Happy feast of Saint Ambrose, one of my favorite Western saints! Also, this coming Sunday will be the feast of the Conception of the Theotokos (December 9—and December 22 as it currently falls on the Gregorian calendar).
As far as I know, we celebrate the conceptions of three persons—the Theotokos, John the Baptist, and Jesus. I always think of that fact when someone tries to justify abortion by pointing to the quickening debate among rabbinical Jews or the medieval schoolmen. Anyway, the feast of the Conception of the Theotokos started in the East and spread to the West, like so many Christian commemorations. However, the date was eventually transferred in the West from December 9 to December 8 in order to be exactly nine months before September 8, when everyone celebrates the feast of the Theotokos’ nativity. What the Westerners failed to understand was that the discrepancy was intentional, just as John the Baptist’s conception is celebrated on September 23 while his birthday is June 24. New Advent’s Catholic Encyclopedia states that some Western dioceses also celebrated the Conception of John, but they, again, transferred the feast to September 24 to make the date accord with the saint’s nativity celebration. There we see that old Western reflex to correct what it in ignorance fails to appreciate. Such reminds me of Chesterton’s fence:
In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.
The gestation period discrepancies for the Theotokos and John the Baptist are like the number of fingers that the characters have in The Simpsons or like Persian or Arabian rugs. In The Simpsons, every cartoon human being has four fingers on a hand (or less), while only God is shown with five fingers (according to the Simpsons Wiki, a production mistake—or perhaps divine inspiration!). Similarly, rugs and tapestries from Islamic cultures have slightly flawed designs. Both conventions symbolize that perfection is only truly found in God. As such, baby Mary bakes too little and baby John bakes too long, but Jesus Christ God incarnate bakes just right, from March 25 to December 25. Merry Christmas!
Kristor published a brief but wonderful reflection on sex yesterday on the Orthosphere that suits well the occasion of the Conception of the Theotokos: “Sex Matters.” The post goes beyond the important but limited discussion of sexuality that one finds in traditionalist discourse:
The ultimate end of sex – which is to say, the true end of sex - is the actualization of human souls in the lives of immortal persons who by virtue of their very existence have the option of enjoying forever the Beatific Vision, and the endless other beauties of Heaven outside the throne room. Each life that succeeds to Heaven represents an infinite increase in the realized value of Creation. A forgone human life then represents an infinite cost to the whole economy of Heaven, forever and ever. Being himself infinite, God can of course cover that defect of creaturely perfection with no problem; but for all the other citizens of Heaven, the failure to implement a single tiny life is a catastrophic injury to the wealth of glory they might have enjoyed, had the imperfection of procreative potential implicit in creation ab initio never occurred. . . .
Sex is the way God has arranged to generate gods. For all Christians, then, it’s a really big deal, almost the best thing there is.
“Sex is the way God has arranged to generate gods.” What a fantastic quotation! Downright Athanasian!
Please make sure to read Arakawa’s comment on the post, as well.
Kristor’s idea leads to many questions, including Lydia’s comment in the thread. In short, how does the principle of plenitude providentially play out when it comes to rational beings? Are the Mormons onto something when they postulate premortal intelligences, waiting for their chance to become incarnate? The blessed Origen thought it a possibility. For we all exist eternally in the mind of God, but, then, God knows from all eternity what rational agents will do and thereby creates the world accordingly. Are there unrealized souls (in the fullness of time) whom God knows, whose existence is thwarted due to human sin—or even due to the necessary limitations of creation, as Lydia’s comment implies? For any good that we creatures of space and time do means that we are not doing many other good things. Limitation requires limiting choices. Any possible world seems to fall short of the total goodness that God knows to be possible in creation. However, as I wrote in “Does Quantum Physics Make It Easier to Believe in God?,” it is not clear to me that “our world” is “the world.” Perhaps, we are just modal chauvinists, while all the rational beings whom God creates and knows do get born, though not in each possible world. Fascinating thoughts! Regardless, God is great. Have a blessed feast and a beneficial remainder of Advent!
Russia continues to surprise me. On the twentieth anniversary of the Russian constitution, President Putin made some interesting remarks in his state of the nation address today. Read The Independent‘s “President Vladimir Putin hails Russia’s ‘defence of traditional values’ in his state of the nation speech”:
In a ceremony full of pomp and circumstance, Mr Putin made a particularly thinly-veiled attack on the West’s more liberal attitudes toward gay rights, saying Russia would defend against “genderless and fruitless so-called tolerance” which he said allows “good and evil” to be equal.
