Essays in Idleness


Nostalgia & recollection

For one reason or another — overexposure to the news, I suspect — I have been going back to high school. This, of course, in mind only, jogged by such little evidence as an old yearbook can supply, and some pictures and letters I’d not known I still owned. A priest made me aware of the dangers of nostalgia; of revisiting sins that have been absolved; of mistaking old, face-grabbing embarrassments for sin, when the overlap is often less than first appears. But memory, like the world in general, is complicated to a denizen of that world.

The Church herself upholds “recollection,” which may take different forms, each an active and attentive function rather than a passive and apathetic.

Among things I’ve noticed when revisiting the past, is its teaching function. Look back upon one’s childhood and youth, from enough distance in time, and one will see things that were only half understood, in a larger frame. In particular, one will see oneself and old neighbours more as features of a time and place; and this may lead beyond shallow mortification for defunct hair-styles and period costumage, to a better understanding of what gulls we were, and may still be.

We took evanescent things for the groundwork of reality. Our old opinions might be easy to reject, for now we “know better,” but as Lichtenberg said, what matters is not a man’s opinions but what his opinions have made of him.

It is easier at a distance, as from eagle flight, to see beneath a surface. The proclivity, for instance, to idleness — in the sense of sloth, bone laziness, and avoidance — may have deeper and more tangled roots. For this sloth is interwoven with a habit of disengagement that has helped one escape bad company and temptations. It has served, even while undermining, and could serve, were it taken into hand. We might learn, from the past, how to not do things in a courageous and not a cowardly way.

Recollection, in the Catholic understanding, is an action of the grace of God, manifest in mystery. Let God address, let us listen. But we are not without a part, in our silence and solitude, as we struggle to attend to the work of grace, in our lives within time. In precious glimpses we see ourselves not as others see us, but as God must judge, in mercy and in justice that will finally coalesce. Real progress, in life, is the progress of virtue; a progress towards and through earthly death — through the eye of that needle, through “Heaven’s Gate in Jerusalem Wall.” As opposed to, say, consumer acquisitions. In recollection, we may hope to escape the foolishness and dissipation that engaged our half-attention; that slid us off the road.

But we were just kids, then. We did not know how important we were. The memory of faces returns to me; several the faces of old friends now dead. Did they know how much God loved them? Did they even know how much God loved them, through me? Did they ever apprehend the joy in this, or was God to them only the puritan stick with which they were occasionally beaten?

It will be seen that recollection is almost the opposite of nostalgia, rather as lament is the opposite of regret. We lament only the good that we had in our arms.

A child dies, who meant everything to his mother. But in the bittersweet act of lamentation, she has recalled him to life. Everything that was beautiful in that child is resurrected in her human way. We begin to see that nothing is lost: for what never existed cannot be lost. What exists may be transformed, but God does not “forget things” — and the child was real. Lament is for the actual; for something that is real. It is not for something that never was, unless we make it so in our illusions.

We regret, when looking back, our mistakes, and the alternative universe of a missed opportunity. But all of this is nonsense. Let us recollect in joy.


See also: my Catholic Thing column, here.

Women beware women

I once kissed a girl. This was at a dance, back in high school. I could say, “she was asking for it,” but this would leave the wrong impression. There were several witnesses — I can remember only the name of the girl, that she was very sweet, and that she was not my girlfriend. Indeed, one of the witnesses was her boyfriend, then known to me. He did not object. It was on the cheek I kissed her, but I think that might count as “groping” today. I don’t know what came over me. She smiled upon my behaviour at the time, even though, as a toxic male, I may have stepped on her foot while we were dancing. Bad news if she is a feminist today, and I get appointed to the Supreme Court. My only hope is that Mr Trompe will overlook me, after his advisers explain that I am a foreign national and have no law degree.

Now, I’m aware that some males, even in high school, do worse than kissing females on the cheek, but I have grown almost tired of hearing it. The fact is like the warnings on cigarette packs: I tire of reading those, too. Perhaps the point has been made, already. Perhaps it never needed to be made.

A friend forwards a news item from a Connecticut university (Yale). It seems law students, all dressed in black, have staged a sit-in there and refused to take classes. This is because they are protesting the existence of their alum, a certain Brett Kavanaugh, as nominee to the American Supreme Court. There is a photo of them, in their considerable numbers, lining a very long corridor. The thought occurs: this is the (Maoist) future of law in those Natted States. (It’s worse up here.)

