“I’d have this rule that nobody could do anything phony when they visited me. If anybody tried to do anything phony, they couldn’t stay.”
J. D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye (1951)
God hates phonies at least as much as Holden Caulfield hated phonies, and those who propose to call on him had best beware that he strictly observes Caulfield’s rule. He admits no phonies to his house, and the minute you try to do anything phony he is going to show you the door. Continue reading →
Curtis Yarvin, née Mencius Moldbug, “2020, the year of everything fake” (Dec. 28, 2020)*
To understand Yarvin’s proposition, you must first understand that a “world” can be fake while containing any number of things that are not. A “world” is an interpretation of things, and an interpretation can be false while the things interpreted are entirely true. We see this in the phrase “my world fell to pieces,” and we see it more memorably in the experience that phrase describes. “My world” that fell to pieces was my false and fanciful arrangement of those pieces. “My world” was a misinterpretation of those facts. Continue reading →
“They had not the courage, or else they were destitute of the power, to avoid, by means of their internal resources, that extermination which appeared to them, under the circumstances, to be inevitable. They were thrown into a most anxious state of despondency and alarm.”
John Penford Thomas, My Thought Book (1825)
I daresay the events of this past year have thrown many of you into “a most anxious state of despondency and alarm.” I know they have had that effect on me. The lines in my epigraph describe the mental state of the Britons around the year A.D. 400, when the Roman Legions had withdrawn from the province of Britannia and the wild Caledonians were threatening “mischiefs of murder, pillage, and devastation.” That day differs from ours insofar as the Roman Empire was failing and the Global Empire is triumphant, but the mental state induced is in either case the same: despondency and alarm: a conviction that a calamity has occurred and nothing can be done to reverse it. Continue reading →
So here’s a question, quite serious: have you been feeling unusually depressed in 2020? Have you been feeling more and more depressed, over the course of the year? Have your feelings of depression been far more intense than any you have ever experienced?
The question arises from my recent correspondence with an orthospherean friend of many years – of many more years than there has been such a thing as The Orthosphere (most of you would recognize her name) – in which I learned that she, like me, has been thinking about death a lot over the last few months. I learned from her also of the recent suicide of a prominent pastor. That got me thinking.
In my twenties, I invested a good deal of time in Sweden and things Swedish. I’d like to share with The Orthosphere my favorite Christmas song, “För Redeliga Män” (“For Honest Men”), which in the rhythmic propulsion of its melody, outpaces all others, in any language. (I opine, of course…) Indeed, I offer three versions of it. The first version is not the best musically, but it includes the integral feature of the Stjärnpojka or “Star Boy.” “För Redeliga Män” is often sung by a girl-choir, as it is in the video above, but the young ladies are joined by a young man who represents the stellar lights that flash in the deep darkness of the heavens just before dawn on Christmas Day. “Stjärnorna på himmelen de blänka,” says the refrain: “The stars in the heavens — they shine!”
I have myself played the role of Star Boy (see below). —
That was when I sang, for three or four seasons running, with the Scandinavian Christmas Choir at UCLA in the first half of my undergraduate career before a long detour after which I redeemed myself. (In the current cultural climate, the costume would lead to my being lynched, even without the white, conical cap, as seen in the video.)
Two other versions — and the lyrics, in Swedish — are underneath the fold. It’s easy to look up an English translation. Just run a search on the title, “För Redeliga Män.” I have not included any of the English translations because none of them grapples effectively with the rhythmic structure of the verses. Och att översätta det mig själv skulle vara för mycket!
The James Martin Center has published Part I of my two-part article, Leaving the Blight of Higher Education. This first installment bears the subtitle, “Farewell, Students.” In it I describe and discuss the corruption, not of faculties and administrations (that comes in Part II), but of the student bodies of our colleges and universities. Students have, in effect, been co-opted as the enforcement-arm of the administration in order to police and neutralize even the smallest dissent from the totalitarian program of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity. In its ugly candor, the university now functions as the training-ground for a national regime of denunciation. Far too many students, most of whom, through disinclination and a lack of intellectual requisites, should not be in college, relish their license to denounce and exercise it with enthusiasm. Affirmative action exacerbates this attitude, consisting, as it does, in the inculcation of a sense of racial-moral superiority that can find no anchor in reality but only in perpetual outrage.
