Essays in Idleness


Annals of far-righteousness

Am I a dupe of the “Far Right”? … Or, alternatively, a chump for Trump? … Or perhaps there is no distinction, and I am more generally far-righteous? I have received a modest amount of criticism (appropriate to my modest readership) on the assumption that I, who despise politics and politicians, am a one-man fan club for the most intolerable of them.

In reality, I am an absolute Monarchist; but there are no absolute monarchies about for me to favour. They’ve all been replaced by dictatorships of the proletariat. … Eheu!

And to be fair (do you anticipate irony?) such criticism is a sign of the times. It has been an offence against my heroes for many decades. It was perfectly common for, say, Evelyn Waugh to be condemned as a Fanatick Conservative, even though he had gone to the trouble of saying that he never votes for them. “They’ve never set the clock back a single minute.”

Today, anyone who is contemptuous of political operators, and votes only in the most extreme conditions, when he thinks in defiance of reason that it might do a tiny speck of good — or more likely for psychological relief, because his despication of the Trudeau boy or the Freeland woman is more than he can bear — will be accused (by them) of supporting the Far Right.

This is irrational, as my critics should have admitted by now. What they call the “Far Right” consists of political operators, too; therefore I despise them. It is just that befouling them is less urgent, since everyone and his dog are supplying this service.

Super-massive & up

There is — we learn, on the authority of “scientists” — a massive black hole at the centre of our galaxy. What it is doing there, and how it came to be, are questions to which we do not know the answer, for there are aspects of the history of the Milky Way which might not be intelligible after a few billion years, even in a commonplace barred spiral galaxy like the one we live in. Nevertheless, they (the scientists: astronomers presumably) were reasonably comfortable in the assignment of the number and size of black holes that we shall have encountered, when we complete our extra-terrestrial explorations.

Imagine their surprise to discover, through the James Webb Space Telescope, that there were galaxies just like ours well over thirteen billion years ago; and moreover, black holes a thousand times bigger. These things do not have a right to exist, so close to the time of the Big Bang, according to current models of galactic protocol, in which each large star bundle and its regulating black hole grow together over billions (and billions) of years. They don’t just scandalously appear in (perhaps) the first hundred million.

Moreover, stars within the “thick disk” in the middle of our galaxy are now inferred to be much older than the scientists were previously allowing. Note, the Doppler-effect red-shift cannot be used to check for age over very short distances, of fifty thousand light-years or so, and is entirely defeated by the Big Bang. Nothing beyond 13.61 billion earth-years back can be calculated or observed, for reasons that you will not find in this (Idlepost) space. But trust me: I am not a scientist.

It was the same sort of outrage when life on earth was developing. This planet and its moon go back only four-and-a-half billion years, by radiometric dating of our oldest rocks, &c — and for the first three-and-a-half billion nothing much was growing here that was not tediously microscopic. Then, in a flash, around 540 million years ago, we had the Cambrian explosion, in which all or most of the designs for the full-size creatures we have since spotted in the fossil record (and some additional) simply bounced into being. Out of nothing, and from nowhere, don’t you know.

But why then, precisely? And why weren’t developments more evenly distributed, given the huge expanses of time in which the Creator is left with little or nothing to do?

Alas, not having created us yet, God could not consult us on these critical aesthetic matters.


Back in the days of distant antiquity, deep in another century when I was young, and in the habit of falling in love with mellifluous, classical girls who were German and Catholic, and with one of them in particular, I remember trying patiently to read Bertolt Brecht. It was less the language than the man himself who prevented me from liking him. He seemed to be what I had come to despise: the exponent of a political mysticism naturally opposed to the spiritual mysticism of the beloved R. M. Rilke.

What made him bad were his verse rhythms, as I sounded them (ineptly) in my mind’s ear; Brecht was a prophet of Sendung, and inclined to percuss like a military band. Later, I discovered that this was unfair.

Sendung, I think, refers to that part of prophecy that is broadcast, that is delivery or performance, that is mission or some kind of consignment. In other words, it is not really prophetic. Today, the word may have shrunk to an entry in the television listings. But it was once a Prussian concept, with pretence to grandeur; a psychotic “national mission.”

