Essays in Idleness

DAVID WARREN

The concealment

If one has ever looked for a lost sheep, or perhaps lost spectacles or lost fountain pen, one will be familiar with the sensation that it is hiding. But sheep seldom have that purpose, and household objects (arguably) never. In truth, one is looking in the wrong place. Nor may one conclude that the item has ceased to exist, from the fact that one cannot find it. Contemplation may soon yield the answer; or else it will enhance the mystery. How was I to guess that a mechanical pencil, without the capacity to disappear, but with the capacity to jab, had actually made a hole in the pocket of a jacket, and worked its way to the bottom of the lining? I condemned the pencil and not myself; I attributed volition when it stabbed me in the backside.

Science is at a loss to explain many a thing that could be easily explained, were it looking in the right place. The presumption that it must be somewhere else is the means of its concealment. In the example I gave, the knowledge that the sharp thing had been in my pocket was sufficient clue; by defect of intelligence, I read this clue wrongly.

The genius of Sherlock Holmes was not in the development of brilliant theories, but in his ability to ignore them; his refusal to be led astray. Likewise, the remarkable cosmological deductions of a Georges Lemaître, or of a Francis Crick (the real DNA advance, of 1957) came from spotting the obvious, then following it home.

(“Come and see!”)

The obvious lies concealed in a field of distractions. The quarry is, as it were, “hiding in plain view.” This is the secret, I was told by a detective novelist, to writing a detection novel. Start from the solution then add the distractions. The same method may be used in the construction of a joke. These are idle pursuits, but gentle reader must not expect me to condemn idleness.

God, I have sometimes reflected, is not hiding from us. We look for Him in all the wrong places (for instance, not in the Mass), often knowingly because, like Adam, we are hiding from Him. We blame Him for not being there, when He is standing right in front of us, silently and immovably. His presence could be known if we returned His gaze, but instead we are looking through and around it. Christ Himself will wait to be recognized, silently and patiently. He is not a screamer. Nor can He be “in the mood” to trick us, to sneak up and catch us out, for as we learn from the most reliable sources, he is not a trickster of that or any sort. Ask, and He will answer.

Now suppose one had the intention to trick, to conceal, to make Our Lord invisible to those genuinely in need of His assistance. In practice, this is easy. All one must supply, is distractions; to change the subject, as the seeker approaches; to raise a noisy protest, somewhere else. It seems to me the chief tactic of the Devil, in this or any age, is not to “deny Christ,” per se. That won’t work, for He is undeniable. Rather it is to keep him unseen, by putting ever more distractions in His way. By studying one’s customer, one learns which distractions he prefers.

The Devil and his agents can be stupid, as mediaeval man was aware. Their mistakes consist of becoming too cocky, too visible themselves; of slipping into a direct contest. This only contributes to Christ being seen. And when He is, the game is up for them. How many little devils have blown it in this way!

Vallis Hortensis

My campaign to assert the independence of Vallis Hortensis (better known as Parkdale) has yet to bear any fruit. But we must be patient in the work of centuries.

Parkdale naturally descended from the Village of Parkdale, located dangerously close to the sprawling and gluttonous City of Toronto. Before that, it was market garden, dairy pasturage and farmland, adapted to the heavy clay of our promontory, happily set to receive delicious Lake breezes.

An Indian portage, used over time by at least five distinct tribal “nations,” had once skirted our western side, and the French Fort Rouille marked the east, at the Lakeshore. We were a prosperous fur-trading outpost for the French and for the natives, from the 1600s. Alas, rather than surrender them to the British, the occupants torched their fine little bastion’d properties in 1759.

The fort’s first commandant having been Pierre Robineau, Chevalier de Portneuf, I suggested adapting his arms for our own anti-modern heraldry, but failed to get anyone’s attention. Ditto, I am sorry to say, with my proposal to recognize seventeen official languages, including French, Latin, and five dialects of Iroquoian (as a scheme to encumber our political busibodies).

I wrote “gluttonous,” and won’t take it back. The City annexed us in 1889, in its quest for Lebensraum, and bestial lust for cash cows.

Well managed, as it had been, by its Reeve and Council (low taxes, nary a deficit), the Village had provided itself with all necessary services (fire, water, gas, police, public health, schools, library, markets; churches including a huge, now-departed Methodist “cathedral”; charitable institutions such as the populous convent of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, now disappeared under welfare housing, &c). But it was filling up with too-visible mansions, owing to excessive wealth.

After annexation, these services were quickly merged into the urban bureaucracy and mostly gutted or removed. Property taxes were raised, to reflect the need to pay the parasite classes, and the decline from Toronto’s richest district to among Toronto’s poorest has been our more-or-less continuous story through the thirteen decades since.

But it is delightful to examine old photographs of the modestly glorious public, private, and ecclesiastical edifices that once decorated our municipality, the demolition of which, and replacement with buildings somewhere on the scale from mediocre to obscene, peaked around 1960.

