Essays in Idleness

DAVID WARREN

A backward glance

One cannot retrieve people from the dead: not family, not lovers, not friends. This will not come as news to most of my gentle readers, though some (me, for instance) may be infected with romanticism. The Greek myths and legends are ruthless with people like us. It is why I respect them. For centuries before the Judæo-Christian traditions both conquered and melded with theirs, they were the West’s torchbearers of truth. They told us of the impossibilities, and they prepared us for irretrievable death. They could not tell us of the conquest of Death by Love, because they could not know it yet; but they did know what it was not. They — the Greeks with their legends — were not just pessimistic. They were heroic pessimists.

Orpheus descends into Hades to retrieve his bride, Eurydice. In the account we read in Virgil’s Georgics, the point of the tale is already slightly smoothed, blunted. Orpheus has made the mistake of looking back on her countenance, when he is almost home. He has emerged in the sun, but she is still in the shadows. As he looks back, she recedes, disappears; she is now lost forever. In modern “education” we used to weep for the tragedy. He almost succeeded. It is a tragedy, strictly in the Roman pagan sense.

But it was a tragedy in the Greek sense, first. If we go instead to Plato, and listen to the aristocratic Phaedrus in the Symposium, we learn that Orpheus was thoroughly in the wrong, in his attempt to retrieve Eurydice. He was bound to be punished. His mistake was not a technicality. His living descent into Hades was a challenge not only to the gods, but to nature, and to the truth of things. His love for Eurydice, so affecting in his mournful dirges — moving everyone to tears — was not true love. A coward, he would not die for it.

Hades has presented him with a wraith, in Eurydice’s outward form. Inevitably, this illusion would dissolve in the sunlight. And the fate of Orpheus was now set — the fate of an eloquent softie, who loves an imaginary woman — a woman he had created from the start. He will die at the hands of the real ones he rejected. He will be torn apart by the Maenads, as by wild beasts. His lyre will be destroyed. This is the fate of our shallow romantic star; the pretty boy whose lyre and whose voice had once been an enchantment.

Boethius deals with that backward gaze, in the Consolations of Philosophy. We who seek to lead into the light of the upper day — we triumphalist philosophers — are bound to look back into the Tartarean cave. And when we do, the clarity of our “vision” will be obscured; then ruined, totally. To guide we must be guided; or all will be lost.

Rilke, the “German Orpheus,” in writing his “mystical” Sonnets to Orpheus — as a grave-marker to a beautiful young girl — tries, I think, to recover the romance from Plato’s wonderful wreckage. Can poetry be divine?

Yes, he seems to answer, yet he cannot escape the No. Robert Musil somewhere tears Rilke apart, for his very accomplishment: an achieved perfection, that nothing underlies. Rilke is a magnificent modern (“the Saint Francis of the will to power,” another of my heroes called him). He creates the fabulous appearance of a “there” where there is no there. (I love Rilke, incidentally.)

We use Greek myths to escape from Christian reality. The Germans have been doing it since Goethe and Hölderlin; and yet, to my mind at least, without a final conviction. Goethe went Apollonian, Hölderlin went mad. Rilke brilliantly hovers. For when we look back upon the Greek imagination, we should see something that oddly anticipates the revelation to come, in which “true love” does, actually, triumph over death.

The Greeks said everything that could be said, short of this paradoxical revelation; Saint Paul brought them the key to it.

Repeat after me

Here is a fun fact for gentle reader. Without “fossil fuels,” Canada would be uninhabitable.

This is not a “rhetorical” assertion. The human body cannot endure, below a certain temperature. It varies between individuals, but when it stays below freezing for an extended period, the depopulation becomes universal. True, winter coats can help to delay the inevitable.

And true, our Indians and Eskimos could live here, in very small numbers, with wood fires and other technology of that sort; and bully for them. But thanks to coal, oil, and natural gas, there are probably more of them today than when the white man (boo! boo!) arrived. You see, even in Iqaluit they are now living in heated buildings.

Well, I am on record speculating that God put the polar bears here for a reason: to warn migrants off. And then he gave us Justin Trudeau, in case anyone hadn’t got the message yet.

But He also put extraordinary quantities of “fossil fuels” under the ground, in case we insisted. And we could all pray, that Justin Trudeau’s hair will fall out. When he looks in the mirror, his narcissism will take such a hit, that he will retire from politics and go into hiding. (I owe this suggestion to a gentleman from Nebraska.)

