Essays in Idleness

DAVID WARREN

A saint for our times

In the wee hours of yesterday, at Rome, John Henry Newman, who had been elevated from “Cardinal,” to “Blessed,” was further elevated to “Saint.” Gentle reader who is not a Catholic may nevertheless vaguely intuit what is involved. Saints are neither born, nor made, in human terms. By granting this title, Holy Church declares that she has come to recognize a fact, and must acknowledge it from this time forward. By miracles she has, so to say, got the memo from Heaven. There is a bureaucratic process down here on Earth. It will normally take many years to get through the paperwork. Benedict XVI, whose interest in Newman was never casual, began the formal process in 2010. Newman’s “cause” is now completed.

It can be argued that Newman was the greatest theological and philosophical mind since Thomas Aquinas. (He considered himself neither theologian nor philosopher.) As English-speakers, we may notice that he was among our greatest writers of prose, and also, like Thomas Aquinas in Latin, of verse. He was instrumental in reviving Catholicism as a living, thinking force throughout the Anglosphere. But beyond it, he decisively influenced men like Ratzinger — among the most brilliant in Europe and beyond.

Far from revealing or contributing to a breach between ancient and modern, his Development of Christian Doctrine perfectly reconciled them — to that development from acorn to oak, in which we do not find contradictions. In each of Newman’s many other books (I count thirty-four currently on the shelves in the High Doganate), he wrestled with the beast of our “modernity,” which can only embrace “reason” by eschewing depth and faith. Newman’s own conversion extends beyond its moment in time. One might say his whole life was Conversion, implicating that Anglosphere.

For in the dance of history, taking the long view, it may even be the English-speaking turn to lead a return to the faith of our far Catholic ancestors, now that we have exhausted the possibilities of our schismatic spirit.

One might instead observe Newman’s many continuities: that, for instance, through decades when he was for all practical purposes banned from the place, he remained the quintessential Oxford man, the perpetual earnest scholar under her dreaming spires. He was, at his core, citizen of an England not national but timeless.

He was a man who aspired to Truth, and lived it. The man’s courage in exchanging all of his dignity and social standing as a treasured member of the British establishment, for the title of “traitor” and the wayfaring life of a despised Catholic, equivalent to a peasant Irishman, inspired others to take courage. He was creating a path, through his own person — a temporal wormhole, as it were — back to behind the premisses of the Northern Reformation. Yet he was no mere curmudgeon or controversialist. He desired to recover Christianity, whole, for himself and for others. With genius he found what he was seeking, in a renewed understanding of what, with all her newsy, passing flaws, the Church … Is.

In person he was shy, and hated fame and spectacle, and only his high sincerity could move him to play his crucial worldly rôle. I am struck by accounts of his demeanour; by memoirs of his style in delivering Oxford homilies, celebrated later as if they were oratory. He would write them out, carefully, then read them at the pulpit in a monotone, for up to an hour, while fidgeting with his glasses. Their splendour is better appreciated by the leisured reader.

For many years I did not read him, because I was afraid. I “knew,” to use no stronger term, that he threatened my own comfortable life as an Anglican. Simply glancing through several of them had already damaged my complacency. I avoided contact, though leaving the books to torment me in plain sight. I invite others who may not be Catholic to surrender as I eventually did. Read them and stop pretending that they can be bracketed.

To me it has by now long seemed quite obvious that Newman was (and is) a Saint. But I do not like getting ahead of the Church in these matters. As of yesterday, the Church has caught up. Yes, Newman has come home.

The would pile

An (unapologetically) Christian Party would lose elections. Perhaps that would be the point of it. The intention would be to make a good showing, and here and there, actually to get someone credible elected to some public office. Beyond that, set a good example, of characteristic civility and charm. It would inevitably be the party of religious freedom, especially for Christians. It would naturally oppose abortion and “euthanasia,” and the Culture of Death in its many other manifestations. Indeed, it would be thoroughly anti-choice in all matters of fundamental morality, on which Our Lord and His appointed heirs have clearly spoken. It would accept every plank of the Ten Commandments, without the slightest sophistical demur.

It would not attract only Christian voters, but they would be the core. Permanent and active riding associations would be the means of operation. Talks, studies, debates would be sponsored, to help members candidly explore current political questions. It would even arrange picnics, “youth outings” (the old-fashioned kind), history tours, civic events. Protests and demonstrations would not be sponsored.

The party would probably need a charter to state its permanent principles, and what they were not: a founding Manifesto. That it would not aspire to be a revolutionary vanguard, let alone a church, but expressly a formal political party, would be memorably asserted. The document would also be very forthcoming  about the need to restore a Christian society.

