Panning for Nuggets of Truth in the Fecal Stream of “News”

I have unanswered questions about the destruction, not just of the two iconic World Trade Towers, but also—and especially—about the curious collapse of WTT 7.  I’ve made no secret about that over the years.

I occasionally read with interest about unidentified aircraft or large hominids uncategorized by current science.  98 percent of UFO cases and Sasquatch sightings are probably hoaxes or misperceptions… but a small minority invites serious consideration and further research.

I know for a fact—I know with regard to a number of specific allegations—that the social conditions in the South immediately preceding the American Civil War are grossly and persistently misrepresented, not just in popular media, but even in most college classrooms.

To some people, each “intellectual apostasy” to which I’ve just admitted—and certainly all of them taken together—prove that I’m a crackpot.  No… they prove far more, and far worse.  A “9/11 truther” is a mere crackpot, a “conspiracy theorist”; a “believer” in UFO’s and Bigfoot should probably have his driver’s license and voter registration suspended; and anyone who would question that the South was a proto-Nazi operation, complete with wall-to-wall death camps called plantations, is a Fascist Holocaust-denier who needs to be on the FBI’s short list of dangerous lunatics.

All of this, mind you, because a) I don’t understand how a vast, squat building comes thumping to the ground story-by-story after an ember blows through a window; b) I know a man who witnessed the Phoenix Lights in 1997 and observed the same impossible maneuvers as did Governor Fife Symington himself; c) I’ve heard dozens of testimonies from people who have spent decades in the wilderness (including Canadian “survivorman” Les Stroud) concerning intelligent activity—sounds as well as sights—requiring immense strength and, sometimes, symbolic reasoning; and d) I pay attention to what old folks around me say and recognize rather than brush aside compelling material evidence that contradicts the proposition, “Every Southerner had slaves and beat them.”

In each particular case, I’m just trying to confront material fact and process it logically.  Even when I attempt to escape the academic/political environment and amuse myself with a sport like baseball, I appear to notice “too many” things.  I can prove that an art of hitting from a century ago has been lost in a cloud of cliquish, quasi-high-tech, hermetically insulated pedagogy whose gurus are making a mint of money and whose legions are pitiable old warhorses trying to hold a coaching job.  I’ve now published (self-published) two books on the subject; but, on rare occasions when anyone within the game acknowledges my presence, my evidence is ignored on the ground that I spent my career teaching literature—just as the honest woodsman who comes face to face with Bigfoot is assumed to have been drinking, to be mentally disturbed, or to mistake raccoons in the shadows for giants after fifty years of hiking experience.

I suppose it’s always been this way.  Why, the very idea that something as massive as our planet could not only be spinning, but also moving about the sun!  The very idea!  Of course, we’re supposed to have left those “Spanish Inquisition” days behind (and I confess to knowing less than nothing about the Inquisition, since my “knowledge” is based on popular assumption).  It’s really quite irritating how cocksure we are that “science” has lifted our vector well out of the incurious, group-think trajectory of old.  I haven’t added “climate change” to my list, since I’ve followed that game only from a high bleacher along a far sideline; but esteemed climatologist Patrick Michaels’ explanation to Mark Levin (on the latter’s October 21 broadcast) of the quid-pro-quo, research-grant-for-political-ammo racket sordidly motivating that entire “debate” (or “debate shutdown”) mirrors the pattern that I have observed so often elsewhere.  One side is declared—or declares itself—“science”; then the accumulation and analysis of solid evidence that characterizes true science is permanently terminated.  No, we no longer burn people at the stake.  We only torch reputations, incinerate alternative theories, and intimidate curious minds.

Does anything I’ve written above clearly designate me as an ideologue on one side or the other of the aisle?  Not to accept “climate change” the way a good Muslim accepts Muhammad as God’s prophet is to be a “climate-change denier”, and hence a racist Nazi.  Well, we already knew that I was of such a stripe as soon as I raised doubts about the South’s being one big slave camp.  But wait a minute: these wackos who claim to see little gray aliens in the sky and big hairy boogers in the forest are New Age, leftwing types—and my hesitancy to recite the official 9/11 catechism proves that I’m a communist operative!

