A client wrote me over the weekend, asking if I thought recent news of apparent flattening of the curve of new infections of Chinese Flu in Italy, Spain and, perhaps, even New York City, portended incipient prevalence over the virus. I responded:
Res ipsa loquitur, no?
While we’re at it, there is a strong epidemiological case for sexual modesty and chastity, for parochialism, for patriotism, and for cultural conservatism in respect to morals and customs. What is more, the humanely small scale of Schumacher and Christopher Alexander, Moldbug’s Patchwork or localism or Catholic subsidiarity, and the traditionalism of William Morris, of Chesterton, of Carlyle, and of de Maistre and Bonald all make great epidemiological sense. Wendell Berry, Edward Abbey, Tolstoy, the Wrath of GNON, and of course we here at the Orthosphere; all echo the same notion:
Stay small, stay local, stay close to home, stay close to nature, and within the span of your own hands. Small steps, not great revolutionary saltations.
Electronic maps are great. Their route planning vis-à-vis current traffic conditions is terrifically handy. But I am sure I am not alone in finding that reliance upon electronic guidance for direction to destinations impairs my ability to build my own internal maps of new territory – to know where I am and find my way.
I’m pretty good at orienteering. It’s an occupational requirement for professional outdoorsmen. I know where North is almost always, and without thinking about it; and I can often find my way to a new place by the seat of my pants. I’ve trekked in the wilderness for weeks with no better map than what I could draw on the back of an envelope, and never got lost. To be fair, I’ve also found myself totally bewildered in company with three other experienced outdoorsmen equipped with good topo maps and compasses under clear skies. Too many cooks in the kitchen, perhaps.
But when I rely upon electronic guidance to get to a new destination – rather than map reading, memory, and dead reckoning – I find that *I can’t find my way there the next time without that same electronic help.* Why? Because, knowing that as I travel I can rely upon the electronic guidance to support me in my first foray, I relax my conscious attention to my environment versus my map, and turn it instead to my own thoughts of this or that. I arrive at my destination, but without a vivid memory of how I got there. It’s almost like driving a route you’ve known for years; you do it automatically, thinking of other things, and arrive with no vivid recollection of the trip. The difference of course is that when I get someplace new in that semiconscious way, *I have no clear idea where I am.* I am disoriented. I literally don’t know where East is, and must examine the shadows to calculate it.
That state of disoriented befuddlement is a fitting analogy for what is overtaking us in many departments of modern life.
Thomas Sowell in “Intellectuals and Race” has now been published by the Sydney Traditionalist Forum. I do no more, really, than summarize Sowell’s main arguments and conclusions. If you have read “Intellectuals and Race” this article can serve as a refresher regarding some of the main points. If you have not read “Intellectuals and Race,” the book is not simply a philosophical argument, but presents copious empirical evidence that the causes of problems that many black Americans face have been misdiagnosed and thus the offered solutions are also often misguided.
If the aim is to help actual concrete people, rather than to play ideological games and identity politics, this book should be regarded as a must read.
Dear Representative Pelosi:
My wife and I are stalwart Democrats seeking advice. We are planning an elaborate summer tour of several nations, some of them transatlantic, and we would like to know the correct order in which we should visit those nations. Here are some questions that we hope you can answer. –
Supposing that we planned a visit to London, should we list that on our itinerary as a trip to Britain or a trip to England? In either case, if we wished also to visit Edinburgh, in Scotland, would we need to visit either Britain or England first?
If we listed our London and Edinburgh destinations as the United Kingdom rather than Britain, England, or Scotland, would we need to visit Serbia, Slovenia, or Ukraine first? And does the Byelo in Byelorussia count, or is it the same, by your reckoning, as Russia? Again, how should we count Abkhazia, were we to visit there? Is it subsumed alphabetically by Georgia?
When visiting Finland, should we list it as Suomi, as Finns call their nation, and touch base Somalia first?
In what order might we correctly visit the different places called Georgia?
Finally, on a related topic, which bathrooms should we use when visiting the autonomous region of Trans-Dniester?
We are sincerely yours,
Mr. and Mrs. Qwerty
Lewis Spence (1874 – 1955) published his prophetic account Will Europe Follow Atlantis in 1943 at the nadir of Allied fortunes during the Second World War. Spence, beginning as a journalist and folklorist, had made an enduring reputation by the early 1920s as a major authority on myth and legend, certifying his knowledge of those subjects in numerous books on the ancient stories of the Celts, the Rhineland Germans, the Greeks, the Romans, the Egyptians, the Mesopotamians, and the Mesoamericans. These extremely useful compendia remain in print. In 1924, however, Spence issued a book that gained him notoriety for a different although related reason.