“Conservatives” would complain that this party was splitting the Conservative vote. “Yes, we probably are,” would come the answer. “Perhaps you should quit and join us.”

They would say, “How dare you appropriate the word ‘Christian’, as if our party were not also Christian?” But it’s not. (Did the Christian Democrats in Europe claim a monopoly?)

The right of all Conservatives to moan, whine, cavil, and snivel, would always be recognized, however. Too, their right to sell out, on all matters of importance.

“Liberals” would call us fascists, racists, misogynists, &c. But what’s new?

To the usual fuss about “the separation of Church and State,” the Christian Party would contribute moments of clarity, explaining what the difference is between one and the other, why each must be independent of the other, and why it would be better if both were Christian.

A large part of the party’s function would consist of keeping Christian social ideas in circulation, defending them against misrepresentation, defending the citizen’s right to maintain them, and his right to practice Christianity openly — whether here or in any other country. This might require an effective, even ingenious, information and publicity arm. By all means use mockery and humour to humiliate “progressive” anti-Christian leaders; but also tirelessly expose their lies and hypocrisy.

All other parties would be granted the right to steal from the Christian Party platform, with or without attribution. Indeed even Liberal, Progressive, Green, Socialist, and miscellaneous commie-pervert parties would be encouraged to buy in, to whatever the Christian Party advocated. In practice, however, I would not expect plagiarism to present much of a problem.

Puf the tragic dragon

That Samuel von Pufendorf (1632–94) was some kind of liberal one might take from the company he kept (especially after his death), and from his generally bad attitude towards Hapsburgs.

Should gentle reader be a Yankee constitutional scholar, he will be familiar with Pufendorf because he will have heard that the Fathers of the U.S.A. Constitution were reading him (in the original Latin). Their advanced views on the law of nations, and thus of what constitutes a nation, owed much to him. (They had a bad attitude towards Hapsburgs, too.)

Jefferson had probably been reading him in the bath the night before he wrote the Declaration of Independence. (This is pure speculation on my part, incidentally.) His rival Alexander Hamilton was equally familiar with this territory, to say nothing of little Madison and the rest. Jefferson’s mental map of the intersection between the natural law, and international law, strikes me as Pufendorfian to a fault.

I was reading P. back when all the cool kids were reading Locke and Hobbes; unfortunately in that wet-first order. They were also reading philosophical pornographers, such as Hume, but that is another story. …

The English-speaking “enlightenment” has since lost contact with the earlier German, though alas not with the later German and French enlightenmenti, and thus the history of nationhood and statecraft emerging from the Thirty Years’ War has been gradually obscured. The treason of the French monarchy, siding with the Protestants against the Hapsburgs — one of history’s great cosmic powerplays, in my view — was overwritten by the glib flippancies of Kant and Voltaire.  The horrible Rousseau would fill public space in the mind of France, during the slide downhill to the French Revolution. But that came later to west Atlantic shores. The American Founders were more stolidly Prusso-German than fashionably Parisian, and their boots had sunk deeper in the mud of history. Indeed, they’d slap on olive-face and dress up as Romans.

We cannot understand our English-speaking intellectual ancestors if we narrow our view through anachronism. The fact that the American Revolution starts bubbling nearly a generation before the French is of huge chronological significance. It succeeded because it was grounded in an older, more generous, explicitly Christian soil, however much blood had been shed into it.

Today’s national ideas and ideals are products of a fundamentally Protestant, and I would say Lutheran conception of how to organize the world, in light of certain hard facts, such as the survival of Catholicism. The earlier modern thinking was still consciously Christian. It aspired to maintain moral conventions that the French revolutionists would seek to overthrow. These northerners wished only to transplant those conventions from southern to northern gardens. Some withering was inevitable.

What once pleased me about Pufendorf was how he balanced or even corrected Hobbes (whose sonorous prose rhetoric had tended to hypnotize me). In the place of a nature “red in tooth and claw,” in a state of perpetual war, Pufendorf postulated a nature at peace, but always insecure and needing legal signposts. Which one, I asked myself, will be the instinctive enemy of tyranny? Or more maturely, now that we know the answer, is there nevertheless something about “liberalism,” in the finest sense, that engenders tyranny, even while proclaiming resistance to it?

It is not so much Pufendorf himself for whom I am shilling, as an immersion into the formative period of modern political thought; not least because this takes us back to the age when a coherent Catholic response to it was also in formation, descending from the Council of Trent.

Today, of course, it has gone into hiding.

Looking forward, cont.

The French Revolution (remember that?) was, in some reckonings, the Extinction Event for Western Christendom. There have been quite a few since, but that one was memorable for heralding “populism”: the manipulation of great masses of The Peeple, chiefly through well-publicized lies, to form battering rams in support of small parties of Paris intellectuals. A national state (“France” with all her diverse regions) “progressed,” in a blink of historical time, from a constitution which balanced monarchy, aristocracy, and the commons, to one in which the Leftists of the day could order massacres of their more conservative rivals.

“Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,” as young Wordsworth declared. Young intellectuals across Europe were inspired, though most, like him, lapsed into reaction as they grew and matured, and as the consequences of this “progress” became clearer, in the Reign of Terror, then the Napoleonic Wars that engulfed Europe. With Nappie’s narrow defeat, however, a century of more-or-less peace befell the Continent: 1815 to 1914.

Politics continued, of course: war by other means. Stability returned where monarchies could be restored, but elsewhere, The Peeple were sometimes led to triumph in the establishment of “pure” if temporary democracies, governed by the lowest orders of society, with the passing support of the most gullible. Atheism was everywhere advancing. Christianity was also recovering, as it is wont to do. Contradictions were abounding.

We’ll leave later progress to another day: Communism, Nazism, Fascism, Maoism, and the succession of other “popular” socialist movements in the century since. Today this is all old hat, for the most part unknown to the half-educated and maleducated. The contemporary university student has, typically, no knowledge of history or historical time, and is a moral and spiritual vacuum, inflamed by passions he also does not understand.

My own view is not that it’s the end of the world; rather that we are entering, internationally, another of these progressive “dawns.” The latest ideology is Environmentalism, or we might call it Deep Ecology (a rejection of humanity itself, but using the conceits of a superannuated humanism). It is the new promise of a “liberty” detached from such old-fashioned restraints as human decency, and the sane. The century ahead should be very interesting, in the sense of the old Chinese proverb.

I watch today’s international “Extinction” marches with fairly lively contempt. It is a demonstration for — What? The young (including the compulsively senile) declare what they are against, but can never coherently explain what they are for. They will let Fate take care of that, meanwhile they make, once again, their quickly developing abstract demands, in little irruptions of malignity, currently symbolized by a strident Swedish teenager with Asperger’s syndrome. (Pray she will be cured!)

This overwhelmingly white “rebellion,” whose participants are inclined to accuse all opponents of “white supremacy,” is defined more generally by the abandonment of Reason. This follows universally from the abandonment of Faith: it is an old story.

As in the past, those responsible for public order look on with growing cowardice. This was my own second formative political experience: watching the custodians of order retreat and dissolve during the riots of 1968. (The first, was being caught in a bloody riot at Lahore, as a younger child, trying to get home from school.)

An auld acquaintance, with a gift for irritating me, tells me he is making (another) “documentary” with my tax money — a film about how the world is coming to an end, and how this is making people in Montreal unhappy. I imagine the Capitalists will be the culprits. They invariably are.

The world, as I mentioned, is not coming to an end, until God wills it. We are merely making it more miserable for ourselves to live and die here.

Perhaps gentle reader is already aware that I am a fervent Reactionary, and an enemy of all Change and Revolution that cannot lead to Heaven. A Reactionary must, after all, “accentuate the positive.”

The paradox is that these people can only be defeated by joy, and a love that cannot be reduced to lubricity. I invite gentle reader to look on joyfully: for notwithstanding the occasional inconvenience, the Kingdom of God is always at hand, today as yesterday and forever.

Adam & Eve & science

We are, up here in the High Doganate, rather sceptical of the claims of Modern Science, and inclined to mock its self-important practitioners, often in rather whimsical ways. The effort to debunk specific “settled” conclusions — from Darwinoid ape-man evolutionism to the dark euphoric squeals of Global Warming — is time-consuming, of course. Yet we can know, even without debunking, that certain things are not going to happen, soon or ever.

It is a bore demonstrating, for instance, that no one’s gonna drown in Manhattan (or even in Miami) because of atmospheric CO2 levels; or that men will never (successfully) colonize Mars. Time spent in discussing such things (except for the purpose of satirical entertainment) is time wasted. The onus of proof is, anyway, not on our side. The more one goes into detail, the more risible the argument becomes, but also the angrier “settled scientists” become, whose livelihoods depend on our credulity — a proof, perhaps, of causal links between humour and intelligence.

Should we refute scientific claims by scientific method? No, because there is no such thing; and beyond that, no inference that is entirely reliable. As I suggested in a previous Idlepost, not even the existence of atoms can be taken for granted. The method to be pursued depends on what is being investigated, as Aristotle knew a couple dozen centuries ago. Unlike a later philosopher, he did not write a Discourse on Method.

We should instead refute nonsense with sharp logic, which begins and ends with the cautious application of common sense, turning upon the law of non-contradiction. Nothing in this universe, discoverable by men, can be A and not-A at the same time. This is not a theory but a premiss — an act of faith. Wisdom begins with recognition of our limitations — faith in them, as it were. That is why it is more likely to be acquired from religion, than from playing games with numbers.

