Essays in Idleness

DAVID WARREN

Supplementary, Mr Speaker

In the Comments thread, beneath the last post, there was a storm forming, with a conservative, Catholic, American Patriot waving Dignitatis Humanae at me (the Vatican II document: go look it up) — in defence of America’s gift to the world, of Church/State separatism. John Courtney Murray, SJ, was the original drafter of that document. (Look him up.) Controversy rages still, over whether it represented a fair development of, or deviation from, previous Catholic teaching on the political order. (Look it up! Look it up!) What I append below is a few disjointed notes from that controversy, carried out of Comments and into email, touching on relations between Church and State.

Gentle reader may make of these items what he will. Should he find them utterly baffling, don’t worry. An agent of the Inquisition will be around shortly, to tell you what to do.

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Item, what I found odd, was that Murray went to Rome in the train of Cardinal Spellman, and enjoyed more protection there than he had ever received in USA. The final vote within the Vatican Council for Dignitatis Humanae was so lopsided, that even without reading it I would have assumed that the Fathers had succeeded in excising anything genuinely novel. Pope Benedict’s deep parting remark about Vatican II applies here: the damage would have been done, not by the content of the document, but in its presentation by the “Council of the Media.” Not the thing itself but, as it were, “website comments” on it.

Item, Murray was a Jesuit. I note he was convenor for the first “oecumenical” declaration of “peace, peace” back in 1944.

Item, some priest once said to me, “Jesuits should be turned loose on the pagans, not within the Church.”

Item, Leo XIII did not say that the Church is the State. Though sublimely simple, I’ve noticed this point is lost on many from both sides of the hall. They cannot conceive of it except exclusively in terms of worldly power, and bureaucratized at that. People like my Chief Texas Correspondent cannot be shaken from a vision of the Nanny State (which we both despise) whose capital is merely transferred from the Potomac to the Tiber. The point he won’t get is that the Nanny State is itself an unavoidable by-product of secular democracy, wherein the people vote to appropriate each other’s property, under the inspiration of demagogues. But also, in their fantasy lives, we have Trad Catlicks dreaming like Leninists, of taking everything over and ruling by decree. It is hard to argue with morons.

Item, nor does it follow from anything Pope Leo wrote, or the other popes of the XIXth century, that a Catholic order must persecute non-Catholics. That, perhaps, is what we were trying to clarify in Vatican II — that we’d done a few mean things in the past that we don’t feel especially proud of, even when they were just retaliation. In particular: Christ did not preach forcible conversions.

Item, “Are Non-Theocratic Regimes Possible?” by Rémi Brague. Here we get to the crux of the matter. There will always be a theocratic order, even if it is an “atheocratic” pastiche. The question is not “whether we should have a theocracy or not,” as the progressives say — defining their own atheocratic order falsely as a non-theocratic order, when it is as arbitrary as any theocratic order the world ever endured. Rather: Which theocratic order should it be? (Shariah? Rabbinical, perhaps? Lamaist? Shinto? Lutheran? Calvinist? Marxist? Feminist? Gaian? Catholic?) Truly, we are spoilt for choice, but as the modern consumer can hardly understand, you can’t have everything. You have to choose one, to be morally coherent; or if you choose “none,” … someone else chooses for you.

Item, let me emphasize this point. Should the principles be not those of the ancestral Catholic Christendom — buried beneath our Western feet, yet serviceable still as foundation — then they will be of something else. We hardly got e.g. quickie divorce, or no-questions-asked abortion, or gay marriage for that matter, or soon, no-questions-asked euthanasia for your unwanted granny, because the masses suddenly spontaneously rose up to demand them pronto. We got them because the gods we are currently serving required them; and of course, we got them “democratically,” but only in the sense that the people are made to vote until they deliver what these gods require. … (Good news, incidentally. It turns out these gods may not want polygamy after all, so we won’t have to deliver that at the polling booths.)

Item, therefore what I modestly propose is only that a Christian order supplant the current Satanic one. And, Catholic Christian, I was thinking: not some other kind, replete with heresies or, if you prefer, “inconsistencies.”

Item, now, getting back to that American Revolution (or, First Civil War, as I think of it). … For your information, my Loyal ancestors understood all this above, right up to the Catholic part, which, I must admit, they flubbed. There was an established church in most of the Thirteen Colonies, though it was not the same one in all. American federalism required a “workaround” for this sectarian issue, since the probability of reaching agreement on which should be the established church for the whole New Republic was nil. It is an angle from which the issue is seldom assessed; especially by Protestants, to my mind. And this because it perfectly illustrates how easily sectarianism lapses into godless vacuumism — for from a choice among vexatious somethings, we go to a default nothing, which were the devil’s choice.

Item, to be almost unnaturally fair, we wound up with the same thing (i.e. nothing) up here in the Great White North, where, to start, Lower Canada was effectively a Catholic jurisdiction; and Upper Canada a Protestant jurisdiction — but under conditions of Loyalist flight, ridiculously subdivided township by township among the various Protestant factions, with clergy reserves all round.

Item, it was generally assumed, at one point in history, that Jesus Christ had founded only one Church. It took fifteen centuries (in the West) for this point to become controversial.

That peace is indivisible

“The definition of ‘peace’ in our common usage, as in our politics, has been narrowed to the absence of armed conflict. This is extremely suggestive, of an order in which peace, as any good, must be humanly imposed. Peace, to the mind that has taken the transcendental claims of democracy for granted, is a question of law enforcement. It is thus paradoxically the product of contention.”

I flag this graf from my column entitled, “Mandate of Heaven,” over at Catholic Thing this morning. Perhaps it is incomprehensible. Often things which seem obvious to me, prove incomprehensible to my readers, though the explanation may be my incompetence as a writer. In this case, the understanding of the rest of the column depends upon the understanding of this graf. So let me take another kick at it.

There is a natural order. The Chinese understood this; we understood it, once upon a time. I would go so far as to say everyone is born understanding it, but I mentioned ancient Chinese, and mediaeval Europeans, because they were able to articulate it, superbly. I count this a magnificent civilizational achievement on both sides: even more for the Chinese, for they did not have the advantage of the Hebrew and Greek theological foundation upon which our western, Catholic sages could build; let alone the Christian scheme of prayer to guide them.

On both sides, today, some of the general comprehension remains, but in a degenerate form. This is like the decay of empirical science, through the pagan Roman era, after the achievements of the Hellenist Alexandrians — when what had come to be understood, chastely, continued to be understood, but in a manner applied, technocratic, superstitious, scientistic. (Something similar has been happening in our own day, wonderfully captured in the term, “settled science.” That is to say, empirical science put entirely at the service of prognostication, technique, magic, and of course, a gnostic pursuit of power.)

Similarly, in China, a philosophy which from its height provided a vista over what we in the West would call “natural law,” decayed into cast straws and what falls now under the generic term, feng shui. That there is “something in it” could go without saying; but that something is a more vivid and, as I have said, more chaste comprehension of the natural order — and with this the requirement for humility in all human enterprise, and the need, patiently, quietly, and as it were, “aesthetically,” to discern the grain of moral nature, and cut with it instead of trying to cut across it.

For we have come to want what we must serve, to serve us instead.

