Essays in Idleness


Locker room reflections

We continue to receive berations, up here in the High Doganate, for our failure to endorse Mr Donald Trump for the presidency of Natted States Merica. It is taken as the most eccentric stand that we (in the sense of, “I”) have ever made. Even those who admit the very sight of this Donald makes them want to heave, say they must vote for him, or Hillary Klingon will get in.

But a correspondent I rather admire, for his entertainment value and so much else, writes to warn me of a worse fate this morning. He notes that some television comedian, with a name like Yawn Stewart, has attacked Mrs Klingon from within the Democrat fold. Given the august significance of this comedian, and his close proximity to the highest earthly powers, this can mean but one thing. The Obamanoids have decided it is time to put the leading candidate for the Succession under their speeding omnibus. They will let her be prosecuted for crimes that did not previously pertain to Klingons; and gaolbirds are almost impossible to elect. (Even when they are Democrats.)

Instead, my correspondent foresees her replacement with Mr Joe Biden, whom he considers (with justice, I am sure) a bigger threat to Western Civilization. We must vote for Trump, it now appears, in order to free Eternity from this “Liberal Catholic.”

My standard advice to my co-religionists in Canadian federal and provincial elections is, “Vote for whomever you want. Just make sure he is not a Catholic.”

All our worst prime ministers and premiers through recent history, and somewhat beyond, have been R-o-o-o-man. (I insert the extra vowels in the hope of achieving the old Scotch pronunciation; we seem to lack an antonym for the English word, elide.) The best (i.e. least satanic) seem all to be tedious accountants of the post-Protestant persuasion. It would be invidious to provide names; and besides it would take up too much space.

My rule of thumb works in most cases, though I admit not all. Catholic politicians in Canada — as in the NSM, I see — are almost invariably what I call “cradle cases.” That is, they were born into nominally Catholic households, and their Catholicism died there, too. “Spiritually stillborn,” one might say.

On the other hand, should some flaky zealot of a convert or revert come along, as a candidate for high office, my view would be: Laudate Dominum! (That’s Catholic for, “Praise the Lord!”)

Or more encyclopaedically: “Hey, it’s a Foost Day! We can vote for this guy without rushing to the Confessional, then going home to shower and boil all our clothes.”

Whereas, Joe Biden would not be in that category.

As my father once said, in a feint towards vulgarity, “We tend to underestimate the volume of the Devil’s bowels.” He meant: don’t smile yet, there’s more of it coming.

I notice from one poll that two-thirds of Democrats supporting the socialist, Mr Bernie Sandinista, say in response to another question, that they would like the next President to be “less liberal” than Obama Soebarkah. In such circumstances, I cannot guess where “strategic voting” will get us.

The same are likely as not to swing over to Trump in the general election. But wherever they do finally swing (and I would like to carpenter the scaffold sometimes) the votes of any handful of faithful Catholics will pass as so much flotsam on the tide.

My moral for this morning: never indulge in “strategic voting.”

(Coming soon: Why I disagree with Pat Buchanan’s foreign policy.)

General recovery

My item Monday which, unlike my item for Tuesday, I decided not to suppress, touched on the advantages of feudalism over e.g. socialism and capitalism. It has long struck me as the unexplored option in our ideological cold wars. That Left and Right are united in ridicule of the “feudal” economic system points me to its attractions. It was, after all, compatible with a very high order of civilization; whereas, Left and Right are compatible only with barbarity.

But now I am bombarded with what might be called the Penicillin Letters. These are from good-hearted folk who fear I may have overlooked antibiotics, vaccinations, anaesthesia, and other laboratory thrills. Alternatively they note that with the world’s present population, but without modern industrial methods of farming and distribution, there could be starvation issues. Some accuse me of the post-modern irony of using some of the devices that were not available in the thirteenth century. A couple of wits observed that I am myself published in an electronic medium.

Starting with the easiest, I reply that this last is an empty charge. For in the thirteenth century, this blog would not have been necessary. Had we world enough and time, I would respond in a more detailed way (as I have sometimes done) about the methods our ancestors used in place of the noisome contraptions we use today — to the same end, but with economy of means. It is possible to characterize the entire modern age as a make-work project. (There, I just did it myself.)

In a time study I read, some decades ago, modern housework was compared to that of a mere century before. It was found that the modern “housewife” (a category still recognized as late as 1980) spent more time on her domestic chores, than her great-grandmother did without the help of “modern conveniences.” (I’d guess the great-grandma also did a better job.)