As parliamentary constituency, Parkdale remained among Canada’s most fiercely Tory through the half-century after amalgamation, but with Liberal governments in Ottawa and the Province, and the usual commies at City Hall, it was eventually ground down. Today, it provides reliable voting fodder for the more advanced progressive factions, its residents trained to vote in fear that they might lose their pogey.

Now, to be reasonable, Parkdale is not such a special case. Similar things have been done to many thousands of small municipalities across Canada, Merica, Europe, which have similarly descended into squalor. “You can’t live in the past,” as the progressives say, you are only allowed to live in their present, and what will be worse, their future. No local government enjoys constitutional protection in this or any country but Switzerland, and therefore local government ceases to exist. Under “democracy,” the amount of say a citizen has in his own immediate environment approximates to zero. All planning is under the control of credentialled experts, themselves accountable only to the Devil.

The more reason we should look to the future. For as this world becomes uninhabitable, and we powerless to defend anything we love, we might as well focus on the world to come.

Nativity scenes

“The things that we love tell us what we are,” according to an aphorism of Saint Thomas Aquinas, flashed before me the other day, and in a public place. (Also: “Whatever is received is received according to the nature of the recipient.”) The simplicity of these sayings bespeaks their author, who was unlike the modern philosophers, who sneer at anything that can be understood.

And what we love, we can defend.

I love a crèche, even one that is rather tacky, though I draw a line to exclude those designed to subvert the Catholic faith, such as recent displays at Madame Tussaud’s, and in the Vatican. They were said by some to be “in bad taste,” but that is not my objection to them. It is inaccurate, because such displays are satanic, and in our continuing Age of Enlightenment, the satanic is fashionable. The idea of “taste” itself has been twisted, to reflect the “coolness” factor, which once was exactly what good taste rejected.

Perhaps this begins farther back, with a misunderstanding of Horace. He did not write, de gustibus non disputandum est, which was an older Latin adage. (“No accounting for taste” is the English parallel.) But if he had, he would have sung it mordantly; which is to say, with bite. The pagan Romans strike me as obsessed with good taste, and its correlatives. It was a decadence in them from the beginning, and it reveals their “inferiority complex” towards the artistically self-confident Greeks. From the earliest Christian art, through Baroque, to nativity scenes, the Catholics never suffered from this.

Saint Francis of Assisi would never have thought of it, when designing his crèche. The intention was to convey the “infancy narrative” in terms any child could understand. The plan is still working.

A Crucifix that looks like it will drip on your shoes: this is Catholic, and as an Anglican I sometimes thought such items a little “over the top.” But I’m not an Anglican any more. Verily, I have come to think that Christianity itself may be in bad taste, and that Christ showed this by his own dripping. It is in the worst possible taste to explain this, which is why I often try.

But again, taste comes only tangentially into the heads of the proprietors of shopping malls; if anything does get in there. They all had nativity scenes through Advent — their Christmas shopping season — until quite recently. These helped put people into the “Christmas spirit,” of reckless spending, reconfiguring guilt for doing bad things, to guilt for not buying enough stuff for your “loved ones.”

Today that is trumped by “the spirit of the age,” and businessmen will endanger their own sales statistics to conform with the coolness that the satanists demand. By the Catholic Herald I was just apprised of the latest ban in Scotland. Messrs Thistle Shopping Centre in Stirling “prides itself on being religious [stet] and politically neutral,” they announced, in having their crèche removed; a reminder that Pride is a mortal sin.

And Messrs Facebook blocked a picture of Santa Claus, kneeling at the crib of Baby Jesus, on the grounds that it was “violent or graphic content.” There is no accounting for sanity among such people. We are increasingly under the keystroke of Internet censors who are — if I may use a colloquial expression — batshit insane. Happily, they still get sporadic resistance; but not the more powerful and constantly escalating resistance that could put them out of business.

When a department store in this town cancelled the crèche in its most prominent display window — as quietly as it could, twenty years ago — a friend noticed, and wrote to the boss. When he received the usual slimy, boilerplate reply, he chopped up his “Hudson’s Bay” credit card, and mailed the pieces back. He was able to persuade many friends to do likewise.

I do not dispute the right of the capitalists to make their own corporate decisions. But we have the right to drive them into bankruptcy, and should use it more robustly.

Devices of enslavery

“Without acknowledging how pernicious and far-reaching liberalism’s reach really is, there is little hope for upending it.”

I love a man who will use the word “pernicious,” and not care who hears. Thus I love Richard Greenhorn and the other gentlemen (are there no ladies?) who contribute to the website, American Sun. Our reading today, for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, will be this one, here, forwarded to me by a priestlie correspondent this morning. I applaud this piece because it is just what I would say, were my talents and skills not so cruelly limited.