The kids (including quite a few professors) “know” Kavanaugh is guilty, of groping some girl in high school, thirty-six years ago. But of course the real charges are that he is white, male, Republican, and a practising Christian.

Judge Kavanaugh went to a Jesuit all-boys high school, and can apparently show that he did not attend the party where the event was first alleged to have occurred; though as in all coached, “recovered memory” cases, venue and particulars tend to change. All named witnesses have denied that a sexual assault, or anything like it, actually happened. An extraordinary number of old friends and colleagues — including more than a hundred women, and many who have known him since childhood — have come forward on their own initiative to attest that Kavanaugh has been an exemplary gentleman, of unusual consistency — one whom they cannot imagine ever having abused a lady. The unsubstantiated (and unsubstantiable) charges are, moreover, an obvious political stunt, to delay Kavanaugh’s appointment until after the mid-term elections when the Democrats hope to control Congress. It was not their first theatrical stunt to spread chaos through the Senate hearings, and may not be their last. (I doubt it will be the last “symbolic” theatrical event at Yale, either.)

Well, gentle reader will know all this and more from the news, if he reads it from more than one ideological perspective. (One must read both sides to get basic information: the “mainstream” media habitually suppress vital details that contradict their “narratives.”)

It is true I am not a feminist, or even a latter-day Marxist, so may be accused of “bias” against ideological phantasies which I hold to be insane. Yet what disturbs me most, at the moment, is not the politics, per se. Rather it is the account they give of the contemporary American woman. It is widely suggested that the Republicans are in a trap: for whether the Kavanaugh appointment is confirmed, or not, there will be a “backlash” against them from female voters who assume all smears against the judge are true, and that his accuser is a selfless, disinterested, patriot and martyr.

The idea that women, just because they are women, cannot grasp the most elementary principles of evidence and jurisprudence — innocent till proven guilty, &c — is alarming. It is to put American women on a level with Yale students: a very grave charge. It is open misogyny.

Of hawks, naiads, & dwarves

We don’t do pictures in this anti-blog, but often I want to display, for instance, some painting, or a wonderful still photo by an ornithological friend, of the clearest blue sky, and red-tailed hawks swirling straight above — a dozen, with the suggestion of more. My swallows are gone to Parkdale-on-the-Amazon, a fortnight out, the warblers and so many of the little birds gone after them. Now it is the turn of the Accipitridae, gathering on Lake Ontario’s north shore.

They fear open water so will not cross until they can see the other side. But they seem to have lost their fear of cities, so will fly right over Parkdale North, towards Hamilton or so before whipping across. Or keep westbound to Windsor.

Or so I understand. And have acquired even in this very urban district a fund of observations, which I hesitate to share with any serious ornithologist, with his natural distrust of amateurs and incompetents. I have learnt to deny all certain knowledge. I would not positively identify a bird if he let me examine him on my Round Table with spoon and stethoscope, answered ten skill-testing questions, and showed me his birth certificate and pilot’s licence. A Cooper’s hawk that alighted on my railing, recently, I only call that because someone else did. I do not even know whether to call an accumulation of hawks a lease or a kettle. They are all, broadly, magnificent.

A wonderful blow of wind last night, to hasten them along, and cool today, after four months of heat wave (unless I exaggerate). The autumnal equinox has — as of this minute — arrived. The sun already streaks through my windows at a rakish angle. For a moment today, delicious silence in the street below, until a skateboarder broke it up with his mechanical thunder.

How could he understand? That there is an autumnal ode, by Apollinaire.

Or that I was trying to remember how it went (in the English of another poet I’ve forgotten):

Afflicted autumn and adored
You die when hurricanes batter the roses
And the orchards
Fill with snow
Poor autumn
Perish in whiteness and in wealth
Snowfall and mellow fruit
As in the deepest sky
Hawks glide
Over naiads and over dwarves
Who never loved

In distant woodlands
Rutting deer have roared
How much I love o season your clamour
The apples falling to the earth
The wind and forest weeping
Their tears in autumn leaf by leaf

The leaves
A train
Disposed of

Of straitjackets

Let me admit to a long dislike of straitjackets. Now, I’ve not yet been put in one, but my mama told me that even as a wee thing, I objected to being confined in a crib. But she did it anyway, because I liked to wander, and sometimes she had to make lunch. The memory is vague, and perhaps imaginary, but I recall my resentment. Babies have rights!