We are incidentally in grave danger, within the Catholic Church today, from the invasion of a very worldly, “happy-clap,” cafeteria gnosticism — not outside but now inside the Church — undermining and subverting a doctrinal edifice that was maintained over twenty centuries in accord with both faith and reason. Prayer ceases to be anchored in the clarity of the Sacraments, and becomes increasingly a private appeal to the sky-gods for the provision of signs and wonders. Rather than purify ourselves for the Communion, we demand that the Communion be served to all regardless. Rather than be reconciled to Christ, we demand that Christ be reconciled, to our own recklessly sinful behaviour — and just “be there for us,” like any pagan sky-god.

In my interminable mutterings against “democracy,” I draw attention to this inversion: the notion that God must serve Man at Man’s pleasure, for it is beneath the dignity of Man to serve God. We are the Arbiters of Being, on this view, and if God will not bless and advance our lusts for sex, wealth, knowledge and power, then “God is dead”; or to be killed; or if he cannot be killed, banished. And those who persist in invoking Him will be dealt with, in due course, to the full extent of Man’s Law. That is what “democracy” has delivered for us: the condition exactly opposite to that of being at peace with God and His Creation.

In pointing to this, and with it to the monstrous, Kafkaesque, “Nanny States” which men have invented to serve their own humanly-constructed formulas of justice, I am consciously overriding the first principle of the “Americanism” against which Leo XIII wrote, in Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae. I am plainly denying “the separation of Church and State.”

It is interesting to me, that most of the discussion of that encyclical is nonsense. Pope Leo, writing in 1899, is assumed to be ranting against a wide range of modern tendencies which he vaguely associates with faraway “America,” and hardly understands. I doubt most of its smug critics have actually read the document, for they betray ignorance of its content and structure at every turn. But those who give some indication that they have at least glanced over it, including those of a mind to half-defend it, often either fail to understand, or more likely, flinch from understanding.

The encyclical is not vague. It boldly, courageously, directly takes on the specifically American constitutional precept of “the separation of Church and State,” which had evolved, by the end of the XIXth century, even beyond what its original authors intended. He takes it on because, even by 1899, it has come to be accepted within many limbs of the Catholic Church herself. The pope declares that in Catholic teaching — which even the bishops of America are obliged to maintain — there can be no such separation, no such divorce, no jurisdictional trick by which God may be “privatized.” In effect, a nation or society that has chosen to erect, publicly, a Berlin Wall between Man and his Maker, has chosen to go to Hell. And even in strictly worldly terms, after more than two centuries of that official “separation,” we are getting there: paying for the consequences of a mistake that we refuse to correct.

(Note, that “the separation of Church and State” was not an issue in the Treaties of Westphalia, where it occurred to neither Protestants nor Catholics to suggest that religion could be a matter of personal taste; for the full atomization of Western man came later. And that even among the Founding Fathers of USA, the point was to avoid Christian sectarianism, not to challenge America’s unambiguously Christian heritage and identity.)

Pope Leo’s Catholic teaching is hard, for Americans especially but, too, for democrats everywhere. It flies in the face of everything we now believe to have been established, once and for all time, in the Enlightenment — signed in the blood of the American and French Revolutions. Verily, we think our freedom depends, not on God, but on the guarantees of personal autonomy dictated by the authors of revolutionary law.

We truly believe this — as the result, I would say, of generations of intense Statist propaganda, going back well beyond the Enlightenment, to the Reformation. We believe this to the extent that Catholic Christians imagine Christ’s, “Give unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s,” to be an affirmation of the separation of Church and State from the other, divine side. On this basis, generations even of Catholics have been raised, affronted by the claims of their own Saviour, and quick to side with Caesar in any public clash.

As a Loyalist, myself — i.e. descended from people who fled the newly-created United States rather than be subjected to that new, revolutionary order — it is a little too easy for me to overlook the pain every patriotic American Catholic must feel, however sublimated, at the root of his being. He must, as a patriotic citizen, pledge allegiance to a flag, and Constitution, premised on the denial of an irrefutable tenet of his Catholic faith. He must either ignore, or find a sophistical way around, the very question of conscience that led Saint Thomas More to the Tower. For More, too, refused the separation of Church and State. That was the profound divorce he opposed, vastly more significant than the desire of Henry VIII to be copulating legally with his wife’s chambermaid, Anne Boleyn.

But there I have taken it back to the first delicate point of fission, the modest launch of the Modern Schism in small, selfish, and sleazy acts of statecraft so many centuries ago; the butterfly sneeze as it were, which begat the hurricane, which tore through Western Civilization — just as Saint Thomas More foresaw — leaving moral, spiritual, and material wreckage not only in its direct path, but swirling abroad to every horizon.

I’ve been trying to write a book on this, incidentally. It distracts me from this Idleblog sometimes. I’ve been trying to do it for years, under the provisional title, Christ the King — scattering little fragments here and there along my way. For I know it is impossible for the modern man, after these intervening centuries, to conceive of his religion as anything other than a “compartment” of the mansion in which he lives; that he has been raised, trained, tested to think that way, and to feel mightily oppressed by any other suggestion. I know that this man cannot imagine the Christendom which he believes even his own Church abandoned, centuries ago. By now, one impossibility has been heaped on another, till we have a Babel of impossibilities, reaching up into the clouds. It is impossible for this man to imagine his own city, our old familiar City of Man, as if that Tower had never been erected.

But with God, all things are possible.

Hapless voters

There is, so to say, good news and bad news for democratic European Unionists. The good news is that, for the first time, voter turnout actually increased from the previous election to the European Parliament. Just over 43 percent of the eligible bothered to vote, up 1/10th of 1 percent. The bad news is that so many of these voters selected parties devoted to the destruction of as much of the European Union as possible.

We are laughing, up here in the High Doganate. Or rather, no, we are not laughing, it is all a pose. Still, there is a glint of recognition, gleeful in its own way. The voters, especially in England and France — the pioneer “Nation States” from the later Middle Ages — appear to have been motivated by something akin to the feist that came over the municipal electorate in the Greater Parkdale Area, the last time we voted. That was when we chose the notorious drunkard and drug addict, Rob Ford, to be our mayor. As polls since have repeatedly confirmed, we knew what we were doing. We had a task for him. It was to destroy as much of the vast municipal bureaucracy as possible. Our instruction was: “Keep smashing everything you see until they take you away.” Finesse would not be required, and the licker and crack might be an advantage.

One may love “the people,” without being especially impressed by them. They are stupid, but as the stopped clock, there are moments when they are stupidly correct. These are very brief moments, but let us enjoy them while we can.

Normally, they (“the people”) are suckered. The political class — the class of politicians, senior bureaucrats, self-interested lobbyists, and all their paid flunkeys in media and elsewhere — are much cleverer than “the people,” on political questions. “The people,” for their part, may be individually cleverer than they, but not, as a rule, on political questions, which don’t much interest the great majority of them. The political class have, in addition to whatever native smarts, plenty of experience manipulating “the people,” and the contempt required to be ruthless about it. In a fully-fledged “democracy,” it takes little sophistry for the bad guys to win. But the term is relative, and should the good guys win, it will be another victory for the politicians.

