Essays in Idleness

DAVID WARREN

The score

The happiness of my New Year will come — always assuming that I live to the end of the day — on the gust of a XXth anniversary. This is how many years it has been since I was received into the Catholic Church, on the 31st of December, 2003, by Jonathan Robinson, late Father as well as Founder of the Toronto Oratory. As a good friend, received elsewhere about the same time, comments to me this morning, “those years feel like a single day.”

It is a day on which, externally, much seems to have happened, through the reign of three popes, and in a world where we now seem to communicate almost exclusively through cellphones. These devices were introduced a half-century ago by the Motorola Corporation, in a version considerably more clunky than an earlier version, another half-century before. The first inventor was charged with fraud for suggesting what his invention might do. But like many inventors, he was guilty of the opposite.

Both the Catholicism and the cellphone have been moving me out of this world. I still don’t own one of those little hand-held machines, and my subscription to the Internet is mostly for the purposes of these Essays in Idleness. It is my industrious exploration of the phenomenon of idleness. Like other advanced technology, it leaves an unsettling impression that one has participated in busy-ness, however; whereas handwriting does not have this effect.

It is also about half-a-century since industrially manufactured books became physically irritating, which they hadn’t been throughout my childhood. This is chiefly because new issues in “hardcover” are now printed as immense puffy objects, wrapped in vile repulsive covers, and crudely glued so that the spines crinkle and the pages fall out. (“Paperbacks” were always contemptible.)

But it is in books, latterly printed but originally hand-drawn by illuminators, that the message of Catholicism travelled around the globe; and by the medium of speech, directly between sentients. This message has not benefited from improvements in technology.

Psalmi idiotici

Having been a fairly radical conservationist (not quite the same as “a conservative”), from the age of six when I first formed this attitude, I am among the enthusiasts for what used to be called “global warming.”

Of course, I am a reactionary, more than a conservative, and all my attitudes are tied up in a package with a fine Catholic bow. The mental space I have allotted to “conservation” could be dismissed as materialist, and sentimental, excess. But it makes me happy, and with the year-end approaching, it is time to conceive a Happy for the New Year.

Global greening will therefore serve as my topic for today. The last major survey of the satellite data that I noticed, by multiple authors from multiple institutions in multiple countries, showed that vegetation had undeniably increased, by about one-seventh over all, and by some amount in every climate zone, over the last thirty years. Even Greenland and the Sahara are beginning to open to agricultural possibilities, which are of course further accelerated by technological inventions. This process is, moreover, continuing at a rate much faster than temperature is climbing — an accident that, to my mind, is probably artefact of urban sprawl. Thus, more “green” improvements will address that.

There are political movements to induce despair, as there are always; and power-crazed “progressive” activists (i.e. malicious idiots) try to ban desirable fossil fuels. Their parallel opposition to efficient, non-polluting nuclear electric generation provides proof of their hypocrisy. But I expect that, despite ruinous expenditure on their “climate change” agenda, with ludicrous subsidies for hideous “wind farms,” solar panels, and battery cars, we will be saved by (of all things) democracy. This is because the majority of voters, while demonstrably stupid, eventually learn that “climate change” is a fraud, and that they have been cheated of an unconscionable amount of their income.

We should welcome the increase of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, by two-fifths over something approximating to the whole time period. This is easily the major cause of world-wide greening, as it is, obviously, in more confined glasshouse spaces. And if urban temperatures “continue to rise,” so will our wealth and our regular use of air conditioning. It, too, generously releases carbon, so that our prospect is win/win.

Gloria In Excelsis Deo!

And on earth, peace, to men of good will.

Absurd merriment

A very Merry Christmas, especially to those Christians, Jews, and sympathetic others who face the “holiday season” on their own — when even those with surviving family must endure a passive-aggressive “toleration.” Christmas has become a time of division, with scarring along political lines. The joyousness of the festival is replaced by aggressively anti-Christian virtue signalling on the one side, while commercialism corrupts it on the other. Too often, the professional class of religious leaders betray us with their concessions to Woke.

We live in a time when, in Canada for instance, many dozen churches have been burned to the ground, and dozens more vandalized, in a criminal response to an entirely fabricated story of ancestral genocide (of Indians fancifully slain in residential schools), promoted by our government-subsidized, profoundly wicked national media. Our flags flew at half-mast for the better part of a year, by way of saluting this media lie; and our university-educated young still march for it and for such other causes as the actual genocide committed by Hamas. We have achieved, in time for Christmas 2023, a degree of shamelessness that is unprecedented.