The trick of the study was to count machine-minding and set-up times, which the advertisers are loath to do; and to discount pointless activities. Of course, great-grandma spent the time actually working; the modern housewife more time, but mostly in a fog. For exercise she might add more time still, going to a gym.

A case more effective could be made by piling on the time required to earn the cash to obtain the machines which our contemporary “domestic scientists” think they need; including the car to deliver and collect children who, in the olden days, could walk.

You’ve got me on penicillin, however. Until I confess that I find no reason to ban the stuff. Or to ban anything, for that matter, that has some defensible, specialized use. Even the back-hoe, for that matter: which one reader recalls having been used to dig the hole in which a particular great-grandma was buried. It was a nice touch: the family’s own back-hoe. Families used to dig their own graves, without back-hoes, back when. But at least the family tradition of cost-benefit analysis was kept alive. (It would have cost them much more to hire professionals.)

Few appear to understand that technological improvements are cumulative, not “progressive.” We sleep on the shoulders of giants, &c. But they accumulate only so long as the civilization remains alive. After that they are all lost, and the next lot start again from scratch. “Improvements” which reduce the life expectancy of the civilization itself may thus be seen in their true light.

By the way, there were continuous technological advances throughout the Middle Ages (from which all later ones extend). Gentle reader should go there sometime.

As for life expectancy at the more personal level, it is not generally appreciated that people in the High Middle Ages lived longer on average than their descendants from sixteenth until towards the middle of the twentieth century. This can be known by statisticizing European parish records, wherever they survive; but also from reason. The Black Death was, I admit, a setback, but for the rest people lived healthier, outdoor lives. (Even today, rural people tend to outlive urban.) An important point was that they bathed frequently. It is only quite recently in historical time that this mediaeval habit was restored. Penicillin doesn’t come into it.

The biggest error of my critics, however, is expressed in a glib misunderstanding of agriculture, both ancient and modern. It is assumed that high productivity, per acre, requires the surrender of farmers to machines. This is not true. Industrial farming only increases the productivity per farmer. It is one way to make food cheaper by proportion of income. (It hardly makes it better.)

Recent advances in productivity have come not from the invention of ever bigger and more powerful machines, but from the hands-on genetic advances of the “green revolutions.” That is what improves yield per acre, and if you add labour-intensive practices, the yield may be made to improve still more. In Japan, for instance, on tiny traditional paddies, cadastrally unchanged for centuries, with no room for equipment that is not miniaturized, they get seven times the yield of rice that is obtained in Thailand (long among the world’s leading rice exporters).

Indeed those (Japanese) islands, when I was walking around them, were like one unending Victory Garden, on the one-fifth of land that was not mountain. And it was beautiful, in ways that the “wheat-mining” quarter-sections of our North American West cannot be, which lack new vistas around every turn.

Our contemporaries value labour over materials. We’ve made commodities cheap, and put all emphasis on processing. (“Process” is among the chief liberal gods.) I am merely recommending that we reverse this process: enhance the value of materials and make labour cheap. By this course, it would be possible to restore some human qualities to our production, and verily, make the cathedrals affordable again. Hands to work and minds to God, as it were.

But I can see why this course wouldn’t win elections. One must lie to do that, as all our modern “environmentalists” have discovered.

Recovering feudalism

We live in a demanding age. That is to say, an age in which people make lots of demands. That is, a consumer age. I look on ours as a demand-side culture. This goes with a supply-side government and economy. We get what we think we want, until it kills us. Unless, of course, what we want is good, in which case it is no longer available. Because good things tend to make us independent.

Cars do not make us independent. You have to buy them, fuel them, park them, and so forth. Sometimes you have to fix them or replace them. You need “insurance.” None of these things can be done on your own; nothing you have to pay for is like that. You go around the city, or the country for that matter, in a metal box, insulated from experience, but utterly dependent upon vast networks of “suppliers.”

Your mediaeval knight was much more approachable, and interactive in live time, even when wearing his armour. Often he would take the metal off, and walk about like me, in the sun. And he could only kill people one at a time.

Walking about in the sun today, even along city sidewalks and back lanes, I had a marvellous sense of my freedom. It was constricted only by motorized vehicles. Not one other thing threatened my life. (I still limp slightly from one of my encounters with these infernal machines, a decade ago.)

If we have democracy, we will have cars. Most of the people do not know any better. They are easy marks for salesmen. They do not see the implications; or they do not want to see them.