A few days ago, I found myself trying to explain this to a well-intended, rightwing person. He complained that the Conservative Party had turned its back on “conservative principles.” This struck me as an unfair allegation, for the party had never once in the history of Canada, whether at the provincial or Dominion level, embraced “conservative principles,” nor shown the slightest curiosity over what they might be. The purpose of a political party has nought to do with such “principles.” (This goes for all parties including, within five years of their founding, those founded on “principles.”) Rather it is to tax as much as they dare, and distribute the takings among their friends, while “nation building” — i.e. adding to the machinery of State. A party unclear on this essential “principle” of democracy (the one that defeats every other principle) might get itself elected by some fluke, but will not long retain power.

It is objected that the proponents of UKIP in Britain, and the Front national in France, are crass. So, too, has this been suggested of Tea Party enthusiasts in the USA. It has moreover been remarked that Mayor Ford (currently languishing in a drunk tank somewhere) is crass. As those objecting would never vote for them anyway, the insult can be casually ignored. The strength of the populists consists in a certain naïveté. They actually believe in “democracy.” And they are all mystical “nationalists” within their respective statist domains. They think that the nature of the modern State can be changed; that it would be possible, for instance, to downsize it, to reduce taxes, to maybe pay down some debt, to make the agencies of the State responsive to their individual customers, more reflective of human decency, &c. In power, they confront the reality, of machinery vastly large and complex, regulations fantastically detailed and comprehensive, all backed by the power of written law, to be enforced when necessary by violence. And being crass, the best they can do is empty their chamberpots into the machine, here and there. They prove rank amateurs, and upon their removal from office, the “natural party of government” returns, to make some minor sloppy repairs, then resume the mission of Nanny Statecraft — with ambitious new programmes and departments to reward dependency, and crush the spirit of liberty and enterprise; focusing their efforts to make sure that trouble does not arise from the same quarter again.

The citizen of every modern Nation State is fully integrated with that machinery: strapped into place and identifiable by serial number. There is nothing voluntary in his participation: the definition of an “outlaw” has been amended over time, to mean specifically failure to cooperate with any government agent, or to surrender immediately to his demands. (I laugh, bitterly, when a media smartie proposes e.g. mandatory voting, as if adding more idiots to the electorate will improve anything. And yet I welcome it as a frank admission that democracy is a totalitarian creed.)

I do not see how this machinery could ever be peacefully dismantled, given not only its scale, but its claim to the universal authority once accorded only to God. Now that it has had five centuries to grow (counting from the real Reformation, when such as Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries, and appropriated Church property and titles to the State, subjecting divine to profane authority throughout his realm) I do not anticipate a quick turnaround. I do, however, see that when it collapses, the machinery will come down directly on top of all of us.

It takes, verily, a long historical view, to begin to understand the triumph of politics in the modern, statist order; to grasp the evolution from the “divine right of hereditary kings” to the “divine right of successful politicians.” Not one in one hundred electors would have the patience for that; nor remember, tomorrow, what you told them today.

To my mind, it is nevertheless incumbent upon every Christian: to understand the nature of our political order; that it is answerable, ultimately, to the Prince of This World; that it stands in open defiance to the claims of Christ; and that we, as Christians, cannot honour it without dishonouring Our Lord. For the demands of pagan Caesar are no different today than they were in the first centuries: that we bow before his abstract image, worship and pay taxes to him; that we publicly subordinate our conscience to his ghastly will.

The lie in the black heart of democracy is that we can overcome Caesar by electing another Caesar.

Hierarchy or mediocrity?

It is for others to judge our merits, defective as their judgements may be; it is for Another to come to the correct and final Judgement. It is not, as I was taught even by post-Christian parents, for us to put ourselves forward. For that is in poor taste at the least, and ugliness provides, like pain, the signal that something is more deeply wrong. (That is why the aesthetic aspect of education must never be neglected.) Our task should be acquiring the merit instead, and should it go entirely unrecognized in this world, perhaps we should be grateful for having been able to avoid much unnecessary grief.

When the prize is power, the ambitious man becomes more than a bore and a jackass; he becomes a public threat. It grieves me that our entire political system is based on the notion that candidates for public office should compete for it.

I was pleased to see, in the penultimate thread, a member of my Commentariat, who wanders off and wanders back, finding solid Augustinian and Thomist ground from which to mount one of my own favourite attacks against bourgeois democracy. It is this notion that men shall not push themselves forward. The point, as Mr Prenot understands, pertains to more than candidates for election, strutting on their own supposed virtues. We have a political system in which, to get the job, one must demonstrate convincingly that one is the person least suited to be trusted with it. But the issue is much broader than that: broader than party politics, in the strict sense.

(Now curiously, Mr Prenot’s adversary on that thread, made an equally compelling point, describing, as it were, the flip side of the same coin. When a man is called to a task, including the task of captaincy, it ill suits him to decline the responsibility, and go off to be a hermit somewhere. The saints understood this: that God has placed us in this world, and under obedience.)

Our whole economy is based on advertising, and our (North) Americanism is anchored in an ideal of commercial aggression. The competition we hail has little to do with the quality or even price of the goods, but rather with cheap “lifestyle” or “coolness” factors. Goods not advertised disappear from view, and in corners of the economy where I happen to know something about the goods themselves (the word encompasses “services” incidentally), I often regret the ease with which the mass-market publicity specialists are able to abet Gresham’s Law. Codes of “truth in advertising” only contribute to this. By a common agreement to forego the overt lie, the advertisers are able from all sides to focus their pitches on claims that cannot be disproven; in other words, claims that have no substance whatever.

Which takes me to a further point. While it is unbecoming in any man to push himself forward, or make a garish display of his wares (or hers), his success will not be assured in the small society, where people know each other by name and reputation, make observations with their own eyes noses and ears, and decisions whose consequences will be felt immediately. The mass market, in politics as in business, makes such direct human judgement nearly impossible. We are atomized — one man one vote, whatever the product that is for sale — and each man is very far, from power even over his own immediate environment, as from anything resembling real information. “Democracy” (and I mean this term to apply to more than the mechanics of elections) has made him a truly meaningless cog in a machine that is ultimately controlled by faceless yet self-interested characters.

The mass market, in politics as in business, works with statistics. The individual voter or other consumer is digitized — is reduced, in each and every calculation, to a one or a zero. Only ciphers can be “equal,” and men are made ciphers for the express purpose of manipulating them.

In the small society, people can see who is the natural leader, and instinctively support him. No one needs to strut: whatever the job, the man who can best do it will be revealed in the doing itself. Whether that small society is a village, or a chamber ensemble, we can see who should play first violin. I have myself been fortunate to obtain plenty of experience in such small societies wherein, from top to bottom by a natural hierarchy, the members were not externally sorted, but in effect sorted themselves, into a team with their natural captain. This is how the world works, by natural design. Our abstract and artificial arrangements subvert this natural order, with results we can see all around in the triumph of ugliness and mediocrity.

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An aside. The next person to quote Churchill’s, “Democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others,” will be shot.

It would be truer to say, “Democracy is the worst form of totalitarianism, except for all the others.” But unlike that typical liberal, Winston Churchill, I am no fan of totalitarianism.