Those moderns (can’t include me!) have the amusing notion that people, more generally, have rights. It is an extraordinarily obtuse worldview. Lions have rights, and the means to enforce them. They go where they will, and eat anything that catches their fancy. Well, almost anything. Against a cackle of hyenas they have no rights at all. It is the way not only of the jungle, but of the world. Humans have rights because we invented spears, slingshots, crossbows, and machine guns. Unlike lions, we are the sort of bureaucrats who decide on rules for when and where to use them. And straitjackets, too, and cribs we invented, so we could make lunch. That’s how it works.

But sometimes bureaucracy goes too far. In addition to rules that seem necessary and consistent, we like decorative frills. Let us take murder, for example. I’m against it, myself, and would be inclined to enforce the general rule against it. Mustn’t kill people to solve your problems, as they say on the pro-life fringe. But you’re allowed to kill your offspring, until they are hatched, and perhaps a little beyond that; and you may kill yourself quite gratuitously; and soon you will be allowed, nay encouraged, to despatch your unwanted oldies, the sick, and sourpusses. (We still have to ask their permission.)

On the other hand, you will get extra time if you kill people because you hate them. But there is an unwritten schedule of qualifiers. Do you hate homosexuals, gentle reader? Very bad. Muslims? Ditto. What about chartered accountants? Hmm. Neo-nazis? I think that’s allowed.

Notice the straitjackets coming out here, in a double sense. We have created fluctuating categories, which at any moment pretend to be absolute, “zero tolerance” standards. What about Muslims who hate homosexuals? Or male homosexuals who hate women? (It happens.) Or the man who claims, in his defence, that while he likes homosexuals as a rule, he had it particularly in for that one? Could that get his sentence reduced?

We call it “identity politics” currently: a rainbow-coloured selection of straitjackets; a kind of fashion craze. This is the second sense. All blacks must be Democrats. All white middle-Americans must be Republicans. Those who deviate must expect to be lynched in our social media. This is because they have got out of their straitjackets, and were supposed to stay in. Naturally, my favourite people tend to be Houdinis.

To get downright Catholic about this, a man is a man is a man. This goes for women, too. He has an immortal soul, and that is not a “right” but a fact of supernature. This could be good or bad news, depending how he lives. He has no rights at all, unless he can enforce them. The profane courts of law come in at this point, and in a Christian society, they are meant to take their customers one by one. Justice is blind. She has the scales and the blindfold. But of course we are “evolving” something post-Christian in which the blindfold comes off, and the fingers go wantonly on the scales. Guilt and innocence involve the question of identities.

Everyone says he is against this — their spontaneous opposition is one of those vestigial, Christian things — but in practice we become terribly subjective. Your politics tells you whom we should hang.

For sure, I am in favour of hanging people, but I would like the process of selection to be as objective as possible. There is an etiquette to be observed, in the choice of a victim. First, he must commit a capital crime.

Ember days

One of my most beloved saints is on the calendar for today: Saint Joseph of Cupertino, humble Franciscan friar (17th century). My affection was first excited by a comment in an old missal, that he “needed divine help to qualify for the priesthood.” He was remembered by his contemporaries as “remarkably unclever,” but also for ecstatic visions, which began in his childhood. God plucked him out from an unpromising trade as a shoemaker’s assistant.

He had rhythm if not brains. According to post-moderns he had gymnastic abilities that made him appear to levitate. According to witnesses, he actually levitated. Sometimes he suffered from fits of wrath, that got him moved from one community to another, the way our modernists move along the more difficult priests. He did not often eat, but had the memorable habit of sprinkling extremely bitter herbs over the food when he did. There was nothing cissy about any of his penances. He spent much of his life in rapt contemplation.

Saints come in all kinds; there is much more variety among them than among the demonically-inhabited. This is why saints are sometimes mistaken for demons — their greater chromatic range. This Saint Joseph was charged with witchcraft at least once. (Nobody expects the Italian Inquisition!) But in his worst moments of adversity, his rather slow-witted holiness shone through.

I think one of the reasons to aim for Heaven, instead of Hell, would be the company there. In Heaven it will be more various and uplifting. In Hell, a certain miserable homogeneity, worse even than we find in modern factory life. It is true that the damned can provide moments of excitement (9/11 and so forth), even here on Earth, but when they do there is a foreseeable viciousness about it. One gets bored with being beaten up and terrorized all the time.