My Chief Texas Correspondent, who likes Canada for some perverse reason, quotes a piece by David Yager that he found somewhere:

“In the past twenty years, millions of Canadians have chosen to mentally leave Canada and relocate their minds to a fantasy northern country that can somehow wrestle the global climate change monster to the ground singlehandedly. This will be accomplished by a genius combination of virtue signalling, carbon taxes, renewable energy subsidies, expanded government, important conferences, passionate retelling of the enormity of the challenge, and ensuring that pension funds, mutual funds, and universities don’t own shares in fossil fuel companies.”

Down Stateside, a new president is taking a deep draught of this “climate change” kool-aid. Granted, it is usually warmer there, and people may survive in states like Texas. But let me guess they won’t be driving electric cars.

For it is a little-known fact — among progressive environmentalists and urban-dwellers generally — that batteries do not generate power. They have to be loaded, as it were, and after huge government subsidies, the solar generation of power has yet to reach one percent. There is hydro, but we’ve dammed everything already, except our toilets. There is clean, improved nuclear, but progressives are too superstitious to touch it. The amount of nuclear waste is already far exceeded by the landfill of solar panels, which contain a witch’s brew of rare, poisonous chemicals, and need replacement every few years.

In order to make these “sparky cars” move, we must generate huge amounts of electric power — overwhelmingly from coal, oil, and natural gas. And this is less efficient than using “fossil fuels” directly. Net of transmission losses, we will have to burn a lot more.

High-tech windmills also increasingly scar the countryside, killing off our bats and birds at an unconscionable rate, while generating landfill on the solar scale for a power supply that falls to zero when the wind isn’t blowing.

Perhaps I have overused the term, “batshit insane.” I need to research some elegant variations.

And did you know, that carbon dioxide is an essential constituent of our planet’s atmosphere? It is at historical lows, if we consider the long history of this planet before yesterday: a fraction of what it was in prehistoric times when the world filled with life. The Amazon rainforests need it to grow. Ditto for other plant life. We hose it into greenhouses to make our tomatoes grow bigger and faster.

One could know these things; or think that soymilk and quinoa grow under the pavement out behind the brightly-lit Whole Foods supermarket, while we are guzzling our fair-trade Starbucks. Good luck to the people who are “following the science” to the latter conclusion, and have forgotten to factor in the petrochemical styrofoam and shrink-wrap.

The sad thing is that these virtue-signallers are numerous in cities, and most of them have the vote.

Chronicles of hirsute

“I don’t want a covid vaccine. I just want an effing haircut.”

The speaker is a dear man, once a tax accountant or something awful like that. Well, try to think of Saint Matthew. And like the Apostle, my correspondent has come around. Now, at the respectable age of eighty-seven, he hates the gummint as only the knowledgeable can hate it. Slightly deaf in his advanced maturity, he is blessed with half-Maltese descendants who speak very loud; and in the face of our seemingly perpetual, and mostly contrived, “crisis,” he observes that, “The Rosary is the only way out.”

For the irreligious, there are other, partial remedies. Telling the truth is highly offensive to the liberal, progressive types. It won’t do you any good to annoy them, but it is fun all the same, and sometimes they forget to punish you.

I’ve never met this correspondent, although he lives not far away. But as I have indicated, I love him dearly, and eagerly turn to his emails for each new instalment of diary and memoir. Indeed, I am blessed with other correspondents who “keep me in the loop” of their lives and adventures. I am a wretched correspondent in return, but a voracious reader, and quite touched when anyone trusts me. When quoting, of course, I do not give their names and addresses. But by now I’m sure the RCMP has files on all of us, which they share with the FBI.

Most are optimistic, in the sense of mildly indomitable; but also optimistic in the sense that they think the Batflu will end, whenupon things will return to “normal” (whatever that was).

A priest forwarded a link that alarmed him. It was from Israel, and explained that international travel will not be deemed safe until some time in 2024 — by when the whole world (including Antarctica) may have reached “herd immunity,” by multiple redundant tests. This, according to bureaucrats in Israel — who are not among the world’s most anal-retentive.

Sir Priest asks: “What is the point of living in a crumbling imperial civilization if the goodies are no longer within reach?”

My own sense is that the Batflu will “just go away,” like other plagues, at its leisure; probably quicker than the Spanish Flu, which was forty times worse. (Another year of it, slightly more or less; possibly less with the dangerous vaccines.) But the lockdowns and restrictions will not end. Our gummints love them so much, that with the help of the “health nazis” (no apology) they will extend them indefinitely, on one excuse or another. There is always a Doktor Fauci for hire.

Did you know he is paid better than the President of the United States? Though if you count perks, the President comes out ahead. For instance, Fauci still lacks a fleet of helicopters.

