Essays in Idleness


A curious date

Perhaps I should mention that my fortnightly column in the Catholic Thing has resumed, and with luck, it will stay resumed. Today happened to be the eighteenth anniversary of my reception in the Catholic Church (the last day of 2003), and I seized upon this coincidence to recall it.

Tomorrow is 2022. Why shouldn’t I believe this? The evidence is mounting, though I have learnt to distrust almost everything that comes from official sources.

Gravelly mud-balls

There is nothing new, certainly nothing exciting, in my view of controversial matters. For when the brain-fog of illness disperses, I find that I am pretty much the same. I am still a Royalist in politics, a Classicist in literature and art, and a Catholic in religion; and I still need leisure and space to explain each of these terms. My abstract sense of “loyalty” is to such propositions as these. It is more difficult now than in the past, to be loyal, for the modern person is raised and “educated” in perfect ignorance of civilizing principles. To some degree, it is not his fault that he can’t understand them.

My gentle reader will note, that I didn’t mention “freedom” in my short-list of very desirable, commonplace things. This is not because I neglect it, or fail to see its necessity. But I refer only to higher societies: the lower are conducted by violence and bullying.

To my mind, it should not be necessary to specify that “men” (a term that includes women) will enjoy considerable freedom within the order that grows from civilized laws. The individual liberties need not be spelled out too exactly, because telling the citizen what he is free to do has the effect of limiting his freedom. It will always be greater than any legislator can imagine, and by making excessive laws he abridges.

Yet it is order, not freedom, that is hard to supply; for a dictatorship is a disorder. It is held together only by compulsion, and it disintegrates when the compulsion is relaxed. “The Left” do not realize that, all the violence and bullying they advocate, to achieve their programmes, will not last. It will fall apart when they lose their zeal, and leave behind only a memory of unpleasantness.

Bureaucracy is the primary method for bullying in societies today. It is thought to be a “necessary evil,” although it is an evil, unambiguously. It comes as a rhetorical trick, with “democracy,” along with other imponderables, such as “fairness.”  Our political judgement is vitiated by a vocabulary that is a slurry of vague, but loaded, terms. These words, which may or may not have meant something in the historical past, now only serve as gravelly mud-balls.

My own ancestors had a lively disposition towards “responsible government.” The idea was that its officers, when in power, should be held personally responsible for their acts. They were not an anonymous bureaucracy; they were not shielded.

Ted Byfield

People are always dying, and I regret it, although if I had or took a more complete view, of the parts of men that are not strictly biological, I might achieve the “higher complacency.” Ted Byfield is the latest to “pass.” Any who don’t know who he was should bloody well find out. I am somewhat weighted with unnecessary grief.

Searching for some words to remember him, I was surprised to find I had already written them. They were in an email I sent to a friend out west, many years ago. The recipient, Brett Fawcett, quotes it in his own eulogy of this fine man. Allow me to plagiarize myself:

“Mr Byfield seems to me, looking back, as a crank. I mean that as a florid compliment: a beautiful crank, totally sincere, wise in ways ultimately unworldly, & naive in a way almost saintly. From my first sight of him, I adored him, & trusted his judgement to be truly lucid & courageous & informed & independent — all the crank qualities. Also, unmanageable. I am not, & could never become an Eastern Christian, & we argued about that. I realized it suited him, exactly: that he was mentally Byzantine. I don’t mean that in the cheap sense of ‘complex,’ but nearly the opposite. He does not seem ‘logical’ in the Western Christian way. He has an extraordinary ability to take things at face value. His view of Christ is beautiful: almost extra-theological. His view of Islam is (so far as I follow) simple, too. He entirely lacks pretension, & keeps his attention fixed on the obvious, on continuities. He can utterly condemn Islam & its violence without real malice.”

Protocols for leaving

Goodness gracious: I get out of hospital just after Easter, and suddenly it is Christmas. Little, almost nothing, seems to have happened in the interval; thanks to mind-baffling anaesthetic drugs, much seemed to be happening just before. But like most illusions, it can be explained. I stepped out, and into, an environment that had been heavily medicalized; which is as agnostic as most medical people; and on the outside, we are all in nearly perpetual “lockdown.” Our lives have been appropriated by the lockdown bureaucrats.

I was quite amazed, both before and after my medical internment, at how willing, indeed eager, the Ontario population is to be “guided.” The same is in evidence almost everywhere else. The modern man chooses safety over freedom, every time, and it is no surprise he gets no safety in the bargain. His anxieties and his isolation (he has no real family or friends, no religious direction); his ignorance and superstition; make him a natural target for manipulation. Those who seek power are his natural controllers, like ants with aphids. Trying to defeat them with rational arguments will always prove a waste of time, for democracy has provided that the idiots who rule us are the ones we have selected to rule.

