Quick Link: A Different Sea, and Different Mountains

Two years after the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Haruki Murakami returned to the town where he grew up to see what had changed.  Murakami chronicles this trip in an essay that reflects on the interplay of violence, change, growth, and memory.  One passage of note:

I’d managed to make it this far, so I decided to climb the steep slope that led to my old high school… It was so completely still it felt like I’d stumbled into a level of space I shouldn’t be in. Why this utter silence?

I gazed at Kobe harbour, sparkling leadenly far below, and listened carefully, hoping to pick up some echoes from the past, but nothing came to me. Just the sounds of silence. That’s all. But what are you going to do? We’re talking about things that happened over thirty years ago.

Over thirty years ago. There is one thing I can say for certain: the older a person gets, the lonelier he becomes. It’s true for everyone. But maybe that isn’t wrong. What I mean is, in a sense our lives are nothing more than a series of stages to help us get used to loneliness. That being the case, there’s no reason to complain. And besides, who would we complain to, anyway?

Quick Link: The Benedict-Francis Continuum

The debate continues. NCR has a helpful analysis of the continuity between Benedict and Francis.  I thought this quote from John Thavis was particularly insightful:

Benedict tended to view [social issues] in culture war terms, as part of a political effort to keep the church’s voice out of public affairs. Francis, so far at least, is framing it more in terms of the human conscience battling the powerful pull of selfishness.

The article effectively shows that while the beliefs and policies of Benedict and Francis are not necessarily dissimilar, the way in which they contextualize hot-button issues is.  Francis’ crossover appeal, which I discussed in my last post, is abetted by packaging these questions and issues in a different paradigm.  Even if it’s not substantively different from previous papal stances, it’s enough of a shift to attract attention from across the spectrum.