“Climate change,” too, while it is B.S., offers endless opportunities for the control freaks. And vast populations have proved they can “adapt.” Natted States Canada grow every day more like a less successful Red China. (Our “social credit” system is already coming in, courtesy Big Tech.)

So yes, no more goodies.

But, I assured him, the Catholic Church will survive — the way it does in China.

In praise of nutjobs

Some years ago, I participated in a vast rightwing conspiracy (there were three of us), to insinuate the word “nutjob” into American newspapers. This was to replace the words “nutbar” and “nut case,” along with any cognates. “Nutter” could be used on an abbreviated further reference, but “nuts” was discouraged as a subjective completion. If you meant insane, you should have said so. If you mean “differently opinionated,” say nutjob. And always affectionately.

Anglophiles to a man, although 67 percent of us were American citizens, we conspirators set out to subtly alter public attitudes towards jolly fanatics and the more entertainingly crazy. Rather than implicitly condemn their eccentricities, the word would present them as a source of redemptive mirth, and an (underestimated) intellectual resource. Too, there was the question of free will. Where “nutbars” were presented as if they were victims of some disease, or disorientation, externally imposed — a “nutjob” was a self-made man. He could wear buttons proclaiming, “Proud to be a nutjob,” or, “Nutjobs rule, okay?” Although, being a nutjob means never having to boast.

All of our great artists and scientists began as nutjobs; and the greatest remained so to the end. Unsatisfied with the glibness of so much human enterprise, they ignored, or defied, demands for public conformity. They would not be regimented in a shallow tradition, who would be loyal to a deeper one.

I was thinking this while watching a lecturer, immaculately besuited as a concession to his audience, but in bare feet. Why wear shoes if you despise them? Why, for that matter, wear a Batflu muzzle, when you know it is useless against the plague? Why get a haircut, when all the barbershops have been closed down by the health nazis?

I mention minor eccentricities, because they are misunderstood. As I argued at greater length (in the Idler, long ago), there is a common misconception that eccentricity is a product of absent-mindedness; of trying to do things at half-attention. But the truth is quite the opposite. I have observed that the most unusual behaviour comes from doing things with much more attention than “normal” people will devote to a task. It comes from not taking the commonplace for granted. It is radical, in the sense of returning to first principles.

As an admirable Australian lady reminds, the place to live is beyond the pale. It may be lonely out there, but at least it is not false.

Of course, the nutjob will be mocked. This seems inevitable, given the caliber of the persons who are mocking: people of narrow internal diameter. They become unsettled, in the presence of originality or genius. It is a nervous laughter. Let us widen them, if we can.

We have, throughout the West at the moment, an unprecedented clampdown on persons who think for themselves. The essence of that snoring “wokeness” is a kind of allergic reaction to intelligence in any form. It begins with the suppression of free speech and religion, but ends where such things always do, in the silence of the grave.

But as a true reactionary, I favour — dogmatically prefer — a society that can cope with reason, and faith; which does not call for the Gestapo, when someone tells a good joke; who are inclined to celebrate, rather than to imprison their nutjobs.

Of parasites

Up here in the High Doganate, we are reactionaries, not squishy “conservatives.” True, there is only one of us up here, but I speak for the majority. The number of politicians we trust is even smaller. We don’t think there is a political solution, to anything.

There are, however, better and worse, among the unacceptables, and that is why we came to heartily endorse that Trump fellow: the least political among major politicians. But let us not get carried away. His political outlook is rife with unexamined progressive notions. His conservatism is itself rather modest. It is something that he has been acquiring, and it will take him at least five more electoral cycles to possess. He might be ready for office in 2040, as a compromise candidate with the squishies of the Left. At his present pace, I don’t think he can hope to become a genuine reactionary until about anno 2200, and by then he may not even be running for office.

Meanwhile, to his credit, he has served as a fat bludgeon against the vilest beasts in the rest of his trade. For how can one look upon such lowlife as Biden, or Harris, or Schumer, or Pelosi, without acknowledging their moral stench? Compared to them, Trump is a holy innocent, doing only what he thinks right and necessary.

But nature is not full of venomous snakes. Look deeper, through the microscope, and perceive a world of “fleas, flukes, and cuckoos,” as the naturalists say; of mites and tongue-worms who invade society’s very bronchial tubes; of Protozoa destroying the red corpuscles in our veins; flagellates dispersing into every organ; trypanosomes burrowing right into our bone marrow. Gentle reader cannot begin to enumerate the illegal immigrants, passing through our human walls; and as one of those naturalists said of the birds, they are “aviating zoological gardens.”