“In many countries today, moral and ethical norms are being reconsidered; national traditions, differences in nation and culture are being erased,” Putin said, speaking in a gilded Kremlin hall packed with hundreds of officials, journalists and other public figures.
“They’re now requiring not only the proper acknowledgement of freedom of conscience, political views and private life, but also the mandatory acknowledgement of the equality of good and evil, which are inherently contradictory concepts,” he said.
Everything is always getting better and worse—in different places and in different ways. Good for Russia; they have had a nasty time of late, and they are ready for a rebirth. Would that day come soon for us in the West! However, I fear that we might have to go through our own version of hell first before the people are ready to repent. One would think that we would have all learnt how this whole cycle works from the Hebrews and thereby avoided many unpleasantries. Yet, one has to make his own mistakes and learn from them, it seems.
Two of my favorite cultural commentators have recently written about the “knockout game” wherein urban youth of an undisclosed ethnicity “randomly” try to knock out strangers of a different undisclosed ethnicity with one punch. Read John Derbyshire’s “It’s Obvious What the Knock-Out Game Is about” on Vdare and Ann Coulter’s “Liberals talk race and crime - and hilarity ensues!” and “Words with fiends.” Lady Ann has fun with leftist inanity, shooting down lies and obfuscation with her statistical semi-automatic. Derbyshire’s article, though, is ultimately more interesting. Derbyshire is not confused or surprised by the knockout game. He rather asks what has caused Western whites to become so craven—seemingly alone among peoples for their lack of (group) self interest. His question reminds me of the words of the late Lawrence Auster, “In all of human history, have there ever been human beings as cowardly and contemptible as contemporary white liberals?”
True to Derbyshirean form, Derb explores some theories, wherein he mentions Nietzsche. However, he does not include Nietzsche’s critique of the West, including and especially the “last man”—the human form which modern Western civilization has been cultivating for several generations. Nietzsche has more to offer on the topic; I wonder if the self destructive behavior of the modern West is due, in some part, to the drive for mastery. Having conquered the world, the successful West has perhaps become cannibalistic in its need to dominate an other—and so one’s own furnishes the perfect other. I do not thereby deny the nihilistic tendencies of modernity, the follies of individualism, liberalism, and egalitarianism, or the historical consequences of total war, deracinated industrialized society, and dehumanizing technocracy. I moreover recall the wisdom of scripture, “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Yet, the exact mechanism of such a fall and the nature of such haughty spirit likely involve many complex particularities, and the ever insightful and prophetic Freddy may contribute to a fuller understanding of our sorry lot.
The Boston Globe published yet another article last week on how contemporary parents enfeeble their entitled, over-scheduled, emotionally and developmentally retarded, socially maladjusted, morally bankrupt, spoon-fed spawn: “Snowplow parents overly involved in college students’ lives.” Several commentators in the article note that such is rational behavior by parents who do not wish to waste such a significant investment in an environment that has become increasingly hostile to learning. Yet, isn’t that the reason behind how we raise children during their formative years? If you cannot trust your child to navigate the world’s temptations and dangers by the time he leaves for college, then you have not done your job—you were too busy playing best pal to a smug tween when you should have been molding and strengthening your child’s character . . . but it is hard to do that when you idolize your progeny as your “heroes” and refuse to deliver tough love through discipline, standards, and hard lessons. Our Nerf ball, no-sharp-corners society paradoxically demands snowplow parents.
Moreover, if you are so alarmed by today’s decadent college culture, then perhaps you should have told little Timmy that you would not pay for him to go to Fornication University. You could have encouraged your little unlovable steampit of laziness and bad hygiene to go one of America’s ever dwindling institutions where learning and achievement remain the focus of college life. You could even support university personnel who fight the uphill battle in refusing to conform to the “anything goes” Zeitgeist. Instead of taking amiable Amber to Planned Parenthood during her holiday break trips home, maybe you could encourage school administrators who hold the line on single sex dormitories or on upholding traditional moral standards on campus. In summary, you could raise your children as Christians, educate them in Christian schools (at home or parochially), and send them to institutions like Franciscan University, Thomas Aquinas College, or Christendom College where they would learn the sciences and arts in a setting copacetic for study and maturation into virtuous, liberally educated (in the true sense) citizens.
Last week, I watched Blackfish on CNN. It is a documentary about killer whales in captivity—and mostly a visual philippic against Sea World. Like The Cove, Blackfish serves as effective propaganda against greedy money interests and heartless bastards (of course, with a significant Venn overlap). CNN will air it again this weekend.
