Essays in Idleness


The good stabbing

What do you do, when a man with a knife approaches you, while you are conducting an online Mass in Sydney, Australia?

This problem in modern etiquette confronted the Assyrian bishop, Mar Mari Emmanuel, while delivering his homily in church, Monday. Quick to respond, he flashed a Crucifix at the young Muslim, directly. This, presumably, caused a defect in his spring-loaded blade. The assailant nevertheless managed to repeatedly stab the bishop, a younger priest, and several parishioners who came forward to help them; but thanks, perhaps, to the divine intervention, no one was killed.

In hospital later, the bishop (who is known to TikTok audiences) announced that he was recovering, and not in danger. He forgave both his attacker and the persons behind the attack. This was the correct Christian response, leaving the police to deal with the administrative details.

It was also a rather clever approach to the publicity issue. Forgiveness really irritates the radical Muslim. He will assume the Christian is trying to trick him into apostasy. (Sometimes it works.)

I was asked recently if I could offer any hope at all, for the future of our degraded Western civilization. Of course there is hope; most obviously in the number of Muslim immigrants, from Persia and other “Islamist” regimes especially, who are converting to Christianity. As apostasy is generally punishable by death in Muslim countries, their emigration “changes the equation.”

They often become more serious Christians than the average we supply, and we should expect many future saints among them.

Dead babies

While I am riffing on political topics: I notice that Biden and Demoncrats have recovered in the polls, and I would not put it past Canadian electors to make Injustin revive. The secret to winning elections is to tell the best lies, not only about current events, but about the whole human condition. No one really believes or likes politicians; but they believe or like the lies.

“Republicans” and “Conservatives” work with the liberals on a common progressive agenda, less the odd obvious scam (but plus a few others). The Right, like the Left, depends on enthusiastic supporters who are young and naïve, and older ones who are world-weary.

I think that Trump, for instance, is an opportunist whose conservatism is performative, and that he is deeply crass and vulgar. But in the Abraham Accords and other foreign policy he showed a clew, and in his partial, elementary grasp of economics he leads by a few miles. Too, Trump is “a character” with impressive stamina, traces of wit, and a capacity for jolliness, who came late to prostitution; whereas Biden was cynical and senile approximately from birth. The winner won’t be selected by voting, however.

The pollsters have discovered that Americans on all sides only care about abortion. Should it be legal, illegal, or should we grant fifteen weeks of “grace”? Now, with Roe v. Wade retired, politicians can no longer hide behind their skirts, and must either have a sincere opinion, or tell an easily exposed whopper. This is sad for them, but especially for Republicans, who were stringing the pro-childbirth faction along. The majority are unquestionably in favour of convenience in all of their moral choices, and therefore of child-murder on demand.

This, and the Democrats superiority in cheating, assure Biden of another term. For not even I would vote for a Republican, unless he made clear that he was willing to lose on the abortion issue. The Trumpestuous, however, will not risk losing, intentionally.


The word, from Greek, means “acting against one’s better judgement,” and is (I suspect) at the root of our problems with “intention.” More painfully, acrasia is in the background of all “planning” schemes — and thus in all activities of our secular governments. They are all “crazy,” as Christians know, from original sin, but a Greek pagan might recognize it as ἀκρασία.

A Platonist, of course, would argue that this acrasia does not exist; that we would all do what was best if we knew what that was. And this presumably includes bureaucracies, which are typically staffed by human agents. Alas, we don’t, and they can’t, form better judgements. Plato’s Socrates was perfectly aware that “wrong happens.”

The Christian conception is complementary with the Aristotelian conception, instead. Thomist, Catholic, Christian thought is prior, in the sense that it explains the problem from the beginning; but both Christ and Aristotle are against brutishness in its many forms — from the weak-willed to the headstrong. Indeed, in the Nicomachian Ethics, Aristotle senses a divine agency, acting negatively in self-restraint, and positively in virtue.

I was contemplating this subject in macabre detail this week, as one of my correspondents accused me (as he had before) of “war-mongering.” I tend to confess to this vice, rather than indulge in disgusting “virtue signalling.” Of course we are publicly against war, and some of us are even privately opposed. But the serious question is: How can war be avoided?

Paradoxically, as the clever sort of humans, including statesmen, have always known, war is avoided by warlike acts. That is what made Trump and Reagan and Nixon so successful as pacifists, and the other recent presidents such failures; it is why Switzerland has been able to stay war-free for so long. Not only must we build a military that no one could wish to tangle with, and keep it constantly exercising, but we must be clear whose “side” we are on. That’s what inspires enemies to stop teasing.