For Saint Joseph, unpredictable ecstasies, and a mysterious wrath, aimed apparently at himself. The sight of beautiful things seemed to trigger the ecstasies, who knows what provoked the angers? The Kingdom is not entirely obvious to us, especially to those among my gentle readers who are not, as I am not, steeped in sanctity.

Saint Joseph Cupertino pray for us, that we may see some of what you have seen. And inspire us as we pass through the glowing Ember Days of September, this week: tame our passions and levitate our thoughts.


Let us consider the case of Judy, whose surname I will not supply, even though I haven’t seen her in more than forty years. She must now be an old lady, near seventy. When I knew her she was not only young, but ridiculously attractive. She had “a problem with” men that, I gathered, began with having a rather weak father. (This was in England, but it happens everywhere.)

It continued when, age about nineteen, she had an affair with a young, but married, Anglican priest. It was an “uncontrollable” passion. Unfortunately, the wife found out, along with everyone else in that village. Shades of Hardy: she was driven out. (My own shadings tend more to Hogarth.) And so on, to the road and the new life.

To merry London, where she made friends among the young and hip. There was one particularly cool guy whom she liked to hang out with, though they were “just friends.” She didn’t care what other people thought. One day, when they were smoking a joint together in his room, he raped her.

She was surprised how badly she took it. She’d trusted the guy; she’d trusted the priest; she’d trusted her father, when she was very little. She had no value for sexual continence, and little interest any more in the old, backward, Christian institution of marriage, of which her parents had given an especially poor example. She was “theoretically” in favour of “free love,” though too shy to practise it consciously. She was a girl, now actually a woman, in a world where, even in the 1970s, a girl was expected to have a job. This she found, as a stenographer, though she had to quit when her boss made embarrassing passes at her. But she found another, and still had it, for she was diligent and proficient. She didn’t rely on any man for an income.

Soon she found what she took for a much better man than any previous, and moved in with him. But she had recently moved out. This was because he’d found “a little tart,” with whom he was sleeping, openly on those tenets of “free love.” She “knew” that jealousy was “wrong,” but for some reason she was stabbed to the heart by his infidelity, and could not “get over” her rage. She’d trusted him, too. And now she was toying with some serious feminism.

Another day, I got to hear the whole story (in somewhat unnecessary detail) when the two of us were alone (though not in my bedroom). It involved tears. Why she was telling me instead of a woman was a question I asked, in a rare moment of insight. She said it was because she trusted me. She said it so ingenuously that I can remember thinking, “I shan’t dishonour her trust.” But I also thought: “Incurably naïve.” By now, she ought to have been introduced — to herself.

There was no point in walking her to a church: she’d “been there, done that,” and paid.

The rest of this story is irrelevant to my purpose; except to say there was now an “atmosphere” between us, such that I almost became her next man. But did not, thank God, and my guardian angel.

I think of her now in light of Catholic scandals. There was nothing lesbian in the story of her life (till then), however, and nothing “gay” in the priest’s, so there is no homosexual diversion to make things wilder. (On the other hand, thinking back to when she was first seduced: it wouldn’t have happened had the priest been homosexual.)

To my knowledge that deflowering was “consenting” on both sides. (Judy was only raped later.) It wrecked her life all the same — that, in combination with the “urbane” moral environment to which she then proceeded. I hate to think what became of her: this girl who was so trusting, instinctively faithful, capable of work — and a magnet to over-magnetized men. And by church and formerly-Christian society, utterly betrayed. And with her own active cooperation.

Statistics cannot tell this story though, with minor variations, it has happened a million times.

Quick review

I should like to review, on this holy Sunday, for the benefit of those gentle readers who are Catholic, two reasons for not leaving the Church. These will not be, of course, the principal reasons, which may be found in the Gospels, the Bible more largely from Genesis to Apocalypse, the Tradition from our earliest times, the Holy Spirit in mysterious human action, the works of the Church Fathers, Doctors, and Saints, the integral beauty of Christian poetry, music, architecture, art, before their ruination, the Liturgy which arranged and harmonized these things in the True Presence and in the whisper of Our Lady. (Then look into the eyes of your children.) But these arguments require attentive patience, and that peace of mind and soul that may not be available in hot moments of controversy, when the wolves of Rome, Washington, Chicago, &c, are making free in our sheepfold, and no suitably armed shepherd seems to be in sight.

In such difficult circumstances, I implore my gentle reader to recall these two more immediate arguments:

1. “Don’t let the bastards drive you out of the Church.”

2. “Whatever they do in the Vatican, I’m staying Catholic.”