The floor-tile calculator

On some item of news (it doesn’t really matter which), I was just reading some (better than average) media “analysis.” It told me things could get better, or they could get worse, thanks to the election of a charismatic, and intensely sectarian, politician. (Okay, it was India.) Which will it be, good or bad? The journalist hedges his bets.

I haven’t hedged mine, and it wasn’t my habit to hedge when I was myself in the sooth-saying trade. That struck me as cissy, then as now.

It is going to be bad. …

Of course, I am a pessimist in all worldly matters. …

“That’s why I’m always right,” I used to explain to my newspaper colleagues, when they accused me of being a pessimist. It is also why, unlike them, I was able to remain reasonably cheerful; for even on a very bad day, I could always say, “I told you so.”

I find this sort of pessimism is also unpopular among contemporary Catholics. Having been infected by the “evangelical” happy-clap they say, pray and God will make everything better! (We’re even getting this attitude from Rome.)

By all means we should pray, that the idiots come to their senses. But I’m not sure we should pray, for God to fix their mistakes — for Him to, in effect, intervene on behalf of the idiots with His signs and wonders.

The secret of worldly pessimism is to look at each situation deadpan. You don’t even have to be jaded; just look at what’s there, and ask yourself what it looks like, with all excuses and extenuations removed. Making a good Confession frequently is tremendously useful in developing this skill.

In mysterious ways, God is indeed constantly saving people from the consequences of their own stupidities, so they may live a little longer, and try to improve the next day. But this happens invisibly, and to count on it in any specific case would be rather sinful.

God wants us to fix our mistakes. I am convinced of this, from what I have seen of the teachings of Holy Church. It would seem that He makes serious interventions on behalf of people who are merely trying, however incompetently. But why would He help people who do not even try?

The Parables are clear: Christ expects us to make an effort.

We can also know, by observing the world with our eyes open, that He actually allows bad things to happen, including, most particularly, bad things to “good” people. They get victimized, scapegoated, just like Himself. According to my theological understanding, He does not Himself do bad things to anyone. But He allows this dangerous freedom, this wild skelter of cause and effect. From a worldly perspective one might even accuse Him of being a crazy libertarian.

From the divine view, as we understand, things will work themselves out. But to imagine they will resolve themselves happily and clappily, entirely within this tiny corner of His Real, is nincompoopish.

It takes many floor tiles to accommodate a ballroom dance.

Manifesto

For some reason I do not understand, my invitation to speak at a fundraiser for some remote riding association of the Conservative Party of Canada has been withdrawn. I learnt this only last night, although the message was relayed many days ago. Somehow I had missed it. It would seem my email receiver marked it as spam, deflecting it into my electronic trash bin. It does that with a lot of incoming mail, perhaps because I instructed it to do so. I only wish I knew how to program my telephone in a similar way.

As I say, I can’t imagine why I would not be the ideal speaker at any gathering of the Conservative Party. My political views are well formed, and I think I would be able to express them succinctly. I am well disposed to conservative people — the more extreme the better. Surely they would find me charming.

Indeed, I had a rabble-rousing speech all but prepared: one which, I sincerely believe, would have gained the little riding association some national attention. It is a great pity the invitation was withdrawn; the more because I could have used the fee, to say nothing of the publicity. Gosh, it might have launched my political career.

The gentleman who’d proposed me in the first place — an Idleblog reader — asked me for the gist of my speech. Proudly, I provided him with this conspectus, in which I outline a new Manifesto for the Conservative Party, one that will break decisively with its dreary past:

“If elected, we promise to do nothing. There will be no new initiative in any area of government. Should some foreign power threaten us, we shall smoosh them promptly. Should some other unforeseen event positively demand our attention, we shall respond in like spirit to make it go away. Such contingencies aside, we shall avoid enterprise of any sort. Instead, we shall devote our entire attention, not to doing, but to undoing things. And not just little things but big things; and not just a few notoriously rotten apples in the eyes of vested interests known to be unloved, but the whole apple pie, the whole bakery. We shall make the Tea Party in the United States look like a bunch of socialist whiners. We shall make the UKIP in Britain look like Europhiles. Our ambition, as we cling to power, shall be to undo every gratuitous Act of Parliament, or other superannuated government measure, going back to Confederation, if not to Champlain. We shall repeal legislation, erase regulations, close government departments, demolish the buildings, salt the earth on which they stood, fire and retire civil servants by the refugee shipload. We shall sack them on the beaches, we shall sack them on the landing grounds, we shall sack them in the fields and in the streets, we shall start with the CBC. Our motto shall be that of the Machine Gun Corps of the British Army in the Great War. (‘Saul hath slain his thousands, but David his tens of thousands.’) We shall do this deliberately and persistently and remorselessly with no more attention to public opinion than will be necessary to lure our opponents into traps.”

Surely this would be better — more refreshing, more inspiring, more galvanizing — than what might be offered by any other old hack or party bagman of a speaker. And yet it was dismissed out of hand. I feel hurt by this rejection; I am sulking as I write.

Modi

Perhaps I’m not quick enough, but I would like to be the first to not welcome the landslide election victory of India’s new “Hinduist” prime minister-elect, Narendra Modi. Democracy has done it again, and I gather they are dancing in the streets at Delhi, as “the people” are wont to do, whenever they have decisively achieved some profoundly stupid result, that is going to cost them big. (I had the same feeling, albeit slightly milder, when Americans were congratulating themselves for electing as their president a certain Barack Hussein Obama Soebarkah, back in November 2008.)

The immense victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party is, as the saying goes, “Bad news for Jews.” Actually, this is not said, for there are so few Jews in India, and the clever hack pundits of the world instead opine that it “may” be very bad news for Muslims. We will see how bad, soon, as the new government handles the police. For the police are never popular when defending minorities from majority mobs; and governments never popular when they are telling their cops to do the right thing.

There is, or at least was, however, a flourishing Jewish community in Bombay (“Mumbai,” according to the Hindu nationalists); even more flourishing and numerous Zoroastrians; and the Armenians there, but even more in Calcutta (“Kolkata”), are also close to my heart. I pray they are small enough to become invisible, when they keep their heads down, the way Christians try to do in Pakistan (and Bangladesh). The Christians in India, as too the Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, are sufficiently numerous to make hiding difficult. Whatever they do, the Christians in particular will be accused of illegal proselytizing among the Hindus, whenupon there is invariably hell to pay.

Defenceless minorities are always “arrogant,” in the view of insuperable majorities. As several of the less elegant BJP politicians have suggested, they “need to be put in their place.”

Still, to my mind, just as I have argued that “Islamism” is bad news for non-Muslims but even worse news for Muslims, the Hindu nationalism that has now fully reared its multiple heads is worse news for Hindus. Those faithful will find that their religion has been hijacked by political fanatics and moral frauds; that it is now being dictated to them by men who are not God, and not very nice, either. (One might say, of India this morning, that the Vox Populi has once again elected the Vox Dei.)