I am not especially prejudiced against the Germans, or German poets, whom I rank according to their natural inability to form a military band. I am, however, prejudiced against Prussians, and in favour of that form of Germany that is rather Bavarian (omitting Augsburg), or better still, Austro-Hungarian — the sort of German that can sense paradox, and mixes sincerity with drollness. Martin Mosebach is currently my favourite German, even though he is from Frankfurt. (See: The Heresy of Formlessness, 2012.)

Perhaps, “Catholic,” with the capital letter or without, is the larger background condition, that rises above nationalism and any other “ism” (Marx-ism, for instance) that can be adopted by the Left, and used to “direct” us, purposefully. It is, in a sense, the story of what we have been facing throughout modernity, since the Reformation, this fake mysticism from a constantly changing fake religion, in the cause of a very material, political order. It expresses itself invariably as Sendung, and you get it as much in France as in Germany.

Always, “the Left,” posing as enlightened moderates, propose to rescue us from the “Far Right.”

Long live the Far Right!

Goo extraction

The British election result has enhanced my interest in marine biology; in the milking of the blue whale, and the mastication of the Greenland shark. The result (of the election) was neither a surprise, nor a welcome development to those who oppose arbitrary measures and expanding, irresponsible bureaucracies — except, insofar as Britain’s Conservatives were annihilated. Unfortunately, this could not be done without electing Labour.

It is in the nature of political parties — right and left — to represent the interests of certain classes, in defiance of the interests of other classes. Politicians are team players, who build on each other’s mistakes, in the focused narrow interest of the political class. A person of ability and integrity must lose in politics, for he will be an unclubbable eccentric, but the person who lacks any admirable feature will also lose, when it comes to the vote. Victory is always transient, and illusory. (Who needs it? … Yes, that’s who.)

There are very few exceptions to this rule, and two of them went down in yesterday’s election.

The interest of the “citizen” is in perpetual opposition to that of the political functionary. Democratic, party politics assures that this citizen will always be ignored, or wildly outnumbered, when his own unique interests are discussed, unless he is a successful conspirator. He must, at best, agree to be sleazy, to get some of what he has surrendered (materially and spiritually) back from his taxes. But “guvmint” is now everywhere, and given the expansion of the technology of control, one cannot extract oneself from the earthly goo.

Except, via martyrdom. We must fly, with Our Lady, to the arms of Christ.

Toothy sleepers

A loving God did not send us to this earth because He thought we would be safe here. From the beginning, it appears, we were meant to move on. We do not even loiter for as long as some Greenland sharks, estimated to live for more than five hundred years, and to start reproducing at age one hundred fifty, by some scientists. (Whom do we trust more?)

True, we are very rarely eaten by the Greenland sharks (one of the Somniosidae, or sleeper sharks), and are usually safe from them, because we seldom swim in Arctic waters. Indeed, more have probably died from trying to consume a “gurry” than from being consumed by one, for their flesh is flush with uremic toxins. Only an Icelander will put this delicacy in his mouth, and then only when it has been repeatedly boiled, hung and dried, or buried and fermented for months. Whenupon, it still reeks of ammonia. (We can easily understand their patience.)

These sharks can swim a mile deep or more, where the water tends to be somewhat cooler than at the surface; they move in a very slow and deliberate way. Yet whole moose and reindeer have been found in their bellies, so we may assume they are skilled at sneaking up. (Perhaps their prey would also be wise, to avoid swimming in the Arctic seas.)

Most curious is the Greenland shark’s antipathy for endings. As an old Arctic fisherman has told us, it is not easy to despatch one, for even when thought to be dead, it can still reflexively bite. Indeed, even the detached head will protest its execution for a few days. (My source for this was published in 1834.)

It thus resembles Mr Joe Biden, who continues to campaign after his reported demise.

Milking the blue whale

The idea of keeping a blue whale as a pet is, even by my own collecting standards, quite impractical, and I strongly advise against it. A Balaenoptera musculus can grow to sixty of my nautical cubits, and weigh around two hundred long tons. It is, for Guinessophiles, the largest animal in the known universe, ever. It will thus require a very large aquarium, and will beg to be released to exercise in summer, for its customary jaunt to the pole, and in the winter when it cruises the tropics, and breeds. Of course, if one can hardly accommodate a single restless blue whale, a family would be the height of folly.