Which is not to be uncharitable. Parasites have to live, too, and even the greatest parasites have parasites on them, and within, descending through the great chain of being. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, said someone pretending to be Nietzsche, and my own family doctor (whenas I was a child), said we must learn to look at things from the parasites’ point of view. They’re just trying to get on in life, and if their behaviour results in their host’s death, they have rendered themselves homeless.

Indeed, this is the problem with the Batflu, so far as I can see. If it had really been contracted in a wet market, it would probably have been harmless, or at worst, perhaps killed a few diners, here and there. But being a human-created thing, from an American-sponsored laboratory in Wuhan, all bets were off. The researchers there are dedicated to enhancing viruses, for study. The Doctor Frankensteins are often the first victims, in their attempts to create new life.

Or, to be fair, the parasites are their first victims. No self-respecting parasite aspires to be a killer, like Governor Cuomo of New York. He didn’t actually intend to wipe out so many inhabitants of that state’s nursing homes. He was merely inattentive, except to the celebration of himself.

On the much smaller scale, most parasites are like this; except that they omit the political grandstanding. They are part of an ecosystem, and when they foolishly bring it down, they must look for a place in the revised one. It isn’t always easy to be a parasite. Have a thought for them.

As a reactionary this appeals to me — charity towards one’s worst enemies — even though many of them are appallingly squishy.

The Cilicia

There follow some confessions of a white man. (Notice the lower case.) He wasn’t born yesterday, as I now remember. It is as if I once lived on another planet: Earth, it was called. It was different from the planet I live on today.

Under lockdown from our current commie masters (who call themselves “Progressive Conservative” in Ontario), I trawl the Internet sometimes. Last night I found some stray items on the motor vessel, Cilicia. She was built in the Fairfield works at Govan on the Clyde, in 1937. Converted to an armed troop carrier through the War, she reverted to the Anchor Line, soon after; and was refitted for commercial service on the India run. For another score of years she sailed, with passengers and some cargo — Liverpool, Gibraltar, Malta, Suez, Aden, Karachi, and Bombay, then back again; unvaryingly. In her old age she became a training ship at Rotterdam, under the name Jan Backx. In 1980 she was scrapped at Bilbao. For her final run, she was named the Cilicia again.

We (my family) boarded her at Karachi, for our return home from my childhood in Pakistan. Our home was not actually in England, and so there was a further voyage on a Cunard liner, across the Atlantic. How I remember when the scent of conifers reached my nostrils, in the Strait of Belle Isle. For once upon a time, there was a Canada. Later it receded, towards another galaxy.

My father had been a teacher in the College of Art, at Lahore; an institution founded by Rudyard Kipling’s father. He was a white man. My mama was white, too, with blazing red hair. So was I, for biological reasons; and my little sister, although she was blonde. Adored by his (all-male) students, papa stands out in old photographs, tall; a white man ever surrounded by brown men, all wearing white shirts; papa looking professorial and yet young, so young.

The other white man in the college was Principal Sponenberg (an American, but British Imperialist at heart). In the one photo of him I still have, he is rubbing it in with a cigar, in what looks like a Hawaiian shirt.

I can only hope that any BLM members among my gentle readers have averted their eyes.

The ship was very large, for a small person. It was my first experience of being truly at sea. I remember the docks of Karachi, fading away. Crossing the Indian Ocean, there was a gaggle, or choir, of little pasty-fleshed Anglo-Indian girls, dressed in sailor costumes. They were on deck, singing a song whose refrain was, “And when I grow up I want to be a sailor.” (Forget it, you’re a girl, I thought.) They were nevertheless enchanting, to my eyes; although, sixty years later, I still can’t get that infernal jingle out of my head.

Aden was still a British Protectorate then, and not yet a socialist hellhole. Egypt was full of trinket salesmen, who forced their way aboard. I slept through Malta. Gibraltar was a tremendous uplift to the spirit. The Bay of Biscay was designed to make one seasick. From Liverpool, we would take a train to London, which in its immensity was very heaven. On the upper deck of a London bus, I told my mother that, “This is my city.” But I was prognostic in only a minor way.

We had gone out to Pakistan in aeroplanes. My father knew ships — real passenger ships, for getting you somewhere — wouldn’t be around much longer. This wasn’t the last ride, but the end was near. There will be no ships to Mars. But once there were ships to India.

Great minds are interchangeable

The more one knows, the more one discovers that he doesn’t know. This is what makes “settled science” such a farce. You may take a photograph of nature, and think that you have captured it, but nature keeps moving. It has not agreed to hold still for you.

I noticed this in the days when I could use my balconata. No photographer, I was trying to depict a particularly glorious sunset, with the help of watercolour pigments. There was a moment when I felt quite chuffed. It seemed to me that I had indeed captured something, for a change. But by the time I had taken another deep draught of tea, the whole vision had been transformed. The colours themselves had been altered, and redistributed, dramatically. Now they were even better. It was as if God were telling me to give up the competition.