It constitutes “better judgement.”

The long war

“When you’re in love the whole world is Jewish,” according to the title of a comedy album that my father brought home, in the early ‘sixties. No one in my family was Jewish, but as I recall, the album, recorded at some live performance in New York, was funny in a politely vulgar way. Today, it might cause a disturbance on campus, but most things do. Back then, it let middle-class goys (goyim?) feast upon echt Jewishness. It was part of a broad historical movement, as it were, in which Jews became an acceptable, indeed popular, North American minority, and were sentimentally favoured over their persecutors. They were peacefully assimilated, as they had been in the good old Weimar Republic, on the eve of brownshirt assaults, and Kristallnacht.

Bourgeois America hasn’t changed, and neither did bourgeois Germany. Our middle class remains well-meaning, and spineless, simply stepping aside, now that the devil is loose again. Sentimental niceness is a happy, witless, worthless indulgence. What happens to Jews today at Harvard and elsewhere has become “none of our business.”

The “mainstream” governing parties in the USA and Canada wish to present themselves as reasonable. They take a middle position between Hamas murderers, rapists, and kidnappers, and Israeli Jews trying to defend themselves. While the Israeli Defence Forces go to unprecedented lengths, suffering unnecessary casualties to spare “Palestinian” (Arab) civilians, Hamas does whatever is in its power to maximize the carnage. The more civilians they can present as victims, the more the publicity machines of the Left are fed. Israeli ceasefire offers are consistently rejected. Hamas is in its element.

Hamas and the PLO have used the time they have been in power to brainwash the Arab youth, through viciously propagandist schooling systems, helped along by UNRWA and foreign aid. Under their control, huge majorities of Arab children have been raised to the cause of Jew-killing, and the old fantasy of a “two-state solution” has been replaced by: “From the river to the sea.”

This is what happens when the bourgeois, sentimental, cowardly representatives of the West make diplomatic accommodations with Satanic organizations, such as Hamas, the PLO, Hezbollah, Houthis, the Syrian regime, the Iranian Ayatollahs, ISIS and various other “Islamists.” We give the possibility of peace away. By our concessions, we have made them into spokesmen for Islam; and they have spoken: “Death to America,” and “Death to the Jews.”

By now, every one of these organizations ought to be extinct, as we made the Nazis extinct, together with their Sturmabteilung and other terrorist bureaucracies … vanished, exterminated. That took more than a decade to achieve (from Hitler’s initial democratic victory). But after many, many decades, “Islamism” remains, and note: we are being defeated by it.

Hateful anti-hatists

Granted, it is hard to get anything right; and when in addition to oneself, one has assumed responsibility for the behaviour of some hundreds of millions of others, or even a few thousand, the certainty of failure must be quite discouraging. Yet, I feel no compassion for these political leaders — very much including those “on my side” — and will not sponge them with soothing, sympathetic wetness.

When the State tells me that it is wrong to kill, or even to maim or torture, immigrants, I am willing to “grant the State a pass”; for there have been laws against such violence from the beginning of (human) time. But when the State tells me that I mustn’t hate immigrants, it has gone too far. Indeed, as a connoisseur of hatreds, I despise various immigrant groups particularly, and probably hate many white cis-Canadians even more. These are prejudices to which I am entitled.

The question whether I have a right to hurt animals is more complicated, and potentially very boring. But I remain within culinary conventions by eating only animals and vegetable matter. I hate some vegetables even more than I hate the immigrants, though seldom does it rise to the murderous level.

The nursing of selective, as well as general, hatreds, is an important human right. Hatreds have been, as those acquainted with art and literature may know, a fine creative goad. … “Some of the greatest poetry and paintings,” &c. … And it can never be prevented, because the more practised hatists go about their despications, subtly. One might easily miss what they are secretly gnashing about.

But those who would persecute hatists refuse to be subtle. They want legislation. They are so damned obvious. Categorically, let us persecute them!

Dispensing fault

It is rare that a catastrophe — an actual catastrophe with deaths and serious inconveniences — happens as “an act of God.” I learned this as a young hack journalist from a brilliant insurance adjuster, who had spent his life tracing effects from causes, and I began noticing it while reading the newspapers right away. The really big catastrophes are (not invariably, but quite usually) the result of human “interference” in the natural order of things. This especially includes politicians’ attempts to amend natural laws, by legislation.