If you will entertain for a moment the notion that I have no political axe to grind, then perhaps you will believe me when I say that the “reporting” on would-be bomber Cesar Sayoc’s high jinks last week made my head throb purely from truth-starvation.  To this instant, I await an explanation from some quarter—any quarter—of how one addresses a package to the likes of Bill Clinton.  In my days of trying to interview black ballplayers who immediately followed Jackie Robinson into the big leagues (for a manuscript assembled almost two decades ago), I had virtually no luck whatever in obtaining functional addresses.  Over the intervening years, people have grown exponentially more jealous of their personal information—especially people whose public activity didn’t involve wearing a uniform, but playing with billions of dollars not their own.  So how does a male stripper ferret out the home addresses of multi-billionaires like George Soros or of highly controversial public figures like Eric Holder?

As near as I can tell, the packages were directed after this fashion: Jerry Jones, Dallas Cowboys Owner; Texas Stadium; Irving, Texas.  So… so can you picture the scene as a lackey comes running breathlessly out of the penthouse elevator?  “Mr. Soros, Mr. Soros… this package arrived just hours ago at one of you five thousand corporate headquarters!  They rushed it over here.  There’s no return address.  Would you like a letter-opener?”

I heard political hack Sean Spicer sententiously intone the other night that he “could not imagine” the anguish that must have coursed through the souls of the “victims”… victims, that is, of unopened-and-untouched (by them) envelopes rumored to contain explosive devices—devices, by the way, that tamely endured the mail-cart mixing bowl always guaranteed to crumple my book orders from Amazon.  (Another classic scene: Unexploded Bomb expert in khaki crawls up to package, sweating bullets and dagger in teeth, after the mailman dunks it into the box like a basketball.)

Please, Mr. Spicer, sir… please stop smacking my intelligence across its metaphorical face!  Anyone with a few dozen millions in his investment portfolio does not open his own mail in this age of subtle white powders; or if he does, then his pulse should accelerate every time he handles an envelope that looks ordinary.

I mention Spicer by name because he’s a Republican, and I’m truly not picking sides here.  The entire incident seemed perfectly timed to rebut the embarrassingly well-justified charge that “mobs” had taken over the political initiative on the Left.  The temporal coincidence is quite sufficient to make an impartial observer wonder. Yet the Right’s mouthpieces instead huddled together and decided upon a strategy of vigorous condemnation rather than further processing of the evidence.  Left: “See there?  One of your guys tried to murder a dozen of our guys! You’re all a bunch of fascist assassins!”  Right: “No, no.  We deplore his actions.  Here, we’ve already made a noose.  Bring him to the tree and we’ll hold the rope.”  Commentators like Ben Shapiro who are somehow supposed to have held the pliers as Sayoc activated the fuses were the first acrobats on the “dazzling spectacle of moderation” tightrope.  “Mass murderer here, mass murderer there… we all have our mass murderers.  Both sides just need to calm down and be level-headed.  Try your best to imitate me.”

Spin, spin, spin on both sides.  No interest in the truth.  No energy directed at any effort other than the one to occupy a position three bridges up the rhetorical road.  Meanwhile, those of us left plodding along that road are drowning in crap.

And meanwhile within the meanwhile… did anyone notice that October 1 was the anniversary of the Las Vegas shooting—an actual mass-murder event—wherein 58 innocent bystanders were butchered and 851 wounded?  The “news media” didn’t exactly trumpet the memorial.  In fact, the suspicious “security guard” who fled the country to Mexico after offering contradictory accounts has disappeared utterly from the news cycle like a pebble in the deep blue sea.  You’ll never hear another word about him… or only from “conspiracy theorists”.