Now, under the feudal system, we have carts, and horses, and a great variety of other modes of transport. (Think mule trains, for instance; think dog sleds; think barges and canals.) These immediately make the world much larger. Suddenly five miles is some distance away; and thirty miles, to the county town and back, would be a day’s journey. (Mennonites in buggies. Who does not love them?)

Would gentle reader rather the world larger, or smaller?

(“Let’s make America big again.”)

One’s thoughts turn to improving things, around home, in the way God intended, by hand and eye. For what is there to buy on a feudal estate? And why should speed be needed?

No: a thousand acres arable, a few hundred more of woodlot and commons, and Everyman in his own garden. We can have pretty much everything we need for a couple hundred families. And with a priest to remind us which way is up, and a lord to remind which way is sideways, everything should tick over nicely. All the work is seasonal and has variety. All the food is fresh. All necessary skills can be acquired by emulation. We needn’t learn to read, unless we are genuinely interested.

The bureaucrats of business and officialdom are always trying to impose literacy. Their authority depends upon it. No communist regime ever came to power without launching a literacy programme.

Signage, with symbolism always trite, spreads everywhere. Each must read his (boring) orders. Stop. Go. Faster. Slower. No entry. Turn left. Smile. Pay here.

“Do not cross the tracks. It takes hours to disentangle them.” (This sign once encountered in the London Underground, at Covent Garden. Someone must have rebelled. Ditto that in the men’s lavatory, Piccadilly Station, circa 1975: “The City of Westminster is not responsible for the opinions expressed on this wall.”)

Literacy is not merely overblown, as a means to understanding. It is principally a means to misunderstanding. It is a dangerous affectation in the common man. He gets into his head all kinds of ideas that he cannot wisely absorb. It beats him down. It makes him the prey of sophists and word-manglers. It cancels his memories, overrides his instincts, enfeebles his will, subverts his judgement. It damages his eyes. Soon he is wearing spectacles, and driving a car. Wildly.

Flaring red necks on tiny points of contractual detail. Otherwise docile and complacent.

Aristotle was quite clear on this. See his Metaphysics, somewhere in book VI and/or XI, as I recall. Or if not there, in some other book. It is possible for a man of culture to acquire letters, says the master of those who know. But it is not necessary. It is an accident. For most people it is a bad accident.

Yes, I think, we must find a way to return to the feudal system, and discard all this socialism and capitalism that has been imposed on us.

Incendiary observations

Not only my Canadian, but my foreign readers may be aware that Fort McMurray has been burning these last few days, along with vast tracts of woodland around it. This is in the north-east quadrant of Alberta — about the middle of that if you are still looking — in the heart of oil sands country. One calls by instinct “a city” any place that houses tens of thousands of people, and “Murray” (as its denizens called it, when there were less than one thousand of them) did attain that municipal dignity some years ago. Now it is, together with its farthest outlying subdivisions, designated an “urban service area.” The Province of Alberta, with characteristic poetry, called it the “Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo,” and put it under unified bureaucratic command, when it graduated to cash-cow status.

Two brothers of my paternal grandpa pioneered in northern Alberta, not very successfully, but stayed until they died. (Typical chain-smokers, both made it nearly to one hundred.) The trace of their homesteads could be described as somewhere between “little” and “no.” Man’s mark on this world, when untended, quickly diminishes to the point where only wizened archaeologists might spot it.

Ditto the bears and beavers for that matter, or the trout in the depths of Lake Athabasca, which can grow to the weight of a large child.

I have no figures, for the purposes of pseudo-science, but would guess that the emissions from that forest fire have dwarfed the achievements of the oil industry. Wildfires require oxygen, fuel, and heat, and the region offers an accommodating landscape. The native trees all make good kindling, and Fort McMurray itself, though at 1200 feet, is in one of the concavities of Alberta, and thus a natural hot spot. It gets dry, it gets warm, and anything can ignite it, as something did the other day; and up it goes, as it has been doing at frequent intervals since the last Ice Age. As even our young prime minister observed — perhaps the first remark he’s made that I agree with — you don’t need “global warming” to explain it.

And nature, bless her heart, makes quick recoveries in such parts. The forests are “designed” (love that word) to rise again, phoenixes from ashes. Nature does not, however, re-grow towns, and the poor people who have been living there, trying to make an honest buck, and now made into refugees, will be needing our money along with our prayers. (By all means send them.)

Canada, oh Canada. We have settlements like that cast far and wide, some growing big as Fort McMurray, then growing suddenly smaller again when the local commodity has been sucked out. The price of oil also shoots and falls, lately taking other chunks of our economy with it. Wander from the Greater Parkdale Area for a hundred miles, in any vaguely northerly direction, and one might form the impression that the whole country — all two-point-five billion acres of it — is occupied by a few “urban service centres,” with hundreds of miles between.