Not everyone is included in my dismissal; I only refer to “Modern” men (of both sexes), which is to say, almost everyone. I try not to be too inclusive, however, to limit sin. For we were told to love all of our neighbours and enemies, and we should do our best.

Our fate is not hopeless, if there is God; and if it is the God who sent Christ, out of Himself, to redeem us. Christmas — the occasion and its meaning — serves as a more powerful refutation of the evil argument. Like love, it goes beyond the rational. We are to fear not, and to replenish the joyful — in defiance of the “Grinch” of scientism and modernity. This can be done by anyone, with Faith (which involves a bit of stomach). We needn’t stay aboard the handcart or motorboat to Hell, there are protocols for getting off. Instruction is soon coming, from Bethlehem.

A Merry Christmas to all my readers.


I owe thanks to many kindly correspondents who have sent Christmas cards and other notes of encouragement, and even generous donations to my idle cause. Many of these communications were anonymous, and even some that weren’t I haven’t acknowledged. Most splendid are those who uplift me in prayer. Forgive my many ludicrous failures.

About the keb hoose

I am no more capable of providing an etymology for “keb hoose” than any of the sages I have consulted; I think of it as a wee Scots hospital for edible ungulates. I do care a great deal for sheep, and let me mention lambs. This will be evident to my loyal readers since I wrote, “Sheep may safely graze,” in a west-Canadian agricultural magazine, a couple of decades back.

The article under this title was written in praise of mutton, which I adore; but it is apparently no longer available, in sad countries like Canada, unless you raise it yourself. Our sheep, which survive lambdom, may safely graze, if they continue to sprout wool. I have, incidentally, no idea what statist regulations govern mutton production, and am for the moment not interested.

The difficulty with mutton is that it is unmodern. It takes some five years for the meat to mature wisely, on the living animal. Three will do, for a glib feast, but as the Victorians explained, there is no reward for impatience. A third cull comes after seven, or perhaps eight years; and the hanging of the carcass is a long and untidy affair. Getting the time wrong is a mistake one must pay for.

In my lapsed journalistic rôle as a “Gimcrack Gourmand,” I once annoyed the supermarket readership with a selection of delicious, exotic mutton recipes, gleaned from Egypt, India, and the distant Oxonian past. My point was, at least by intention, that the world is choking with things not worth having, and would benefit from something that is.

Whereas, lamb passes through the rotating knives of the streamlined abattoir very quickly. You don’t have to feed the little creature much, before selling it to the butcher, and he (the lamb) makes acceptable eating if one is easily bored. By contrast, a full-grown sheep, bred for mutton, could have a much longer and more thoughtful life, previous to its one bad day. Modernity, I have often noted, is not good for animals.

The sheep in the hills of Scotland were placed there by enterprising liberals, to replace the human population of, e.g., my ancestors. I can’t entirely blame them, for many of these people were hard to get along with, but I am nevertheless opposed to genocide in all of its forms.

Reading among the papers in my High Doganate (where I do not need a proof of vaccination), I learn that death was also an inconvenience in past centuries. What happens when a lamb dies, leaving his bereaved mother with time on her trotters, and a surplus of milk?

Ewes are possessive of their lambs, and not favourable to having them replaced. But the old shepherds would solve both problems by skinning the dead lamb, and covering a live, milk-hungry orphan with the hide. The ewe, with her intense sense of smell (rams are even smellier), would gradually come round to feeding the orphan, instead of head-butting it.

The deodorant industry was also founded on this insight, according to my typescript source. But it was a Lowlander who wrote this, so I do not insist that you believe it.

We face another Christmas without mutton. This is all very well if my reader is a vegan, but as a Christian I can only lament.

Batflu redivivus

A lady (I swear), among my more radically Christian friends, is fond of declaring: “The end is not near.” She says the tragedy of our age is that the End Of Times will not come, to this generation. We will have to cope, somehow. She repeats this to anyone who will listen; for as the liberals say, “If it saves just one life, the exercise will have been worthwhile.”

Indeed, to the liberal mindset, it is often necessary to kill many thousands, or perhaps millions, in the (unlikely, but possible) attempt to save the physical life of just one person. The rhetorical trick is completed by suppressing all discussion of the costs of their mission, usually with the argument that it is immoral to dicker over costs when they are trying to save lives. Eventually, however, these costs mount until the least perceptive involuntarily perceives it, and society “moves on” to consider the next attractively packaged, progressive imposture.