Science is knowledge; nothing more. It is not acquired thanks to abstract method, and no method determines what can be acquired. Trial and error is never such a smooth process. Knowledge is a relationship with the world, and with its Creator. It can be true or false. Either way, it is internalized: our knowledge becomes a part of us. We eagerly embrace convenient error. We awkwardly flounder towards truth. The first is full of plausibilities, the second full of paradoxes. C’est la vie.

The arrogance, together with the ignorance in Modern Science, is founded upon the confidently false belief that we must accept what is “scientific,” in flavour, and reject what is “unscientific,” according to arbitrary rules fixed by “scientists.” But no: we must be predisposed to truth in every form, and flee error on all fronts.

There is nothing smug in this. “True” and “false” are absolutely exclusive categories, and the method of distinguishing them is not through a set of lab rules, but by humility and sincerity and the honesty that follows. The questions to be answered will always have moral and spiritual dimensions, as well as physical ones, and the person whose conscience is alive, will be vividly aware of this.

An inquirer should be sceptical not only of the results of his inquiry, when they “feel wrong,” but more fundamentally, of himself. Here is a possible first question for anyone who wants to know something:

Why do I want to know?

Do not simply assume that your inquiry is innocent or harmless. The first truly “scientific” experiment was, after all, that conducted by Adam and Eve.

Thought experiments

In laboratory experiments, white rats fed on a diet of pure smoke from tobacco, all died. A parallel group, however, fed instead on tofu, lived several hours longer, and some of them for days. A third group, subjected to recordings of Gregorian Chant, lived longest of all. (Those were allowed to eat whatever they wanted.)

To tell the truth, gentle reader, I did not physically do these experiments. I just guessed at the results. Up here in the High Doganate Academy of Sciences, we get all of our results this way. We (or “I,” if you prefer) are thus able to keep within a tight budget, and our apartment remains uncluttered by scientific gear (without expensive advice from any small Japanese wench, or being fry-panned by a mistress). The landlord arguably discourages rats in the building, so that our scientific methods help us to avoid litigation, too.

The experiments were performed this morning over coffee. I’ve forgotten, now, what was to be the point of them. Perhaps I was hoping to break into Drudge, or some other prominent, online scientific periodical. Properly worded, I’m sure the manuscript could skip by the referees in any distinguished climate or sociological journal.

On environmental consideration, I recommend my innovations. So many old-fashioned tests release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which, in addition to being plant food, necessary for the plants to produce oxygen, is also said to be a lethal poison. According to some of the men (and women!) in lab coats, it will contribute to a planetary extinction event in another 11 years, 7 months, and ticking. (I also wear a lab coat of sorts, sometimes, but it doubles as my kitchen apron.) Cows also release methane, which is why some experts give us less that ten years. But that’s not my fault. I have never kept cattle up here, or even goats, although their milk-to-methane ratio is much better. (One of my experiments confirmed this.) Well, I suppose I could be criticized for my failure to develop lactose intolerance.

Did I mention my advance in cold fusion? I’ve invented an engine that can generate 100 kilowatts perpetually, in a cell the size of an AA battery. It is still at the design stage, however, and might take centuries to license. Unfortunately, I’ll be unable to assemble a prototype in the foreseeable future, because the parts are not available at the local Home Hardware, and even if they were, Marie Kondo would almost certainly disapprove the mess they would make. (I understand she is now recommending “getaway cozy cabins in the woods” to let you stay off the Internet. What an ingenious solution!)

My own “read a book” strategy is actually more portable, and requires less wood. Alas, this involves clutter for the man of more than one book, and if you buy a Kindle to get around this, you may be tempted back on the Internet again.

But fact-rich “thought experiments” should be beyond criticism, whether or not the facts happen to be true. And they will solve almost all of your physical and even metaphysical quandaries, although some of them require a second cup of coffee. Think how much, as a society, we could save!

Looking ahead

When the next American Civil War starts, I imagine it will look something like Hong Kong: a big melee spreading through all public spaces (I note that USA is bigger than Hong Kong). But there will be fairly limited casualties, at first, each of which will become the subject of unrestrained media outrage, until the media collapse under physical reprisals. Later, the better and better armed demonstrators, on both sides, will tactically “evolve.” The surveillance state itself will begin to disintegrate, and with it any hope of restoring public order, through agencies such as police, courts, and prisons. Things like border surveillance will be abandoned, with immediate consequences, but as the attraction of going to the States diminishes, no one will mind. More noticeably, the economy will break down. Because the American military was designed chiefly to defend against foreign powers, on a very large scale — and the threat will instead be domestic and scattered — the Army will be (at first) effectively neutralized. Isolated firefights between Democrat and Republican soldiers will escalate to firefights between ships and aeroplanes, but these will end fairly quickly as a Pentagon dictatorship seizes control. Within a year, I expect, though only a small part of their arsenal will prove useful, bullet-enforced curfews will restore relative peace to the streets. I don’t expect the death toll to be more than a few hundred thousand, at least from direct conflict as the guns come out. Interruptions of food supply, and the spread of disease, will cost much more — but possibly less (proportionately) than in the last Civil War, in which both sides were better organized.