Many years ago, having returned to Greater Parkdale from fairly extensive travels, and having rented quarters, in Chinatown of course, I renewed acquaintance with several Canadian friends. They looked saddened when they visited these quarters. Unaware, perhaps, that I was then floating in Hong Kong paper gold, they noticed the absence of distractions. Within several weeks, not one but two television sets were delivered, semi-anonymously to my door. The halls being unlit in the evenings, I returned from fairly extensive drinking one night to injure myself over one of these. I hadn’t expected it to be blocking the entrance to my little suite. The problem of getting rid of first one large television set, and then another, was a puzzlement for weeks. Finally I decided to store one of them on a dresser, in the plainest view, so visitors in future could be persuaded that I already had an idiot box of my own.

Now, thirty-something years later, I gather the TVs are “improved.” While you are watching them, they are watching you. Indeed, I am told, even the toasters are tracking your movements, and will only stop if you minister to them with a sledge-hammer. Liberalism is far ahead of where it was in 1984.

“When we argue about liberalism, we are not arguing about politics per se. In the present context, we are arguing about the acquiescence to technical changes which ultimately go to the very definition of man.” (Greenhorn.)

A further motive, in offering the link, is to explain to several somewhat obtuse readers what I could mean by yesterday’s virulent attack on refrigerators. Especially the one who confessed that he loves his refrigerator, and added intemperately that he would never part with it.

A third, is to qualify my own aspirationally gallant attempts to advance the cause of Catholic Integralism. A fourth might be to extend my survey of the inevitable modern alternative to it: Twisted Nanny State.

Then what are we doing on the Internet, one might ask? Trying to be a Fifth Column.

Chronicles of outrage

The young: they are fools.

I was lucky, I learnt this at an early age. It began with the discovery that I was a fool myself. This foolishness had several dimensions, and applied to many things. Not knowing anything was only the beginning. Dependence on technology (even then) accelerated the process of mental rotting, so that by the age of thirty one’s mind was pure, refrigerated compost. Hence our saying, “Never trust anyone over thirty.”

Everywhere I look today, I see the results of youth.

I was very lucky, having, back then, some advantages not shared by most of my contemporaries. For instance, I was poor, and lacked connexions, and had the wit to drop out of school. Too, I was wandering about in strange places. Moreover, having learnt how to read, I had access to the wisdom of the ages.

Let us start with the importance of not owning a refrigerator. This was my good fortune for years on end (in an old workman’s cottage in merry London, which lacked other “amenities” as well, such as electricity, after I disconnected it). I loved that place, my nest in the big city. It was better even than the High Doganate, if that is not blasphemy.

I am utterly appalled — outraged, if thou wilt — to meet people today who put apples in refrigerators, to say nothing of the pears. Do they not know better? Or potatoes, carrots, even onions. Even garlic. Or tomatoes, and other things that rhyme. And that is just scratching the surface of public ignorance.

The list of things ruined in refrigerators, or stored there pointlessly at best, is long. It includes bananas, melons, mangoes, limes, and anything that came from the tropics. But the list also includes apricots and peaches, berries and all quasi-berries such as raspberries and strawberries, indeed, all the fruits of the temperate zone, too. God made winter to remind us of that.

Eggs do not belong in refrigerators. But neither do butters, nor cheeses, nor yoghurts, nor milk with any reasonable fat content (and “skim milk” is a fraud). Olive and vegetable oils must be kept out, together with nuts and anything made from them.

Pickles, ketchups, other condiments, belong on dark pantry shelves, along with anything shot through with the vinegar that already preserves it. This goes not only for hot sauces from the tropics, but for the peppers themselves, and all herbs and spices, whole or ground, fresh or dry. And soy-sauce.

And this goes, too, for all flours and cereals, jams and marmalades, chocolates, dried fruits or any other confection, coffee, and tea. Other foods were packed in tins for a reason, or were “canned” in sealed bottles by fair country maids.

Finally, do not keep live animals in a refrigerator, nor let your children sleep there on hot summer days. (That, traditionally, was what fire escapes were for.)

The only thing I can think of, that might benefit from refrigeration, is ice. If you insist on making ice cream, ice is a desideratum, along with lots of salt. But our clever ancestors invented ice boxes, which could operate entirely without artificial power.

I suppose an unwanted, unplugged old refrigerator could be adapted for this purpose, but it’s an ugly solution that will expose one to ridicule, if persons of sound mind suspect that it is working.

*

I also write on outrage in the Catholic Thing today. (Here.)

Rolling home

My Chief Texas Correspondent has ping’d me the link to a local TV station down there, giving live coverage of the last ride to College Station of President George H. W. Bush. Their camera is mounted on the train, and as it rolls one may glimpse ten thousand faces along the track, standing in gloom and rain, as they have apparently been doing for hours; their cars parked everywhere, their children and their friends around them; their umbrellas and their Merican flags.