The task of “saving just one life” from the new Omicron variant of the Batflu is now accelerating. Here in Ontario, as elsewhere, the medical and political authorities are flashing their latest restrictions, that will close out the lives of many; pausing only for applause. That their previous interventions had a “net zero” effect on the infection, hospitalization, and death rates has been statistically obvious through nearly two years. The Batflu “pandemic” follows its own natural course, regardless of political directives, as did every epidemic in the past — but incredible additional damage is done by the whims of the bureaucrats. The authorities are mindless and arrogant, like all previous authorities, though ours have reached a new plane of sublimity; their opponents are ruthlessly censored, as ever in the past; and the bulk of the population remains as fearful as it is poorly informed. The media of publicity are entirely on the side of the criminal class, which, unsurprisingly, leads most governments.

Perhaps this was not always so. But the evidence that it wasn’t has been stifled. That part of our history that is noble is suppressed, and that which is ignoble is now taught obsessively in our schools. Some get rich, some are ruined, when they come out, but there is no departure from reductive materialism.

“We the people” … have to ride it out. In time, and we can hope not a long one, the true facts behind the Batflu will be known, for they will be impossible to hide. Ditto, for “global warming” and the other massive swindles, deceptions, and schemes which are the ringers of our times: they depend on too many demonstrable lies to last forever. Their departure will make room for new lunatic political aspirations, but we can be reasonably sure that each must eventually go away. Our fears will graduate into boredom. Indeed, we hardly noticed when the greatest frauds of the past finally evaporated.

Against this prospect, we must sink or rise.

Crowd control

One tries to ignore the news, which, in my case, has been helped along by my little sister. She has given me a fine linen shoulder bag, like an old newsboy’s pouch, plain white except for an undecorated, sans-serif label, that reads, “Newsless Paper.”

Rather, I’m not sure she gave it to me, but I have certainly appropriated it.

The news has long been (always, in fact) associated with the most vulgar form of commerce, and those who seek news should be decently ashamed. Indeed, that part of my adult life (most of it) that was devoted to work for newspapers and worse, is a source of crippling guilt to me. In my post-operative literary meanders, I am reminded of the many other directions in which I could have advanced — innocently, as it were.

Towards Schelling, for instance: by whom I mean Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling (1775–1854).

I do not even know how to say “my German sucks,” in German (“mein Deutsch ist scheiße”?) and cannot find reliable, or even readable, translations; but so far as I see, this gentleman could be celebrated as an anti-Hegel. He is a slab of concrete beside Hegel’s buzzing abstractions.

Oddly, I grasped this as a schoolboy, in a time  of  enthusiasm for Goethe, Schiller, Schlegel, Hölderlin — of what is called the German Enlightenment, that also corresponds to German Romanticism. It was truly one of the great ages, of scintillating developments in philosophy, speculative science, poetry and art. It gave modernity not such a bad name (as it acquired in France).

Like most Anglo-Saxons, however, most of it was lost on me, because it was “foreign” (European); and I was young and treacherously self-taught. Too, I was wasting my precious time, consulting the news in cheap newspapers and magazines, as if they were important.

But sometimes, a man cannot be faulted. Such was the circumstance yesterday, when my Sunday walk was interrupted by a hip-looking, invisibly uniformed stranger. He asked to see my identification and “vaccination passport”. I was attempting to enter Toronto’s Distillery District, a tourist-friendly neighbourhood where I hoped to buy a sausage roll.

A cumulative knot of a hundred or less young, hippish, people soon formed behind me. They walked around me, when I was delayed. This was because I refused to show a “vaccination passport,” or equivalent papers. (Whether I had such things to show was a moot point.)

While I attempted to instruct the young man on Canadian law, and the elementary principles of human liberty, I noticed that he had no difficulty in processing the others. All took his request in stride, with papers ready. Every one displayed his documentation.

That is how things are, today in Canada and throughout the West. One may argue, and risk arrest, or fight and risk personal injury, but a free man will not be understood.

For once-familiar constitution and laws are now ignored. Arbitrary rules are made by medical bureaucrats, others dressed in a little authority, and enforced by the police, on the instruction of our contemptible political masters.

Our Lady in Advent

“Clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars,” the immaculate Virgin is present to Advent in her apocalyptic garments. The mothering of Christ makes our feast of Christmas as much about her as about the Child. The feast of the Immaculate Conception came this week, to the confusion of anyone who does not understand the sequence of Christian festivals; came and went.

Tota pulchra es!” has been the formal declaration in the years since 1854, when Pope Pius IX created this feast, while defining the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. But it is of far greater antiquity, in the Eastern Church, in ancient “Celtic” Ireland and late Anglo-Saxon England, among other places. There was nothing new in this tradition. Those papal proclamations that are unquestionably valid confirm and are compatible with what was already known; only a novelty could be invalid. For a pope’s private opinions and beliefs are of interest only to historians and shrinks; he thinks with the Church when he is inclined to be sane.