Nabokov’s Lolita: Forever Squalid, But More Symptomatic Now Than Ever

I had heard about Nabokov’s Lolita for decades—that it was one of the great novels of the twentieth century, that its “transgressive” nature had stirred repeated attempts at suppression, etc., etc.  My imaginary scenario of the work, based on hearsay, had a fortyish European gentleman of leisure swooning for a girl of fifteen or sixteen whom he encountered on the French Riviera… or something in that line.  Didn’t really care enough about the whole matter to drop a few bucks and waste valuable time reading the tome.  And yet, one likes to be informed.

My stratagem in recent years when a book interests me but doesn’t quite reach my threshold for sacrificing precious hours to it is to see if I can find a translation into some language that I’m trying to keep in repair.  I had read Nevil Shute’s On the Beach in Italian last year; why not accommodate this “classic of the twentieth century” in the same way?

The gambit was neither as outlandish nor as simple as it would appear.  Nabokov wasn’t a native Anglophone, so reading his novel in another language hardly did him a grave injustice, in a way.  Since so much of Humbert Humbert’s interminable rumination slides into urbane French, you’d be licensed to say that neither the novel’s author nor its fictive narrator cares one helluva lot for English.  But then, inasmuch as HH’s narrative manner is so persistently, invincibly “precious” (from pretiosum, “stilted, groomed with highly cultivated artifice”), I found my Italian frequently being challenged.  Not sure I could have followed the old boy even in English copy.

This isn’t a book review, so let a single example suffice.  If you don’t know the “story” at all, don’t fret: there isn’t one.  More on that later… but, essentially, the fortyish academic marries a widow to get closer to her twelve-year-old daughter.  (Or was she eleven at the start?  She was certainly nowhere near sixteen.)  Widow reads pervert hubby’s diary, gets herself run over in a panicked sprint to the mailbox, pervert takes his “daughter” to see the USA in a Chevrolet (depositing DNA on the bedsheets of every cheap motel from Palm Beach to Spokane) and eventually guns down the pervert filmmaker who stole his underaged geisha from him at one of said stops.  Anyway… I recall a passage where HH is vacantly admiring the picturesque countryside of an idyllic town in Ohio or Indiana or Whereverana, preoccupied with his jealous concern about just what Lolita is up to at the pool or on the phone… and he remarks the unicorn grazing in a manicured, sunswept pasture beyond the hotel.  Or so he writes, with the kind of muted contempt that characterizes the entire narrative.  “Snarky” is the word one hears today.

Why snarky?  Because there’s always a tension between the minute details of tedious middle-American suburban living with which Humbert infuses his account and the implicit stinking rot of the whole society.  Marquees and billboards advertising paradise constantly thrust themselves from the interminable silver ribbon of highway.  The unicorn was a jab at that false capitalist paradise: be the morning ever so beautiful and the hamlet ever so postcard-perfect, it’s all still phony.  HH (Humbert Humbert: the bourgeois convention of naming parodied—get it?) is still forced to sustain a façade as he flees from unknown village to unknown village for a nightly ravishing of his pre-adolescent houri.

It isn’t the pedophilia that gripes me about this book (I’m sure Nabokov would wish that it were, and would suppose that it would be) so much as its flaccid, invertebrate, snarky style.  We all know very well that American “culture”—the shopping malls, the fast-foot alleys, the Disneyworlds and Casino Cabanas—can be nauseatingly crass.  Nabokov has exploited the damage which that coarseness must do to any thoughtful, tasteful person’s sense of aesthetics: he has leaned heavily upon what might be a shared distaste in his readership to parade a deeply sick and sickening lifestyle.  Let me be clear: yes, pedophilia bothers me immensely.  But the author has counted on my “prudish” response so that he may simper, “I should have expected nothing else from a denizen of these boroughs where neon ice cream cones draw families of four on Saturday nights.  À chacun sa chimère.”