The same pattern repeats elsewhere: media narratives constructed from lies, and an educational establishment that installed them in the first place; a touchy “liberal” ruling class that has perpetuated itself in government bureaucracies, and expropriated the rule of law.

And we have become accustomed to it. A shrinking minority still capable of human decency, without being oppressively monitored, must train themselves to ignore the provocations.

To be witness to Truth is a calling more important than to be the beneficiary of social approval and family cuddliness. The celebration of Christmas, before Canada ceased to be a Christian country, may fade in our memory; but the reality of family — of the Holy Family and of the Nativity — is, absurdly enough, still vividly remembered.

We cannot wish for trends, or even for the reversal of trends; such optimism is as shallow as pessimism, and as easily dismissed. Hope, rather, is the transcendent religious virtue. It is Hope in the recognition, of God.

And in the presence of that Godly act of “reaching out,” to us in all our apparent hopelessness, it is absurdly Merry.

Blessing irrationality

Blessings have become empty and meaningless, in recent times. Or one might say they are the very substance of the “Church of Nice” — an imaginary institution to which the Catholic Church bears less and less resemblance.

Blessings in Christ are another matter, for they may be found in the Gospels and throughout the Bible. Christ, and our life itself, are expressed in these blessings. That they continue from the past, into the future, cannot be taken away — even in Hell, I suspect (in contradiction to our present pope, who has given his opinion that the damned are erased, painlessly).

For a person, even a priest, to say “I bless you!” — informally, outside the liturgy and unaccompanied by any sacramental gesture — can mean nothing until, with the invocation of Our Lord, he raises it at least to a religious statement. But then, he is under obligation to make sense. Pope Francis’s blessings on same-sex couples, proposed in the declaration Fiducia Supplicans, create a rational problem. Can a blessing be given for committing, and proudly continuing to commit, a mortal sin?

The Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, under Tucho Fern├índez, another Argentinian, explains that such blessings do not imply approval for “gay marriage,” or any other undoctrinal thing. But he cannot explain how it doesn’t. It is simply an assertion that opposite and contradictory things, such as two plus two equals five, are possible in the Church, as they were long possible in Argentina. From news reports we see that a considerable number of bishops, especially those appointed by Bergoglio, have spoken up in support of the pope’s document. A considerable number, especially of those appointed previously, have spoken against — including, I think, virtually every one for whom I have respect. (My census is incomplete, hence the “virtually.”)

Of course a bishop, like any other employee, has a motive for keeping his job; and the pope recently stripped Bishop Strickland of his employment, and Cardinal Burke of his apartment and salary, because they irritated him. But bishops, cardinals, popes, &c — whether they are good or very, very bad — are not Christ, the true source of blessings. Remember this in prayer.

Flight of freedom

Like most people who prattle about “liberty” and “freedom,” I hardly know what I am talking about — unless in the light of someone else’s miracle.

The wild animals have a defensible idea of freedom, or at least of their own, it seems to me. This must necessarily include a knowledge of restraints, including the identities of other wild animals who eat them. But in the life of every little sparrow there are moments of purest joy, when not only are they free of kestrels, and such limitations as hunger; they are indulging in play, which is part of their business, according to their conception of the joyful. Or so it has seemed to me, who have spent some time feeding and observing and (once) rescuing the sparrows. They are among my favourite “little brown jobs” or LBJs, as the ornithologists call them.

Christ himself points to the sparrows with approval, in the knowledge that the Hebrews, and the other humans, tend to disregard them, or may even find them rather annoying. They sell them two for a penny (in Matthew), or five for two pennies (in Luke). He echoes the Psalm: “For the sparrow hath found herself a house, and the turtur a nest for herself where she may lay her young ones.” And these nests are close to the altar of Our Lord.

In ancient, religious practice, liberty could be understood as the creature’s freedom, to go about the business for which he was created, without interference from ungodly tyrants. For men, in particular, have evolved, to where they assume God’s functions and privileges, and their politics now replaces religion. Only a few will confess their ungodliness, however.

And of course, the kestrel, too, denies he is ungodly. His liberty, too, will last only for a time, until it is taken away.

Elon’s babies

Elon Musk, one of our tech billionaires, was in Italy over the weekend, preaching to the Italians on the importance of generating babies. He especially recommended little Italians, to diffuse the waves of immigrant North Africans, but without stressing this demographic point. Verily, even the Mussulmans need to have babies more frequently, in Mussulman countries, on present trends. Mr Musk has done an admirable job of generating babies himself, as some childless people in the media point out.