That it will spread to Canada, I cannot doubt, developing from the refugee crisis across “the world’s longest undefended border,” as snowflakes of all descriptions, by their millions, run for their lives, then resume their clashes up here. Mexico would also suffer from this “white flight,” except, the chaos from Mexican cartels’ energetic efforts to reclaim significant parts of Texas, California, and the Southwest, would have the paradoxical effect of ending the outbound refugee traffic there. For the most part, other foreign countries would avoid direct engagement. Instead, Islamist and Socialist regimes around the world would be busy consolidating their own local positions, sparking numerous “little wars” by their attempts at regional expansion. Each would be settled as the larger and more ruthless power won.

Still, I shouldn’t expect the anarchy to continue. Tyranny quickly fills a vacuum of authority (moral as well as material), and answers to a growing demand for safety. Nothing, of course, will be learnt from the adventure, and I should think that within a decade or less, resistance to the new President-for-Life will have all but evaporated.

Like China’s, the American GDP would soon be growing again by leaps and bounds. The Right will appear to have won, utterly. The Left will actually have achieved their agenda.

But what do I know about future events?

Perhaps the “battle of the worldviews” will resolve itself in some other way. The only thing I can safely predict is that, as the U.S. Constitution continues to dissolve, over the heat of parties that do not care for it, the country’s stability must also dissolve.

Who knows what happens, then? For there is no indication that those who demonize the established American order (with all of its long-observed faults and foibles), will come to their senses; especially those who do not realize they are playing with fire, and toy gratuitously with utopian schemes to radically expand government intervention in daily life.

The good news: “political correctness” will not last much longer.

Tsurezuregusa revisited

Respect for Ontario’s Blue Laws (repealed many decades ago) keeps me, usually, from publishing on Sundays. But I wish to flag the seventh anniversary of this nearly invisible website, which launched, as today, on Michaelmas, about 1,400 Idleposts ago (counting only the ones I haven’t repealed yet).

This happened just after my last “mainstream meejah” employer found enough money to make me go away. It hadn’t been their first offer; but as the money would be seized by competing government departments (long boring story) it was not the principal issue. Rather, I had tired of being ever on the defensive, against sleaze and liars; and having people promise to defend me, who would disappear when required. A break was needed.

I thought, perhaps I shouldn’t let the devils shut me up so easily; it seemed I still had many loyal readers. But then I thought again. My columns in Canadian newspapers were sometimes “politically incorrect” — I was frequently accused of expressing “conservative” views, and as one complainant to the Ontario Press Council alleged, I “openly admitted to being a Catholic.” (They let me off on that one, however.)

Over my last decade in the “respectable” meejah, I had attracted more than nine hundred formal complaints of one sort or another, tying my editors up in red tape. (This is a longstanding Leftist tactic: “the process is the punishment.”) Verily, I could understand why those editors would want to shake me off, even had they been on my side.

That they weren’t, could be guessed from the number of newspapers that carried my column. It shrank to just the one that was contractually stuck with me. But that was in Ottawa, where “liberals and progressives” are most lawyered up.

The world is as the world is, and one shouldn’t moan too often. The Lord’s task is to deal with it. Shrieking injustice, lewd wickedness, and vicious tyranny are commonplace, and it isn’t always possible to hide. In boxing terms, trying to resist is “leading with the chin.”

Curiously, my opposition to the way things are done down here includes opposition to the very idea that everything should be politicized. Two of the best ways to antagonize the Devil are, poetry and laughter. Such whimsicality triggers all of his efficiency experts.

As gentle reader might discover from the first Idlepost, I particularly enjoy triggering Satan’s little minions. The conceit of writing brief “Essays in Idleness,” as if with an Oriental brush, then posting them on the walls of a cabin in the mountains, was perhaps too ambitious. Too often I descend, downhill, as if actually drawn towards squalor.

Seven years later and yet again, I must try to climb back up the hill.

Encratites & Apotactics

Renunciators, we might call them in English, from what little we can know about life at the edge of the Christian communities, through the first century or two. They were ascetics who renounced private property, meat, wine, women, song, and what have you. Many also rejected the Epistles of Paul, and the Book of Acts, and might sift pick and choose through the Gospels, too, for they were above being told anything.