They are filter feeders. This might perhaps appeal to my vegetarian readers, until they realize the implications of finding around twenty tons of krill, each day. The females don’t eat when they are nursing, however; but their children make up for it.

Which gets me to my point about milking the blue whale. It offers some additional challenges, for it will normally be done underwater, and a whale nipple is not only gigantic, but will be modestly concealed from humans with small hands. The conservative agriculturalist must therefore stick to nanny goats and dairy cows. The whale calf has the most elaborate, frilly, sucking apparatus with which to take the maximum of milk, with the minimum of seawater. (They, like us, find saltwater distasteful).

I’m not sure whether any marine biologist, or other sailor, has yet to milk a blue whale, but there is a first time for everything.

Mother generates upwards of fifty gallons of milk per day, which may not seem like such a grand amount, until one considers that whale milk has the consistency of butter, from being nearly half fat. This would also make it ideal for whipping cream, though a dietician might browbeat against the dangers of cholesterol. Warmed, I’m told that whale milk tastes like Tibetan tea, although I remain sceptical. (Perhaps mystical whales have over-leapt the Himalayas?) The baby whale is adding more than two hundred pounds a day, thanks exclusively to this ingestion of milk. This would put it quickly beyond an orca’s dining range, were mama not anyway so protective.

Fully grown, blue whales easily leap right out of the water, justifying the “balaenoptera” tag, for they were originally classed among the flying fish. My thought is, if you were trying to milk one, the right moment is when it is out of the water; though if it comes down near you, the milk is liable to be spilt.

In days of yore …

Among successful businessman I have known (really: there have been a few), I have admired the quality of self-interested ruthlessness. Not just ruthlessness as an end in itself, which as everyone knows may lead to badness; but ruthlessness in the cause of survival, for the businessman and for all who depend upon him. This is true outside of business, too, in, for instance, the fiscal dimension of politics. An especially ruinous example of the “sunk cost fallacy” plagues the budgets of our once-fair Dominion.

In classical micro-economics, the future costs of a proposed action are the only ones that count. The money already thrown away, achieving nothing, should not enter into calculations. A good micro-economist shows by this that he understands how business works.

Canada’s most successful politicians are notorious for their misunderstanding of almost everything. For instance, they have vomited countless billions of our tax money into a black hole, thinking they can change the weather and contrive carbon neutrality; the costs continue to mount with no prospect of success in view. When will they give up?

A wise and ruthless statesman would cut our losses; but the politician is determined to justify his previous immense spending. He is even willing to blow the next election on this childish behaviour.

I remember, fondly, the old school of political reasoning in these northern parts; when Diefenbaker, e.g., cancelled the Avro Arrow (February 1959). The aeroplane in question would be long retired by now, but the interest on the debt we would still be paying. Of course, the people of our once-fair Dominion punished him for saving all that money.

The proof that God dislikes politicians, almost as much as I do, may be seen in this quandary. No matter what they do, the politicians are soon punished. This has been so in Canada, since days of yore.

Deficit made flesh

Not everyone today can understand Charles Dickens’s formula for happiness:

“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”

This is because the currency was decimalized, to make it more simple to misunderstand; or as I would say, decimated. We might suggest, for update, national revenue twenty trillion, national expenditure nineteen trillion point nine nine nine repeated, result happiness. National revenue twenty trillion, national expenditure forty-three trillion seven hundred and fifty-eight billion four hundred million and spare change, result misery. This merely extends the Dickensian reasoning. But few get it, and of those, fewer would do anything about it, including no (zero) politicians.

Our intellectual decline since the mid-XIXth century may be discerned even on the streets of Parkdale, where almost no one uses money any more, and almost everyone uses computer cards. (I tried to proffer cash, yesterday, and the fleshy young cashier was dumbfounded. My attempt to teach her to count also failed.)

The best folk songs (composed, some of them, just the day before yesterday) were, fairly consistently, modal, or in a modal style. This was a direct inheritance from the Middle Ages, as, generally, the rest of our music. Not everyone understood these songs, but most could sing and dance along with them. This was not the case once the world went (via tonal to) atonal.