Giorgia Meloni, prime ministrix of Italy, and the prime ministers of two other small European countries, Britain and Albania, also attended this spectacle, at which they accepted applause for Europe’s first programme to pay for the repatriation of surplus immigrants. This, as well as subsidizing women to make babies. Governments eventually charge taxpayers for all the public services they provide, including the debt service.

But there are inexpensive, indeed free ways to achieve the preferred demographic results. This would begin by cutting taxes to the point where women would have the leisure to find husbands, who could spare them the nasty slave-wage jobs which force them out of their homes. For the last century or so, women have been compelled to work by (“democratic”) government edict; not even men should be coerced in this way.

As Donald Trump tried to persuade European governments to increase public spending on defence, to 2 percent of GDP, and additional spending is quite whimsical (defence being the only expenditure of the state that isn’t naturally municipal), I recommend that European governments get by on 2 percent of GDP for everything. The United States is an august superpower, however, and might have to set its compulsory poll tax a bit higher, at, say, 3 percent. The rest would be retained by the people who earn it, who could then afford not only babies, but eleemosynary activities. They could even give alms to all the unemployable former bureaucrats.

This leads me to step two of my recommendation. We need Christianity even more than we need tanks and missiles (though of course we can afford both). Babies will arrive when we recover our lost faith. May I suggest the Roman Catholic form, which is Christianity par excellence; or failing that, the Greek, Coptic, Armenian, &c, salutary rites.

O Wisdom

Were we to practice Christianity (as once we did), the approach of the Nativity would be marked with the beginning of the “O Antiphons,” this evening.

A fragment of this tradition survives in the Christmas carol, “O Come All Ye Faithful,” which the more backward oldies may still be able to hum. The tune was most popular in the English-speaking realms, but originated in late mediaeval France. The metrical form of words is a paraphrase, which of course deviates from the liturgical text. But that text was embodied prayerfully in music that is traced many centuries deeper.

“O Antiphons” are still sung by Catholics, in the traditional Latin services for Vespers, with the Magnificat, from this evening to December 23rd. I’ve lost track of what happened to this custom in the “clown masses” since Vatican II. They begin (or began) with the O Sapientia.

“Wisdom” is the first thing our post-Vatican reformers decided to throw out, and yet, like Our Lady herself, it belongs to God and will not be discarded.

Trends to reverse

The XXth century has been rough on the Christian religion, not only in the “far west” of Europe and the Americas. We occupy only one-third of the Christendom that once had an east, and a south, as well. The Arab/Islamic invasions of the VIIth century caused our geographical retreat, from an immense area; not only from Byzantium. From what is now Morocco and Spain to Ethiopia, Arabia, and the frontiers of old Persia and Hindustan, Christians remained in the majority. There was also a sprinkling of Jews throughout, and Zoroastrians were at our “bloody borders.” All of this was changed, superficially; almost entirely by brute force and savagery, but sometimes by diplomatic foreplay.

Yet it was not changed demographically by the conquest, nor would it be, for centuries to come. At the beginning of the last century, for instance, Christians still found themselves, if politically without power, still in the majority in many parts of this world; and there was still a visible sprinkling of Jews. The Parsis had been mostly wiped out, yet they retained a sprinkle, too. There were several interesting religious minorities, and such as Buddhism had left extensive archaeological remains.

We often hear about the fine multicultural tolerance of various historical Islamic regimes, which was true in brief moments under their most impressive rulers. And it is true that, with time, the aggression of the tribal dynasties diminished. But more fundamentally, they did not have a choice, for Islamic rulers were outnumbered by their subjects, and didn’t collect taxes except from “infidels” (the notorious jizyah). ┬áMoreover, European imperialists eventually arrived to confirm the infidel’s safety.

Unfortunately, this imperialism, founded in the competition between European states, begat nationalisms of revolutionary kinds. In this we find the historical origin of the Islamism that metastasized over the last century, as a violent political force, trying again for an Islamic caliphate. While painful for a time, this is likely to pass, for they excite their enemies more than their friends; and not all of their opponents are morons.

However, Islamism is one of several political developments that led, in one case, indirectly to the foundation of Israel, and in another and grander to the “religious cleansing” (resembling ethnic cleansing) of the Muslim world. Muslims now make an overwhelming majority in each country over which they once gained merely political control, except perhaps India.