Walk from Edmonton to Fort McMurray, and you won’t get there. Walk from Murray to anywhere else and the result would be the same. But then, everybody drives.

“The land God gave Cain” was Jacques Cartier’s description of this country, when he first caught sight of it back in 1534. For all our natural (plus unnatural) catastrophes, we quote that with a titter of pride. For just between us, it is incomparably beautiful.

Of a candle

At Mass yesterday, after the singing of Mark’s Gospel, the Paschal Candle was quietly extinguished. Christ has ascended into Heaven, and the flame in the Sanctuary, which through the forty days since Easter had symbolized the presence of the Resurrected Lord upon this earth, itself “ascends.”

We would now be on our own — were it not that Christ remains throughout the Church He gave us, in the Sacrifice of the Mass, until His coming again.

This is the teaching, from the highest source, and it must never be confused or toyed with. The symbolism is precise. Yet there is great liturgical confusion, as great moral, intellectual, and spiritual confusion, today as through half a century or more of lewd ecclesiastical convulsion. In time, however, it will pass.

In the space between now and Whitsun, novenas will be prayed, “for the return of our separated brethren to the Roman unity.” This was a practice inaugurated by Pope Leo XIII. It becomes the more poignant when men are separating even within Holy Church, and Rome is in disarray. But we have witnessed such chaos before; and the faithful have fasted and prayed for resolution.

Over the last three years, as I have heard or read so many threatening to leave in protest (abandoning the Church to the men they think are her worst enemies), or predicting an inevitable schism, I have come to think it the most horrible crime. To cut oneself off from the Body of Christ; to turn “universal” Christians against one another; to split God’s people into rival factions and “make a lio” before the Cross — surely these things should be unthinkable.

Yet there is nowhere to go but back to Christ; the alternative being “forward,” to Hell.

What is the method to change what Christ taught? Which mortal man can we elect as our Reformer? Who, but Christ, can fix the mess that foolish men have made?

We act as if the Church were some purely human institution that needs us; which depends for her existence on our support; that must therefore answer to our demands. This is not the truth. We need the Church.

In the very symbol of that extinguished flame, we have Christ’s word that His Church will always be there. Count on it, and stay resolutely with Him.

Ugly & truly ugly

I am a man obsessed, and wouldn’t be if I didn’t have something to blame in myself — a phenomenon of the human psyche which helps explain why so many women in the pro-life movement once had abortions. It becomes the King Charles’s Head of all their opposition to the manners and mores of the age; not always to the advantage of the movement. But nothing can be bigger as they look around. In my case, the current obsession is instead about Donald Trump; who afflicts my imagination as a Trump Tower, installed at the edge of my mediaeval village. I was a craven Pragmatist once, and look at what it got me.

Read this (here), and you probably need not read my Idlepost today. It was ping’d to me by Kouba the Czech, another old reader of the National Review. The author says that, as a “social conservative” who found himself working in the Tea Party movement, he has finally and definitively gagged. The piece is about the concept of “allies.”

Those who have indulged in politics — and I gag easily so haven’t indulged much — will know about this concept. You put up with behaviour in your allies that you would condemn in anyone else. “For the good of the cause,” you try to make excuses. Or else you become so hardened, that you do not bother to excuse.

Most people fear ostracism — I rather like it myself, but then I am weird. They cannot bear to be “called out” for breaking ranks. So they don’t, no matter the provocation. Wait until you have lost the election to turn on your leaders with that reptile lash. Meanwhile, fair or foul to get them elected.

But this is on the personal level; on the political, the genuine reactionaries of the Right — the so-called “social conservatives” — have for half a century agreed to make common cause with both the economic libertines, and with the sleazier sort who borrow their rhetoric until the primaries are over.

Against sleaze, there is no remedy but Dettol. Against the “fiscal conservatives but social liberals” there is nothing but the memory that an ally is not a friend. He will drop you the moment he no longer needs you; but if you are wise you will drop him first.

“We” — I refer to the kind of people who read Idleposts and things — should have known better. Which is to say, I should have known better myself, whenever in past years I silently agreed to bite my tongue, for the sake of some party cause.

For as Blake said, in an aphorism I have seized for my motto collection: “Always be willing to speak your mind, and a base man will avoid you.”