From “climate change,” to the “woke” generation that is now proceeding through therapy to neurosis, catastrophes cannot be understood without such concepts as fraud, lies, swindles, treachery, and the other forms of criminal deceit, often at unimagined scale.

Passing events such as the Batflu, which resulted according to prestigious medical authorities in millions of deaths, are difficult to research and understand, because from the start they were designed to be opaque to research and understanding. Evil is impenetrable in itself. Nothing — absolutely nothing — that came from those authorities can be trusted as wholesomely correct. Paradoxically, much of the “misinformation” they most stridently condemned, turned out to be true. Note, that in “public medicine,” the end will inevitably be used to justify the means.

But there is no direct proof that the virus came from the Wuhan biological weapons lab, doing contract work with money from the American medical establishment, any more than there is evidence for the existence of Satan. Neither is there conclusive evidence that the reader got out of bed this morning. All the transient evidence can be wiped away.

More largely, not all, but most of the routine problems that the citizens of the world must suffer — the unpleasant shortages and unpleasant surpluses — are the creation of politicians for political ends, and more often were intended, than unintended, consequences. No one who claims to be “solving” anything should escape punishment.

Indolent piece

About forty years ago, I was planning to celebrate, this year, the fortieth anniversary of a “little magazine,” called The Idler. The plans made by these humans, especially by me, don’t work out as we expect them to, however — although dates forty years in the future may be calculated reliably. For that’s barely two “enneadecaeteris” cycles, or less than half of a Callippic period, as Greek astronomers calculated them, before the Christian era (see Ptolemy’s Almagest).

As we live today in a multicultural multiverse, I should mention that Babylonians, Egyptians, Hebrews, Mayans, and some others were aware of these calendric cycles, in which, if one is patient, the lunar and solar dates come eventually to coincide; but as usual the Greeks “branded” them. They were anticipating capitalism, and perhaps, making an exhibition of their white privilege.

Back to the Idler. It perished thirty years ago, thus cancelling its fortieth anniversary party in advance, as well as centennial and bicentennial celebrations. But as a small number of persons seem mildly interested in what it was (and it was, after all, part of the prehistory of the Borborygmatic Society) … The Hub paid me to write this memoir.

Stochastic Easter

My interest, indeed admiration, for Denis Noble — the great living master of physiology, in the widest sense — began, happily enough, long before I knew anything about him. For I had been interested in the Provençal or Occitan troubadours, since the days when I could reach them only through Ezra Pound’s translations. In Vimeo or some such place I discovered that this Oxford authority in biological sciences was a performer of these romantic (in the old sense) hits. “Arron d’Aimer,” he sang, — dreaming of the laughter of children, and a country where lovers are forgiven — with his memorable voice and guitar. Dr Noble is about ninety years old, and let us hope to be so lively if we kick around till then.

Given my parallel interest in evolutionary questions, and more particularly my joy in trashing Neo-Darwinists, in favour of vetus-Darwinians, Mendelians, Lamarckians, and Aristotelians, it is odd I had not extended my fandom before. But now I find myself killing a part of the Easter Vigil listening to recordings of his lectures, and consulting Dance to the Tune of Life (Cambridge, 2016).

His account of “systems biology” is thrilling. Multi-level functionality is the rule throughout God-created nature, and multiple-channel communication between the most unlikely parts. The provisions of inheritance are not ruled exclusively by DNA code, and there is no privileged level of causality. There are no genetic, or any other sort of cybernetic-like “programs,” in the brain or elsewhere in the body. And note this profound, almost Kantian, truth: the self is not an object. Such is what one learns about the bravura new world of life-science that has been opening nonplussedly before us.

And the physics behind the biology is inseparably connected. What we once called “random,” and now call “stochastic,” is not the means by which we all came to be. It is instead a part of the divine method, conferring direction across all the constituents of reality, in ways that we just begin to understand. Life as a whole is not determinate, even on the sub-molecular scale. It is actually the opposite of determinate, and was designed to be opposite.

This is why Christ is rising: to show us that we need not go to Hell.

A very Good Friday

The late Mary Douglas is among my favourite researchers and thinkers in one of my least favourite disciplines: “social anthropology.” As it is a day to put last things first, let me suggest that Dame Mary gave the lie to anthropology’s pretensions, once the adjective “social” is affixed to it. A product of the British colonial service (and also of a mother and father), she was brought up in Subcontinental surroundings where social anthropologists were dominant. Fortunately, she was also raised a Catholic, and curiously, did not forget.