The “invasion” by immigration of Europe and the Americas can, I think, create a problem but not a change. It is unlikely to succeed as the birth rates among Muslims have declined to the birth rates among Christians and others. Moreover, the deliquescence that has been dissolving Christianity has had a worse effect on other religions, and is excavating Islam. (Only 40 percent of Iranians present themselves as Muslim to pollsters, compared to more than 50 percent in the United States who still present as Christians).

Demography is not destiny, though neither is it without omen. The loss of religious faith, and worldly confidence has, for our time, reduced Christianity to an insignificance not experienced since it arrived, unwelcomely, in the ancient world. Only in sub-Saharan Africa does it grow; and it has been flourishing only where it is persecuted, elsewhere.

It persists, reliably, whenever Christ is sought, and in this sense it remains “dangerously well,” awaiting revival, now that it is modernity’s turn to downwardly trend.

University reform

The most encouraging development in the West — something that fills me with hope for our future — is the destruction of our universities. In truth, they have been giving trouble for a long time, and it could be argued that it was the creation of lay universities, to replace dedicated monastic schools, that marked the beginning of the end of Christendom in the later “Middle Ages.” But this topic would take up too much space. (The best way to approach it is through the study of student life in the XIIIth and XIVth centuries, and the degradation and dissolution it brought to Paris, Oxford, and other European cities.)

Alas, like the atom bomb, universities, once created, cannot be uncreated. We must find a way not only to cohabit with them, but to tame their worst excesses. The tyranny imposed by nuclear weapons is what must be allayed; by comparison the explosion of these weapons is a much lesser threat. Similarly, with the damages of higher education: their tyranny is actually worse than the student riots.

The first step in this subjugation must be, of course, to remove all public funding. This is only a half-measure, because private funds will still be controlled by university administrators. So part of our programme must be, to get rid of them. This cannot be done by public legislation, but must be performed one school at a time. Violence will not be necessary, for the typical college president is an abject coward, and likewise, his staff down to the humblest janitorial assistant.

Consider, universities came as close to being defensible as they would ever be, in days now unfortunately passed, when professors were paid little, and when they had to devote several hours in each week to unpleasant administrative labours. (Mind-numbing tasks could be shared out fairly.) This was necessary if we were to avoid the horrible evil of “professional” university administrators.

Note, that I do not complain about the obscene salaries these bureaucrats grant themselves; it is their biological existence that disturbs me. I am pro-life, and thus opposed to their capital punishment (unless with additional cause). Our tolerance and patience must expire, however, just short of that.

Gleichschaltung

A false idea of me, I have noticed, tends to go with false ideas of everything else. And these false ideas can only be corrected when they can be discussed, openly. It is the contrary of the “shut up” instruction. That is, as it were, the practical necessity of free speech, which is currently under intimidation from the Left in most Western locations, as it has always been in most Eastern. A “Gleichschaltung,” or authoritarian standardization, has descended over most of Western civilization, as it descended over the Nazi realms in the nineteen-thirties. Another way to describe this is as “institutional capture” (of the universities, media, bureaucracies, &c) by the Left, and the “cancel culture” that has been spawned by it.

The same fate for the Jews, who are currently under persecution, more or less publicly, everywhere but in the most conservative rural backwaters of the U.S.A., and in Israel itself. For instance, 75 percent of Jewish students in American universities report they have been personally molested, for being Jewish, in the time since the mass Palestinian rapes and murders on October 7th.

Freedom of speech is the only possible corrective; for every crime may be excused by the enforcement of deceitful and mendacious language. Unless persons who have been smeared, or otherwise misrepresented, are given the right to respond to their “critics” — and thus allowed to reply to everything that is charged — we must live with the tyranny of “progressive” stupidity and malice. (Among the worst things to endure is the smugness of its beneficiaries.)

Chanukah is the Jewish celebration of the recovery of Jerusalem: something especially appropriate in the current age. We may read about this, and the rededication of the Second Temple, in the Books of the Maccabees. The Seleucid powers had begun a campaign to suppress the Hebrew religion, 168 years before Christ. One might suggest the Maccabees were the original Zionists, freeing Judea, but other signal moments in the Mosaic histories had spoken eloquently of freedom. We find that spirit also in Christianity, proudly and unquestionably inherited from the Jews. We will not be slaves.

We will not be slaves, whether to a foreign conqueror, or to an alien, pagan ideology, or to the Gleichschaltung that it has imposed. For after all, we are history’s non-conformists.