It is easier to follow a murmuration of starlings, or a school of fish. They may congregate in huge numbers, but having done so, they behave as a single, highly complex, beast.

Or a tree-snake, who combines the complexities, within the one reptile. I watched one climb a tree in a video. His body looped around the trunk, and every inch of it adjusted independently, wiggling the whole snake up to the branches, where the birds’ nests were. It was a dazzling rumba.

The geese in these parts — sophisticated birds, with Tory inclinations — have formal social conventions. Once or twice a year, they gather in their thousands, in coherent family groups, forming herringbone patterns. They skirt Humber Bay at an altitude of six feet or so — always counter-clockwise. It will be a day when the Bay is placid, so that its surface doubles them in its mirror. This procession circles, three miles or so, then they all ascend at the west end, to fly eastwards. Twice, from that same lamented balconata, I then saw them descend for another go-round.

(Ahem: the question is not why, but how did they decide on this encore?)

Who tells geese to do things like this? The whole activity looked quite gratuitously ceremonial — and grand, as any good ceremony should be. How did they all get the same idea, at the same time, to fly in from all over the Lake, and organize themselves so elegantly?

As I was just telling an Argentine correspondent: “great minds are interchangeable.” (Suddenly they all make the same mistake.)

On Friday, I mentioned Alister C. Hardy (1896–1985) in my Catholic Thing column: the great marine biologist, whom I have been rereading during Batflu lockdown. All his life, but more and more as it proceeded, he was fascinated by such collective phenomena — happening in immediate space and time, but also over long expanses of time through integrated evolutionary adaptations.

Recently, for instance, we have seen colonies of honeybees, discovering how to repel murder hornets (Vespa mandarinia). None have graduate degrees in chemistry, or physics, according to my best information; yet they unerringly devise new defences that should require them. Perhaps our honeybees have been receiving emails from their Asian kin, for hints cross the Pacific in record time. But the hints themselves are quickly revised, for circumstances over here. My favourite is collecting dung around their hives. They’ve learnt what scents drive murder hornets away. But which scents, in the dung? Their human students are still at the shovelling stage.

Predators also use science to assist them. One thinks of the “community organizer” whales, that combine to shape a school of herring into a ball, then shrink it until it is very dense, whenupon one of the hungry whales abruptly swoops in and gobbles them all down. Are they smarter or dumber than Newfoundland fishermen — who absolutely refuse to hunt in submarines?

Mr Hardy (once perfessor at Oxford and elsewhere) thought there must be telepathic forces at work, of a kind he could only hope to explain by their effects. Nature is populated with creatures who just know things they have no conceivable way of knowing; for the individual creatures are far less clever than the Newfoundland fishermen I’ve met.

But our human reason is one step up on the plant and animal kingdoms. We have the capacity to deny what we know. I don’t think the other creatures can do this. Humans, alone, have the ability to make fools of themselves, and achieve disaster, even when everything is going their way.

The eighth day

I suppose that I could call today, “the Octave of Rant Sunday,” thus bestowing a name upon the Sunday before. Gentle reader may have noticed my plan for Canada in the last week of January. In the Bugnini Liturgy, we are probably already in “Ordinary Time.” (I haven’t checked.) The liturgical colour is environmental green. (Okay, now I’ve checked.)

My scheme would break this up a bit. Proposed liturgical colour: back to Christmastide white. My overlay may be forgotten in the coming week, which contains Candlemas — a conclusion to the Christmas season, in the liturgy before and after Bugnini’s. It marked, or rather marks, an inflection, or tipping point, between our celebration of Christ’s appearance in the world, and the coming Lent that will anticipate Easter.

All of this may seem irrelevant, now that Holy Church has gone online. For people like me (a characteristic ranter) the Internet hardly exists, and what I write on it is written on water. The Mass has become, for many, something you may watch on YouTube, in moments taken from Batflu worship. “Make yourself comfortable,” I heard, on one of these programmes.

My favourite railway-platform poster for The Times, many decades ago when I lived in England, was jet black, with a logo below a slogan, reversed out of it in white. The slogan was: “Slip into something less comfortable.”

This is what I aspire to, when writing on water. The message will only be visible for a moment, or less. I wish I could say that for Bugnini, but he didn’t say it, before passing on; alas Pope Paul VI didn’t say it for him. Instead, his Novus Ordo has made a lasting contribution to Catholic confusion, and evaporation. I have come to think of the Vatican II reforms, distantly remembered from the 1960s, as the ecclesiastical equivalent of Roe v. Wade. But of course, the analogy isn’t exact. Abortion, after all, only kills babies.