It is from her writings that we, or at least I, ceased taking religious affiliations for granted: assuming that they do or do not exist, at any point in historical time. The most savage aboriginal tribesman, concealed in “heathen darkness,” may be unambiguously religious; or he may actually be utterly indifferent to religion. We cannot guess which without intimate evidence. At the extreme of modernity, we may encounter real piety, or an escape from it.

What is not progress isn’t regress, either. There is, in this important sense, no difference between decadents and primitives. What we respectively worship is essentially unknowable to science; although anthropology can produce some entertaining illustrations of what we don’t know.

But as its domination becomes more complete (in university faculties, for instance), social anthropology still contributes nothing to what is commemorated by some of us, on this day. The facts can only be expressed as facts. (As the poet Auden, an opponent of bigotry and ignorance, patiently explained to anti-Semites: “Christ was crucified by the Romans. … Or, to bring it up-to-date, by the French.”)

In the larger scheme, Christ was not crucified because he was a Jew, or not a Jew, or defectively Roman, or unFrench, but in response to apparently presenting himself as the Son of God. What made this bestowal the more disquieting was, that it was true. And it was demonstrated, as the Paschal Triduum unfolded.

This is a fact that can be confidently affirmed, or denied. Or, if one is thoroughly modern, it is a fact to be ignored even before it is avoided. But it is not a fact of social anthropology, in any of its compartments. Rather, it is the circumstance in which, whether we know it or not, we live and have our being.


Allow me once again to repeat an old Idlepost, and somewhat rephrase it, in light of the season of “March Break,” formerly known as Holy Week and Easter.


Arguably, the Enlightenment gave precedence to the abstract, and withdrew it from the concrete. That vicious assault on the human soul, known as “liberal education,” is the dry wharks of that heritage. From kindergarten through post-graduate studies, students are taught to be abstract, that everything as fungible, to eliminate anomalies in light of “theory.” And these theories, although usually false, are not necessarily so, for e.g. the colour wheel does abstractly represent certain miraculous prismatic qualities of sunlight. But when imposed upon the extraordinary breadth and variety of pigmentation not only in paints, but in every creature and object in nature, this theory becomes fatuous. Like Darwinism, or Marxism, it explains everything by proving nothing.

It is not only watercolour that I am discussing here. For every other discipline, students are taught “the theory.” The systems of tutoring and apprenticeship by which concrete knowledge was once imparted were systematically replaced, by the schools and colleges of the Nanny State, in the name of “democracy.” The result gentle reader may see all around.

Christianity does not flourish in such an environment, for this religion speaks to actual men and women, not to “people” in the abstract. In order to become a Christian, a person must today begin to disengage himself from this “culture” of (not science but) theory, and — given the refusal of the post-conciliar Church to teach the Faith — usually on his own. To some degree the scattered Christian communities offer mentoring or advice, but the novice must make his own stand with supernatural courage; which is to say, abandonment to divine grace.

It is for instance “theory” that now requires Nanny State to lower the jackboot on the human face of marriage. For humans have been systematically reduced in “rights theory” to interchangeability. Such particular expressions as husband, wife, father, mother, son, daughter, uncle, aunt, have been struck out of all laws in the Province of Ontario, and many other jurisdictions. They were an embarrassment because they showed that human beings are particular, in ways defined by nature and her God.

Symbolism — you think it is abstract? — is rather plain and concrete. It can be removed like a bridge in Baltimore. Christ, for instance, is frequently removed. Through the hours of Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, to the Easter Vigil when the lights come on, and the full Gloria is sounded — we traditionally contemplated a world in which there is no Christ; and no salvation; and no absolution for our sins; and indeed, no sins: only departure from theory. Now we live like this, through the whole year passing. Christians are abandoned to the mockery of the State, and may be punished unless they bow before its fanciful constructions (sodomy; “re-assignment”; infanticide; self-murder).

God is effaced, we can no longer be in His image. Our race is reduced to animals — to roadkill in the passage of time. We are, according to the “deep ecologists,” one among more than eight-point-four million species on Gaia. We humans alone are too numerous, take more than our abstract share of planetary resources, and are thus due for radical culling.

The apes and dolphins and whales, who have not the equipment to rule instead, must wait patiently for the Antichrist — whose reign of terror will free them from subservience, and grant them their (theoretically) equal rights.

