice Sen. Edward Kennedy joined with pro-life Sen. Sam Brownback to propose a bill that would have required medical professionals to tell expectant parents that genetic tests are sometimes inaccurate and to give them up-to-date information on the quality of life that people with Down syndrome can enjoy. The bill did not pass, but it was a principled gesture from Rosemary's brother.

Yet the pro-choice radicalism held by Kennedy and many others -- the absolute elevation of individual autonomy over the rights of the weak -- has enabled the new eugenics. It has also created a moral conflict at the heart of the Democratic Party. If traditional Democratic ideology means anything, it is the assertion that America is a single moral community that includes everyone. How can this vision possibly be reconciled with the elimination of children with Down syndrome from American society? Are pro-choice Democrats really comfortable with this choice?

Here's the whole thing.
Patrick Deneen has good commentary.

James Lileks . . .

. . . is a national treasure. (This is only tangentially a Palin post.)

"The Annihilation Of Concrete Individuals"

Camille Paglia recognizes - and embraces - the murderous logic of "abortion rights" and at the same time recognizes and respects the ethical seriousness of the pro-life position:

Let's take the issue of abortion rights, of which I am a firm supporter. As an atheist and libertarian, I believe that government must stay completely out of the sphere of personal choice. Every individual has an absolute right to control his or her body. (Hence I favor the legalization of drugs, though I do not take them.) Nevertheless, I have criticized the way that abortion became the obsessive idée fixe of the post-1960s women's movement — leading to feminists' McCarthyite tactics in pitting Anita Hill with her flimsy charges against conservative Clarence Thomas (admittedly not the most qualified candidate possible) during his nomination hearings for the Supreme Court. Similarly, Bill Clinton's support for abortion rights gave him a free pass among leading feminists for his serial exploitation of women — an abusive pattern that would scream misogyny to any neutral observer.

But the pro-life position, whether or not it is based on religious orthodoxy, is more ethically highly evolved than my own tenet of unconstrained access to abortion on demand. My argument (as in my first book, "Sexual Personae,") has always been that nature has a master plan pushing every species toward procreation and that it is our right and even obligation as rational human beings to defy nature's fascism. Nature herself is a mass murderer, making casual, cruel experiments and condemning 10,000 to die so that one more fit will live and thrive.

Hence I have always frankly admitted that abortion is murder, the extermination of the powerless by the powerful. Liberals for the most part have shrunk from facing the ethical consequences of their embrace of abortion, which results in the annihilation of concrete individuals and not just clumps of insensate tissue. The state in my view has no authority whatever to intervene in the biological processes of any woman's body, which nature has implanted there before birth and hence before that woman's entrance into society and citizenship.

On the other hand, I support the death penalty for atrocious crimes (such as rape-murder or the murder of children). I have never understood the standard Democratic combo of support for abortion and yet opposition to the death penalty. Surely it is the guilty rather than the innocent who deserve execution?

What I am getting at here is that not until the Democratic Party stringently reexamines its own implicit assumptions and rhetorical formulas will it be able to deal effectively with the enduring and now escalating challenge from the pro-life right wing. Because pro-choice Democrats have been arguing from cold expedience, they have thus far been unable to make an effective ethical case for the right to abortion.

The gigantic, instantaneous coast-to-coast rage directed at Sarah Palin when she was identified as pro-life was, I submit, a psychological response by loyal liberals who on some level do not want to open themselves to deep questioning about abortion and its human consequences. I have written about the eerie silence that fell over campus audiences in the early 1990s when I raised this issue on my book tours. At such moments, everyone in the hall seemed to feel the uneasy conscience of feminism. Naomi Wolf later bravely tried to address this same subject but seems to have given up in the face of the resistance she encountered.

If Sarah Palin tries to intrude her conservative Christian values into secular government, then she must be opposed and stopped. But she has every right to express her views and to argue for society's acceptance of the high principle of the sanctity of human life. If McCain wins the White House and then drops dead, a President Palin would have the power to appoint conservative judges to the Supreme Court, but she could not control their rulings.