Similarly, with the (gold and silver) mediaeval pounds, shillings, and pence in Mother England (and livres, sols, deniers, in Canada, too, in the olden days). There was no inflation, for centuries at a time. This was only interrupted when the ghastly criminal, Henry Tudor, seized the fiscal powers of state during Protestant Reformation; or when, later, gold began to be “phased out” by Keynesian economists. Our economy became modern, “atonal.”

My experience of rural India was: the poor are happy. But the indebted, hoooo, they live in misery, even when they have no idea how much they owe.

How to not watch

Apparently, there is a “debate” on tonight between two of the contenders for the American presidency; it has been flagged by the media, all over the world. I can’t see that anything can be learnt from this “debate,” which will be even less like an intellectual exchange than all the other “video” spectacles since Nixon-Kennedy (which I also did not watch, in 1960; we didn’t have a television when I was a child, in Pakistan). An immense amount of honest goodness could be had by not watching television back then; and not watching items on the Internet has followed in that fine tradition.

I did, however, watch the manned landing on the moon (in 1969). I was pleased to note that the Eagle did not crash, which I feared it might do. But whether Mr Biden crashes does not approach my bucket-list of curiosities.

It’s like losing weight. The only way to do this is to stop eating.

A mediaeval jest

Gluttony, to start with. We might consider this the hors d’oeuvre. But then drunkenness, meanness, hypocrisy, and the love of money are added, in an environment cloyed with ugly social pretensions. For there is also corruption in human language, and the perversion of our creaturely sexuality, in ways that have not gone out-of-style through the last eight centuries. It is a lament by Nature, presented as a grand allegorical figure. At first this seems grim prospect for an evening’s entertainment.

I was reading the De planctu Naturae of Alain de Lille, the XIIth-century Latin satirist and philosophe, who fell into my withered XXIst-century hands. I have the “Dumbarton Oaks” edition of Alain’s literary works, which provides a text with modern translation on facing pages. However, one is compelled to wrestle with the Latin, because the English does not supply the wit, the humour, or the provocations that Alain was happily known for. By his contemporaries he was celebrated as the greatest genius since Adam.

He was not a scholastic, but nevertheless in the mystical-rational centre of Western thought; getting a whole chapter in Gilson’s History of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages, where he is placed in the context of the thrilling XIIth-century Renaissance. For, thanks only partly to the Crusades, Christendom had come into living contact with Islam, with a flourishing Judaism, and with the Albigensians who appeared from southern France less as a heresy than as a wildly successful third new religion.

Alain’s Art of Catholic Faith pioneers a Christian apologetics “to the Gentiles,” in this world that seems about to disintegrate in contradicting doctrines. It is the situation we are enjoying still today. God alone could deal with our multiple confusions.

Who is He? … In description, He is the perfect sphere, perfectly motionless, and perfectly simple, at the focus and simultaneously at the limitless circumference of our dancing life of forms. That an external Nature would make Complaint to this silent Authority — a complaint touching chiefly on us — is less spectacular than the Neoplatonic imagery descending from the De Trinitate of Boethius.

It is the “star wars” of metaphysics, that we have replaced with our humourless rocket-ships.

Checking the returns

Toronto-Saint Paul’s is defined, among the political experts, as a “safe Liberal seat.” For one thing, it is in the middle of Toronto, where the Conservatives have no members. (The NDP occasionally wins ridings like Parkdale.) According to a pollster, who is (in my opinion) a Liberal party hack, if the Liberals were to lose Saint Paul’s, it would mean that there were no safe seats left for them in Canada. None is the same as zero, incidentally.

Late last night, we learned that the Liberals had lost Saint Paul’s.

It was just a by-election, however. Toronto’s electorate enjoys the kind of deep somnolence that is not permanently correctible. Its people are typical of urban voters everywhere: they are easily convinced by “progressive” fantasists, and environ-mental snake-oil salesmen. Hence, liberal-lefties control all the big-city municipal governments, and provide marionettes to all the national puppet theatres.  Those who voted against them will return to snoring mode after just a moment’s consciousness.

Put not your faith in men, to say nothing of princes, as the Psalmist anciently advised us. To trust in democracy is to have your faith in men, multiplied.

Yet we may hope for a breathing space, between “progressive” regimes. And as ever, we may hope for a good result in the end.