Even within quite “mainstream” Christian folds, Christ is reduced to an abstraction. The Gospel Jesus is too particular; a generic Christ will treat everyone the same. He will not be objectionable to the authorities; He will mind His own business and not create a scene. A democratic Christ, who blesses everyone equally, will preach multicultural homogeneity if he must preach at all. He is a Christ who, like the Islamic one, would not have to be crucified; whose case would never come before Pilate. He is a “nice” Christ, who embodies our own frequently proclaimed niceness, and looks faithfully the other way whenever something disagreeable is happening. Not man in the image of God, but God in the image of deracinated man.

And please, let this Christ not rise from the dead. For that is so disruptive.

Against this, what to say?

What John said, to the seven churches that are in Asia:

“And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. And He laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last. I am He that liveth, and was dead; and behold I am alive for evermore; and have the keys of Hell and of Death.”

Veritas iubet

In his Homily on the Gospels, Pope Saint Gregory the Great (died 604) said yesterday in the old Liturgy that: “Truth Himself tells us to long for the heavenly homeland, to blunt the desires of the flesh, to pass up the world’s glory, to stop seeking after what is not ours, but be generous with what we do have.”

He is the pope I am currently listening to. He makes as much sense today as he did more than fourteen centuries ago.

Moreover, he tells us: “He who is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear is that you are not of God.”

It was a fine triggering, as we enter the Passiontide. This command from on high, and on low, is the very thing that can be heard, or not heard. And when it is heard, and obeyed, as true commands should be heard and obeyed, the problems of the world evaporate. But it is the heart that hears, not the ears, even when, thanks to a “miracle” of modern medicine, we are cured of deafness.

The living dead

My last glimpse of my physical father was on Sunday, the 16th of November, 2008, at St. Joseph’s Hospital, here in Parkdale. He was in the most ancient wing of that hospital, which has an unfortunate reputation. For even from the newer wings, “no one gets out alive.” This reputation is surely exaggerated, and my papa would be the first to laugh, on any day when he wasn’t dying. It was a question of energy, however: and he had little left.

From that day to this, my father has been looking at me through a hundred peep-holes, scattered about the High Doganate. These are the many common objects, that he gave me or that once he touched. It is surprising what an inventory collects, in a few decades of father-and-sonship, and with what vehement fervour each object is retained. For in each there is the presence of the man; and as one looks, the absent other seems to look back.

A time will come when I vacate Parkdale. My flat will be cleared, the books crated off by an impatient dealer, and other items junked. My sons will keep a few relics. The things that were papa’s will mostly disappear, for with me gone, there will be no one to explain them.

In a vivid dream, last night, my father was struggling with a nasty, spindly, flimsy, writing desk, of the kind we both hated. It was a very specific desk, for the original was discarded when I was in high school. But here it was again, in my dream, and my father was pushing it towards his little beige Volkswagen (also repudiated long ago). Several other things were retrieved from my faded childhood; and even in the dream, I knew I had not spoken with my father in a long time.

So I called out, “Papa!” But he did not hear. And again I called, and again, offering to help. But he was struggling with that Sisyphean little desk. He could not hear.

Musk repellants

An African immigrant in the United States has been much in the news, these last few years; and often, under bigoted attack. I do not reverence this Mr Elon Musk, myself, although my statement could be misleading. Like Mr Donald Trump, and a few other controversial figures, I do enjoy his ability to provoke derangement in those who hate him.

This is a skill very close to what Christ showed, when he exorcised the Gerasene demoniac. (Can pigs fly? The ejected demons, who then inhabited a herd of swine, soon found that the answer is: no.) Unfortunately, neither Musk nor Trump seems to have cured any demoniacs, yet.

My own, essentially aesthetic, limitation upon love for Mr Musk, is that I don’t like rockets, or electric cars, or brain implants, or most other tunnelling. As I discovered a few years ago, I don’t even like tweets, unless they are funny, or by Nicolás Gómez Dávila. If Musk had listened to my advice when he arrived in North America (and in Canada first, at the age of seventeen), he would have invested chiefly in acquiring (second-hand) printed books. In consequence, he would be no wealthier than I am, today, which were wise: for surplus money is an affliction. (It tempts the government to steal it, and they use force.)

But what of Musk’s politics? In a recent tweet, he summarized them. He writes that he is in favour of secure borders; that he prefers safe and clean cities; that he is opposed to bankrupting the United States; that racism against any race is wrong; and that there should be no sterilizations below the age of consent.

How the Left twitches in indignation! For this African-American is such a provocateur.