Let’s be practical

In Canada we used to have — still have, according to a friend who should know — the excellent institution of the “returned ballot.” It is my usual way of voting. I can write with some confidence that it has never won.

Here’s what you do. You go into the polling station, show your ID (in Canada voters must identify themselves). The officer crosses you off the voting list, and gives you a ballot. Then you say, “I wish to return this ballot.” He says, “Thank you, sir,” and takes out his returned ballot book. (It need be nothing special: a school exercise book will do.) He copies your name into that, along with your address. (It is the only way to get your preference recorded.) You thank him, then wander off through the boobs who came to vote for somebody.

One has oneself, in effect, just voted for “none of the above.” This is the theory.

In practice the officer, who may or may not speak English or French, but probably needed the money, looks puzzled and a little frightened. He has no idea what you are talking about. You dig in, to provide a patient lesson in elementary civics. He won’t have a book, but you have brought along a cahier with “Returned Ballots” written on the cover in large capitals with a felt pen, and some heraldry doodled above it. To be helpful, you have already written your name and address on the first line. He consults all the other polling staff then says, “Thank you, sir.”

When, later, you check the results, you will not find a single returned ballot mentioned. Perhaps you were counted among the spoilt ones.

Now if you had been counted, and had persuaded a plurality of your fellow citizens to do likewise in, say, the riding of Parkdale (about one-in-four would triumph in most Canadian ridings; one-in-six if the turnout were low enough), the election is annulled. A by-election must then be called, in which none of the previous candidates may stand.

By repeating this process four or five times in a significant number of constituencies, you (now in the plural) could perhaps send some sort of message to Ottawa. (Or, “Tottawa,” as I like to call it.) The scheme would be to leave the House of Commons without a quorum or any sort of government for two or three years, to see if that improves things. (I assume that, if they aren’t paid for long enough, the “civil servants” will drift off to other jobs.)

One of Canada’s politicians, a known trouble-maker named Maxime Bernier, has just announced the formation of a new political party. It will be called the “People’s Party,” to distinguish it from those other parties. Bernier is, I gather, a vaguely libertarian populist. He is quite popular in his own riding, somewhere south of Quebec City, and I predict his party will win one seat in the next Parliament. We would probably need to persuade one-in-three voters in Beauce, to get him out.

I wonder if any of my gentle readers in Canada, with perhaps a hundred million to spare, would like to finance a national campaign for the returned ballot. I doubt that we would find a politician of any party to front for it. But that’s okay.

The Premier of Ontario has caused much consternation by using the provincial power to cut the size of Toronto’s municipal council to roughly half. I endorse this, as a tentative measure, but I don’t think it goes far enough. Split the place into about two hundred boroughs, and get rid of the “Metro” bureaucracy entirely, and then we have something to talk about.

To be men not destroyers

A gentleman who wears the collar expresses surprise at the surprise. He has been wearing that collar for some time. He was in the seminary so long ago, that he can remember when the classes were taught in Latin. He has lived with degeneration in the Church since before Vatican II — has seen it all, and heard it all, and now he is seeing and hearing more.

“I find it hard to stomach all the misplaced surprise. I hear echoes of Genesis‎: ‘Who told you that you were naked?’ …

“Where were these alarmists as our children’s catechism was denuded, our altars disobediently despoiled, our Catholic institutions‎ demolished? … Catholic Children’s Aid, gone‎. … Catholic Hospitals, gone‎. … Catholic Schools, no longer Catholic. … Immigration Services for Catholic immigrants, gone. … Seminaries, not even a shadow of their former institutional selves. … Convents turned to condos. …

“As to clerics who lived lifestyles not in keeping with their calling: one would have had to ‎be a member of the Orange Lodge not to have rubbed shoulders with a multitude of them in the ’sixties and thereafter. …

“Now, on a sudden, the flood of crocodile tears. …

“Sexual perversion lamented by folk in second unions, contraceiving, sterilizing, in-vitro fertilizing. Yet marriage is a holy calling, and one with vows. Vatican II did remind us that the clergy have no monopoly on holiness, and the laity are not held to a lesser standard. …”

He could go on.