One could, if one were so tedious as I used to be as a newspaper columnist, go into the history and reasons for Modi’s rise to unchallengeable power. He certainly got a lot of assistance from Mr Obama’s administration, which contrived, through sheer breathtaking incompetence, the diplomatic incident in New York that had all India’s media tongues wagging with chauvinist fervour. (They arrested a beautiful young Indian diplomat at the United Nations for something to do with the pay rate and visa status of her Indian maid; and then, ignoring her claim to diplomatic immunity, tossed this elegantly-clad lady into the lowest class of New York gaol cell, like any common vandal from the slums, yet with the express permission of the State Department in Washington. It was what the world has come to know as a “Kerry Special” — and then, while all India seethed with anti-American outrage and nationalist jingoism, the Kerry Specialists rubbed it in, adding that distinctly provocative New England tone of nasal self-righteousness, before finally realizing how big a mess they had made for themselves.)

This would be pointless, however. The rise of Hinduist nationalism has many causes, and the fatuity in New York was just a passing inspiration. In my judgement this chauvinism is, in the main, an historical response to Islamism, which touches India where she lives in a way that Islamism has yet to touch Europe and America.

As ever in these matters, Christ’s mysterious instruction, “Resist ye not evil,” comes back to haunt. The more one studies the enemy, the more one comes to emulate the enemy: to appreciate his tactics, and adopt his techniques. For really, one envies the enemy’s success. “Hindustanism” (may I coin this word?) will be much like Islamism, but with the wrath of Kali added in.

There are commentators in India this morning who think Modi won’t be like that. God bless and keep them, on Modi’s good side. For in my view, a politician who has gained power so largely through personal “charisma,” will indeed be like that. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, as Lord Acton famously decreed. It was a formula that he himself qualified in interesting ways, but I should like to add this morning that the very prospect of political power deeply corrupts, and the votaries of Power come to power already fully corrupted.

Lhude sing

If we must have great crashing sounds, I’d prefer they be thunder, accompanied by lightning. We enjoyed a few flashes with late supper on our balconata yesterday, up here in the High Doganate. We’d been promised the same, for tea, the day before, but the weather prognosticators with their sophisticated computer models cannot predict a city shower one hour in advance. One giggles at their claim to predict climate trends over the next century, with the same junk equipment.

Yet, no sooner had they declared the all-clear, twenty-seven hours later, than we finally received our deluge. I had myself given up by then; had been watching from my balconata majestic effects of light and colour in the approach of the sunset, while black wool coalesced in the sky above, directly over the High Doganate; and in the antediluvian stillness beneath, the waters of Humber Bay turned deep indigo. Then gloriously, the world was awash, with lightning streaks to emblazon, and crash crash like dear old Ludwig, shaking his fist and hurling the crockery.

Notwithstanding album notes I have deposited, recently in this space, I am not always against a loud orchestra.  Sumer is icumen in, as we say, and that brings extravagant public make-work projects, to burn off the taxpayers’ excess cash. This is democracy at work. Past, non-democratic regimes have erected huge public monuments to the glory of God or the glory of their kings; we get Pyramids assembled by gentle, reasonably quiet slave labourers, which remain tourist attractions for millennia to come. Democracy, too, does megaprojects but, to no point at all. Within a generation nothing is left except the debt.

There are several half-way houses in my neighbourhood for the criminally insane. These appear to be the primary local beneficiaries of megaproject spending, with huge efforts devoted to making them ever more plush. The inmates cannot be expected to work, so teams of architects and planners, builders and specialized tradesmen, site consultants and landscape designers, gardeners and decorators — along with their respective administrators and inspectors and union representatives — are constantly assigned, to demolish the last remodelling and replace it with something grander.

And there is now a provincial election in progress, in which a government that bought the last two elections, and lied their way to power the election before, seeks to retain its perqs. They have taken the people of this province for idiots, and have been richly rewarded.

Perhaps I should be more discreet. Our current premier is suing the leader of the opposition for asking pertinent questions in the Legislature about her own involvement in the colossal corruption of her regime, and until at least June 12th, should be treated with some caution.

Now, I have touched before on the natural alliance between “liberals” — or, Liberals, as in this case — and the criminally insane. The former are perhaps the latter’s most pampered constituency, but the two are not interchangeable. While the criminal tendency pertains to both, the element of calculation differs between “politician” and “client.” Yet, as in any feudal system, lord and peasant, provider and supplicant, share material interests, and an essential point of view. Each is capable of identifying with the other, so that whether the issue is disarming the law-abiding public to improve the criminals’ chances, or launching whimsical programmes to spread the working stiff’s lifeblood around, or inventing new “human rights” with which the criminal may turn the tables on the just man, or select fresh victims for his sport — services are indeed provided in return for a reliable vote.

From their side, the criminally insane are not without calculation. In Parkdale, for instance, where election placards are often treated with disrespect, the giant signs for the Liberal Party that go up promptly on the lawns of the half-way houses the morning an election is called, are the only ones which are never defaced. (Rather slow this year; I don’t think they were expecting the election would need to be called so quickly.)

Gentle reader may heckle that the criminally insane are only a small minority, hardly worth such efforts to corner their votes; but such a reader cannot live in Parkdale. For here is where one may gather some sense of the continuum, between the criminally insane tout court — the “avant-garde” of progressivism, as it were — and that plurality whose moral and intellectual disorders are relatively mild — which is to say, just enough to vote Liberal. (Readers in the USA may substitute, “Democrat.”)

For centuries, the secret of success for the parties of the Left has been to encourage their avant-garde. When every public policy you offer so obviously advances the interests of the Devil, it is important to avoid reason, and cultivate fashion instead. The Left has been consistently fashionable since the 18th century, at latest. There has been no pendulum of political fashion. Or if there was one, it broke long ago. And since, there has been at the heart of every fashion statement, an irruption of madness.

Which returns us to the question of orchestral volume, and the sound of so much industrial machinery, as the make-work projects irrupt around me. (The jackhammers have just cut in — a whole section of them, equivalent in a symphony to the strings.)

To be fair, the politicians must be made to share the blame, and thus punished proportionally, with the exponents of our “northern” culture. Canadians, like Germans, and Swedes, are an industrious people. And we are never working harder than when towards some profoundly counter-productive purpose.

The gratuitous nature of some of these projects astounds me. Take for example the workmen I discovered repaving a back lane, then installing speed bumps over the smooth concrete. Any rational creature, such as an Italian, could see the same end could be admirably served by leaving each of the potholes in place. The peace of the neighbourhood is being disturbed for a prolonged period — for the sake of the peace of the neighbourhood. (And they call me crazy.)

One must find some way to cancel this, and large orchestras are the ticket. Around seven this morning, by when the noise of construction busy-work had become insupportable, I put on Mozart, Piano Concerto No. 10 (in E flat major). It is for two pianos, which ups the ante slightly — harder for an orchestra to drown out two pianos than one. But on this disc, the orchestra of John Eliot Gardiner (full of magnificent old “authentic” period instruments) was already able to drown out even the three pianos in the preceding Concerto, No. 7 (in F major).

Mr Gardiner (or Sir John, as he has since become), is a sensitive man, and I don’t think he meant to submerge such fine keyboard soloists as Malcolm Bilson, Robert Levin, and Melvyn Tan. It’s just that he couldn’t help it, given the size of his orchestra. Therefore, I reasoned, why not put it to work against a worse enemy, i.e. the politicians and supporters of the Liberal Party of Ontario, and the rest of the post-modern world?