It is nonsensical and counterproductive for Democrats to imagine that pro-life values can be defeated by maliciously destroying their proponents. And it is equally foolish to expect that feminism must for all time be inextricably wed to the pro-choice agenda. There is plenty of room in modern thought for a pro-life feminism — one in fact that would have far more appeal to third-world cultures where motherhood is still honored and where the Western model of the hard-driving, self-absorbed career woman is less admired.

But the one fundamental precept that Democrats must stand for is independent thought and speech. When they become baying bloodhounds of rigid dogma, Democrats have committed political suicide.

Here's the whole thing.
Via the Corner.

07 September 2008

Meanwhile, Back At The Times

John Podhoretz yesterday at Contentions:

Today, the New York Times published an article that, should it receive wide circulation (and it might, on the web), will do a great deal to harden evangelical attitudes against the supposed leftward swing — because it is an act of secular aggression against a believing Christian.

Headlined “In Palin’s Life and Politics, Goal to Follow God’s Will,” the article has about it the wide-eyed wonder that anyone might actually be crazy enough to believe in a Creator Who still plays a role in human affairs.

One sentence reads: ‘Mr. Kroon (pronounced krone), a soft-spoken, bearded Alaska native, said he was convinced that the Bible is the Word of God, and that the task of believers is to ponder and analyze the book for meaning — including scrutiny, he said, for errors and mistranslations over the centuries that may have obscured the original intent.”

The actual inclusion of this sentence in a major newspaper is an indication of the distance of secular America from religious America. Need it actually be noted that a member of the clergy believes the “Bible is the Word of God, and that the task of believers is to ponder and analyze the book for meaning”? That is what all believers, Christian and Jew, think (though Jews don’t think it of the New Testament).


04 September 2008

Piper Palin, Baby Groomer


03 September 2008

Sermon: Who Do You Say That I Am?

Pentecost XV; Proper 16a

Mt 16.13-20; Is 51.1-6

24 August 2008

Fr. Patrick S. Allen

We’ve been reading, and some few of us preaching, our way through St. Matthew’s gospel this summer, and this morning we’ve come to the hinge upon which the narrative turns – and does so as well in St. Mark’s and St. Luke’s gospels; they tell the story in much the same way. To put it simply, but not too simply, Matthew’s gospel breaks down into two parts: the first is concerned with a matter of identity: who Jesus is; and the second is concerned with a matter of mission: what he came to do. So, this morning we come to the hinge, the climax of part 1; all that has been shown to us thus far – the strange circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth, the witness of John the Baptist, the controversies with the religious leaders, the parables, the miracles, and not least St. Matthew’s continuing refrain – these things happened so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled – all of it has been leading up to this question that Jesus asks his disciples and you and me and all men and women everywhere at every time, this question of identity: Who do you say that I am?

Before considering the answer given to that question, I think we should take notice of the question itself. It is a personal – in fact, intensely personal, question. This is brought ought by the fact that Jesus prefaces this all-important question with another: Who do men say that the Son of Man is? That is a question about which nice, polite, respectable people can have a nice, polite, respectable discussion, yet still remain aloof – above the question, still remain disinterested, still rest securely in nice, polite, respectability. It’s as if in this silly season of our national life, someone were to ask you, who do you think will win the presidential election? That’s a nice, safe question because it allows us to talk abstractly about what hypothetical other folks might or might not do three months from now. That’s a conversation even George Bush and Al Gore can enjoy over dinner. But, who should win the election? – that’s a different kind of question; that’s a personal question.

Who do men say that the Son of Man is?, Jesus asks. Well, some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets. All of which registers not so much as a semi-interested “Huh” from our Lord. Because that question was a set up from the beginning. Lulling the disciples into a false sense of security with a purely academic question about the disparate thoughts of unspecified others, he now puts them directly on the spot: But who do you say that I am? Again, this is an intensely personal question. It is a question that requires much more than mere information in response; in fact, it requires from these disciples – in light of all they have seen and heard – a response that is classically “self-involving.”