I am in only my sixteenth year as a Catholic. Yet I have known Catholics, it seems, since time out of mind. I did not directly experience the heartbreak and desolation through years of the contemptible “Bugnini reforms,” yet felt them vicariously through close, “traditionalist” Catholic friends, and through what I read by Catholic writers. (A certain Joseph Ratzinger was the most impressive among the living ones; even as an Anglican I subscribed to Communio.) I was aware, when I was received into the Church, that she was, in these Western lands at least, at a nadir in her fortunes. I could honestly tell my collared friend that I was not surprised by recent revelations that the rot ascends from feet to knees, and to the very top of the hierarchy.

As I have tried to make abundantly clear, I do not take Bergoglio for the cause, but as a symptom of our squalor. We have finally got “the pope we deserve,” surrounded by a cabal of perverts. Or perhaps we have not, and worse will come.

Let us not make excuses for them, but more urgently, let us not make excuses for ourselves. The priests have failed the laity. The laity have failed the priests. And now we all fail in the face of the “hurricane” I described this morning at Catholic Thing (here). Do not pretend to be surprised by the torrents.

A mob of accusers can accomplish nothing, except to spread more destruction. The task before us is to rebuild; to consult once again the directions of our Founder.

Fragments of Holy Church can still be found in the immense fields of rubble. We must collect them with reverence, and clear the rubble away. Wherever the Old Mass is worthily sung, there we still hear: the voice of Our Lord singing in the ashes.

“To be men not destroyers,” as that old wreck of a poet Ezra Pound once proposed.

Of the cool & the cold

Oh look, it is the seventeenth anniversary of an event in lower Manhattan, with some associated events which still dominated news cycles, days later. It took North Americans and other worldlings the rest of the year to get over them. While ramifications of those events filled further years, through Afghanistan and Iraq, and lap our footsteps to the present day, the shock value of “9/11” wore off fairly quickly.

I gauged this at a Tuesday drinking table I used to attend. In the first week after the aeroplanes hit, my more Left-progressive friends changed their tune. This was a relief, for their old tune had been playing for a very long time. “Amerika” was suddenly no longer the source of everything evil and ugly on the planet. It was widely acknowledged that anti-Americans could be bad, too. I remember, particularly, a little disquisition from a European member of the circle, a specialist in anti-American sneering and insinuation, who had come to this continent only for the economic opportunities. He said, in the spirit of Susan Sontag (when she mentioned that subscribers to Reader’s Digest were generally better-informed than those in her own cultural-revolutionary vanguard), that he had learnt more about reality in two hours the previous Tuesday than in all his life before. He declared himself an American Patriot and a big fan of George W. Bush, to whom he referred as “our captain.”

But by Canadian Thanksgiving his “scepticism” had resurfaced, and soon after, he was the Leftist version of a “truther” again, though with some slight reservations. By Christmas he had forgotten everything. (Dear fellow: knows a lot about movies.)

I remember him particularly, but the fashion trend — what I would call “the return to idiocy” — could also be perceived through the media in the world at large. It struck me at some point that, from a radical Muslim view, the 9/11 attacks had proved a brilliant stroke in public relations. Islam was now fashionable on the campuses of the West, and through the dictates of the politically correct, Muslims could no longer be criticized. Any word spoken against the religion, or the religionists, could now be given as an example of the most genocidal racial bigotry; and Christians were once again what they had in mind when touching on the subject of “religious extremism.” Those who resisted the prospect of unimpeded immigration from the Middle East were now “neo-Nazis.”

Let me return to the subject of beer. Through correspondence over my Idlepost of Friday it dawned on me that most people do not actually like beer. It’s not something in the taste, but the taste itself that does not appeal to them. That’s why they drink it as cold as possible. An ice box “chills out” the flavour of cheeses, other dairy goods, most any food, all alcoholic or other beverages. Sodas are popular, because people like the sugar, so strong it can be tasted through shards of ice. At room temperature these sodas become undrinkable, because some of the background flavours emerge.

(We could go on with this, from the gastronomic angle; I won’t, except to say that I like certain strong monastic ales the best, and to serve them at anything lower than room temperature would be a crime. I also like runny French cheeses.)

I link this with the response to 9/11 by the “cool” people. One morning they had to drink their violence warm. They much prefer it refrigerated.

On beer consumption

Guinness has been described — accurately I think — as “stout-flavoured water.” I had not drunk a tin of this liquid for many years, but in the course of a meeting of the secret society to which I happen to belong, I tried another last night. It was as I remembered.

A beer snob somewhere on the Internet made a list of the world’s most overrated beers. I was not surprised to find this Irish-multinational “dry stout” at the top of the list; or that Heineken, Yuengling, Blue Moon Belgian White, and “sour beers: every stinkin’ one of ’em,” made his top five. As a Canadian, let me add, without exception, every one of our mass-market national brands, starting with “Molson Canadian.”