It is the same on the streets, really. They don’t consciously intend to drown out the birdsong, nor the sounds of the children playing; they simply can’t help it, given the equipment at their disposal, which they have been paid to turn on, when a wiser authority would have instructed them to disable it.

Perhaps I begin to understand the motivation behind heavily amplified rock, punk, rap and other “anti-music.” People have been deranged by modern urban life, and with their own mad levels constantly rising, seek some kind of retaliation against it.

An empowering thought

It has come to my attention that a considerable proportion of the people around me are Heretics. This includes members of my Commentariat; much of the congregation at my church, and up in the choir; people at large in the Greater Parkdale Area; and who knows how many beyond? I believe I may be a Heretic myself, on one doctrinal matter or another, although I am trying to avoid that sort of thing. It then comes to you, gentle reader. Quite frankly, I suspect that you, too, harbour heretical tendencies, much as you might try to conceal them from yourself and from the world. Which leaves God, from Whom nothing can be hidden.

Will we be thrust into Hell for our heretical beliefs, and speculations? (For instance, the belief that Hell is a “myth.”) Call me a heretic, but I doubt it will come to that. There will be, come the end of Time, so many other reasons to thrust us thence, one wonders if our miserable little private opinions will even come into it.

Here is my heterodox thought for this morning. Or perhaps it is orthodox, I stand to be corrected. It is that private heretical notions are inconsequential. Until, of course, they are acted upon. It begins to matter only when one uses one’s private insolence to give one’s public actions some spiritual torque. Acting would of course include, teaching Heresy, when one knows what it is. (Yet another reason why the body of Catholics should be better catechized, especially the priests: to put them on the spot.)

But then, the question of what heresy is, in the moral dimension, comes immediately to mind. I think I know what it is in the intellectual dimension: getting the basic doctrines of the Church wrong. This can be achieved from the purest pig ignorance, but there is such a thing as an heretical frame of mind and intention, in which one wilfully places oneself in opposition to the known teachings, because one considers oneself to be the greater authority. This became the issue front-and-centre in the Reformation, when Christians were instructed (by Heretics) to make themselves the judges of Scripture, Tradition, and more generally of the Faith; then told that their salvation depended in some strange way on their sincerity. We have since had a lot of people going — quite sincerely — very, very wrong.

In other words, the heretical became a public “choice.” To my twisted (or possibly, untwisted) mind, bad things such as abortion-on-demand ultimately depend on that principle of “reform,” in which conscience became dislocated from what I am about to call, Truth. For if you sincerely believe something is permissible, on this view, it must surely be permitted. To do other than permit the demand would abridge the subject’s “freedom,” and our entire definition of “freedom” has itself been publicly adjusted, over the last few centuries, so that it is now indistinguishable from what was formerly known as “licence.”

Verily: “freedom,” and “democracy,” have been the bird calls for a couple of centuries, at least. “Conscience” has been fully atomized. The confusion of bird calls with genuine authority (i.e. what is demonstrably, self-consistently true) explains pretty much everything we see around us.

Heresy matters, because the rationally self-consistent teaching of Holy Church — perceived not merely in the wording of the current official Catechism, but in the weight and consistency of her preaching over two thousand years — is required to order the conscience properly. I am personally against heresy; but it should not matter whether or not I am personally opposed. (It may, however, rather matter whether the pope fully gets it, from time to time.)

My hero (the secret patron of this blog) Nicolás Gómez Dávila observed somewhere that it would be better to have a smaller Church, full of Catholics, than a larger Church, full of let us say, Rotarians. (This was a point the retired Benedict XVI was admirably clear on.) Here I think Dávila was touching, among other things, on the heresy issue. It is, I would add, the same thing with armies. A small army, that knows what it is doing, can easily defeat a large army, that does not know what it is doing. Indeed, this has happened rather often in history. And I am certainly in favour of having the people who are armed with the Sacraments fully conversant with what they are doing.

What is your point this morning, Mr Warren? It is that we should look upon heterodoxy not as a question of salvation in itself. God will know when it crosses a line of no return in the mind and soul of the individual sinner; and we are taught to leave such judgements to Him. Rather, the matter should be considered the other way around. It should be realized that orthodoxy is the positive and empowering good. It is what makes us effective as soldiers, proclaiming the Faith in our actions. Soldiers I say; I said it on purpose. Soldiers as opposed to, say, clowns.

Mothers

Mothers have great power, in earth as in heaven. Those who are just, have the greatest power. Or, such was my thought, some many years ago, in observing a mother of the Italian ethnicity, something under five feet high, but all gristle. She had a delinquent adolescent son, over six (feet). He played extremely obnoxious rock-and-roll “music” on the roof deck next to mine. My reasonably civil request that he turn this down, was ignored. I asked again. The third time I asked, he turned it up, finally to the volume limit on his little machine. And then, while leaving that playing, he ran inside, promising to find a more powerful ghetto blaster. In his absence I tipped the first one off the roof deck. On the delinquent’s return, he grasped what I had done. This added to his excitement. Rather than take him up on his fresh offer — to toss me off the roof deck — I went inside, down the stairs to the street, then to this neighbour’s front door, beating upon it. I was hoping for an interview with one of his parents.

The juvenile delinquent was instead there first, shouting obscenities. His mother, however, arrived just behind him. She seemed very small, beside her delinquent son. But with a remarkable twist of her hand — a move more impressive than anything I had ever seen demonstrated in judo — she flicked him by his right ear into the hallway behind her. He became silent as a lamb. The lady thanked me, peacefully, in a mixture of Italian and English, for having destroyed the offending machine, and assured me that it would not be replaced. She then bid me withdraw from her family affairs.

This is my first “Mother’s Day” without a living mother of my own. Mine, as readers of this anti-blog may recall, was of the Gaelic not Italic heritage. She was also just, however, and had similar presence of mind. Nor did she have to plead to be obeyed.

She had a number of eccentricities, and one of them was distaste for the expression, “passed away.” She preferred the term, “dead.” It became a convention in our family to refer to the deceased as persons who had “doyed,” in tribute to the Cape Breton pronunciation. As a registered nurse, and old ward matron, she was well acquainted with death; did not look forward to her own, but still, accepted it as the sort of thing you get on this planet. I pray she has found a better place. (My mother would endorse this understatement.)

Much could be said about mothers, as a class. More could be said about them, individually. But the details are in a sense unnecessary, for it is given to sons and daughters, with very few exceptions, to know what I mean.

Against happiness

The word “happiness” has turned up, in my correspondence and several other places, as if it were the mot du jour. Everyone wants to be happy. I would guess from this that everyone is un-happy. As Nikolay Chernyshevsky used to ask, “What is to be done?” (Lenin also asked, and indeed it is the basic question of all politicians, activists, social democrats, and other demon worshippers.)

Formations from the stem hap are rich and complicated, so that the etymological considerations begin to pass over my head. The meaning begins with luck or fortuity, and seems to return there from time to time. To have “hap” is to have luck running with you, fate on your side; but there is some shading. What had ge-haep in our Old English was fitting, well arranged, in good order. Something of this carried down the centuries, but if I am not mistaken, it went missing during the 19th century, of unhappy memory.

