I dreamed last night that I was going out to some kind of lake to visit my little brother Ryan (he’s 23) on the job. I found him using a weed eater to cut down hillsides full of grass. For whatever reason (I guess just because I’m a good guy) I offered to take it from him for a few minutes so he could rest. He proceeded to jump in his truck and drive away, pointing to a field growing as dense with cactus as a field might grow with wild grass. I woke up this morning still spraying cactus parts all over myself with a weed eater.
This weekend I finished books eight and nine of Paradise Lost. I can see why people are fascinated with Satan–his character does generate the most interest–but I still don’t think that Milton was of the devil’s party without knowing it. (I’ve got to practice using that line–it seems to be a requirement for Milton conferences. I’d probably better find it in Blake as well.) His venom has reached full boil by the time book nine rolls around, and the evil with which he wrestled in book four has become all-consuming. It’s terribly interesting to me that even the Prince of Hell struggles against evil in Milton, pointing to a definite privative notion of evil–it’s always deviant from a good, and it’s always a choice. And now that I’ve read Augustine’s City of God, I know that Milton’s strong emphasis on free will isn’t incompatible with the old African either. Man, I love this theology and literature stuff!
I also started reading Torture and Eucharist in earnest yesterday. The accounts of physical cruelty are horrifying, but more enlightening is Cavanaugh’s strong sociological and theological analyses of how premodern physical punishment differs from modern torture. It’s certainly calling into question, at least for me, the complacency I’ve turned towards what’s happening in Gitmo. As I read the book, I’m sure I’ll have even more thoughts on the government’s dealings with its enemies.