The rising youff

Along with toothache, the prospect for the West seems to have changed, slightly, with the European elections. I was surprised, not only by the media-reported shift to the “Far Right.” (This is media-speak for what is to the right of the Far Left.) In little country after little country (e.g. Germany, France, Italy) the composition of this “rightwing wave” has not-so-subtly altered, from past waves. The children who had (most recently) been voting Green, have now found another way to abandon the decaying socialist internationale; but also, to abandon traditional “conservative” allegiances (called “liberal” on the European mainland).

They don’t go to church any more, these “youff” — even to get married — and a worn, cynicized, observer might wonder if they have anywhere else to go, besides the occasional clown demonstration. They have opinions, to be sure, but these do not fluctuate within conventional categories. The semi-interesting thing is that the “youff vote” is politically expressed in trends of the TikTok culture. Party loyalty is replaced by personal “follows,” to the electronic acharyas, which crackle and go poof in the night.

More generally, the loyalty to institutions, whether of left or right, has evaporated with commitment to any church, let alone The Church. For this “agnosticism” is not a conscious choice, to abandon all the instruments of order. Rather, the “youff” are of a generation that has been raised post-institutionally, where even the institutions they have passed through are of no sentimental value. “History” — the near and the far, the local and the universal — has almost ceased to exist as background of daily life. An old-fashioned libertarian might think they have all become free agents. This old-fashioned Tory thinks they are lost in space.

The exploitation of “youff,” by the bureaucrats, in default control of society’s various agencies, has also become more cynical. They cling to power as an alternative to extinction. The “youff” no longer have inherited the experience that once moderated these agencies. They (and we, through them) have become the perfect victims, of tyranny.


SIR LARRY SIEDENTOP, R.I.P. — “It’s the decline in the teaching of history and the knowledge of history that’s especially dangerous in the West at the moment, because there aren’t that many churchgoers any more, and philosophy as a secular discipline has professionalized itself in a way that doesn’t ask many of the basic traditional questions. And so there’s a kind of void when it comes to asking those fundamental questions. And I think the most important thing the churches can do at the moment is re-introduce them. Questions like: are we free? Should we be free?”

Pleasure in a toothache

As there are people who take pleasure in murder, there are those who will find pleasure in toothache. I did not see this at first, although I should have, for you know, I have read Dostoevsky right through (though only in the fine English translations of Mrs Edward Garnett). But happening myself upon a most exquisite, indeed excruciating, toothache, developing at the back of my lower left jaw, I turned immediately to Dostoevsky’s “Notes from Underground.”

My strategy with toothache has long been more material than contemplative. After having ignored it for as long as possible, I would counter-attack with the salt-water swish, with almond extract, or topical clove oil, or even an aspirin, inserted against the labial frenulum. This had always worked before, letting me do things like sleep. But this time I had a “wisdom toothache,” which would not be confined, for it had invaded not only the mandible but the maxillary sinus, and was enhancing the dizziness from my stroke. After a few days of escalation, I decided that something had to be done; for it is difficult to carry on with other human activities when distracted by such a toothache.

Well, alas, this is Canada, and as I did not have a “dental plan” with any employer, or the equivalent bureaucratic papers, I had to try my luck with the dentists of the neighbourhood, and find service à la carte. I spent a morning in this useless wander, during which I found each of the dentists had been privately isolated in a “family practice,” and couldn’t just see someone with a toothache, even if he had cash. But everywhere there is an exception, and I found him in the afternoon.

Thanks to modernity, in the form of 500mg amoxicillin capsules and 600mg tablets of ibuprofen — prescriptions so obvious, I could have ordered them for myself, but only if I’d first obtained a medical degree — I am now beginning to relax. (Perhaps I am already snoring as I write this.)

The pleasure in a toothache is, of course, the pleasure of moaning, when you can command an audience to endure you. To the nasty person, lacking respect for himself, so that he will make a spectacle of his degradation, it can be a voluptuous pleasure. But where the pleasure in a murder does not require an audience, the malignant pleasure of moaning by day and by night is pointless when it is performed solo.

I was thus unlucky, I could get no pleasure from my toothache.

That is why the eco-warriors and Hamasniks (&c) cannot allow themselves to be left alone. Not only have they not the capacity for the contemplative life, but they need someone who can be forced to listen to their despicable moaning.