From a helicopter, we see the train itself, and I notice that a freight door is wide open on one of the cars: so all may see the draped casket as it passes.

I think back over half a lifetime, of the Bush family, and the Bush presidents, the father and the son who learned from his example. I had no more knowledge of them than a passing journalist can acquire, but a strong impression from their works and words of both “41” and “43.” They were, in recollection, decent and honourable men, who did their best in good conscience, with prayers.

In all the heat of politics, through all efforts to drag them into mud, I recall nothing either of them did or said that I would characterize as cynical or sleazy. Both were in the best sense patriots, who knew they’d been elected to serve their country, and every national interest; and not a partisan faction therein. Neither lacked courage, nor when events called, the boldness that leadership often requires. I could not say this of many politicians. It has nothing to do with whether I agreed with them on one judgement or another, or whether this or that policy succeeded.

Already, Bush Senior seems a figure from another age, when the concept of “mom and apple pie” could still be imagined as uncontroversial, and formal civility in public life had not yet perished, though one could see it was in rapid decline. This is not a veiled criticism of Trump, but of the times that have produced both him, and his opponents. While I am no enthusiast for “democracy,” my gut tells me that at least among those old enough to remember, people ache for the restoration of dignity. The death of this old man reminds us, that the present carnival of malice was never inevitable.

But history is littered with dishonourable leaders, populists and demagogues, petty criminals and very ambitious criminals in high places. My look back is not mere nostalgia for a better time, or a better generation. Nothing is inevitable in our divinely-freed world, which by turns accepts and rejects the grace of our loving Creator. We have better and worse angels, to obey or disobey.

May the old parachutist rest in peace. (A sport he first tried over the Sea of Japan.) He really did “serve his country,” to the limit of his ability and understanding — a gentleman, of consistent good faith and good cheer.

We will need character ourselves, to find character in our leaders again.

Of mangles & battledores

Some ladies of my perilous acquaintance have formed a gymnastic “club.” That is to say they exercise together, upon the machines of a local commercial gym.

“A Gymkhana?” I asked, with my usual obtusion, wondering if the officers’ sports clubs of India were now admitting women. You know: anything can happen these days. A Gymkhana in Parkdale would not surprise me, though members without waxed, handlebar moustaches might strike me as odd.

“No,” my informant replied, cutting off a fruitful line of speculation and inquiry.

To make the short conversation shorter, I proposed that they found a lavoir, instead. Or perhaps a bateau-lavoir, for the shore of Lake Ontario, should the spring I had in mind within the former Village of Parkdale prove to have been permanently sealed. For though I’ve noticed that in our now conurban district, there are plenty of coin-operated laundries, I can’t find one free, old-fashioned wash-house. And this, notwithstanding plentiful immigration, and all the cultures we are supposed to have absorbed. What I had in mind was something like what they had in Europe, before all this modernity set in. Some of these lavoirs, built in the 17th century, were gorgeous beyond words.

A long, shallow, slightly raised stone tank, fed by a clean spring, then draining into purposeful ditches; the tank’s edges and dry levels designed to accommodate the washing and beating of clothes. Perhaps an elegant slate or pantile roof set over, as a matching hat. And the ladies of the community all gathered around, in their communal joy, merrily washing and beating away, in a place where they might gossip and no man overhear. (Men were strictly verboten.) Moreover, excellent exercise to keep them trim.

Well, that is just one of my suggestions for municipal improvement. Once built, a lavoir would require little maintenance, thus no need for fees, nor bureaucrats. Indeed, lots of money would be saved, if both coin-laundries and gyms could be obviated. Alas, North Americans are nothing if not non-communal, these days, so we might return to mangles and battledores instead. I find beautiful examples of these devices on the Internet, and see no reason why craftsmen should not resume their manufacture.

It is a matter of regret, to me, that my washing board went missing after my last move. For years I have been intending to replace it. I have laundry pail and blue bars of soap, but the job would be easier if I had that washboard back. Alas, in my small urban washroom, there is room to swing neither cat nor battledore, and I’m reduced to mangling and squeeging by hand. The architects of our apartment complexes did not think of this, did they, when providing such tight spaces.

In view of their ventilation arrangements, I hardly think them rational. One design flaw after another, and I can’t speak for the building standards either, in carpentry and joinery, plastering and much else. The plumbing used to work, however, until the environmentalists specified toilets that use only 80 percent of the water, but need to be flushed five times.

Still, the biggest scandal of waste, in my view, is the laundry disposition. People laze about doing nothing all day, except sitting in chairs in front of computers, often munching on Pringles. Then in a panic they realize they need exercise, or else they will die. They lay out hundreds or thousands for membership in a gym. Or take a car and pay twenty dollars for parking, when they could briskly walk a mere three or four miles, and probably arrive quicker. In the morning I see them jogging — to nowhere, loaded down with expensive gizmos when they could as easily be carrying heavy bags. I see them paying for nasty little decorative salads, yet ignoring the traditional rules of fasting and abstinence.