I found the film’s sympathy for anachronistic concerns for homogenous communities interesting and provocative. The filmmaker interviews marine mammal specialists who criticize Sea World’s policy of housing orcas from various parts of the world together. These unenlightened scientists argue that whales from different places have different languages and customs and that forcing such whales into a multicultural environment stresses the animals and instigates misunderstandings, tensions, and crises. Happily, these folks do not work for the Office of Refugee Resettlement and cannot influence immigration policy in advanced nations. Their dangerous and backward ideas totally contradict what contemporary wisdom has directed good, decent people to do with their own human communities.
Congratulations to the British and Commonwealth peoples who celebrate the birth of their future king! I was hoping for a boy so that the harpies would spare us their elation about the proposed changes in succession rules. Let us hope that by the time the boy becomes king in four decades or so, the English speaking peoples of the world will have repented of their madness and returned to their semi-semi-Salic ways.
(That said, there is an argument for absolute primogeniture as the more ancient custom among various Germanic tribes, but I do not adequately know its merits. Tolkien may have favored absolute primogeniture, at least in his fiction. For it was from Princess Silmariën of Númenor that the righteous Lords of Andúnië and the subsequent royal lines of Arnor and Gondor in Middle Earth descended. However, the contemporary argument against male preferred succession results from our civilization’s disastrous dallying with sexual egalitarianism rather than from any respectable source. I am personally fond of permitting succession through daughters in a male preferred system so that the daughters’ sons could inherit the throne but not the daughters themselves. In the current system, for instance, there are times when there is no king. A more important problem in the current system that would worsen (in terms of frequency) with the proposed changes is that a prince consort is unable to head his household and to be an obedient subject to his sovereign wife at the same time. Such introduces a fundamental disorder in the royal family for the sake of dynastic stability, which could be achieved in other ways without contravening the law of God. Alternatively, heiress daughters could rule celibately like Elizabeth I, but then future monarchs would not be descended from every reigning sovereign (the ideal) and some such poor women might wish for the married life. In my system, we would get a male preferred order wherein a grandson could inherit the crown through his mother if she had no brothers or if she only had deceased brothers who had no children. That would ensure a king, provide good dynastic stability, and minimize succession moves to cadet branches.)
Speaking of babies, I found an interesting article last year that features a baby who yawns in utero—a wonder we may now witness due to “4D” sonogram technology: “Baby yawns in womb, 4D scan shows.”
I sent the video to my family, confessing that I had yawned after seeing the fetus yawn. My brother Aaron responded by sending me to Vsauce’s Why Is Yawning Contagious? video. Fascinating stuff.
Today is when most Americans commemorate their treasonous rebellion against their original homeland, though the day has fortunately become a celebration of summer, community, and American-ness, to the extent that such survives. Fitting for this day in the twilight of our civilization is a story from earlier in the year, “Wisconsin’s VISTA Program Encourages Volunteers to Overcome White ‘Privilege.’” The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction wishes for its white volunteer do-gooders to keep their “white privilege” in mind while they spend their own time and treasure trying to help dysfunctional members of the colored underprivileged. They will do this in part by wearing special white wristbands.* It is nice that the religion of contemporary liberalism progresses in the development of vestments and rituals.
When I first read the article, I thought of Lawrence Auster’s comment a year ago: “In all of human history, have there ever been human beings as cowardly and contemptible as contemporary white liberals?” The answer is easy: no.
Steve Sailer has occasionally predicted that such nonsense cannot go on forever. The children of today’s racial masochists will be racially aware and possibly even ethno-nationalists. Maybe, they will keep those white wristbands and put them to better use.
* Evidently, the news source of the story misconstrued the program. According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction site, the white wristbands were not mandated by the program but were an idea in the “additional resources” provided by the program’s trainers. Give leftists another decade to bring those wristbands “out from the shadows” of “additional resources” and into the pushed curriculum. They do what they can get away with. Treacherous fiends!
A couple of years ago while I was dining with a fellow from New York who happened to be a family friend of the mayor, I asked the young man what New Yorkers thought of the mayor’s attempts to regulate the diet of his city’s denizens by banning or taxing items and portions that he found objectionable. The fellow replied that there was widespread support of the mayor’s noble efforts. This chap was part of the mayor’s circle, and he was of the same stock—wealthy, Jewish, left-leaning, and well connected. So, perhaps it was not surprising that he enthusiastically agreed with the mayor’s aims, but he offered me a window to see how such folks think. I asked him what business it was of the city government to tell people what size soft drinks they could sell or purchase. He said that the government has a responsibility to look after the health of its people. Given our social welfare and medical safety net, he argued that it was necessary to encourage or even to coerce (nicely) healthy choices, as someone’s poor decisions can easily become a burden to his neighbors.