Back then, I wasn’t a Catholic; I was being raised in a post-Protestant home. By 1969, I was flirting with Atheism. But I did know some Catholic children (my liberal parents had told me to play with them), and later, as I came to know more, and older Catholics, I sensed their discomfiture with post-Catholicism. Within a few years, however, I dived into “organized” Christianity, at the deepest, Anglican end I could find. Call me a curmudgeon. Or a fish. (I swam towards Catholicism, deeper still.)

By now, we live in total confusion. For the Church, it has become the preferential option; for society, a new way of life. These Idleposts are too short to document this degeneration, thank God. I am, myself, merely confused most days. Rant Sunday, and Rant Week, are my tiny contribution to recovery.

The ammunition shortage (a rant)

There are, I once discovered as an editor, essentially two kinds of hack. One can write, but has nothing to say. The other has something to say, but can’t write. Really there is a third: for the largest group can’t write, but has nothing to say, either. In theory, there is a fourth group; but they are hard to find.

The people on this planet are, in the main, fairly ineffectual. This is certainly true of writers, but there are probably parallels in the other disciplines.

I was going to write today about the ammunition shortage, but then realized that I know nothing about it. There is a consensus, at least among rightwing bloggers, that while Americans are clattering with guns, the gun stores can’t keep up with their ammunition orders. I supposed the problem was with foreign suppliers; but no, a correspondent tells me this was one industry not “offshored” to China. Whether he, actually, knows any more than I do, I leave between him and his personal arms dealer. He said he was only shopping for a few thousand rounds. Surely any hardware store on Main Street could supply him, I thought; unless he was asking for fancy.

My own ballistics training fell short of Royal Marine. If I had to confront a dozen bad guys, with a machine gun and a belt-fed magazine, I would probably miss them all. As Obama used to say, back in the days when he was inciting violence, “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.” As his wife added, “If they go low, we go high.” My guess is, shooting somewhere in the middle makes more sense. But what use is the gun, anyway, if it isn’t loaded?

Some years ago (let me not say how many), I was shamefully flirting with a ridiculously blonde young lady; who promised to take me to a gun range for practice. I was attracted to her for other reasons to start (I am a shallow male), but her enthusiasm for guns was the clincher. She collected them; and not pointlessly pretty antiques, either. She had, for instance, something light and plastic from Israel, that could make wide holes. You could drive your jeep over it, she said, and it would still fire.

Verily, it seemed that she was flirting back. I was doing my best to present myself as an insensitive male pig (she liked that); I was implying a knowledge of firearms that was supererogatory. Imagine her disgust, when it turned out that I didn’t even own a gun; only a brass model of the Zam-Zammah that would take hours to clean, and might not discharge even then. (I wouldn’t count my chances against a real gunslinger.)

I was dropped like a malfunctioning Brown Bess.

So what can I say about the shortage of ammunition? Only that it strikes me as bad news, if we’re going to have a war. One feels naïve, and under-armed, clinging only to one’s Bible. I do have a cricket bat, for when the progressives come for me, but the truth is, I was never a good batsman. I have a hard cricket ball, but my spin-bowling isn’t quite what it was.

I can rant, however. That will intimidate them.

Cataleptic Friday

My initiation of National Ranting Week — for the last week of January — has not proved very popular so far. Less so than Mr Biden’s Executive Orders, if Fox News polls are to be believed. But great things often have small beginnings, so I will stick to blathering — forever, or until tomorrow; whichever comes first.

My proposal applies only to Canada, anyway. Natted States Mericans have no reason to rant at the moment. A modest description of reality would be adequate. A country in which at least 74 million people are designated “rightwing terrorists,” by the incoming administration; in which free association becomes the crime of “incitement to violence” — unless you actually are a violent, revolutionary terrorist — is hardly in need of rants. Simple reporting will do.

As a Czech correspondent reports: it is a country where one may consult the Bible and the New York Times every day, to see what both sides are saying. Whereas, up here, we do not even read the New York Times.

Up here in the Arctic, or down here in the banana belt of the Arctic as an Eskimo might say, we have reached a point of catatonia where, as a lawyer might add, some ranting “would be indicated.” Our Liberals have done what those Democrats do farther south, except, our Liberals generally did it not only first, but unconsciously. The opposition up here does not need cancelling. There is no evidence that it actually exists.