Sometimes I think they have all gone mad.

Of riots & rioting

It is the policy of the High Doganate to discourage rioting, even in France. My acting Chief Paris Riot Correspondent reports a lot of property damage recently; I daresay the meejah have covered it lovingly. The cause appears to be the government trying to put its books in order. “The peeple” are unhappy because they are deprived of some entitlements, and charged closer to actual costs for services. They are getting what they voted for, and of course this makes them violent.

Under pretext of environmentalism, for instance, they will be taxed more for fuel. This was unimaginable to them, and the “reforms” are overall broad enough that they are now being goaded from both Right and Left. The usual searing envy has them marching into the better neighbourhoods, torching cars, spray-painting, smashing windows, and so forth; looting, very earnestly, the upscale stores.

Tear gas, stun grenades, water cannon. The police get to have their fun, too.

For many of the older citizens, this must bring 1968 to mind. I know that I felt a twinge (ah, to be fifteen again, and wiser than those passing through their “terrible twos”). Indeed, Paris — where I once learnt the cobbles are numbered on the bottom so they may be put back in place after they’ve been used for missiles — has been unusually peaceful this last half-century. There used to be a revolution every ten or twenty years, and lesser annual uprisings over this and that. I can understand nostalgia.

But, according at least to me, the French are not unrepresentative of humankind. Give people something they cannot afford, and they may be grateful, briefly. Stop giving it, or reduce the subsidy, and they will combust. This is the fate of all politicians’ promises. It happens the faster when “the peeple” in question have been raised in a state of post-Christian barbarism, with no conception of Hell. A scant thousand years ago it was the Norsemen we feared; now it is ourselves.

Among my eccentricities is the habit of reading histories. (Shakespeare’s are wonderful; but even Voltaire’s have their moments. Thucydides, hooo!) Let me assure gentle reader I seldom research to any great depth; it is mere curiosity. By now I am convinced that nothing can be fixed. Even in Christian times, people behaved atrociously, and those with power were as bad as the rest.

I used to indulge counter-factuals, the “What if?” questions. What if some kindly and intelligent soul, with a knowledge of the consequences of human stupidity, were parachuted into an earlier time, with a remit to alter the course of history for the better. It would be like insider trading. He would probably use his knowledge to get absurdly rich, and be utterly corrupted.

But suppose he didn’t, and instead did what he could to avert some pending catastrophe. Suppose, for sake of argument, that he succeeded. In that case, I am now fairly sure, there would be an alternative catastrophe. Thanks to his good intentions, it would probably be worse. Which is sad, when you think of it, for the world could be a paradise if everyone behaved. They will not, however. It’s that “Fall of Man” issue.

For you see, gentle reader, men are what we are. Our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked. I have this from the Prophet Jeremiah (speaking through the liturgy), and ain’t it the truth?

Venite post me

Andrew, a fisherman like his brother Simon Peter, and disciple of John the Baptist, is commemorated today. It was when John pointed to Jesus, saying, “Behold the Lamb of God,” that Andrew took after Him, instead; quite literally, as we read. Jesus senses the man walking behind him, turns and asks, “What do you seek?” Andrew wants to know where He lives. Jesus says, “Come and see.”

There is a certain freshness and simplicity in the Gospels that does not seem to wear. A momentous event like this is conveyed, as the gentle morning. Or it is like falling in love. Whatever one happened to be thinking, in a nanosecond all is transformed. Soon Andrew and his brother will hang up their nets, walk away, with Jesus. They were seeking; they found.

Many things are lost to history, and cannot possibly be recovered in this world; the secret paths and correspondences; the sudden unexpected clarities. A thousand years is like a day, a day is like a thousand years. The days: who can count them?

The patron of Scotland, and of Russia, was martyred we cannot be sure where. The legends which connect him with St Andrews, and with Kiev, are projected through many later centuries by way of relics and inspirations we can neither reconstruct. We will never know in this world the route Andrew followed as Apostle and missionary, to Achaia and beyond. No academic will find all the missing pieces; there are too many of them. The image of the diagonal cross (the Caledonian “saltire”) to which Andrew was tied not nailed, so that he died slowly, preaching all the while — can itself be dated only to the High Middle Ages.

We follow Christ in awkwardness and confusion, even within faith. What were we looking for? Not what we imagined. Finally we ask Him rather than ourselves. And the answer as He turns is, “Come and see.”

In today’s Feast the world rolls from one Christian liturgical year towards another. The Advent lies ahead, in preparation for Christmas, when we will tell the “infancy narratives” again. All Christian roads lead from there, to Easter; all will convergence at His feet. Eternity leads thence: through the eye of the needle,  “Heaven’s gate in Jerusalem wall.” We cannot overlook the Crucifixion. We cannot forget that each owes a death. We are on pilgrimage towards it — whether with or without the Guide.