Trump (did I mention him already?) is now the uncontested party standard-bearer in the USA — that “proto-fascist grotesque with zero political experience and poor impulse control,” as Ross Douthat describes him. But let me tell you what I think.

There is no point in discussing his policies or his promises, for those “evolve” quickly. (Populism has never been constrained by principles.) Even the capitalist types will find he is an invoice. I look at a man of dramatic vulgarity, whose life has been invested in “triumphs of the will” — in crass enterprises on which he puts his own face by way of branding. A man who makes megalos look modest. He brings out the worst in his supporters, as I have been reading in email: a brownshirt nastiness towards any dissenter. Were I some Republican in the polity to the south, I would sit on my hands through the next election.

Or perhaps I would be inspired, as a fool, to help in the creation of some Third Party, with the word “Christian” somewhere in its name, and no prospect better than electing a few congressmen from the backwoods here and there — who might mouth off against most government legislation, and toss spanners into all the political machines, while getting themselves thoroughly hated — not only in DC town. It would be the party of “pox on both your houses.” For “let us be clear,” as Obama Soebarkah (who is clear about nothing) likes to say. An unChristian America is not an America worth preserving; it has nothing left but geography.

They tried that in Europe, after the last World War: all those “Christian Democrats,” resolved to restore the old Europe, and decency in public life, who still survive in name only. Power turned them all into “professional politicians.”

Hidden things

To revert to one’s own childhood is to creep back in history only a little way. Better to leap and bound through the centuries, with the help of a mature education. Though as condescending gliberals like to say, each journey begins with little baby steps. To my mind, which is not gliberal I pray (“Pharisee! Pharisee!”) — childhood was not a little baby step, but a formative experience.

We need to keep alive, even through senility, the childhood of the world; for in the light of Eternity we will still be young in another million years. The awe and wonder, with which we all began, must somehow be renewed or recovered. With this, an unfolding sense of simultaneity in Time, as we proceed like snails, inscribing our route through all dimensions; perhaps drawing our own faces.

Upon the arrival of spring, as too the other seasons, my memory reverts to seasons past. Gardens have been in my mind much lately, and the gardens of my childhood uppermost. The miracle of them comes back to me, with the shade of an old gardener. This was under the mangos and darbelas (which flower in the rains); the bottle-squat baobabs and shimmering tamarinds; the purpled bauhinias and the undulating palms of the gardens and borders around “Nedous Hotel.” … Demolished, destroyed, nearly half a century ago, in obedience to the Rupee God.

And the sausage tree (Kigelia pinnata, from Africa; fruit sausages hanging from it). And the goldars (with the macaques in them), over a wall where I was never supposed to go.

Let us call this invisible man Muncie, for that was his name. I think he was the head gardener, tall in his turban; a friend of all children. He would give you the tour; he would put you to work, even if you were a white pasty-faced boy, with freckles. Like an august member of the British royal family, he would talk to his trees (but in Urdu); and they, keeping still, would listen, resuming their growth as he turned away. One might even overhear what he had told them. (“Shukria, shukria.”)

I say “invisible” because I think only children could see him. To adults he faded into the garden itself, a figure who called no attention to himself. He was always working.

The notion of that City of Gardens I touched on in a Thingpost the other day (here); of gardens, and the converging emblematic garden.

In the country we have farms; in the city we have gardens; or so it used to be. In the country we had gardens, too, but they melted into farms. In the city they melted into brick and joinery, shaded avenues and wandering lanes. For so it once was. From the gate of Eden we were told: each must now cultivate his garden.

Muncie showed me once two leaves. They were from the same deciduous tree, perhaps a badam or almond. He was a collector of colours. Instead of a photograph he had the thing itself. The older leaf was from the previous season: an unforgettable pinkish red. The fresh one was a waxen green. The two colours complemented strikingly: perfectly selected “from Allah’s palette.” Yet no one would ever notice, until across time they were brought together.

To see it whole, through all seasons, might be to see the tree that God sees. We only see a moment, a part of the unfolding. Perhaps that was what Muncie was explaining: for I think he was a holy man.


As a special bonus today, in addition to the usual short Idlepost you are reading, I have recast the supplication on the “Pay!” page (here), so that it now includes its own special offer. It is also a little longer, which gives everyone who goes there more to read.