Resisting eco-lunacy

Perhaps it is wrong to paint the “environmentalists” and “climate change” hysterics with the label “Greenies,” as I just did over yesterday’s post. This is because they are enemies not only of human life, joy, and flourishing; and animal life (especially livestock); but also of plant life in its magnificent diversity, including all that grows in forests and farms. Carbon dioxide is, with water, the principal food of our vegetation, which in turn supplies the principal food for our animals. It takes little education to understand this. Carbon dioxide and water are the principal means by which photosynthesis is effected in nature, at levels of sophistication that our technologists have never approached.

The increase in this atmospheric gas, which has certainly happened in recent history and has an unmistakably anthropogenic cause, has a very slight influence upon the weather, and will have none at all above a certain maximum. But it has had dramatic “greenhouse” effects, nonetheless, and is responsible for the remarkable greening of our planet during the same period.

Note the implied contrast: carbon-based fuels and other products, good; environmentalism and environmentalists, evil.

I recommend that the reader, if he has not already, vary the aggressive media diet of lies and impostures on this subject by consulting several of the genuine experts touching the climate field. For instance Richard Lindzen, William Happer, Steven Koonin, Alex Epstein, Patrick Moore, Judith Curry, John Christy, Benny Peiser, are to be sought on the Internet. All of these disagree with the “97 percent of scientists” in the knowingly false media account. All those named have impressive credentials; each knows what he is talking about, and has nothing to add when he knows nothing. Nor have any been bought off by government agencies, nor are they living off “big oil.” Each carries painful scars from the malice of “the Greenies.”

The Greenies

There is something called “COP28” (28th meeting of the Conference of Parties) happening in Dubai, a major tourist destination in the Middle East (more extravagant than Disneyland). It is, at centre, a gathering of the world’s leading self-appointed environmental experts (many with government posts), and their families, extended families, colleagues, servants, mistresses, and so forth, in a grand display of virtue signalling somehow in excess of all their previous gatherings. The aeroport at Dubai is congested with the traffic of the jets that fly these perfumed creatures from the rest of the world.

This is what “environmentalism” has become today: a monstrous waste of the planet’s resources. Taxpayers everywhere are on the hook not only to pay for this display, but to fund all the ruinously profligate schemes that these “green” politicians decide upon. It is all a farce, more costly than any war. For further inconveniences are imposed by the bureaucrats who serve these witless legislators, through the destruction of our industrial and agricultural arrangements, for the counter-productive purpose of eliminating carbon, the most useful material we know.

Can the “climate change” blather, as a totalitarian ideology, grind modernity to a halt? Even this hope must be abandoned. It will instead accelerate the modern solution to the imaginary problem of overpopulation, by killing off, or forbidding birth.

It would be hard to imagine a project less compromising, and more comprehensively vile, were it not for the murderous behaviour of terrorist groups like Hamas.

Parousia

Well, God has granted me another year, perhaps, of grumbling about the communists and perverts, or perhaps He might inspire me to something better. We, or should we say “I,” do not make good use of our time, and this starts in Advent.

The Christian seasons were otherwise designed than for wasting. They begin, up here in the frigid north, with winter, which is usually supplied from the end of November by the weather gods. In the olden time, which is to say the day before yesterday, we did not try to appease these gods in the “pagan” way, or in the post-Christian savage manner, where we assume that we are responsible even for the sea level. We aren’t — it is among the many things in the universe over which we have no control — and it will continue to surprise us, just as Advent is surprising.

It is the surprise of the parousia, or what is referred to, awkwardly, in English, as the “Second Coming.” Christ’s first coming into the world was preceded by the coming of Messiah — who is subtly present to the Jews throughout the Old Testament. Before that parousia we are told to expect, also, a second coming of Christ: in our reception of grace.

But for us, now, it is a little death, at the end of the long summer. Death is meant to be arresting. We were unprepared — as we are generally unprepared — for that fell sergeant, that rap upon the door of our being. But it is just a little death, in this season; though larger, it seemed, when the last generation, for instance my parents, took their leave on the argument of November, and did not wait for the hibernal chill.

Advent is the liturgical season when thoughtful Christians consider the parousia, which is easier to do with abstinence and fasting, with prayer, repentence, and almsgiving, than when gorging on sweets. We have entered the paramony, or preparation, for Christmas; and the Eve of the Nativity will be, by holy convention, among the strictest of fasts.

For this is the doctrine of the liturgy: to everything there is a season.