Already the road behind is fading. Where have we been and where are we going? Christ turns to us, saying, “Come and see.”

Compassion

“What,” a gentle reader asks, “is the alternative to empathy, if human relations are not to sink any further into barbarism?”

To which I smoothly reply, “Compassion.” It is, to my mind, the Christian alternative, and worth exploring, the more because it is active not passive, and does not involve hypocrisy, lying, constant virtue signalling, &c. One may shut up about “feeling your pain,” and instead do something about it. If nothing “medical” can be done — and this is more often the case than we will admit in our technological enthusiasms, though we do have some effective painkillers today — there is still the possibility of visiting the afflicted; of “being there”; of being servant. This has been known and promoted in the Christian tradition, lo these last two-thousand-ish years.

I am deficient on this point myself, but discovered as my parents were dying a whole hellish world of oldies abandoned even by their own children, and in the care of semi-trained professionals, only some of whom were kind and conscientious. And now the policy is to encourage “euthanasia,” quite openly instead of quietly as a crime.

Compassion for a sick dog is nice, or for sick children is a great fundraiser, but the knowledge that suffering is real, and that human suffering is unique — that from conception to lights out on the deathbed we are the earthly embodiments of immortal souls — has been undermined. Something of a misconstrued “Buddhist” attitude, that values compassion not to the human, as such, but to “the sentient” in general, seems to lie behind our current indifference to the unborn and the comatose, and by extension to “low quality of life.” God has given us a world to take care of, but too, specific people to take care of, regardless what shape we find them in. And some of these we never met, but are thrown in front of us by surprise.

Compassion is not an emotional condition, a piece of pop psychology, as empathy is. It requires an objective analysis of duty; not an “I feel,” but an “I ought.” If you happen to enjoy the company of the very ill, the charmlessly mad, the dying, then good for you, though I may think you are a bit strange. Or, a bit holy, if you have developed the capacity to see Christ in the most unlikely faces. (God does provide the means, when He suggests the end; and His Joy in the most appalling circumstances.)

People like to feel good about themselves. I do, for instance. They like to think they are “good people,” and that that is more important than a bag of doctrines. But God also gave us brains for reason, not only to be cunning animals, but for moral purpose. It is often necessary to think things through. The philosophy of “feelgood” will not stand many moments of conscious thought. Modern empathy is part of that sprawling, incoherent philosophy.

“I feel your pain!”

“No you don’t.”

“How can you know I don’t?”

“Because I am not you. And you are not me.”

That is the sort of thing one can know. In compassion, this great truth is recognized. In empathy, it is ignored.

Against empathy

[I have added a paragraph, and a sentence or two, then placed a break, in the hope of making the connexions drawn in this short Idlepiece a little more apparent.]

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Among the advantages of being an English-speaking Cath-o-lick, supposing one received some sort of education, is to know all about “fake news.” It rests on a bed of “fake history,” in turn the guarantor of fake emotions. Most of it is shallow, but some shafts are deep, and so full of (anachronistic) mud it takes pumps to get to the bottom. But once you are there, at the court of Henry VIII, for the first of his several awkward divorces, you are there.

Catalina de Aragón was not the only thing on his mind (nor the aristocratic tart, Anne Boleyn). He was an extravagant king (which made him quite popular, early in his reign), and there was terrible inflation. The court and whole nation was heavily in debt. Those were the days before the skills of English pirates had been honed on the interception of Spanish cargoes, and as the marriage had attested, there was friendship with Spain. The court had to borrow from bankers on the Continent, who were not naïve; the rich of England were being taxed threadbare. The dissolution of the monasteries, the appropriation of the wealth of the Church in England, the redistribution of lands to leading families that sorely needed buying off — I will guess gentle reader has heard parts of this story already. It is called the English Reformation, though we read it today through many centuries of spin, some of it set like spun concrete.

King Henry VIII essentially disappears from the later account, built upon the clichés of modernity. The Reformation happened because of English “feelings.” They were tired of monks and monasteries, tired of the corruption, the “clericalism,” the  tyranny. The country was tired of living in the Middle Ages. It wanted something new. Presto, the people snapped their collective fingers, and along came the Elizabethan Age. They had voted, for Progress. Onward and ever upward from there, thanks to everybody’s feelings. A more caring and sharing society emerged.