Perhaps we should call the country, “Catatonia” — from sea to sea to sea to sea, and then some. The Liberals once endowed it with an appropriate flag: one dried-out, red maple leaf, between two prison bars. I think it expresses the neuropsychiatric disorder in both its delirious and frenetic forms; for occasionally we do get episodes of the “I’m a little teapot” condition. But we don’t get “woke” like some other Americans. Until now, we have remained essentially zombies, even under duress.

My thinking is, that we need, periodically, a national episode of ranting; and in view of the Canadian climate, late January would be the most favourable time. It is the low point for hope, generally; a time when the winter set in months ago, when we look forward to: more winter. This was all very well when we had sleigh bells, and threw snowballs, but in modern urban life the municipal sludge just accumulates. The only fun is watching pedestrians, trying to stay vertical on the sidewalks. Months more will pass, before we dig ourselves out; or rather, we will never dig out. All will, eventually, just go away, while we are not noticing. Then we’ll have heat waves, with mosquitoes and blackflies.

Perhaps we would notice more if we were ranting. It is a way to exercise the brain muscles. One has to think: what shall I rant about?

And therefore I am doing my patriotic duty. If I can just antagonize one person in a thousand, perhaps I could get some ranting kick-started. Call me an optimist, but that is my plan.

A stretch beyond

Viscount Eady of Horton, a poet of the Ottawa Valley, and a fusspot in the cause of freedom, writes to mention Procrustes.

Those who have received any sort of education will recognize this figure from Greek legend. Procrustes was the originator of “one size fits all.” He went beyond “equality” to “equity,” as a progressive politician might say. This rogue smith from Attica had a bed, or rack, on which he tied his captives. Those whom he judged too short were stretched; those too tall had their legs shortened, with a saw. Each customer was made to fit the bed.

It was Theseus, as I recall, who solved “the problem of Procrustes,” by fitting him to his own bed.

Now, I don’t think this Biden fellow has much education. He wasted his learning years in politics: a half century as a loyal jackass of the Democratic Party. Having risen to boss, he remains a minion, doing whatever he is told by the various “commies and perverts,” at the core of that institution. The man can read, if the type is large enough, and according to news reports he can sign his name, though probably not with a Sharpie. Indeed, he has signed a record number, of Executive Orders, in his first few days as President of the United States. Or else, someone does his signature well.

He makes an unlikely Procrustes, but sometimes central casting goes rogue, too. Or perhaps they are clever, to cast a man who is constantly praising himself as tolerant, decent, and kind, in the psycho rôle. That makes the drama more subtle.

For Biden aspires to exceed his Greek progenitor. Not only will he make people “equal” — long the Procrustean policy of the Left — he will make men and women indistinguishable, too. Already he has signed the Executive Order. Biological men become biological women in his magical machine, and vice versa. Such categories as fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, uncles and aunts, &c, are also obviated in this order, and as the socialists did in Ontario (and more recently, California), little pointy-head bureaucrats go to work, reducing all legal references to “persons.” (The cones stretch them to full height.)

It is an embarrassment to them, that God made them male and female. They have long been trying to correct God’s work.

I attended a wedding in the years before the Batflu, in a Catholic church, under the occupation of Basilians. The bride, groom, and their respective parents, had begged the presiding minister to “follow the ancient liturgy.” He wouldn’t do that, but to rub it in, he called the couple “two persons.” Writing about this at the time, I said the Catholic Church was conducting “gay weddings.” But of course, these were already in vogue among most other denominations, in our brave new sexless world.

The Party of Procrustes wouldn’t have it any other way. Putting obvious men in female prisons, and letting them use women’s boudoirs, is a “no brainer” to people with no brains. To most observers, this is “a stretch.” But once the laws are rewritten, most observers go quiet.

Not this one, but let’s see what happens. I’d rather not be placed on the bed of Procrustes, myself, but am looking about anxiously. Where is darned Theseus, when you need him?

Oh, right, still in ancient Greece.

Rant week, continued

A natural development of Batflu worship, will be Public Health laws requiring that everyone be cremated. At first, these will apply only to people who are already dead. The “trendline,” as ever, actually preceded the Batflu; just as the corruption of American election laws did. But the corrupt, like the honest, need morale to feed their spirits, and inspire them into an emotional lather. The Batflu acts as a “force multiplier.”

This is a huge and, as it were, bottomless topic, in which I claim to be no theological expert. To my limited view, it can be condensed to a few thousand years of full-bodied Judæo-Christian burial customs, versus a few decades of the Hindoo and Far Eastern ones we have imported. In the West, historically, when Christianity arrives, old practices of “hydriotaphia” and so forth lapse. (See Thomas Browne.) I am surely simplifying, of course. In my narrow reading, I haven’t encountered exceptions.