I have a friend who walks early every morning to the Citadel Mall in West Ashley where he catches an express bus – I think it’s the #9 bus – that takes him to his job at MUSC. Now, if I drive by the mall and see a bus departing, and I say “I think that was the #9 bus” – that’s a minimally self-involving statement. I’ve got my own car, and I don’t want to go to MUSC anyway. But if my friends runs breathlessly up to the parking lot at the mall and says, “I think that was the #9 bus” – that statement involves him. He has a personal stake in it, and his life is changed, if in a small way, by it.[i]

When Jesus asks, Who do you say that I am, there is no neutral, safe, moderate answer to that question. But Simon Peter speaks up and involves himself: Thou art the Christ, the son of the living God.

Thou art the Christ – think of all that is summed up in that brief answer, the millennia of God’s promise and Israel’s hope it contains. Thou art the Christ: the Anointed One, the Messiah of God[ii]; the seed of the woman who will crush the serpent’s head[iii]; the prophet greater than Moses; great David’s greater Son[iv]; the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly[v]; offspring of the Virgin’s womb[vi]; the Suffering Servant by whose stripes we are healed[vii]; the Branch from the root of Jesse[viii]; the Comfort of Zion[ix] (as we have heard this morning); the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world.[x]

Thou art the Christ – the Father’s appointed agent to bring healing to the nations, to break down every wall that divides men; to put down the mighty from their seat and exalt the humble and meek.[xi]

Thou art the Christ – it is a momentous, startling confession. It is a self-involving confession, and beyond that it is a self-committing confession. We cannot say Thou art the Christ and have nothing change. We can’t be like Sir Francis Drake who sailed all the way to California, planted a British flag and immediately sailed back to safety – and nothing changed. To acknowledge that Jesus is the Christ is to place oneself in his service, in his debt, at his feet. It is to commit.

It was a dangerous thing for Simon Peter to say – dangerous in the very literal sense of placing his and the other disciples’ lives at risk. By confessing the Jesus is the Christ, Simon Peter is committing sedition. He is saying, “There is a King in Israel, and it’s not Caesar, and it’s certainly not Herod.” And of course this is exactly the charge for which our Lord would be crucified. Because if Jesus is the Christ, then he is a rival to Caesar, and any rival to Caesar must be eliminated.[xii]

For Simon Peter to confess Jesus as Christ necessarily meant displacing Caesar. It’s the same for us. If we confess that Jesus is the Christ, we are saying that every earthly authority and force – from the articles of the United States’ Constitution to the dictates of the Politburo in Beijing, from the working of the free market to the demands of the class struggle to the eat-or-be-eaten biological imperative – every authority and force is relatavized by and must be submitted to him. Right down to my own authority in and over my own home (I’m not the king of my own castle), my own bank account, my own time, my own body. All of that and more comes when we say with Peter, Thou art the Christ.

Who do you say that I am? It is an intensely personal question – our response, one way or the other, involves us; it commits us.

I have been saying that this question of Jesus’ is personal, but looking at the text, there is a sense – maybe a pedantic sense – in which it is more personal even than I’ve let on. It is even more personal in that it specially, uniquely involves one particular person.

Jesus addresses his question to the disciples as a group – the “you” in “Who do you say that I am” is plural; it’s “y’all” for people who talk right. But it is the single disciple hitherto known to his family and friends as “Simon” who responds, and over whom alone Jesus pronounces a special beatitude – “Blessed art thou, Simon bar-Jona” – and to whom Jesus gives a new and unique name and a new and unique vocation: Thou art Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church.

I’m sure most of you will remember from Sunday school classes that our English translations necessarily obscure what is happening here. This new name “Peter” is simply the masculine form for the Greek word “Rock” – Petros, and the same is true for the underlying Aramaic, Kepha. Did you know that this is the very first instance of “Peter” – “rock” – being used as a personal name in any language or culture? No one had ever been called Peter before.