What Eamon Duffy and the revisionists have provided, for our generation, is a much better appreciation of England before the fall. It was arguably the most Catholic country in late mediaeval Europe, and among the least rebellious; the heritage of its Marian devotions may be discovered in the names of the Anglican parish churches still, if one takes a walk from, say, London to Walsingham. There were rebellions against Henry in north, south, east, west, and middle. They were ruthlessly put down. The rising Protestant spin-doctors went to work quickly, to re-characterize this past, which Shakespeare evokes in four lines of a sonnet, spoken as if from the mouth of Holy Church, over a devastated monastic landscape:

That time of yeare thou maist in me behold,
When yellow leaves, or none, or few doe hange
Upon those boughes which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d quiers, where late the sweet birds sang. …

The need for lies, to cover monstrous crimes — for lies made plausible by incessant repetition — was not an invention of the twentieth century, nor even the sixteenth. They are needed from the moment Faith turns to Politics, and Power must make its excuses to the world. In a world like ours, where “the personal is the political,” along with everything else, it is reasonable to expect lies stacked on lies, to wobbly heights. Refusing to lie is dangerous. Saint Thomas More puts his neck out and, in the words of a forgotten Russian poet, “waits patiently for the lick of the axe.”

*

Forward to the Enlightenment, and the full de-Christianization of Europe begins — when periodical journalism and the “realistic” novel arrive in England and elsewhere, paralleled by evolutions in portrait painting, in chamber music and a hundred other things; then Romanticism and the worship of “nature.” In my view, this was the age in which modern Empathy was invented, too; the “I feel your pain” that in so many ways has detached us from comprehension of all history before. (I blame Samuel Richardson! … but hardly him alone.)

Everywhere I turn I see Empathy triumphant; along with wicked cruelties, done without thought. It is the moral dimension of our secular religion; of the heart of man turned to his own devices — away from the Sacred Heart. We will be the judges of good and evil, no longer in any objective dogmatic sense, but according to our “feelings.”

The Catholic Church has been lonely, these last centuries: first bereft of her material standing in the Western world, then of her authority. Finally she succumbs, not to a Church Council but to “the Spirit of Vatican II” in its wake, and a last explosion of universal Empathy. The institution is large, will take many decades to melt away, yet its actual survival is already in a remnant, small but continuing to pray.

Give no empathy to this fallen world, and expect none from it. Cling, as it were, to your Bible and your guns; to the liturgy of Catholic Christian truth, and to the rational, dogmatic, catechetical teachings. Ignore your “feelings.” Do not give an inch.

Annals of convergence

“Remember to keep your Masarati painted flat black, nothing ostentatious or attention-getting,” writes Baggins the Pharmacist — among my most generous patrons. He adds good, solid, worldly advice to his donations, and some spiritual nuggets, too. My gratitude for him, and for each of the others who through nuisance and expense have conveyed, since Friday, their kind regards to this mendicant antiblog and its author; none go unnoticed, by my banker or by me. Our chance of surviving the winter has increased. A blesséd Advent to all! My renewed appreciation, for all who sent donations in the past; and to other gentle readers, my humble thanks in future.

*

The world continues to disregard my instructions. Its motive begins, to my mind, with the fear of individual human freedom, and the individual human responsibility that goes with that. It also fears relationships, such as with God. It cannot hear the angel of, “Fear not!” — on which the last two popes were so eloquent.

We choose to remain children, if delinquent on occasion; we agree to be enslaved, in deference to the mediocre agents of the Father of Lies — to “fit in” with the requirements of Twisted Nanny State. The collapse of true religion is the consequence of that. For God is replaced in our hearts by baubles, idols; by objects of the moment that will not, verily cannot help us when the trial comes.

But what do I mean by the Twisted Nanny State?

Communism, socialism, was and is a design to impose it by main force. The current mayor of New York, and the president of Venezuela, do not differ on that “ideal.” I see the former looks forward to a day when the City will take charge, completely, of all building and property decisions, and make everything conform to its planning policies. Thus it would become “Caracas North,” but will need a wall around it, to keep its inhabitants from escaping.

Most socialists, however, adapted their “vision” in the generation of Thatcher and Reagan, and as the Berlin Wall came down. The crackpots quickly swivelled to feminism and environmentalism, but although they are forgetting now, most came to realize that state power is compatible with the consumer society. That it works better that way.

The Chinese state ideology was also “liberalized,” under Deng Xiaoping; we began converging. The State needs mountains of wealth through taxes; the people need illusions; so why not encourage their empty consumerism?

“To get rich is glorious!” Deng declared, himself looking forward to the convergence of which I write. “A basic contradiction between socialism and the market economy does not exist,” he famously observed. “We must adopt the advanced management methods applied in capitalist countries,” he added. He persistently defined socialism not in relation to a people, but to the development of production systems. In this, he was in perfect agreement with the advocates of capitalism, American-style. He even shared their dislike of “leftwing deviationism.”

Some readers of this antiblog are under the impression that I support Trump, and oppose Deng’s successor, Xi Jinping. But to my mind they are variations on the same theme, dedicated to success in the same contest between manufacturers of GDP. Trump, the lesser genius, may honestly believe he is serving American traditions in this way, and is (as his Evangelical enablers affirm) not in conflict with faith and family. Indeed, he flatters them as allies in his own reach for power.