Among the truly ancient — our ancestors long before Genesis was written — burial customs remain secure. When an archaeologist finds evidence of “inhumation,” he knows he is looking at a human site. It is the first sign; and verily, the proof, that he is not dealing with dead monkeys. Humans, from our beginnings, buried our dead. Who, I like to wonder, told them to do this?

I do not think the theological arguments can be clinched. The Eastern churches still forbid tampering with graves; they take the inhumation part for granted. Christ wasn’t cremated, &c. Catholics and Protestants still buried their dead, until quite recently. It could be said that Catacombs were early Christian innovations for the crowding problem. Let the economists opine.

Pagan Roman public health laws turned out to be convenient. They forbad interments within city walls. By driving their deceased out along the Appian Way, Christians could get away with marking the graves of martyrs. Christ Himself was not only crucified, but entombed just out of town.

A friend wrote with a question I am answering, to the limit of my ability. He has a spritely mother, who is in her ninetieth year. Although she still climbs fifteen flights of stairs to her apartment (to shame her son, he suspects) she finds herself thinking about death more often than she did at nineteen.

My own parents, not being Christian, couldn’t see the point of any argument for Christian burial when they made their funeral plans. I tried it on anyway, but they smiled me off. (This can be slightly better than laughing.) They made arrangements, and left instructions, to be cremated. I “washed my hands.” Then we buried the urns in the family plot; waiting till Spring in obedience to the bureaucrats.

That God can resurrect from ashes, I take as likely. But that is for God. In the Christian view, humans also have some responsibilities. Parsees and Tibetans fed the corpses to vultures; at least in the good old days. I once admired the traces of the Zoroastrian funeral pillars outside Herat. At least they were pre-Islamic.

My own mother once facetiously suggested that, when defunct, she should be put out in a garbage bag. She was being, shall we say, heroically atheist. I pointed out that her survivors could be fined, for doing that even with a defunct raccoon. It goes deeper than smug public healthies realize.

Marines risk lives to recover bodies. The authorities are still defaulting to some Christian assumptions, even though their trend is satanic.

But Batflu worship will demand a thorough scouring, starting with Trump but ending with Christ.

I’ve had enough

In the spirit of Ranting Week, up here in the High Doganate, let me quote Patrick Henry, the distinguished revolutionist from the Commonwealth of Virginia. “Give me Liberty, or give me Death,” he declared before the House of Burgesses, with Washington and Jefferson apparently in attendance. In exchange for this inflammatory rhetoric, I suppose my Loyalist ancestors would have liked to give him Death. But that was in 1775, when what we came to call the American Revolution was still at the talking stage.

A quarter of a millennium later, I think the British were right to offer the Continental Congress something like the “Dominion” status they later offered the Canadians: practical independence, without the blood and gore. But in human nature — a subject I have studied — a point comes when peaceful and undramatic solutions may be discounted. The Americans, as objects of the ministrations of the minions of the late King George III, had had enough. They had even dumped a cargo of tea into Boston Harbour, when that gummint was trying to lower tea taxes. (It just wasn’t “rep by pop.”)

Ich habe genug,” as we sing in the Bach Cantata (BWV 82) — another meaning for the same words. “I’ve had enough,” meaning, I have lived long enough, seen enough, done enough and received enough; I am content — to die in the arms of Jesus my Saviour.

The modern mind, e.g. Patrick Henry’s, could not possibly associate this attitude with a realization of Liberty, and wouldn’t devote the time to try. We have been wired, since generations before him, to imagine a conflict between the Church (i.e. Jesus), and the Rights of Man. Christ Himself knew this conflict, and first distinguished Church from State. (“Give unto Caesar.”) They needn’t be in conflict, but they are not the same thing.

Liberty of the kind Patrick Henry was shouting is, finally, the cry of the trapped animal. I leave to gentle reader’s judgement, whether the animal had trapped himself. But compare Christ: “That you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” There are variants in the wording, but all make clear that His kingdom is not of this world. Gummints can offer neither truth nor freedom.

Our worldly authorities, in most jurisdictions outside South Dakota, have trapped us as animals. They have put us under control of a Public Health bureaucracy that is as laughably incompetent as it is malign. It deals with humans exclusively as bodies, and their survival as a statistical proposition; in addition to which, they lie about the statistics, and can’t count.

But we are moderns. We use the word “soul” in a purely rhetorical way, and use the rest of our Christian inheritance as trinkets for a pawn shop. These don’t fetch much, these days, when a church can only be understood as a place where viruses are transmitted.

Yet here is the mysterious wisdom of Patrick Henry. Liberty is crucial, even to the apprehension of God. Without the freedom of the truly human, we are reduced to animals. And if you trap us, we might make a fuss.