There is a neighbouring country with a constitution which promises to its supplicants “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Up here in the Canadas, we often giggle at the contrast with our own, which aimed only at “peace, order, and good government.” Had I been a refugee, forced to choose between the two countries on the basis only of those phrases, I would have picked the Dominion of Canada in a blink.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not against life or liberty, per se. Why just yesterday, the question of capital punishment arose with one of my American friends (we’re both in favour, but I could not match his enthusiasm). And I was reflecting: “We all deserve to hang, of course, but it can be a serious administrative embarrassment when someone is hanged for the wrong reason.”

To the modern reader generally, I suppose, “life” and “liberty” pass glibly by. It is the “happiness” that arrests our attention, that seems to go over the top. As we would put it in Newfoundland, a seal might be happy, but from another point of view, “he is death on the fish.” One man’s happiness is the trap opening beneath the feet of his neighbour, and others get their kicks in similar ways. I can think, myself, at this moment, of several egregious sins that would offer the prospect of some transient pleasure.

But no, those Founding Fathers (of the nation state next door) were not quite so flippant. Happiness for them was what the word meant at the time they were using it. It did not then reduce to pleasure. They would have been appalled if told that it did. For all their little theological foibles, they did not take so dim a view of man, as to think he lived for thrills. I believe they meant something more along the line of, “live and let live.” Let every man (or woman, should it come to that) pursue, unhindered at least by the guvmint, his own calling and the manner of life he finds right and fitting — so far as it does not bring him into conflict with unalterable Law. Let him, as it were, seek the satisfaction of a life lived by his own best lights and better angels.

One of my old heroes, a certain Thomas Ernest Hulme (pronounced as “Hume”), not to be confused with the fanatically sceptical Scottish historian and philosopher, once wrote a brief and reasonably vulgar “Critique of Satisfaction.” It addressed the pursuit of happiness by asking, “What is truly satisfying?” He noted that all known paths lead elsewhere, in this vale of tears. Let me cut to his chase:

“Imagine a man situated at a point in a plane, from which roads radiate in various directions. Let this be the plane of actual existence. We place Perfection where it should not be — on this human plane. As we are painfully aware that nothing actual can be perfect, we imagine the perfection to be not where we are, but some distance along one of the roads. This is the essence of all Romanticism. Most frequently, in literature, at any rate, we imagine an impossible perfection along the road of sex; but anyone can name the other roads for himself. The abolition of some discipline or restriction would enable us, we imagine, to progress along one of these roads. The fundamental error is that of placing Perfection in humanity, thus giving rise to that bastard thing Personality, and all the bunkum that follows from it.”

So where is our perfect happiness to be found, if not on that plane? Let us cut the chase shorter:

“No ‘meaning’ can be given to the existing world, such as philosophers are accustomed to give in their last chapters. To each conclusion one asks, ‘In what way is that satisfying?’ The mind is forced back along every line in the plane, back on the centre. What is the result? To continue the rather comic metaphor, we may say the result is that which follows the snake eating it’s own tail, an infinite straight line perpendicular to the plane. …

“In other words, you get the religious attitude; where things are separated which ought to be separated, and Perfection is not illegitimately introduced on the plane of human things.”

*

Much has happened in the century since that was written, or rather, little has happened if anything at all. A century ago, the world in which it was written, already deeply contaminated by the “romanticism” to which Hulme refers, plunged itself into Total War. (He was himself among the casualties.) We have since had alternations between Total War and Total Peace (i.e. government on a war footing for supposedly peaceful ends, including wars on poverty, inequality, drugs, terrorism and whatnot) ever since. I like to say that we are trapped inside the Nietzschean nightmare of the 19th century, and will continue to endure it until we wake once again, into the arms of Jesus.

In the meanwhile, “happiness” is a sick joke. By the contemporary definition, we should try to avoid it as much as possible, as all false counsel. It is a trap beneath our own feet. What is to be done?

Call pleasure by its proper name, and keep it constantly under suspicion. Try to retrieve happiness according to that older convention, in which it was something satisfying, something worth having and keeping, in our heart of hearts; something the world cannot take away. Pursue instead the good, the beautiful, the true. We should try to stop living for lies. We are drowning in them.

Fandango

There is some controversy, apparently, about whether the final movement in Boccherini’s Guitar Quintet No. IV should include castanets. Some learned gentleman (forgotten his name already) used the loaded term “notorious” to describe that movement, attributing this to the irresponsible intrusion of castanets into so many performances of it. This was not “correct” the man argued. I suppose he was English. Or, “Protestant,” which comes to the same thing. The man could get away with his sneer, because the manuscript of the piece is long lost. The quintet was never published, with an Opus number, and no one could possibly know the original instrumental details. The guitar quintets were really just re-arrangements from other chamber music more formally published in Paris — back in the days before recording, when people had to make their own music, and so the big thing, when a new hit came out, was to be the first kid on your block with the sheet music. Boccherini had this aristocratic patron who played a guitar. He wrote six guitar quintets to keep his patron happy. But it is the concluding fandango on this one that can, notoriously, never be forgotten.

Of course there should be castanets! There have been castanets with that piece since time out of mind. A musical director would have to be very obtuse, to leave out the castanets.

I am Catholic myself — “the worst kind, a convert,” as McLuhan used to say — so fee, fi, fo, fum, I have no patience for an Englishmun who would leave out the castanets. (That’s why the Spanish sent the Armada.) I think the whole matter illustrates by analogy the importance of Tradition, where Scripture is silent or obscure. Trust the Tradition. Do not simply assume that you know better than the people who were there. By reversing the analogy, we see that the whole world makes a lot more sense on the “conservative” principle, or better, the reactionary principle, that our ancestors knew what they were doing. It is when the (self-selecting) smart people — the “enlightened” types — the “Brights” as the New Atheists like to call themselves — start to tinker with Tradition that the gates of Hell begin to yawn. And in the end, there will be no castanets.

But there are castanets in Heaven. I am sure of that.

The item of music we are considering is incidentally profane, not sacred. To the Protestant mind, which lies immediately beneath all modern Western protest movements, and makes its perpetual demands for “reform,” there was a sharp divide between these tendencies. On Sundays, in old rural Ontario, we were to sit still and do nothing, because that was the sacred day. The other days were profane, and we worked like dogs and horses. Superficially, things have changed. The Orange Parade, for instance, has been replaced by the Gay Pride Parade, and there are many other superficial inversions. God has been inverted into Human Rights. But the spirit of schism and division lives on, as revolution sacralizes itself and progressively eats its opponents. One sees this in the progress of music.

In the older view, however, a Christian must be Christian on seven days. That is to say, we have Christian music that is sacred; and we have also Christian music that is profane (just as we had a Christian Church that was sacred, and a Christian State that was profane). Sundays may be days of obligation, but the Mass is celebrated every day. It is a way of life, encompassing even the established human propensity to sin. To the Protestant mind, castanets are sinful. To the Catholic, they are at worst the occasion of sin, being perfectly innocent in themselves. The same could be said for whisky; or handguns. And a Spanish woman in long dress and flowing hair, playing the castanets, is surely an improvement on the belly dancing which was driven back across the Strait of Gibraltar by the Reconquista.

