Essays in Idleness


The goatherd’s tale

From my (shameful) viewing of the BBC (a woke television network in Britain), I continue to derive the most useful and entertaining matter, including, recently, the solution for global warming. It is goats. They are now being introduced to California in considerable numbers, and I expect within a few months, the problem will go away.

At least, the wildfires should cease, as they might a bit later in Canada, when more goats are imported, though it will take some time to cover our landscape adequately, up to the treeline. But goats are ideal for the Western Cordillera, where we have mountains towering several miles high. Alternative animals would not scrabble over them with quite the goat’s confidence and authority. Indeed, as I have learnt from another of my shameful pastimes — YouTube watching — goats can negotiate a slope up to about 90 degrees. (I don’t think they do the undersides of overhangs, though.) This enables them to avoid every sort of mountain predator, except eagles.

Readers are surely aware of the wildfire risk, which has been promoted throughout Left media. There are other dimensions to climate change, but wildfires are the most telegenic. (Watching ice melt from glaciers and polar caps requires too much patience.) Readers may also have heard, perhaps, the traditional “conservative” (conservationist) explanation of how wildfires get started. Dried brushwood and other dead vegetation is ignited by lightning flashes. Alternatively, as police are discovering, eco-activists indulge pyromania.

But while eco-activists are, alas, not part of a goat’s natural diet, he (the goat) will remove a whole understorey of dessicate veggie much more efficiently than a human bureaucracy (which wouldn’t know where to put it if they finished). Goats simply eat it all — God has specially designed them to consume twigs and woody tissue — up to their bipedal, standing height (which is above that of the typical bureaucrat). They convert this into excellent fertilizer, which capitalists are eager to pelletize. (Capitalists are sometimes interchangeable with goats.)

He (the goat) will also cut grass down to four inches, will ignore heat a human would find oppressive, and is undistracted by media reporting.

So that takes care of fires. I think we have famine in hand, where agriculture is permitted. Floods are another question, however. Goats make very poor sailors.


Felice was the only daughter of Rohand — among the more prominent nobles in England during a century not proximate to ours. He was brave, wise, and liberal (though not in a sense proximate to our Liberals), and his daughter was well-bred. Her many perfections are described in Guy of Warwick:

Gentle she was, and as demure / As ger-fauk, or falcon to lure / That out of mew were y-drawe, / So fair was none, in soothe sawe. …

The reader may be astonished that the modest and unassuming demeanour of a virgin is compared to that of a bird of prey; but, he may know less than our ancestors did about the moral qualities of gyrfalcons (largest, quickest, and most startlingly beautiful of the falcon species).

More surprises are in store; for the young countess, who must certainly have been home-schooled, is expert in astronomy, geometry, and sophistry; as well as music, theology, and a few other things.

What a girl! … I have a crush already, comparing her to a modern young countess, who may not even be a virgin.

I am reading in Ellis’s Metrical Romances, the Bohn edition published 1848, which tumbled into my hands at a college book sale. My own mild surprise extends to the book itself, in remarkable condition, and the catalogue bound in at the back. For 175 years ago, the “Bohn Library” could supply pretty much all the works of English standard authors, in comprehensive collected editions, and European literature in English translation. They were printed on paper that has not yellowed, with attractive typography, and stitched within pressed case boards. Moreover, they were cheap (just three shillings and sixpence a volume).

You who believe that the world is progressing: think this through.


Adolf Zeising (1810–1876) may be known to my fellow enthusiasts for the Golden Section. This is the mathematical relation, marvellously irrational, that as Euclid suggested, is “to cut a finite line in the extreme and mean ratio,” or approximately 5 by 8. More precisely it is 8 by 13, or 13 by 21, or 21 by 34, and so on to infinity. Each numerical ratio is more exact than the last, and yet they go on forever.

My wee tiny son (even now only 80 inches high), born with a prejudice towards math and the sciences, told me about this Golden Section when he was small. He said it was a proof of God, though I had not asked for a theological interpretation.

Herr Zeising, a prominent German psychologist in his time, but also a mathematician, proclaimed it to be a universal law, “the paramount spiritual ideal” of both organic and inorganic nature.

I think my son won that competition, with the natural fanaticism of childhood: for nature is so little in comparison to God.

Nature is also arbitrary, which is to say, unnecessarily precise. Zeising was confuted upon further investigations, where even in art the Golden Section was found to be merely approximated. It would yield exactly not what the ratio would specify. Nonetheless Gustav Theodor Fechner (1801-1887), a godless freethinker, made it the foundation of his “experimental aesthetics.”

As a sometime typographer in my own youth, I noticed that Fechner’s obsession had been imposed on the discipline with Teutonic thoroughness. I myself began to see Golden Sections everywhere, while trying to reproduce them.

Legislating what nature should do, on behalf of nature, is a dangerous game. You have to be Piero della Francesca to play it smoothly — that is, to play it without your viewers noticing what you are up to, until you destroy the game (ruin the joke) by pointing it out. Indeed, in his day, the “Early Renaissance” (i.e. Late Mediaeval) artist was better known as a mathematician than as a painter, and his developments in the “science” of perspective were presented as a technological trick. (My father taught me perspective as something from the ratbag of trompe l’œil.)