This book in question was The Problem of Atlantis, a study of Plato’s Atlantis Myth in its twin sources, the dialogues Timaeus and Critias, of related stories in myth and folklore, and, with a survey of geology and ethnology, of the plausibility in Plato’s account. In The Problem of Atlantis, Spence, in jazz terminology, played it cool. While arguing for a factual basis of the narrative in the Platonic texts, Spence avoided the occult vision of Atlantis as a prehistoric Utopia founded on lost sciences and technologies. He insisted on sober evaluation of the evidence, arriving at the conclusion that Atlantis had existed, as Plato wrote, in the oceanic gap between Western Europe and North America; that it was, prior to its submergence, a High Stone Age, what modern commentators would call an Upper Neolithic, society; and that, during a prolonged breakup of its landmass requiring many centuries, its inhabitants migrated via North Africa and Iberia to Europe’s Atlantic littoral areas and the British Isles. Ensconced in those new bases, they did their best to preserve their traditions and codify the knowledge of their origin. The fleeing Atlanteans, whom Spence calls Aurignacians, and whom he identifies with the Cro-Magnons, also crossed the ocean in the other direction, contributing to the cultural matrix of the emerging societies in North and South America. Spence’s argument about Atlantis was a radical version of a then-current anthropological theory known as dissemination or cultural radiation, which posited a monogenesis for human culture.
A strong sympathy for the landscape often entwines itself with a type of religious sensibility, particularly the pantheistic one. In the decorative murals with which the wealthy classes of Rome during the Imperial centuries adorned their domestic lives, the idyllic scene, with its groves and grazing sheep, invariably contains a rustic temple. In Hellenistic poetry, too, the writer – it might be Theocritus or at a later date Ovid – in describing the sylvan setting of Sicily or Arcadia emphasizes the presence everywhere of the nature-spirits. Ovid’s Metamorphoses seem in part to be an explanation of why everywhere in the ancient world one encountered innumerable altars and shrines. To the pagan mentality, everything, every tree and stream and mountain, shared in the quality of the sacred, and offered a home to the spirits and demigods. So too in Romantic painting and verse, the artist’s response to the natural scene records his sense of the ubiquity of spirit. Thus in William Wordsworth’s famous sonnet “The world is too much with us” (1802), the calamity of the emergent industrial and commercial order manifests itself most poignantly in the terrible loneliness of being cut off from participation in the aura of the elements –
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
The lyric subject of the poem, concluding that the modern dispensation has left men “for everything… out of tune,” wishes that he were (although he is not) “a Pagan suckled in a creed outworn,” that is, someone who might “have glimpses that would make me less forlorn” of “Proteus rising from the sea.” That men should have become acutely aware of nature in the early nineteenth century is hardly surprising. The social and economic developments of the period, the hypertrophy of cities and the dissolution of ancient arrangements in the countryside, wrought changes in the very appearance of the rural landscape. A generation later than Wordsworth, in the “Wessex” stories and novels of Thomas Hardy, the situation has grown even more acute. In the short story “The Fiddler of the Reels,” the great fact of existence is the Crystal Palace, in the year of whose construction much of the action takes place. The countryside is emptying into the great cities; railroads have appeared in the provinces to draw away the young people, and the expansion of a new order of industry and finance has begun to alter the familiar aspects of field and forest, river valley and hill.
The first reading from the lectionary this past Sunday was taken from Genesis, and included this promise by God to Abraham. “Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates.” Many Jews and at least some Christians take this as a promise that the Jews will someday possess the entire Middle East. I believe this is a mistake, and that it results from a failure of geographical imagination. Continue reading
The modern American university does not appear to best advantage when viewed from the Right. Viewed from the Left, it appears as a glistening City on a Hill. From the Right, it appears as one of the seedier Cities of the Plain. If not Sodom itself, perhaps Zeboim.
Zeboim came in for rough treatment in Genesis, but recovered and was back in business by the time of 1 Samuel. In fact, I find my ancestors hard at work in Zeboim, for it was to that city that the Israelites took themselves when they needed to sharpen an ax or a mattock, as in their own country “there was no Smith to be found” (1 Samuel 13: 19-20).
This is a letter from Zeboim, where this Smith has been hammering young scholars on the anvil of knowledge for twenty-five years. The sign outside my shop says I am a geographer, but as you are about to see, this advertisement tells you less than you may imagine, since a man who tells you he is a geographer doesn’t tell you much at all.
Consider the items that follow. They are précises of “calls for papers” (CFPs) that I recently received from geographers in my sub-specialty (cultural-historical geography). These geographers are assembling “sessions” of papers to be read at the big geography shindig in San Francisco next spring, and they sent these CFPs to various list-serves in order to round up participants. My précises are intended to highlight the ludicrous, but they are not misleading and all the titles and quotes are real. I have not cherry-picked weird CFPs.
Welcome to Zeboim!