Jesus is doing a new thing. He is founding a new institution that will prevail even against the powers of death. And he has chosen to build this church on the person he has dignified with the title “Rock”, Peter – often unreliable Peter, not especially well educated Peter, vacillating Peter, fearful Peter, the simple fisherman Peter – who has nothing specially to commend himself except for this God-revealed insight, and perhaps the foolish impetuosity to say it aloud: Thou art the Christ, the son of the living God. And by saying it, by confessing it as the truth about the world, Peter involves himself; Peter commits himself. And let me just add, just to crack open a can of worms and leave them to wriggle, that to acknowledge that Simon is Peter, the Rock on which Jesus builds his church, in a similar way must involve us and commit us to him, to Peter – to that Rock and to that Church.

Last Sunday Fr. Clarke remarked upon our discomfort with the questions our evangelical brothers and sisters are wont to ask: Are you saved? Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus? But he noted that despite our discomfort, these are the most important questions and to answer them in the affirmative the urgent task of our lives. By showing up this morning we are faced with another: Who do you say that I am? For St. Peter, answering that question meant that everything had to change, nothing could remain the same, right down to his very name. What will it mean for you and for me? How must our lives be re-ordered today because Jesus is the Christ? In a moment Jesus will be on the Altar, he will place himself into our hands, and we will become involved, committed. Thou art the Christ, the son of the living God.

[i] N.T. Wright makes use of these concepts of self-involving and self-committing statements with regard to the Resurrection of Jesus in his book The Resurrection of the Son of God (pp. 714-720). I also take the “late for the bus” illustration (and the following “Sir Francis Drake” illustration) from his discussion, though I really do have a friend who rides the express bus in to MUSC each morning.

[ii] The Greek “Christ” (CristoV) translates the Hebrew “Messiah” (ain’t got no Hebrew font), both of which mean “anointed (one)”.

[iii] Gn 3.15

[iv] From the hymn “Hail to the Lord’s Anointed,” paraphrasing Ps 72.

[v] Ps 1

[vi] Is 7.14

[vii] Is 53.3-6

[viii] Is 11.1,2

[ix] Is 51.1-6

[x] Jn 1.26,39

[xi] Lk 1.46-55

[xii] Mt 27.1-14; cf. Lk 23.1-5


Feminism & Feminism.

Noonan on Palin:
Because she jumbles up so many cultural categories, because she is a feminist not in the Yale Gender Studies sense but the How Do I Reload This Thang way, because she is a woman who in style, history, moxie and femininity is exactly like a normal American feminist and not an Abstract Theory feminist...


28 August 2008

Classic Maddux

Greg Maddux had a little bit of a rough outing last night and even made an error, but this play is the vintage stuff and makes the case for his 18th Gold Glove.

27 August 2008

Getting Serious About The MDG's

Alan Jacobs considers the "commitment" of the Episcopal Church and the other sideline - I mean, mainline - Protestant denominations to the Millennium Development Goals:
Mainline Protestants love to talk about the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. When Katherine Jefferts Schori was invested as Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in 2006, she offered not one word about sin, forgiveness, reconciliation with God, or discipleship, but many words in support of the Millennium Development Goals. In numerous sermons and speeches since then she has lamented that all the theological controversies surrounding the Anglican world have distracted us from our real mission, which is to help realize the Millennium Development Goals.

. . .

So my advice to all the mainline churches that see achievement of the MDGs as the core of their mission: sell all you have and give it to the poor. Your many possessions do absolutely nothing for the MDGs: sell them. Sell the chalices. Sell the copes, surplices, and cassocks. Sell the plate. Sell the prayer books, hymnals, and (if you have any) Bibles. Sell the pews. Sell the stained glass. Sell the buildings and the land to those who actually need them. Sell it all and give the proceeds to organizations who can actually do something to achieve the Goals that you say are at the very heart of your mission. Put your money where your mouth is. Or else shut up.
Here's the whole thing.