We live with extremists everywhere today — with commies and perverts under every bed — and throughout our gestapoes of measurement. They try to displace God, but cannot unseat the Creator of sacred geometry.


Virtuality signalling

The world in which we are living, and have been living for several centuries now, since at least Descartes but arguably before (starting with Abelard), is a Virtual World. It is a world that seems to be, rather than a world that is — or was, according to the ancients.

Cogito ergo sum, “I think therefore I am,” is a dangerously rusty two-edged sword. It cuts down everything but your lonely ego, which, in the absence of any other reality (that will be “nominal,” or “sermotic,” remembering Abelard) … is God. For that is who your ego is, now that God is dead. The world, the universe — formerly emanating from a god who was certainly external to ourself — is now answerable only to my ego.

He can only be “my” truth. I live in a Virtual World, and of course, I use it for my entertainment.

This huge fact, that makes our Modernity truly unique, becomes obvious in the moment we make the philosophical transition from Plato and Aristotle, to what we might (virtually) call “Science.”

What we apprehend, is now anchored in virtuality. Indeed, our Bible and our Mass came from that ancient time (as did the other religious texts and practices), in which things were — whatever they were called.

But words have taken charge of us, today, and ideology prevails. Things are what we call them, nothing less and (to break a fine egg on it) nothing more.

We might call this transformation the Humpty Dumptitious phase of our philosophical development, although it still contains a few apparently realistic elements, such as rapine, and murder. Or, in Canada, you may order MAiD — Medical Assistance in Dying — should you want to die, or more correctly, appear to die.

The Lord (whom I mention, because I am old-fashioned) is the ultimate author of this parody, anticipated “way back” at our beginning. God creates all the animals and birds and fishes, then brings them to Adam, to see what he will call them. This is, hilariously, the precise reverse of our method, in which we name things first, and then we “create” them, virtually.

Moral panic

I have not seen a lot of movies in my time, and most of those were in drab cinemas in Asia. But perhaps my favourite line in politics was heard in one of them. It was The Ugly American, as I recall, and among the stars was M. R. Kukrit Pramoj, the future prime minister of Thailand. He played the prime minister of the imaginary, oriental state of Sarkan, which was falling to the communists. Mr Marlon Brando played the American ambassador to this benighted country, and he is frustrated by Kukrit’s good-humoured composure, during frightful, fatal events. Brando asks how Kukrit can be so calm when his head will be mounted on a spike in the morning.

“If my head is to be on a spike, I want it to be smiling.”

Among my favourite politicians, this aristocratic, cultured man had something in common with Christ Jesus: he had an answer for everything.

Some similar reply to a “moral panic” is needed for the times. Not only on “climate change” issues, but in every political contention, the Left provides such a moral panic, giving drama-queen critiques to silence its opponents. With this goes its censorship campaigns, that extend through media and entertainment.

Our age is thus drowning in lies; like every other age. Reading Karl Kraus lately, I see that his world of more than a century ago was also drowning in lies. But he, like Jonathan Swift, and Socrates, was in the habit of confuting it, with gentle, mordant irony.

Taking care

Man is a creature. So is an ape; so is a fish. A bicycle, on the other hand, is a machine. Can you tell the difference?

It is a distinction that may seem obvious, to those familiar with creatures (which are created living, by God, &c), but may become unpleasantly subtle to those who restrict their interest to machines. “Artificial intelligence” enthusiasts (and unenthusiasts) are the most recent Cartesians of this sort, in our discardable, historical progression. “Climate change” activists make another whole order; and there are, and will be, others.

The modern Cartesian, like the more ancient follower of Descartes (or the Englishman, Bacon), will focus attention exclusively on large, and very complex, “machines.” He uses the term in a poetic, or rather an anti-poetic way, for its allegorical value. He assumes, in the absence of God, that these large things are machine-like in their operations, and that they respond to human or random interference as a machine would respond. For instance, they cannot know what is happening to them.

Creatures die, machines do not. But machines can be broken. They can also be fixed (unlike dead creatures), but, they cannot fix themselves. They were born dead, as it were.

The atmosphere will be today’s example. At the University of California, Irvine, researchers have been investigating the electric field that surrounds airborne water droplets — in which hydroxide molecules appear, or are created. These were previously thought to be products of the atmosphere’s interaction with the Sun (as a lot of things ultimately are). The mechanism in this appearance or creation was not previously understood; nor is it now. It is however now observed a little more accurately. The molecules are a product of the special electrical conditions at the surface of these water droplets.

Why should this be significant? Because these “OH” molecules oxidize hydrocarbons, which would otherwise build up in the atmosphere, indefinitely (as the environmentalists fear). They are a signal part of the atmosphere’s chemical technique of self-repair, removing a variety of poisonous gases. This is among the many ways the world is invisibly cleaning itself, even without external interaction. For the world is not like a machine. It is like a creature.

