I hope that you are having a beneficial Lenten period. Myself, I love this time of year. The weather and landscape are not yet consistently pleasant, but the spring breeze carries with it the promise of approaching joy. It is like one’s last day of work or class before a vacation—the entire trip awaits, and there isn’t any thought to how much time remains until one returns to the everyday grind.
Today is the fourth anniversary of Lawrence Auster’s death. I often wonder what he would have written about the passing scene. How would he have commented on the presidential campaign? And on Trump? One of Auster’s chief public policy interests—the West’s transformation due to Third World immigration—has finally entered the public debate . . . decades after he published The Path to National Suicide: An Essay on Immigration and Multiculturalism. How would he have responded to this rise in awareness—and to Merkel’s disastrous handling of Europe’s invasion, which, as the expression goes, alerted the frog that it was being boiled alive? Would his opinion of Ann Coulter have improved given her championing the cause? What would the latter day convert to the Roman communion have had to say about Francis? Would he have seen a spark of vitality in the “dead isle” after the Brexit vote? It’s a pity (for us) that we haven’t been able to read his daily miscellany of insights into life and philippics against the abominations of the age—along with occasional curmudgeonly complaints about public figures. Memory eternal!
Happy Cheesefare Week! May your last days before Lent bring you Havarti, Gouda, and sharp white Cheddar! Maybe even some Stilton for kindred spirits who are into that sort of thing.
You may be interested in a recent comment thread on one of Kristor Lawson’s Orthosphere posts, “Philosophical Skeleton Keys: Person versus Entity.” In it, I pose several questions to Kristor and attempt to work through a tangle or two, including whether the divine ideas are created or uncreated and how we might interpret the Beatific Vision from an Orthodox perspective. Kristor characteristically offers delightful insights, including a fascinating reflection of the miracles of Jesus and the proper (unfallen) faculties of a human being. Last but not least, one of Kristor’s replies led me to the etymological origin of Shrove Tuesday.
Like Father Abraham in Sodom, Kristor and his family might be the presence that has kept the Bay area from destruction in recent years—they and that remarkable temple on Geary Boulevard. Many blessings to him! And may the prayers of Saint John lead the people of that beautiful city to sanity and repentance.
This week has been interesting. I have supported Trump as president since the very beginning. To quote Ann Coulter, he had me at “Mexican rapist.” Of course, Trump is far from ideal, but what can we expect in a democratic regime? Nonetheless, the widespread reaction from many of my fellow citizens to the future Trump administration has given me pause.
Since Wednesday morning, I have been reading editorials claiming that the new Trumpenreich will involve American Cossacks (rednecks, I suppose) knocking on the doors of “globalists” in the middle of the night and whisking them off to internment camps in Idaho, rounding up and frog marching (or shall we say, “Pepe skipping”) illegal aliens to the Rio Grande, thenceforth banishing them from the land of the free and the home of the brave, and handing over every public institution of advanced learning to the local chapter of the John Birch Society to clean out the tenured progressives (pinkos) and to reform the curriculum to celebrate the oppressive white patriarchy (Western Civ.). Some immigrants of color worry about the closing of mosques or at least their infiltration by federal counter-terrorism intelligence. Hollywood celebrities opine that Trump’s immigration policies might be covertly designed to Make America White Again. Obese womyn in leather with facial and skin mutilations and unnaturally colored cropped hair croak about how Trump will roll back feminist gains and reinstate a 1950s Donna Reed nightmare—unadulterated image of rape culture and misogyny that she was.
Reflecting upon their concerns and anticipations, and then rationally considering the openly stated goals and highly probable actions of Trump’s administration, I find myself feeling dispirited about the huge disconnect. Yet, we must not allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. So, I wish Trump all the best. Even if he cannot be the American Pinochet, or even the Yankee Salazar, he may begin the project of destroying Americans’ leftist shackles. Godspeed, Mr. Trump.
Should anyone else feel the blues coming on for similar reasons, it might be therapeutic to fantasize about DJT’s handling of the media as depicted in “A Canard of a Crusade.”
O there was joy throughout the land,
And all the court was filled with glee;
The Knight has caught the Nightingale,
That dwelt within the linden tree.
I hope that you are enjoying a lovely October.