For gentle reader must realize that one of the things Tradition makes possible, is “subtlety.” A definition I have considered for this word, one of those mediaeval terms derived from old Latin, which originally meant, “with acumen, with fine discrimination,” … is the introduction of chastity into forms not intrinsically chaste. In their Golden Age, the Spanish were great masters of this. Or we might wish to recall the courting practices of the chivalrous. Or the traditions by which casualties were minimized, by the stylization of war. Things that were possible before the lurid triumph of Statism, in the seizure of the monasteries and appropriation of all the Church’s other worldly goods (the burning of the libraries, the trashing and smashing of the paintings and sculpture, the stripping of the altars, the butchering of living saints, &c).

Luigi Boccherini, an Italian from Lucca, found himself permanently in Spain as a consequence of chasing after what we can believe was an extremely beautiful soprano. Alas, she died — though not before presenting him with six children. His luck generally ran out, when she departed. For the supply of patronage was also running down, as his extravagant sponsors ran out of money, and Bonapartes trampled all over places where they did not belong. Our hero was reduced to the “publish or perish” stratagems of modern life, against the background of accumulating personal tragedies. But the light in him was truly light. (Mozart remembers that fandango in the finale of The Marriage of Figaro: O such a candle, as the peasants dance, while Susanna slips a note to the Count.)

As the Psalmist declared, the Lord delights in dancing.

He is also, according to my best information, well disposed to musical improvisation.

The version of the piece I most recommend, at the moment, is alas hard to find in this post-Protestant country, though probably available from the cybernetic cloud. It is by the Cambra Almodis, of Barcelona (Columna Musica, 2004). The grave assai properly merges, or rather collides with the fandango; Boccherini’s beloved cello lifts the melody in the guitar; the violins fully capture the sublime (and deliciously funny) drooping sounds that grace his composition. The whole movement is gratuitously doubled in length, and the castanets are shameless.

The ribbing

Is it just me, or has all public discussion of everything been reduced to facetiousness and sarcasm? Perhaps this is a facetious exaggeration. I noticed it fully in public debates — meant, I suppose, to be entertaining — on the question of the existence of God. I have caught a few of these debates at the usual Internet sites, and noticed the difficulties encountered in explaining the subject to various exponents of the New Atheism. Their attacks, specifically on Christian beliefs, are crass, rude. Typically, isolated passages from the Bible are ridiculed. It isn’t even a question of getting them out of context; the point is missed more completely than that. Working from the premiss that miracles cannot occur, everything in Scripture of a miraculous flavour is scorned. It is asserted that there is no God, and from this premiss, it is proved that God does not exist.

How do you turn a rib into a woman, one correspondent recently asked me, echoing no doubt something he’d picked up from the New Atheists — with all the gravity of a three-year-old who isn’t actually listening for the answer. I foolishly took the bait. It seemed to me he had got the rib from the wrong end. He wanted an explanation in terms of Darwinian evolution; to which the reply could only be, “Oh, please.” (Yes, I could pull innumerable imaginary intervening stages out of the seam between my back pockets, as it were, for I was a crack in biology class, but I get bored with “settled science.”)

Adam was created from dust, but Eve from the body of Adam, “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.” The event, though only in the second chapter of Genesis, was already anticipated in the first: “God created man in His image; in the divine image He created him; male and female created He them.” Imagery of life, taken from Christ’s side, and for the redemption of this world, will come into this at a much later point.

The mystical significance of this rib, is large. In the words of a wedding folksong from my youth (by Paul Stookey), “Woman draws her life from man, and gives it back again.” It seems today almost odd that the idea behind that sentence could still be understood in the pop culture, as recently as forty-five years ago. Something profound had been said, about the nature of man and woman, about their mutual dependency, at the very outset of our monotheist tribe. This profundity encompassed the deep sleep of Adam, which sets the scene.

That the book of Genesis is not a biological treatise should be apparent to anyone with sufficient intelligence to master the Roman alphabet, and yet the mocking, facetious question reduced it to that. Much of the conceit of scientism — in its most ignorant form — is to dismiss everything that cannot be repeated in a laboratory test to “myth.” I put the quotes because there is no understanding of myth, either; that it may be true deeply below the factitious level; or that by this tactic everything we know, without exception, including the efficacy of laboratory tests, becomes “mythical.”

As there will be no understanding of the meaning of the word “factitious,” I should explain that, too. It does not mean “based on facts.” It instead means, “made up for the occasion.” Indeed, the word “fact” itself was lost on approximately 100 percent of my old journalistic colleagues: that a fact is itself something made — that it is a deed, not something that “just happened.” And I am turning back here on the essence of Darwinism, and other forms of scientism disseminated today in our air and water: for all reporting depends on the (idiot) notion that things may happen hocus-pocus “just like that,” there being no First Cause, only secondary ones.

Gentle reader is advised to pause here and think on that for a moment. It will take him back to the heart of Aristotle, and to the heart of Western Civ: that a secondary explanation is insufficient. That for our ends we must return to our origins.

In my brief and pointless debate with the rib mocker, I touched on three miracles of natural science. 1. The universe began. 2. Life appeared on Earth. 3. Man emerged. These are miracles in the sense that they are singularities which no amount of natural science can possibly explain. In each case the explanation, if any can be had, must precede natural science; will be, and can only be, Revelation. This does not mean, and cannot mean, that our very being is less important than what empirical inquiry can discover. Quite the contrary: the known facts exhibit the extreme limitation of empirical inquiry.

They raise questions that cannot be avoided: no man nor woman capable of intelligent thought can dismiss such ultimate questions about the nature of the universe into which he has been born, or the existence of himself as a living, thinking creature. He, life on earth, and the vault of stars, are Fact. That is to say, they have been made. There is no escape from this, except by avoidance of reality itself. Things do not make themselves, and to hypothesize that they do, is to lead oneself by stages into a real and plausible insanity.

Hence, I think, the facetiousness and sarcasm that now animates all public discussion of important matters, gone far beyond what is nominally categorized as “religion.” This is in itself a mark of triumph, for atheism. (Not merely disbelief in God, but the elimination of God from all consideration, as a condition for participation in public life.) Consistent avoidance of elementary reality leads by extension to avoidance of fact or deed, in detail. From the avoidance of first fact, every subsequent fact can be, progressively, trivialized. And what can be trivialized, will be trivialized, by Satan’s little minions.

“The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God.” This is precisely correct. All human fallacy, all human foolishness, begins in that act of denial. This includes the foolishness of believers, who choose for a moment to act as if they did not know any better.

Returning briefly to the question that got me started. The account in Genesis of the origin of man and woman is itself “fact,” in the sense that it is given to us, as revelation on matters we could not possibly discern by empirical means. That God created Eve from the rib of Adam, is not given as the explanation of a technique. We are not being told how He did it, but of the meaning, for us, in what He did. It is a revelation of the cause behind the causation of Eve and Adam; and therefore not of what they were but what they are. It is at the foundation of our knowledge, that we were created purposefully, in two kinds mutually depending. That, “man and woman, created He them,” in no accidental way. The technique, by which God made the mute stones speak, does not matter to us. It is therefore permanently beyond us — as moot as every other “discovery” in natural science that is not merely descriptive. By focusing exclusively on an undiscoverable technique, we indulge a foolishness that is contemptible. We ignore, while presuming upon, first cause. We ask a question so facetious, that it can only deserve a facetious reply.