An expert in epistolary marketing (which he called something else) once told me that it is important to make appeals for money long and vacuous (not the terms he used). They must also be grave, earnest, and deadly serious, resisting every temptation to lightness or humour. (“Never make a joke at a cashpoint,” he told me again and again.) The “mailer” must also address the interests of the subject, to the exclusion of one’s own self-regarding interest in getting his money. (“Don’t tell me about your grass seed, tell me about my lawn!” he’d imagine the reader of the mailer imploring.) Ambiguity should be avoided, notwithstanding the convolutions, and a “unique selling point” constantly repeated until it is driven home. There should be no question what the recipient should do (i.e. reach for his wallet), and in addition to a plenitude of carrots, there should be somewhere a flourish of sticks. Flattery for the reader should be inserted here and there. And, never omit the Free Special Offer.

If the gentleman be reading this, in Malta today, I hope he will see how much I learnt from him, back in our magazine days.

Let me add, to those who complain that the titles I offer do not seem to come with plausible estates, that one may easily obtain the addresses of many suitable castles and ancient manorial houses, right across Olde England. These have been occupied by liberals and progressives since about the time of Henry VIII (along with parish churches, chapels, chantries, shrines, hermitages, abbeys, cathedrals, and so forth).

As the young daughter of a dear Catholic friend put the matter, upon being told that e.g. Westminster Abbey is now in the custody of Phyletists and Erastians: “Why don’t we storm it and take it back?”

My advertisement is to be ignored by several gentle readers, who have already contributed more than their share to this little enterprise.

That means you, Lord Jowls: you have enough titles already.

Mind over matter

During the Paris massacres last November, I saw video imagery of a lady clinging to a window ledge. She was trying to avoid, on the one hand, being shot by the terrorists inside the Bataclan theatre, and on the other, falling to her death. I note that she was pregnant, a condition that would tend to increase a woman’s weight, and make her tire more quickly. I am guessing she had no specialized athletic training. Yet she held on for a long time. Eventually she was pulled back into the building. My information is that she survived the ordeal.

How long can gentle reader cling to a window ledge? My guess would be, longer if he were several storeys up, than if the ground were a foot beneath his toes. Scientific tests may be conducted on the latter, but even with the advance of eugenic liberalism, there are objections to experiments that will kill people.

Likewise, there is difficulty testing miracles, for to do that one must reproduce events which, for various reasons, are not reproducible. Science is about what always happens, not what sometimes happens; yet when something odd does happen, the scientists are still curious about how it was done. They are, after all, our (global) village explainers, and as in other branches of entertainment, the show must go on.

A piece I saw on the BBC website looks, in the usual glib media manner, into “superhuman” feats of strength. Women, especially those protecting children, seem disproportionately represented in such anecdotes. Some, for instance, have been able to lift cars, and other objects beneath which little bodies find themselves pinned. The weight exceeds the maximum any professional weightlifter has ever essayed. But they try anyway, and sometimes succeed. We learn, as ever from BBC Science, that the labcoats are still working on it.

The physiological effects of faith are often discussed, without knowledge of what we are discussing.

In extraordinary circumstances, people can do extraordinary things. I know this at first hand, from e.g. the experience of clinging to a rockface when I was quite young, as the result of what I had judged, wrongly, to be an easy scramble. I survived because I was suddenly able to see microscopic irregularities in the texture of the rock, and wriggle like a spider up the last five feet of this poorly-selected climb. It wasn’t a test of strength, primarily, but of perception, and the utilization of skills I had never obtained by training. (I also acquired a fear of heights for which past experience had not prepared me.)

Miracles are not my topic, today; only faith. Saints, in particular, do many remarkable things, often before many witnesses. Non-saints can do them, too, when the issue is life or death. A mother’s love for a child, yea even an unborn child, can inspire “miraculous” behaviour. I think there is a parallel in some battle scenes I’ve heard about, where the inspiration is to save a comrade: true love in another form.

“I knew that I could do it, because I knew that I could do it, so I didn’t have to think.” The line is remembered from an incident in Vietnam, some decades ago. It strikes me in retrospect as a confession of faith. Some agency within takes over, because it has been asked to take over.

The scientists may be right. If a human being has been proved capable of performing some act, then human beings must be capable of it. We have large unexplored inner reserves, of strength and perception and motor skill.

I take miracles for granted, but also for granted that God was not such an awkward designer that He could not intervene in nature without breaking His own rules. Creative foresight would have been employed to anticipate all circumstances. Grasp that, I think, and any potential conflict between “science” and “theology” disappears.

Faith can move mountains, or at least cling to ledges, and lift cars. And we could do it ourselves if, like the Saints, or like certain pregnant mothers, we developed the faculty. “Do this O Lord,” one requests, not because one can’t in theory do it, but because one doesn’t know how.