Public affairs in our degenerate society are cause for dismay, but I read a stirring account today of what the men of the West can be in “The Siege of Sziget, 1566” on Nobility.org. I was previously ignorant of this battle. In 1566, Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (whose lovely Süleymaniye mosque I visited in Constantinople) set off to settle political matters in Hungary, during which campaign the Croatian noble Nikola Šubić Zrinski caused him some annoyance. To deal with Zrinski and to open a path to Vienna, Suleiman directed his massive 100,000+ man army to take the towns and fortress of Szigetvár, defended by Zrinski and only a few thousand Hungarian and Croatian men. Zrinski’s forces defended the fortress for over a month. On the night before the final assault, the sultan died (of natural causes) and never saw the castle taken. The following day—the last day of the seige—when the Ottomans were about to break through, Zrinski opened the gates, mortared the Turkish forces, and charged. Zrinski died during this counterstrike, and the Turks overtook the castle. However, Zrinski had prepared the castle as a trap, having instructed his men to blow up the place by lighting the gunpowder stores once the Turks had invaded. And so it happened.
Read the linked account or look up other articles about the siege. The story is so wonderfully heroic that I doubted its veracity, but it appears to be true. The episode had to have served as an inspiration for the defense of Helm’s Deep—either for Tolkien in the original or for Jackson’s interpreting the story on film. Superb. Ban Zrinski, may his memory be eternal.
By the way, the Süleymaniye mosque was completed the following year, and the great sultan never beheld it in its full splendor. Of course, I cheer for the Christian defenders of Europe, and I would gladly see the old imperial capital returned to Christendom, with majestic liturgies served in the Church of Holy Wisdom and an Orthodox emperor on the throne, but I still acknowledge the merits of the Ottoman Empire. We expect the Persians to maintain an impressive civilization, even under the Mohammedan yoke, because that is what they have always done. The Turks, however, went from being martial nomads to creating one of history’s high culture civilizations. Yes, yes, they conquered more culturally advanced folks and adopted their ways—but they did adopt their ways. The Ottomans employed Greek Christians in Anatolia, whereas more savage tribes would have slit their throats. Quite in contrast to the idiocy that we sometimes hear today, cultural appropriation is commendable when men improve themselves by learning the knowledge of others. Anyway, kudos all around in this story—awe inspiring bravery by Zrinski and his men and the impressive ambition and alexandrine vision of Suleiman.
The formidable friend of the Good and defender of good sense, Phyllis Stewart Schlafly, died yesterday. May her memory be eternal!
Ann Coulter has a lovely obituary to honor that fine American woman: “Phyllis Stewart Schlafly, 1924-2016.”
Steve Sailer’s commentators have recently offered a few aphoristic gems from the Colombian intellectual Nicolás Gómez Dávila, to which I have added some worthies:
In philosophy, a single naive question oftentimes suffices for the whole system to collapse.
The cause of democracy’s stupidities is confidence in the anonymous citizen; and the cause of its crimes is the anonymous citizen’s confidence in himself.
Being a reactionary is not about believing in certain solutions, but about having an acute sense of the complexity of the problems.
I distrust every idea that doesn’t seem obsolete and grotesque to my contemporaries.
For the progressive modernist, nostalgia is the supreme heresy.
The intelligent man quickly reaches reactionary conclusions. Today, however, the universal consensus of fools turns him into a coward. When they interrogate him in public, he denies being a Galilean.
Nothing is more dangerous than to solve ephemeral problems with permanent solutions.
Modern persons believe that they live in a plurality of opinions, whereas in fact what reigns today is an asphyxiating unanimity.
Stupidity appropriates with a diabolical ease whatever science invents.
In augmenting its power, humanity is multiplying its own servitudes.
The much celebrated “dominion of man over nature” resulted simply in an immense homicidal capacity.
The anarchy that threatens a degrading society is not its punishment, but its remedy.
Modern society works fervently to put vulgarity within the reach of everyone.
A simple fit of impatience often soon bridges the distance between utopia and murder.
Modernist mentality is the daughter of human conceit inflated by commercial propaganda.
Many love humanity only in order to forget God with a clear conscience.
Rather timely untimely observations, no?
Christ is risen! I hope that my fellow Orthodox had fruitful Holy and Bright weeks. Enjoy the festive season—and the spring.
I have several accumulated links that I would like to share, but today I recommend Bruce Charlton’s “Ingwaz - the metaphysics of ‘-ing’, of polarity.” As is often the case with Charlton’s musings, I found the post extraordinarily insightful. Following a clear, brief exposition of what I would like to call Realism 201 (τὸ γὰρ αὐτὸ νοεῖν ἐστίν τε καὶ εἶναι), Charlton explains:
So the division of inner mind and outer reality/ nature is nonsense; we are always and inevitably involved in everything we ever consider by thinking.
However, this thinking can be (usually is) something of which we are unaware. We therefore tend (unthinkingly) to regard the ‘outside’ world as if it was independent of our thinking. We tend to suppose that the outside world is real and solid, while our thinking (which in reality is involved in everything we know or imagine about that outside world) is merely ephemeral and pointless.