This is the misconception at the heart of the “climate change” fraud: the assumption that the atmosphere is a machine; that when it goes wrong it must go wrong indefinitely; that if men do not fix it, it will not be fixed. But as we have, and will, discover, the atmosphere takes care of itself. Its telos, or fulfilment, was fully anticipated, before the first environmentalist was born. The arrogance of our environmentalists is unnecessary.

Nine Eleven

It sounds like a convenience franchise, now; somewhere you might go to buy cigarettes. The events of “Nine Eleven” have faded into cliché, and are used for cliché in our political environments. This is perhaps a bit better than an annual bathing in dubious sentimentality. But nothing approaching to an historical “lesson” has been learnt or is being assimilated. The history since has consistently painted modernity as a moral vacuum, and the West (once Christendom) as an empty casque.

This is disappointing, for a brief moment at the time I thought we had suddenly awakened. As late as November of 2001, there was a common attitude of defensive loyalty, before our leftish lunge resumed. By Christmas, however, it was obvious that the filth had resurfaced, and that if we carried the battle into Afghanistan and Iraq, it would be lost to Islamic fanatics. The only reason not to fight those wars was because they would be lost. And they were, one again, lost, as badly as we lost Vietnam to Communists.

When we were tested, we wilted. The contemporary “Western man” abandons his frontiers.

Small is prettier

Several of my friends would seem to have travelled farther East, even than I did on the weekend. They have congregated in Quebec City, where the (Dominion) Conservative Party is having one of its occasional conventions. The party is ahead in the polls (by more than ten points, last time I checked), and if the progressive N.D.P. can continue to split the progressive vote with the progressive Liberals, the progressive Bloc, the progressive Greens, and other progressive parties, they might sail home at the next election.

But the Conservative Party is also, like all of the “mainstream” media in Canada without a single exception, also committed to progress; although typically they would not spend quite as much of our money on it.

Party leadership (that would be a Mr Poilievre, speaking in French) has tried to focus national attention on his cheap shots, such as the cost of other party leaders’ jet aeroplane rides. Winning the next national election will require him to increase the party’s nine (of 78) Quebec seats, in most of which the competition is instead between the “séparatistes” and the “federastes.” … Bonne chance!

The Conservatives have won a plurality of votes in recent Canadian elections, and would win by a landslide if we only counted English-speaking men, but the Liberals, with the support of other progressive parties, generally squeak through to form another guvmint. Nobody minds, however, for Canadians, who are not very masculine, enjoy paying taxes, and are indifferent to free speech. We have an extremely low-intelligence electorate, especially in Ontario.

While I can’t be with them, owing to my own masculine indifference, let me take this opportunity to at least express my own policy preferences. That would be to close down all agencies of the Dominion government, except for the military ones, which I would transform (away from vegetarianism). I am particularly eager to cancel the Revenue Agency, or agencies. But I would allow a few symbolic institutions, such as the R.C.M.P. and the Geological Survey, that could be maintained with modest voluntary funding from a few wealthy citizens.

This need not excite the ambitions of our bureaucratic class, however. They would all be fired.

Fine & private

It is not possible to know very much about a person, except after time when one has parted from him, and through the “medium” of love. And here, unless the love is genuine, and not a mere sentimental extravagance, one cannot “see” another person, only some of his minor sins. To know oneself, under these conditions, is also very difficult, and impossible for many, I am convinced — today, but probably yesterday, too. There are too many distractions, and no attempt can be made to establish the privacy that a “free man” ought to establish. In particular, his every morning, awaking to his alarm clock, is an entry into public life. It must shake him away from the self that was sleeping. For public life is not limited to politics, it happens everywhere that one may go, “outside.”

At the end of summer I journeyed to the Far East (of Ontario), and years after being removed from family life myself, was surrounded by the family life of others. It was marvellous: the various generations congregated, in the old grand-parent home, in an atmosphere that was spacious and graceful. The long weekend of “Labour Day”; a time of potentially genuine leisure, between then and now; between any then, and any now.

It was an environment few “moderns” can experience today, because most of us come from broken and childless families (or else we have children who are essentially orphans: the most public life that is possible). Our society overall is badly broken by our autonomous arrangements, that ruthlessly enforce an interface with public life. Few can ever find a place to hide.

An extended family is almost a requirement, for privacy. It is needed to escape from the commercial life of “a job,” with “holidays” that match it: another form of work (called “fun”), with deadlines. A person may be alone, but this is not the same as private, for he is flotsam, bobbing in the polluted sea of popular culture, shifting upon the dirty tides of passing trends. He has no religion to anchor him, that was formed in a family; it is rare when a person discovers his own. Removed, both from family and God, our typical contemporary has no place where he can meet himself, and “talk.”

It is the private, and hidden, life I am considering: a life “within.” But this does not mean a life inside one’s noisome ego. For apart from family, and in a restricted sense, even from God, a person has a soul which cannot be abandoned. (The ‘modern’ is cut off from family and God, yet even he has a soul to return to. Parted from God, we can only return to God.)

It is a “fine and private” place, “inside the inside” as it were. Let us sound the retreat.