20 August 2008

It Has A Creepy Infant Of Prague (w/ Armor!)

I'm not nearly hip enough to even pick up a graphic novel in Barnes & Noble, but I might risk picking this one up:
At first glance, it seems designed specifically to freak out everyone in its numerous potential overlapping markets--an intricately Gothic comic book, its dialogue written in elaborate blank verse, its plot inspired by and title borrowed from Dosdoyevsky's heavy-going Grand Inquisitor, and filled with all manner of strange hellfire, Marian visions, doctrinal arguments, and one deeply creepy Infant of Prague statue. But the author knows all that, already, and it is to his credit he forged ahead to produce this suspensful theological roller-coaster ride of a graphic novel.

. . .

The tale is simple, but all its permutations are profound. Sometime in the near future, a papal conclave drags on as the College of Cardinals finds itself at a deadlock. Tension mounts outside the Vatican walls. The liberals stage a walkout and hurl their scarlet robes to the crowd below in protest. The few remaining electors choose a complete unknown as the next pontiff, an African monk from a forgotten Traditionalist order. (Think Hadrian the Seventh, but with real saints and real sinners facing off rather than an empty conflict of aesthete poseurs and vulgar bureacrats). Unfortunately, one prince of the Church, possessing his own strange and alarming agenda, arranges a mix-up at the new pontiff's airport pickup. The vast bulk of the story deals with the confrontation between the cardinal--incidentally, a dead ringer for Teilhard de Chardin--and the simple priest, now imprisoned in the mental ward of a Roman hospital along with a dozen or so deranged papal claimants of a less legitimate nature. What happens next will decide the fate of the Church, and with it, the world.

In the hands of nearly anyone else it might have turned into a clunkily-plotted Dan Brown novel, but instead it takes a wholly unexpected and thought-provoking turn. Indeed, it amazes me how quickly the reader is drawn into the story, even though it contains no car-chases or fantastical BOOMs! and ZAPs! but focuses instead on the claustrophobic struggle--sometimes spiritual, sometimes quite physical--between the African Carthusian and rightful pontiff-elect, his captor, and a mystical Eastern-Rite cardinal the villain has also imprisoned. All three are remarkably well-imagined and believable characters, wrestling with equally believable, though terrifying, existential problems. Even the traitorous, wire-pulling cardinal does his dark deeds out of the twisted sort of logic you or I could succumb to in the face of despair.
Here's the whole thing.
The Grand Inquisitor. John Zmirak (author) & Carla Millar (illustrator)

A Warm Gun, &c.

Of Happiness, and its limited good:
there is another threat, perhaps as dangerous: We are eradicating a major cultural force, the muse behind much art and poetry and music. We are annihilating melancholia.

A recent poll conducted by the Pew Research Center shows that almost 85 percent of Americans believe that they are very happy or at least pretty happy. The psychological world is now abuzz with a new field, positive psychology, devoted to finding ways to enhance happiness through pleasure, engagement, and meaning. Psychologists practicing this brand of therapy are leaders in a novel science, the science of happiness. Mainstream publishers are learning from the self-help industry and printing thousands of books on how to be happy. Doctors offer a wide array of drugs that might eradicate depression forever. It seems truly an age of almost perfect contentment, a brave new world of persistent good fortune, joy without trouble, felicity with no penalty.

Why are most Americans so utterly willing to have an essential part of their hearts sliced away and discarded like so much waste? What are we to make of this American obsession with happiness, an obsession that could well lead to a sudden extinction of the creative impulse, that could result in an extermination as horrible as those foreshadowed by global warming and environmental crisis and nuclear proliferation? What drives this rage for complacency, this desperate contentment?

Here's the whole thing (via Arts & Letters Daily).

See also this piece on how children ruin "happiness," and this important response from Alan Jacobs (and good comments thereon).