The public schools taught my children no poetry apart from a few stanzas of Emma Lazarus and Mia Angleo, along with a lewd limerick about the menstrual cycle or the water cycle, or maybe it was recycling . . . In any case, the ever-increasing poetic nescience of Americans makes poetic parody hard. I’m not blaming you. It’s not your fault if no one suggested you read Longfellow’s “Village Blacksmith” and instead gave you a copy of To Shill a Mockingbird. The Orthosphere exists to rectify this and other aspects of our universal miseducation.
“In our democracy, many good qualities are certain to be found; but it would be vain to seek there for that old virtue styled sincerity. It is doubtless comprised of many excellent ingredients; but also of envy, deception, ambition and slander, which serve our so-called democratic politicians or demagogues as a rich treat . . . . Where this state of things restricted to politics alone, it might pass, but . . . democracy with its cunning deceit penetrates our entire existence and becomes a poison . . .”
Charles Sealsfeld, Life in the New World, or, Sketches of American Society (1844)
Every American lives in a state of radical insecurity. I mean that his job, his social standing, his reputation, his companions, and nowadays even his marriage and family, may vanish at very little more than a moment’s notice. And thus every American is enslaved to the good opinion of other Americans who are themselves radically insecure, and who are therefore the very opposite of averse to expediently stabbing him in the back.
“It is the main question at the moment: which side one’s on—obscurantism or order . . . . If Science is really given a free hand it can now take the human race and recondition it; make man a really efficient animal . . . . Man has got to take charge of man. That means, remember, that some men have got to take charge of the rest . . . . You and I want to be the people who do the taking charge, not the ones who are taken charge of.”
C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength (1945)
I just stumbled upon this image and thought at once to post it here for all the fans of C. S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength, a novel I have more than once praised as prescient. Nothing in the novel is more prescient that Lewis’s National Institute for Co-ordinated Experiments, since the era of Big Science was just around the corner when he published the book in 1945. The Nation Science Foundation was founded five years after Lewis published That Hideous Strength, and it has done to American higher education what the N.I.C.E. did to Bracton College.
My daughter looked in on her high school homecoming dance this weekend, but left early because, as she told me the next morning, “it was really ratchety.” The word was new to me, as it is very likely new to you, so I pressed my daughter for its meaning. It took some prying since my daughter has not inherited her father’s flaw of rude bluntness, but no one said the life of a lexicographer is easy. It turns out that “ratchety” is an adjective that means after the manner of a low-class black bitch of loose morals.
“Your ship cannot double Cape Horn by its excellent plan of voting . . . . Ships, accordingly, do not use the ballot box at all; and they reject the phantasm species of captains . . . . Phantasm captains with unanimous voting: this is considered to be all the laws and all the prophets, at present.”
Thomas Carlyle, Latter-Day Pamphlets (1850)
I was recently pleading beside the sickbed of commenter WinstonScrooge, who suffers from the sad but all too common mania for ballot boxes, voting, and “the sanctity of democratic elections.” I did what I could to quiet the poor man’s raving, but a lunatic hates more than anything to hear he’s not right in the head. The pink elephant that is stomping in the rank jungle of Winston’s delirium is a mob of howling infidels who, he says, despise the Word of the Ballot Box, and whose scoffing and jeering have angered his Democratic god. Some, he stammered, are so far gone in unrighteousness that they say the Ballot Box is a myth invented by the men who count the votes.
“‘Southrons bow down,’ the Northmen say,
And tribute to us bring,
Fear ye the might we now display
And know us for your King
. . . . .
And ye may live that groveling life
The Northern poor now wear;
A long continued, struggling strife
’Twixt hope and wild despair.”
H.W.R. Jackson, Confederate Monitor (1862)*
Groveling is lying prone, face-down and prostrate. The word is made of an Old Norse world grufe, face down, and the stem ling that that we see in a word like sidling. So just as sidling means to move to the side, groveling means to assume the prone, farce-down, or prostrate position. Continue reading
I have been teaching a course in Cultural Geography each fall semester since Methuselah was sucking on his teething ring. This semester I am converting it into what is call a “flipped” course in which the material formerly delivered in a lecture is delivered in a video, and class meetings are given to discussion. We began with videos on the concept of culture and are now applying that concept to the geographical concept of landscape. We just finished three videos / discussions on culture in ordinary landscapes and are now beginning a series of three videos / discussions on extraordinary, symbolic landscapes. I’ve just finished the first of these on sacred places, and have linked it here for those who are interested. Remember that this was made for an undergraduate class in cultural geography, but it is not a travelogue of temples, churches and shrines. I try to explain the semiotics and sacramental theology of sacred places. This is not a video of me giving a lecture, so you need feel no apprehension about that, and it’s only about half an hour long.Continue reading
“He’s a grand, ungodly, god-like man, Captain Ahab . . . . Ahab’s been in colleges, as well as ‘mong the cannibals; been used to deeper wonders than the waves; fixed his fiery lance in mightier, stranger foes than whales . . . . He’s Ahab, boy; and Ahab of old, thou knowest, was a crowned king.”
Herman Melville, Moby Dick, or, the Whale (1851)
“And . . . Ahab the son of Omri [began] to reign over Israel . . . And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord above all that were before him. And it came to pass . . . that he took to wife Jezebel . . . and went and served Baal, and worshipped him . . . and Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him.”
1 Kings 16: 29-33
I recommend reading the text of a recent address by the always-readable political scientist Michael Anton, since it speaks to the questions of authority and obedience that have lately stirred the placid waters of the Orthosphere. It also speaks to the deeper question of what Bruce Charlton has taught some of us to call Sorathic evil, the spirit of destruction that is so unbridled and absolute that it includes self-destruction. We are seamen on a doomed ship and our captain is none other than Ahab.
“Now is the judgement of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.”
John 12: 31
“The one essential condition of human existence is that man should always be able to bow down before something infinitely great.”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Demons (1872)
None of those who disagreed with Scoot’s recent post are what St. Paul calls “children of disobedience.” They are sinners, no doubt, to a man; but St. Paul’s “children of disobedience” do not merely sin. They sin without guilt because men have blinded them to sin with “vain words.” The children of disobedience therefore call “fornication” love, “covetousness” ambition.” “Filthiness” and “foolish talk” they approve as unpretentious. When they sit down to sup and swill with a “whoremonger” or “unclean person,” the “children of disobedience” congratulate themselves for their liberal toleration (Ephesians 5: 1-7).
“MAGA forces are determined to take this country backwards — backwards to an America where there is no right to choose, no right to privacy, no right to contraception, no right to marry who you love.”
President Joe Biden, “City of Brotherly Love Address” (September 1, 2022)
“‘I’ve stopped going to sex parties,’ he said, given that public health authorities identified such gatherings of men as major monkeypox risk factors. ‘I also stopped having sex with people who live off their OnlyFans. I additionally stopped cruising at the gym, I did not continue to go to Fire Island, and I stopped attending orgies.'”
Rojas quoted in Benjamin Ryan, “How Monkeypox Spoiled Gay Men’s Plans for an Invincible Summer,” NBC News (September 2, 2022)
If an American has a natural right to kill and discard an unwanted fetus, no forces—not even MAGA forces—can take that natural right away. They can prevent its exercise, but a natural right remains. The same can be said of the rights to “privacy,” “contraception,” and marrying whomever one pleases, if these are, indeed, natural rights. But if they are mere inventions of law . . .
The Lord giveth and taketh away—and likewise the Legislature.