On vexation

Oh look! … Some clever person (or persons) has found a new way to spam my website. … I thought I’d confuted him (or them) when I disabled all Comments, many moons ago. But I was secretly still receiving “trackbacks,” so I could see when my pieces were “linked” from other sites. … Now I am receiving innumerable false links, designed I think to trick me into visiting places that aren’t at all nice, where I can be “cookied” to death. … Or some other game whose “misrules” I will soon enough discover. …

Ah well, as they say. …

Most, if not all “conservative” and (“traditional”) Catholic bloggers receive such attentions, as I have learnt from casual conversations with a representative sampling of them. This is part of the general experience of resisting the demonic. When I was a columnist in the “mainstream press” I had the similar pleasure of being bombarded not only with hate-mail, but frequent, frivolous, formal “complaints,” designed to tie me up (together with my bosses) in various bureaucratic complaints procedures, patiently (or sometimes, impatiently) responding to each one.

Likewise, the last time the Liberals were in power, up here in Cà nada, I and the small handful of other token rightwing hacks found that we had been “randomly selected” for extremely malicious tax audits. Now, alas, that Party is back in power.

And there are other such experiences, too tedious to continue listing. What they tell me is that, as Saint Paul saith, we are up against not trolls, merely, nor uncivil servants, but “principalities and powers”; against, to put it warmly, demons in human flesh and dress. Or more reasonably, not demons, per se, but men who have pledged fealty to demons. As opposed to, say, those with only “another point of view” — which, if they had, they’d be able to articulate.

Saint Paul also counsels that we reply calmly, that we fear them not, that we get about our business, fixing what we can, while humbly requesting God’s help for what is beyond our powers. I should perhaps try (harder) to deal with such attacks as if they were inanimate; as if they were only “mechanical problems” — bugs, as opposed to ghosts, in the machine. To God we leave the task of fixing them “at source.” We wouldn’t want to be running interference against the divine plan.

For the time being, while we remain on earth, we may take them as a penance for our own many sins; and as wonderful opportunities to assist in the conversion of our worst enemies, by praying for them, and returning good for evil. Never forgetting, that among the goods we may be able, charitably, to provide, is the appropriate punishment for each crime. (Such as garroting, perhaps; or disembowelment.)

So long as we keep it calm, and impersonal. …


It is the Octave of All Souls, of special though private significance to me. Let us pray for All Souls, not Saints — that God will open our eyes, before he shuts them forever. We are blind in our furies; to see requires composure.

That is why artists must be chaste; and in the case of the more talented, celibate, like priests or nuns. It is a dreadful feature of the (post?) modern world, that vows of celibacy should be confined to religious, only. Soldiers, too, would be, ideally, like armed monks, or rather, canons. Many scholars would benefit from celibate lives, to help them focus on the minutest details, and live on very modest means; as well, school marms and librarians. And cricketers, too, ought to be as artists; though I would not extend this suggestion to rugby, or ice hockey, where the game creates its own eunuchs. Fishers of men should all be celibate; fishers of fish, and fishmongers, should, however, take wives and have children. According to me.

In Hamlet, which I found myself teaching this morning, the question whether Hamlet himself had been strictly abstinent arose, this being germane to the understanding of the play. Princes should not, by custom, refrain from sex past the age when they are married; though who, any longer, does what he is told, by God or man? Not, I fear, the graduates of our Wittenbergs.

Hamlet’s view of women, or should we specify, of Gertrude and Ophelia, affects a certain disgust with the female libido, though his notorious remark, “get thee to a nunnery,” has been interpreted many ways. He seems to take a better view of homicide, as through the course of the play he fulfils the requirements for a serial killer. Yet, flights of angels might well sing him to his rest. (The play should be read more closely, for most of what is said about it, especially by the experts, is tosh.)

On the Octave of All Souls we view men and, yairs, women, too, from the aspect of their graves. Where they lie chastely.

Among my favourite words in that play is “straight.” The “crowner” (i.e. coroner) has ruled that Ophelia’s body be laid in the church-yard, and to “make her grave straight.” This, for those not up on Christian mortuary practices (as modern Shakespeare scholars seem not to be), means the body is to be laid west-to-east, with the stone at the foot, and the head to the east: parallel, as it were, with the church, whose “head” points east, liturgically. (Note that most modern grave-diggers make a lio of this, by putting the head beneath where the stone is going, or placing the stone so that it will obstruct the deceased’s eastern view. Perhaps we need a Synod to correct this.)

He (the coroner) has ruled, in other words, that Ophelia’s death was not a suicide — the ultimate, because unforgivable, Christian sin. Though perhaps he has ruled with less than perfect certainty, this world being as it is, and the girl having concluded her earthly life quite mad (with reasons enough). The Church having taught that madness attenuates volition, you see.

As a friend once told me, in jest I should think, the purpose of life, as our contemporaries seem to live it, is to produce an attractive corpse. Whereas, this Shakespeare observes, from his knowledge founded in the late mediaeval past, it doesn’t really matter what you look like in the end, consequent as it may have been on your failure to eat healthy, drink in moderation, observe non-smoking, and work out at the gym.

The purpose is rather to be laid straight. In such a way, the graveyards can be an inspiration to us, the stones all oriented in the proper liturgical direction. And generation, after generation, carrying the candles, lighting the path.

Sin is to be avoided, wherever and whenever it can be; and it can actually be avoided, once we know what it is. But not vexation: this comes with the script. Our Lord promised as much; and lets the play happen.

Remember we again, today, all of our ancestors, laid straight in hope of the life everlasting, as we in our turn must hope to die, in a state of grace. And pray again, that they have not “gone west” to the everlasting bonfire. For the Road itself goes east, ever east, to meet the Sun of Justice.