Living in England in the 1970s, I recall what was dubbed a national campaign for “real ale,” which allowed some microbreweries to make inroads against things like Watney’s Red — a noxious chemical concoction from which life could never have evolved. The demands of low-class British tourists had carried this horror to the Canary Islands, and all over the world. But even the higher-caste pub chains served brews that could not withstand serious review by a cerevisaphile.

Indeed, I witnessed an unfortunate altercation in a Young’s pub once, in which an aficionado of “real ale,” whom I shall call Ian (for that was his name), lost his patience with a man extolling what was on tap, to a small group of smug upper-middle types elbowing the bar behind them. Ian tapped the enthusiast on the shoulder, who turned towards him with a big vacant smile.

“Excuse me, sir,” Ian inquired, in his best Oxbridge. “How long have you been a banana?”

The smiley gentleman then laid him out. The barkeep, acting as referee, leaned over Ian’s prone form, to administer the countdown. Ian was now permanently banned; I helped him hobble out. The enthusiast, a regular customer, could remain.

I am opposed, in principle, to starting fights in bars. I think my friend was actually in the wrong, though he protested that it was odd to be evicted from a pub for having been the object of violence.

Since, I have been trying to think of other ways to advance the cause of “real ale.” I have entertained such ideas as making the tax code friendlier to small enterprises, such as local breweries. But while I have come to oppose tax codes, tout court (much could be achieved by making all taxes voluntary), I do not think we can improve the quality of beer overmuch, by that means.

Ditto, while I should like to see the elimination of all mass-market “lifestyle” advertising, I have had to conclude that this should be done only as an end in itself. It would help make many international franchise operations extinct, but would not necessarily lead to the improvement of such beverages as they are currently supplying.

No; I have, with characteristic pessimism, had to conclude that the only way to improve standards in the production, distribution, and consumption of ales, pales, lagers, stouts, and what have you, would be for the individual drinkers to stop buying wretched, tasteless things. They must teach themselves to distinguish good from bad, if no one is available to teach them, and they must refuse to drink e.g. “stout-flavoured water” as a matter of acquired habit.

We must all become beer snobs. Our civilization depends on it.


SMALL BEER. — A reader, who is a home brewer, immediately asks if my objection to Guinness is to the “stout flavour” or to the “water.” Assuming it is to the water, he then asks if I would condemn all light-bodied beers? Ignoring the first question, I reply, that I do not object to small beers, designed and labelled as such, for consumption by children (before we send them to work in the fields). But the idea of a “light stout” is a perverse contradiction of terms and an outrage.

News, news, news

I wish everyone and their SJW aunt would stop dumping on President Trompe, so I could have a turn. The news tends to demean one. It invites all readers to take sides, and by its immediacy adds that quantum (or quantus, or those quanta) of hysterical madness — instant emotional response to partial information, of which a proportion is maliciously false. Actually, I despise Trompe, and am opposed to almost everything he is doing, but I’m not going to give the slightest satisfaction to his “progressive” opponents, whom I despise more. He is no reactionary, and no “conservative,” either, only a puffball populist; why would I like him? (Example: Trompe wants everyone to have more money; I think they have too much already.)

He has unusual virtues in a politician, however. He is candid about his intentions, and is passing honest, however sloppy with the details; robust in his flattery, as too in his abuse. His self-seeking is open, not disguised. He is the dead opposite of a Machiavellian schemer. This is brave because, while it charms his stiff-necked supporters, the majority in any democratic electorate demand to be lied to. Should the entire media say one thing, and Trompe says another, I would think Trompe more likely to be telling (some aspect of) the truth.

Comparisons of Trompe to the Pope are obtuse. Proposals to replace either with the other would be, heroically, obtuser. An Aristotelian mean between the two is inconceivable. They are, in my humble but persistent opinion, nearly opposites.

Edward Feser, always worth reading, explained patiently yesterday, “Why Archbishop Viganò is almost certainly telling the truth” (here). Since I couldn’t explain it better myself, I have given the link. Apart from what he demonstrates, Prof Feser’s manner of presenting his case is worth holding up to admiration. Tabloid readers may find it boring, but if so, it is an argument against having taught them how to read. (The spread of half-education is among our modern crimes.) Those who discover in themselves the right to an opinion on topics with which they are unacquainted should soldier through such articles on a mission of auto-didactic reform.