So does the greater genius, Xi, who is in the bigger hurry to secure national dominance. But he realizes, as we are reminded by underground news from China every day, that “faith and family” are essentially in the way. Unless they are entirely committed to the State’s power, and the State’s priorities, they are at best useless. Hence the bulldozers currently levelling the ground, that was occupied by Catholic and other churches in that realm. (With the polite cooperation of the Vatican, incidentally: negotiated by Bergoglio through the sex-pervert McCarrick, with provisions that remain “top secret.” Words cannot describe the totality of the betrayal.)

The Chinese communists want to catch up with what, in the West, mass-market capitalism has already accomplished: the phasing out of religion.

My notion of the Twisted Nanny State encompasses capitalism and communism alike. It is the creation of an immense, and necessarily Kafkaesque, bureaucratic machine, nominally both “publicly” and “privately” owned, irresistibly controlling every aspect of human life, with or without the legitimization of “democracy.” It is founded in a view of the State from which the Church (and with her, all spiritual life) has been permanently and effectively “separated” or excluded.

This, curiously, is what Pope Leo XIII identified as the heresy of “Americanism,” though it is currently advancing faster in China.

In North American history, this is what the Patriots unknowingly fought for, and my ancestor Loyalists unknowingly fought against. Today a pope in Rome, though superficially anti-American, struggles to impose a post-Christian political agenda — that of the Twisted Nanny State — on the ancient and changeless order of the Church. It is the heresy of “Americanism,” the murky legacy of rejected Modernism. One might almost call it, “The separation of Church and Church.”

O brave new world!

And yet it serves as a reminder, that only Christ can save us.

Black Friday appeal

A strong argument could be made against sending any sort of donation for the support of this Idle website, and its miserable (if madly gleeful) author. Rather, arguments, in the plural, for he often thinks of new ones. Today is the day of his annual “Black Friday” appeal for donations. Think of that: you could just say, “No!”

It is a dreadful nuisance. Once every year, he begs.

Yet he himself finds every sort of electronic banking to be a cause of bewilderment and irritation. He sacked PayPal after an altercation last winter, crawling back to them on hands and knees only after his donations flatlined. They and other transporters of cash usually charge a fee, invisible to the sender but quite apparent to the receiver. This may be only a dollar or five, but how dare they charge for their services? (Moneygrubbing capitalists, dontcha know!)

And if you send a cheque (“check” to the Mericans) you must fill it out carefully, find an envelope and what is worse, a stamp. That may not sound like much imposition, until you realize that you have run out of one or the other; and (if you are Canadian) the postmen have been on their near-statutory, pre-Christmas “rotating strike.” (We remember them from childhood, when the whole post office was under the union control of angry immigrant Scottish Marxists.)

But even before this, what is the point? The author may live well below the official “poverty line” in his jurisdiction, but he has been turning out this rubbish for more than six years, without the slightest indication that he will stop if his donations disappear. He must be a graphomaniac. He has no way to enforce payment, and from his snooty tone, he acts as if he were above it all. He even says so, in phrases such as, “Up here in the High Doganate.”…  Et cetera.

And have you noticed that he is some sort of reactionary, Catholic nutjob? Probably has a Rosary in his pocket. Before he was removed from the “mainstream media” there were innumerable complaints about his “conservative” opinions, including allegations of “human rights” violations such as political incorrectitude. The only reason he wasn’t silenced by a tribunal was their fussy requirement for evidence. But that’s changing now.

So, what if the police traced your donation, and arrested you the day after him? What would your wife say? Or your husband, should that be the case? You’d feel pretty silly, no? And the neighbours, when the men in blue come to take you away? Imagine them gathered in your front yard, shouting, “No free speech for fascists!” Possibly trampling your garden.

Moreover, he is getting old. He freely admits to being sixty-five. What if he dies while your payment is in transit? How will you get your money back, then?

There are so many reasons not to donate. For even if you’re Catholic, you should be told that this guy does not worship the pope, and is against all the recent changes in Church teaching. Nor does he worship “The Spirit of Vatican II.” He is a Latin Mass type, and what they call a Traditionalist. You know what that means: the Spanish Inquisition! How can you encourage such an enemy of Progress?

Someone once called him on television, “A man of the thirteenth century,” and how did he respond? By going all weepy and thanking his critic for “the nicest compliment I have ever received.”

Your kids need more toys for Christmas. You have other bills to pay. Maybe you are running an overdraught. And there’s some good sales on: it’s Black Friday after all.

I know for a fact that this “Otiosus” (what cheek!) is down to his last few ducats. At this rate he’ll be defaulting on rent by midwinter. He belongs on the street. Time to starve him out.

The donations button is at the top right. Do yourself a favour: ignore it.

____________

Another of this fellow’s effete rambles over at Catholic Thing today. (Here.)