From what I can make out, these prototype “gnostics” did not wander in the deserts of Syria or Egypt, or form any regular orders, but went no farther than the suburbs of the town. The impression I first got of them (from Clement of Alexandria, I think) was “very proud,” and full of what we call today “virtue signalling.”

More generally, “full of it,” like our modern vegans, socialists, greenies, and health freaks — with their superior airs.

Someone else can devote his life to studying them, which means trying to reconstruct people and events that left no, or very little, trace of themselves, and are a speck on the horizon of Christian antiquity. The attitude of Fathers of the Church who mention them seems only to be mild irritation. But like our modern antinomians — those “free thinkers” who make up their own personal religions, as they go along — they were mere consumers.

They were consumers of radical ideas, who like the Puritans who came long after them, liked to dress up, and were possibly a godsend to cosmeticians and tailors, while pestering their neighbours to ban this and that.

Any attempt to confuse their works with the foundations of Christian monasticism, will err. For from their beginnings, monks and brothers, nuns and sisters, sought regulation and discipline. The Desert Fathers had no inclination to dissent from the Church; those who did soon left it, and abandoned their hardships. The course they had chosen was just too tough.

The desire of eremites and coenobites alike was to enter into the spirit of Our Lord, more deeply; those in the wilderness to live his Forty Days. Through century after century to the High Middle Ages, the recluse thought of himself more on the analogy of a soldier — often on guard at the frontier — than as any kind of revolutionist. In confusion they deferred to Central: the living authority of a divinely founded Church.

The Church, for her part, has counselled prudence — Prudentia, the highest cardinal virtue — with remarkable consistency through the ages. In breadth, it is a whole galaxy of virtues, known to the sages of other religions, as well as to our own. We paired it with justice — the goddess Justicia — and kept it enthroned. Christianity, as I like to put it, is the most prudent religion.

Not prudence, as a balance to the transcendent Gloria, though it is an anchor for mystical flights; but prudence in Christ, whose very parables “concede” so often to reason and common sense, even while they dramatize a paradox. And, a very conventional prudence, to start from, which in its fully human form, stops to think always, “Where is this leading?”

The fast in season, or the fast for life, is to a purpose. It will never be an end in itself. The same pertains to all Christian asceticism. Our vegetarianisms are not for the sake of the animals, just as Saint Francis’s kindness to animals was not meant as cute sentimentality.

Our husbandry of nature is among God’s assignments, from the beginning of Genesis; it expresses thankfulness for a very precious gift, that has accompanied the gift of life. There is no ecological “instruction manual,” because it explains itself to our native instincts. We look around, and find everything we need, when we come to look for it.

We do not place ourselves above receiving this gift from the highest: as it were, we do not look the gift-horse in the mouth. We are not the judges of God, who gave it, but quite the contrary.

To a Christian mind, we must do His Commandments, which are basic, and tell us how to live. “Beyond” them lies the road home. We are called, we go there, earnestly seeking the way.

Or, we go our own way, like the forgotten Encratites and Apotactics.

Amazonian proceedings

“Agro-industrial mono-cultivation, … ideological colonialisms, … neo-colonialism of the extractive industries, … mercantilist vision, … colonizing mentalities, … networks of solidarity and inter-culturality, … xenophobia and criminalization of migrants and displaced persons, … victims of a ferocious neocolonialism, … colonizing project, … ferocious neocolonialism.” All of this going down “the Amazon, the mother and father river of all.”

I jotted down these phrases scattered through the preparatory document for the Church’s “Amazon Synod,” which will fill half of next month in Rome. I merely skimmed the 10,000 words, for reading such poisonous garbage at full attention can be dangerous to one’s health. To say that this is neo-Marxist drivel, is almost to flatter it. The tone throughout is openly demonic.

Yet it is written by bishops, or with their approval, for an event fully endorsed by our current pope. All Catholics must weather the shame, that for our sins this invasion of our Church has been somehow tolerated.

The invaders don’t give a fig for the peoples of the Amazon. If they did, they could not write such barely grammatical banter, wherein human souls, in all of their variety, are reduced to convenient Marxist classes.

The event has more twisted motives. Incidental proposals, such as that for married priests to supply priest shortages in remote locations, stalk for the abandonment of priestly celibacy in the spiritual jungles of remote Europe, where “the spirit of Vatican II” has driven priests and parishioners alike almost to extinction. And why not parallel “exceptions” for women and gender-bent priests, too? What starts as a minor, local quick fix, is fully intended to create an enduring precedent.