This is because if we divide thinking from the outside world, thinking dies - it becomes static, inert, it stops ‘-ing’ and is a mere dead specimen (‘thought’). What is really happening is that we have started thinking about a situation where there is no thinking, and are unaware that in thinking this we have not actually imagined a situation where there is no thinking - we are merely unaware of the thinking that is engaged in imagining it!
This is the modern condition. Modern analysis is unaware of - and denies - the pervasiveness of thinking at all times and in all situations. This state of unthinking doubt about thinking can be called cynicism.
So, the first move is to become aware of our own thinking in any and every situation - to recognize that everything involves thinking - we are therefore always engaged with everything, involved with everything: there is no objective alienation.
But is thinking valid? That is the fear that haunts cynical, nihilistic modern man. The fear is that - even though it makes no sense and cannot be done to use thinking to doubt the validity of thinking; maybe thinking is not valid anyway - maybe we just live in an un-avoidable delusion? The idea accepts that it makes no sense to be thinking about thinking being ‘unreliable’ - but maybe that is true anyway!
This cynicism, I believe, is the modern condition; it is a fear rather than a philosophy, it is a cynical suspicion that there is really no purpose, meaning or reality - and this state was facilitated by Natural Selection which seems to have ‘discovered’ that that is how nature works. This is untrue, and makes no sense; but the effect is rather to implant a fear, a suspicion that it might all be a delusion than to make any kind of logical point.
That has been the point at which Western thought has been stuck for more than 200 years - the fear that everything we think we know about everything comes from thinking, and that thinking - the very basis of knowing itself - might be a circular system of unavoidable but nonetheless false assumptions.
This places Man into an existential state where he does not know where to start in escaping. Once he has come to doubt thinking, then he cannot get out. All he can do is try to manipulate his emotions so as to feel better, here and now.
Yes! Brilliant. Myself, I have wrestled with this very illogic since my undergraduate days, knowing (abstractly) how absurd it was—but nonetheless remaining a slave to the fear. As I was reading the post, I thought, “Indeed, it’s demonic.” And, of course, Charlton nails it. He likewise notes how most modern men adopt a cynical attitude toward the most fundamental questions but casually and bovinely follow the herd when it comes to the venerated venereal idols of the age. Fortunately, I was cynical enough to want to follow the nihilistic path to its conclusion—and I realized that such was pure, hellish madness—the ultimate (and existential) reductio ad absurdum. My firm and absolute confidence in Platonism co-exists with—perhaps depends upon—an awareness of what its rejection ultimately entails, and I am not willing to consider that path any more than I have. My accompanying daemon shouts, “NO!” And, by grace, I hearken unto it.
A few weeks ago on my mother’s birthday, anthropologist Henry Harpending died. Steve Sailer wrote a thoughtful obituary of sorts for him on Taki’s Mag that also reminds us that we live in interesting times: “The Scientist vs. the SPLC.” Sailer also commemorated the man on his blog by quoting Harpending’s lively account of hunting Cape Buffalo: “Henry Harpending, RIP.” May his memory be eternal.
I suspect that his University of Utah replacement will not follow in his footsteps. It’s sad how often I have occasion to think, “Sic transit gloria mundi,” but that has probably been true for most men throughout history. It’s even sadder how often I wonder whether we are entering a new dark age.
When I was growing up, the adults in my world seemed pretty unanimous in thinking that defacing a dollar bill in any way was against the law. Later, I started noticing more and more writing on bills, and I eventually concluded that the illegality of defacing currency must involve counterfeiting. “Call Brandy for a good time” or “Cheeseheads Rule!” clearly are not attempts to trick anyone about the value of the bill upon which they are written. I assumed that those tut-tutting adults were just generalizing a specific prohibition from confusion. So, I read the following article on McClatchyDC about what Americans may do with their dollar bills with much interest: “Ben & Jerry’s co-founder tempts Secret Service by stamping messages on money.”
As I read the story, I thought about how such controversies should be the meat and potatoes of politics. For both sides (the Secret Service and StampStampede.org) have reasonable positions that are grounded in our law and traditions, though each proceeds from and focuses on a particular perspective and interest. Issues and disagreements like this are intrinsic to human society. Unfortunately, they seem so petty to us latter day Americans because our political arguments have shifted toward fundamental principles. In the Kulturkampfalter, our society debates its very understanding of the Good; the dominant American beliefs about morality and human nature are “to be decided.” This is a sign of profound national sickness. In a healthy society, Ben Cohen’s challenge to the Treasury would be front page news.