Of course, the fellow had a point. Socialists acknowledge that we are all in this together, which is quite true. I wanted to know, though, how this young man and his friend the mayor could so quickly see the rationality of compelling “healthy” food vending practices while never considering the regulation of the populace’s sexual practices, which have important and far reaching consequences. Before the Stonewall riots, New York City took an interest in sexual deviancy due to community moral and public health concerns. For the bathhouse culture and the many social and venereal afflictions that inhere and result from that way of life arguably affect its practitioners more than drinking eight more ounces of Coca-Cola during meals. Why is the left-liberal mind incapable of recognizing the need for the city to “legislate” morality in certain areas of human life but seems so ready and willing to tell other people what to do in other areas?
When I suggested that the mayor was contradicting himself by supporting a homosexualist agenda and by pushing soft public health tyranny in other ways, the fellow replied that it was sheer bigotry to suggest that homosexual behavior was a health risk. I responded by mentioning some of the public health facts that the public health establishment no longer cares to mention. See, for example, “The Negative Health Effects of Homosexuality” by Timothy Dailey of the Family Research Council. Regardless of one’s views of homosexuality, the public health aspect—the one on which Mayor Bloomberg and his allies stake their powers to dictate what New Yorkers should eat and drink—seems pretty settled. If a city wishes to promote public health, it should discourage many tendencies that seem to go along with homosexuality as it is currently practiced in contemporary America. Facts be damned, though, if a liberal commits himself to the notion that (almost) all sexual practices should be treated equally. Dailey’s findings are, as Steve Sailer might say, hate facts.
As much as I try to investigate the leftist mind, and as often as I interview our sinister friends or read critical theories that attempt to explain them, I just do not understand them. Perhaps, Bloomberg and my dinner partner find the sexual matters of human life too “sacred” or whatever the equivalent is for materialistic atheists for state intrusion, whereas they do not think that regulating food or cigarettes steps on anyone’s toes. After all, fat people can get skinny, again, and smokers can stop smoking; so it’s not a true hardship for them. Suggesting that homosexuals can cease from homosexual activity just as gluttons can stop pigging out does not appear to be acceptable. Is it because homosexuality is a permanent condition for them, like ethnicity or origin, and the liberal cannot bear to treat different people as if they were different when they cannot help their differences? I do not know.
My friend Andrew, who with Kristor appears to supply all the material for this site, told me of fascinating research involving schizophrenia. Evidently, a “normal” human mind interprets a concave mask as if it were convex. We are so constituted to see a face as a face that our brains overwhelm our knowledge even when we know better. However, this natural illusion does not affect schizophrenics. You may read about this at Wired: “Schizophrenic Brains Not Fooled by Optical Illusion.” The article features the following video that illustrates the illusion to you (if you do not have schizophrenia):
I must confess that I was slightly relieved that I was tricked. I lucked out in avoiding that snare!
مسیح برخاسته است
Several weeks ago, Kristor posted two essays on the Orthosphere about politics that I highly recommend: “The Metastasy of Wickedness” and “A Modest Proposal: Enclose the Commons.” In them, Kristor diagnoses a disease and proposes a treatment. His diagnosis is obviously correct, but I am not fond of the suggested health regimen. Read it and ponder.
I do think that Kristor’s corporatization of politics, if ever possible, would be better than the dysfunctional and insane commontheft that we have now. However, there is no substitute for an outright principled rejection of modernity’s many idols, including and especially the liberal, egalitarian, democratic republic. Kristor’s idea is fascinating—just like fascism, Falangism, distributism, syndicalism, neo-corporatism, salafism, and other “reactionary” models for modern society. They are pretty good on noting the problems of the liberal commonwealth, the socialist state’s corrosive, enfeebling effects on its people as well as its tendency toward hard or soft tyranny, and the soul killing and flattening natures of capitalism and democracy, but they all carry a somewhat unpleasant odor. When they are not guilty of pendulum swinging overreaction or subtle or cowardly submission to leftist folly, they appear as politics’ version of a snake oil peddling crank. I think that is because they are revolutionary movements that have begun in the imaginations and mental abstractions of intellectuals rather than having slowly emerged from the trials of life through the centuries. A sane and stable political system must organically develop among civilized people with generally wise and virtuous leadership. Tragically, the last three centuries have turned every traditional society upside down and destroyed every virgin forest of the pre-revolutionary soul. Any way forward (or shall we say back to the good path) will necessarily be reactive, intellectual, and crankish—but it is a frightfully dangerous business for men to presume themselves equal to the accumulated wisdom of generations. How rare a wise lawgiver and founder of a new regime is!