Leftist or environmentalist confabulations are likely to start in obscure regions which hardly anyone has visited, and few would willingly go. They need a place hidden in a steam of ignorance. “The Amazon” is ideal. Clichés about it can be endlessly repeated. Make up any lie you want, and only the obscure can contradict you. By increments, the clichés are then extended, until they will be accepted without thought, by people who should know much better. Eventually, the whole planet is caricatured, as a place where innocent leftwing natives are exploited by greedy rightwing capitalists. Horseshit is the fuel of The Revolution.

To present it as the teaching of Christ and His Church, utterly stinks with evil.

*

[See also my Thing, here.]

The cure for consumerism

One of the consumer’s little-known rights is, not to buy stuff. This is easier than may appear. He (or even she) may be, in some sense, suffering from an addiction. But I’ve been told by the experts, this can be overcome. Take up reading, instead. Whenever the urge to shop afflicts you, open a book. Make a pot of tea, and relax somewhere. Think about things.

In Canada, today, you are even allowed to think officially disapproved thoughts, so long as you don’t tell anyone what they were.

You might also wish to take up smoking, or some other harmless pleasure. When you feel the need to buy something, light a cigarette. It will help calm your nerves.

An exception might be made for grocery shopping. But eat, first. It is dangerous to shop for the pantry when one is hungry. It can conversely be more satisfying to grow your own food. But growing your own tobacco is illegal.

My great-grandmother was quoted as saying, never buy what you can make for yourself. And as Chesterton said, anything worth doing is worth doing badly. (To which Emma, that great-grandma, would have replied, “At first.”) Even in her time, the principle of self-sufficiency was being sharply reversed. But all we need do is reverse it again.

Another tip is to take up a religion. I especially recommend the Roman Catholic one. The cycle of feasts and fasts helps build self-control. As my old friend Pascal argued, acting just as if you were a Catholic can contribute to becoming one. Then, only holiness needs to be added, and all your problems are solved. Well, except for being persecuted, but you can learn through practice how to take that in stride.

Not-shopping can be a participatory sport. It is fun to do with friends. It can even be played during election campaigns. One need not vote for any party that is promising stuff for free. They lie: for nothing on this Earth is gratis, except genuine love, for which there is no market. What comes without strings is shipped only from God. Everything advertised as “costless,” will prove very expensive in fact. I was taught this in childhood; alas, some people weren’t.

Eventually, you can wean yourself off voting entirely, but start by noticing who is making the bigger promises, then vote for the other guy. Never shop for a politician.

And never count the savings. They will be taken away from you, one way or another. Governments hate people who save money: it’s bad for the economic statistics, and it reduces the control they have over you. So they will do something about it. Sadly, now as in ages past, nothing can be done about highwaymen (that doesn’t involve a rifle).

Incidentally, pillows are among the safest places to hide gold. But don’t hide too much, or the pillow will become uncomfortable. Fiat currency — “cash” — is especially not worth hiding. It is already too bulky, and sure to inflate.

There are safer places than pillows, however; and safer stores of wealth than gold. Books, for instance, can be hidden in plain view. I’ve had my own place broken into, and the evil-doer didn’t touch my books. They make a very clever investment, which lasts even longer than a pack of cigarettes.

An even better suggestion comes from Jesus, of all people. Store up your treasure in Heaven, where it will be safe from moths, rust, and tax auditors. (I’m just trying to be practical, here.)

Several of my gentle readers have noted that my views on e.g. energy conservation sound much like those of the various eco-politicians, who could be criticized on the ground that they are batshit insane. I am unconvinced, however. The noisome politicians want your vote so they can impose their whims with a totalitarian lash. Whereas, my whims can be advanced by entirely voluntary action, quietly and with stealth.

Horn of plenty

Which is more “efficient” at capturing the energy in sunlight and storing it for practical use: A large field array of photovoltaic panels, or the same area of plants from the vegetable kingdom? I love to compare apples to oranges; or in this case apples, oranges, weeds, &c, to high-tech human manufactures. At first glance the latter win, even with today’s “developing” technology. This is because the comparison ignores many dimensions of the issue, starting with the storage. As gentle reader will know from the pop science magazines, our batteries are extremely inefficient, big heavy clunky things, and will be for the foreseeable future.

Photosynthesis in living plants is comparatively modest. A much smaller proportion of sunlight is harvested, across a narrower electromagnetic range, than what we can easily conceive. But this is because, typically of nature, the creatures only take what they need. The technological sophistication with which a plant uses a wee twinkle of sunlight to turn carbon dioxide and water into usable carbohydrates is beyond what we can do for trillions of dollars. And when it dies, the plant contributes to the cornucopia of hydrocarbons that were waiting in the ground for human use. All it took was a few million years. And we can make more by (“biofuel”) shortcuts; and hardly need much of what is obviously available.