What Trompe and Bergoglio have in common is a now-global culture in which the truth has lost any sort of precision — where it has not lost any content at all. We can’t turn the clock back, I am often told (though I find this easy enough to do on my forty-year-old Timex watch), and therefore we must accept the new reality, to which Humpty Dumpty is our lexicographic guide. Even if we could move backwards through time, we would find that our world was always a whore. Still, it was once more discreet about it.

Very well, I might “accept” this reality, there being no choice. Except, there is a choice. It is to act “as if” the truth had value — the whole truth, and nothing but — for in the longer scheme of things, nothing ever changes. The truth is still the truth and a lie is still a lie, no matter what the powers of enforcement. Wait, patiently, and the fog will clear. Of course this will not happen in our lifetimes, as Holy Church has always taught.


WOOD’S HA’PENCE. — A certain valued correspondent immediately replies that while he counts himself among the obtuse, he finds these qualities in common between “el Papa” and “el Presidente”: 1. Ill-educated and badly informed. 2. Given to constant self-expression. 3. Playing to a particular crowd, constantly (populist, Peronist). 4. Uninterested in the character of their respective offices as established by tradition. 5. Vengeful and mocking towards those with whom they disagree, while ignoring legitimate criticism. 6. Pretending to reform while installing their own “swamp” pals. 7. In the world and completely of it, in the culture that no longer acknowledges the force of truth (a different way of describing the culture you mention).

Two items

Two items that have come to my attention, I link, because they are exceptionally worth reading. Each says what I would say, had I the wit. Both articles are about Power, but where the first by “Spengler” in the Asia Times (here) considers the matter in a profane context, the second by Maureen Mullarkey at The Federalist (here), looks beneath.

Mrs Mullarkey is a friend, whom I much admire; an unusual writer at the edge of the “meejah” (kicked out of as many places as I have been, perhaps) who thinks for herself, and thinks thoroughly to conclusions. This (I want to compliment “Spengler,” too) is extremely rare. The overwhelming majority of hacks bounce to a beat, like pebbles on a drumhead; these writers flutter on their own wings.

Chastity is something almost impossible for that “post-modern,” vacantly atheist mind to comprehend. We think of it in explicitly sexual terms; we cannot cope with the idea of detachment, as it applies to all human activities — including all poetry, science, and art. Conversely, we imbue sex with an autonomy that became possible only with easy access to contraception and abortion — by which technological means we were able to demean sex itself, turning it from something profound in its communion, into a form of home entertainment. We cannot begin to understand the ancient ecclesial call for chastity, poverty, simplicity; for celibate priests.

As I was just writing to Mrs Mullarkey, “On certain topics, the most interesting thing is that they are boring.” Illicit sex is finally a bore, because there is nothing beautiful in it. It is of use only to the expression of Power. The feminists have a point, but as ever, get it backwards. Celibacy in the Church was a means to contain Power, both directly and indirectly. Directly it provided a means to undermine all dynastic ambitions within the Church. Indirectly, it was the shield of innocence against a broad range of depravities — parcelled with the command for poverty, for detachment from this sinful world. Sex, the Church teaches, as Nature also teaches, is for the purpose of procreation; marriage is for the purpose of children to be conceived, born, protected, raised in virtue; and for the union of the female and the male within the Body of Christ. The fornication promoted everywhere in our culture is everywhere founded in deceit.

When we consider the current vast scandal within the Church herself, we witness something that goes beyond fornication. The fact of a “gay lobby” is not something new. As the latter link notes, it was present also in the 14th century. Appalling in itself, it becomes something worse when we discover the challenge it offers to what Christ taught — right across the board.

Homosexual strutting, whether in the 21st century or in the 14th, is the most comprehensive subversion I can imagine against the whole mission of Holy Church. In defiance of the ancient world, and its punishments, she condemned it absolutely.

It is hard for the post-modern man, whose head is full of glibness, to consider this even as a possibility. He works exclusively from a principle of pleasure, and with an idea of freedom that is ruthlessly selfish: “I want what I want.” His quality of life is purely quantitative. When the possibility of pleasure is withdrawn, he wants to be dead. He’s “the end of history,” the “zero sum” man.

And yet, even if he wants to be this, he cannot. The rebellion against God, the power-lust and vanity that infiltrate his pleasures, mark him still as a spiritual being. But it is an inverted spirit that he serves. “The arrogance of power” describes it well.