It is not simply the politicization of everything. Students have assimilated almost entirely to the vulgarity of the reigning, perverse “pop culture.” To be “cool” requires the insertion of profanity in all sentences. The constant flow of sailor-language is demoralizing for someone who believes that college is supposed to comport itself with civilization.
Here is an excerpt from Part I:
A friend of mine from Upstate, “Fred,” served in the Army, where he rose to the rank of sergeant. After leaving the military, Fred found employment on campus as a manager of services. Fred and I frequently find ourselves in the same bar on weekends.
One afternoon, a gaggle of co-eds having entered the premises, Fred turned to me and asked, “Have you ever overheard them talking on campus?” I nodded, but let him continue.
“They use the f-word in every sentence,” he said, a phenomenon familiar to me. Fred, who came to Upstate from an environment where the f-word possesses a degree of functionality, nevertheless took offense in the profanity of female undergraduate banter.
Fred’s speech maintains a civilized quality and in this, he differentiates himself from students, female or male. It is not that co-eds implicate themselves exclusively in voluble profanity. Male undergraduates indulge equally in expletives. They even invoke the f-word and the s-word in class, but a stern glance can enjoin such infractions.
The problem is a continuing one, however, and its implication remains unsettling. In other classrooms—this is the only possible inference—these language-proletarians have escaped admonition. They, therefore, assume that no one could possibly object to their verbal infelicities.
Here’s an essay on some interesting philosophical problems, especially relating to self-reference and divine simplicity. I’d like to trim and polish the material up someday for my future blog, but I won’t have the time or energy for the foreseeable future.
The birds that came to it through the air At broken windows flew out and in, Their murmur more like the sigh we sigh From too much dwelling on what has been.
Robert Frost, “The Need to be Versed in Country Things” (1923)
A geographer once likened the landscape to a palimpsest–to one of those medieval parchments that was used, again and again, by imperfectly scraping away one inscription and laying down another. Like letters laid down by pen on a palimpsest, the things we lay down to make a human landscape are slowly scraped away to make room for new things. But in both palimpsests and landscapes, legible traces of old inscriptions long remain to be read by those who have eyes to see. Continue reading →
Richard M. Powers (1921 – 1996): Paperback Cover (1963)
“Δέστε τη ζώνη ασφαλείας σας. Πρόκειται για μια ανώμαλη βόλτα.”
– Συνταξιούχος καθηγητής
In the philosophical school of Neoplatonism, the Late-Pagan intellectual dispensation and its nascent Early-Christian counterpart find common ground. Indeed – they converge. They coexist miscibly for a while until the Pagan component seemingly disappears, leaving the Christian component as the sole public face of the movement. This metamorphosis proceeds so smoothly, however, that in comparing a prose-sample from the one phase with a prose-sample from the other, with the author-names redacted, the reader might find himself hard-pressed to discern which of them leaned toward a fading polytheism and which toward the rising Trinitarian conviction. But then the Pagan chapter of Neoplatonism hardly deserves the label of polytheism. To the extent that the Late-Pagan thinkers recognize a multiplicity of divinities, they classify them as refracted manifestations of a single luminous principle; and when they insist on the primacy of “The One,” they tend to couch their discussion in the lexicon of a triple-hypostasis. A Christian Neoplatonist like Pseudo-Dionysius borrows so much in his basic vocabulary and pivotal tropes from a Pagan Neoplatonist like Plotinus or Syrianus that a paragraph by the former will seem to parrot a paragraph by the latter, but it is in fact more a case of continuity than of parroting. (To parroting – the reader must maintain his faith – the discussion will eventually come.) Among the shared, interlocking premises on whose basis these thinkers operate are that the cosmos, by virtue of its perfection, must be the creation of a perfect being; that being good and true, the cosmos is also beautiful; and that the Demiurge or World-Creator, whereas he is apprehensible, is nevertheless not comprehensible. As to the last, the Neoplatonists willingly expend thousands of words to argue that God, in his infinitude, infinitely exceeds the power of language to grapple with him.