Our Lady, as “spiritual embodiment” of Wisdom, was known to the Prophets long before her own birth into this world — “from eternity, before the earth was made.” This “attribute” will itself be inherited, in its mystery, by Our Saviour — this feminine quality that transcends the outwardly female, or male.

By our recollection of Mary, we Christians sail beyond the dogmatic; for dogma of any kind can only be understood by the adult mind that has been trained (not necessarily successfully) in logic. We do not comprehend wisdom as a formula or scheme, laid out with reminders on charts. We receive it through faith, whole. She “flies to us,” in the words of the third-century Marian prayer; she comes to our rescue when we are in need.

In this season, the Christian’s thoughts are with Mary, as they are upon the second coming of Christ. For this return is a certainty we find in her, and through her we conduct our searching. His return was also promised, from His lips. We were told to remain prayerfully aware: that “heaven and earth shall pass away,” in an unpredictable day and hour.

A Christmas will come, that no one was expecting.

Of flies & ants

“Next to the error of those who deny God,” says the author of the Discourse on Method, “there is none which is more effectual in leading feeble spirits from the straight path of virtue than to imagine that the soul of the brute is of the same nature as our own, and that in consequence after this life we have nothing to fear or to hope for any more than the flies or the ants.”

The brutes are animals other than humans, by the way. We have come to a time when Descartes needs a commentary.

Nothing to fear from the future more than would terrify a fly or an ant, to our deficient Modern. For his life can boast nothing more consequential. He has, in the universal scheme of things, no greater claim on Reason, or “soul,” and no clew by which to rank himself above the dumb animals.

Most, or rather all, contemporary schools of Atheism are like this. It is why our feeble Moderns love animals, but want the human race extinguished. It is not that humans can’t feel. In this respect they admit that a person is as sensitive as a warthog, and possibly more sensitive than an earthworm. But it is his capacity for thought that marks him apart. This is what makes him dangerous, and indeed, a grave environmental threat. Depopulation would reduce it, which is why population control is crucial, among “sceptical” left-progressives.

Just after Descartes was quoted as a pro-human, in my grade-school history of philosophy (Copleston’s), he took a glorious crack at Montaigne. For Montaigne was a notorious animal-lover, among his other intellectual frailties. He liked to note that some animals behave better than people (although his criteria were never clear).

There is a difficulty in arbitrating or playing referee between these two radical positions; the serious one of Descartes, and the silly one of Montaigne. One hesitates to champion the Cartesian dismissal of dumb animals with psychotic self-confidence. They are incapable of Reason, true, and can’t even talk (except parrots) at the level of a podcaster, or a politician.

But I, for one, hold Reason in uncommonly high regard, which is why I don’t go to the zoo, or to the Internet, expecting to find an intelligent conversation.

I did, however, recently listen to a young lady in the medical profession explain her Atheist conviction to me. And four centuries after this view was soundly demolished — by a Frenchman I admire but am not always fond of — I was compelled to listen to her dietary advice, mixed with post-Christian blather. She (a registered nurse, apparently) looks to a future which she will share with the defunct flies and ants.

Whereas, I still hope for something better.

Grace v. Karma

Karma, according to one of my most brilliant correspondents, gives a good account of the physics of our universe. “Every action is met by an equal and opposite reaction.” This will seem the more authoritative when it is referred to as “Newton’s Third Law.” It is an iron law, like the law of irony; there are no exceptions. If gentle reader would “follow the science,” this is the high window out of which he should leap.

The contrasting, or shall we say alternative law, is that of Grace. Newton did not list it in his legislative collection. For Grace embraces concepts such as forgiveness, and specifically Divine forgiveness, in all its dogmatic awkwardness and wild, empirical, scientific imprecision.

Jesus Christ is, in the old, “tried and true” calculation, the Son of God; and more, a part of the Divine Trinity. He took human form, and died — not from old age, but in payment for our sins. This does not mean that we did not commit them; less that they were not critically important. It just means we can, at the glibbest level, hope not to get the equal and opposite of what we deserve.

From the scientific point of view, all bets are off with Grace. The theoreticians have not allowed themselves to be entangled in it, the way they have with Dark Matter, and Dark Energy. For how is one to read the mind, of God? If we have free will, He must have it too, infinitely and not merely within a creaturely compass.

We cannot imagine the consequences of our deeds, except, that we are told by the Divine Agencies not to Despair; to, “Fear not.”

Whereas, the more scientific dogma, Karma, commands Despair. Global warming, and Hellfire, is where we all inevitably end. It is what we have been earning since we came to be (by “natural processes”), and we must expect life to be extinguished in the “heat death of the universe.”

God will not even be asked to save us. For according to our Karmic Science, if He exists, He is merely an impartial observer, and has the good taste not to get involved.