Meanwhile, consider the lilies of the field, which do not labour or spin. Solomon in all his glory was not adorned as one of these.

Taking only one part of the (highly visible) transport sector in view, I have observed: that not one in ten should need a car, almost all of whom live in the country; and those who do need one need less than one-tenth the horsepower. (Check out tractors.) But we have created instead an economy that is extremely wasteful, especially of human intellect and souls.

There, I have solved the energy problem, in a way that should be popular in California. The question is not how to move the maximum of electrons, but how to live. I don’t own a car myself. I can still walk, without even a cane. And when I can’t, canes are cheap. Luckily for me I have inherited two!

Unfortunately my co-habitants on this planet are a wilful species. Unless you impoverish them, they will buy cars that are bigger and more powerful every year, enfibrillating both urban and rural landscapes. Anything that makes energy cheaper will encourage them. We should try to make it more expensive. Alas, we have got beyond the point where even a good war in the Middle East would be very helpful.

More could be said, I know, about the other transport sectors and the rest of modern industry, but I try to restrict myself to a few hundred words.

A photovoltaic tile is an ugly thing. True, it can pay for itself in thirty years, but it will break after twenty or less, and often in the first hailstorm. And then, rather than hydrocarbons, it leaves an array of hideous poisons that will eventually cost even more to clean up, than it cost to assemble in the first place. Verily, solar power is among the most environmentally toxic methods of generating energy that man has yet invented. Advanced wind turbines run it a close second. If we had any environmental conscience, we would ban both of these technologies, for starters.

The hippies of half a century ago had a few things right. Unfortunately, they had most things wrong. But the notion that we should adapt peacefully to the rhythms of nature is an old, old one, and can be easily achieved if we all become Catholic mystics. Or even if most of us do. Let us spend our surpluses on shrines and monasteries, and our free moments in prayer.

And rather than on moving about faster and faster, we should consider the lilies. They do not move at all.

Hippocratic conservatism

Whether in medicine or statecraft, or in the manufacture of catfood, the principle of Hippocrates should generally be observed: “First, do no harm.” We cannot actually know whether Hippocrates said this — the words don’t appear  in his received texts, in precisely that order — but have no indication that anyone else said them first, so let me propose the harmless policy of leaving that attribution alone.

Well, we might want to do some harm in warfare. There are moments, you know, for everything. Perhaps one might nod: “everything in its season.” But let us consider specifically the benign notion, that one should try to avoid gratuitous destruction, even of one’s declared and rather active enemies. Having, for instance, killed all the men, we might want to go lightly on the women and children.

There is a Christian conception of right in warfare. It has, incidentally, been carefully thought through. We are not supposed, for instance, to kill maim or torture, just to settle a score, or because our opponents have put us in a bad mood. More broadly, the whole idea of solving one’s problems by killing people, ought to be resisted — even when the temptation is fairly strong. (As, for example, during an unwanted pregnancy.)

Not all harm results in deaths, however. Consider, gentle reader,  that there are people who have made a lot of money, crassly. I’ve known several. Allow me to think of one in particular. Can’t say he broke any laws while amassing his fortune, or that his products were worse than gross errors of taste. He committed other sins, but then, so did I. (We’re both still doing it.)

Don’t tell anyone, but I would sometimes like to hurt him. I wouldn’t risk doing anything direct, from the cowardly fear of getting caught, and perhaps the knowledge that God is still watching, even while my enemy is off guard. But were I, say, some sort of progressive activist, I would want to tax him, as ruinously as possible.

Yet by the (perfectly “secular”) principle that Hippocrates apparently espoused, I have no reason to hurt him, even in the moment when he is too much in my face. Moreover, my resentment does me no good. By inventing a tax only “bad people” would pay, I hurt many people I know nothing about. This is not a “might” but a certainty, as many Leftists have discovered, after the laws they advocated were turned against them. (My head is replete with delicious examples.)

I want him to give his money to good, charitable causes, but he wouldn’t dream of it, because he is a hard-boiled selfish skunk. But why do I have to do anything about that? God will deal with him at His leisure.

In the meanwhile I would be content to stop him from opening a store in my neighbourhood, to further corrupt the local kids. That might be legitimate.

What strikes me about current political debate, is that doing harm is taken for granted. Candidates for public office quite casually suggest acts of malignity towards their chosen foes, to large cheering sections of their friends. They would impose what, by the rules of civility, ought to be done voluntarily. They would take away rights which, in the long view of history, people long had; by acts which, in the same long view, never ended well.

Or to put this another way: slow down, hang back, don’t go there. Let us support doctors and politicians and petfood suppliers who will do no harm, unless they absolutely have to.