Grant that girls’ schools claiming to produce cultured young ladies are often a hypocritical sham whose veneer conceals more sexual adventures than Hugh Hefner could imagine: how does that reduce the crime of someone who kidnaps and rapes one of the girls in her plaid uni with Latin insignia?  Why does the commercialist crap in which we daily forage mitigate the designs and snares of a sociopathic predator?

A sensible answer to this question would go a long way to validating the vast majority of what our intellectual community considers great literature… but there is no sensible answer.  The failings of bourgeois society do not and cannot somehow license the celebration of topsy-turvy anomia (the utter absence of nomos, of rules and order).  Lolita is no more than this celebration—a tired and tiresome book considered by its creator and his cult, however, to be brilliantly subversive.  My thumbnail description of the “plot” above may make it sound like a murder mystery; but the killing is rushed in out of the blue (or out of an alcoholic haze) during the final pages, and the terms and tempo of its relation belong to burlesque rather than to high drama or tragedy.  For one disjointed chapter, HH misses or grazes his half-dressed, hung-over target in a meander at gunpoint through the victim’s mansion as the latter tries to remember his assailant, offers him bribes and publicity, and reads—under duress—a poetical death verdict written out in rancid imitation of Apollinaire.  No doubt, this scene is a fully intended burlesque.  “You stupid, vulgarian Americans… you expected a plot?  Maybe a murder—will that satisfy you after fifty thousand words of my getting Lolita to spread out for me again and again when bribed with candy or a movie?  So here, have your murder scene.  Not what you expected?  I’m so sorry!”

The author’s postscript to his magnum opus, in fact, sneers that American editors rejected Lolita only because their small minds were conditioned by porn to see clichés at every turn… clichés which failed to materialize in this little chef d’oeuvre.  And, yes, the postscript is one long sneer of precisely the sort that Humbert Humbert would have written: any hope that Nabokov had brilliantly created a character with whom he has nothing significant in common evaporates at once.  Author and character are identical.  The former (in the style of the latter) explains that pedophilia is one of the three subjects an American publisher will never touch—the other two being a black man marrying a white woman and an atheist dying happily at the age of 106.  Can it get any snarkier?

This is a man, mind you, who emigrated to America with his socialist-intellectual friends because he found the atmosphere of the Soviet Union uncongenial to his libertine tastes… and yet Lolita had to be published first in Russian, thanks to our priggish, stultifying standards of “decency”.  I found myself frequently wondering if the misunderstood genius grasped why the Soviet establishment would be very happy to circulate his novel: certainly not because the official view of pedophiles was more indulgent!

Unintended propaganda… yes.  Triumphantly transgressive art… really?  On the street, I believe the phrase runs, “You got no game.”  Nabokov—and the contemporary academy that adores him—have no game.  They don’t have a message, an alternative.  The author resentfully, disdainfully rejects his need, as an artist, to have any message at all.  Such an expectation is another of those insipid Yankee Puritan trespasses into the realm of the spirit.  “For me,” he sniffs, “a narrative work exists only if it procures for me what I will call frankly an ‘aesthetic will’—that is, the sense of being in contact in some way with other states of being (curiosity, tenderness, benevolence, ecstasy) where art is the norm.”  Yeah, okay… what?  Doesn’t any related chain of events to which human beings contribute imply choice, moral will—and in doing so, doesn’t it imply magnetic polarities of right and wrong?  Does not such magnetizing imply meaning?  Tenderness and benevolence, whatever Nabokov may have wished to convey by such words, are not “states” accessed as one contemplates fluffy clouds—or produces the fluff from his reefer.  They require some up-and-down, light-and-dark orientation. Or would our author have accepted the Marquis de Sade’s assumption that his victims enjoyed their torture, or the Aztec priest’s conviction that the girl under his knife experienced ecstasy in offering up her yet throbbing heart to his hands?  In the frozen frame, the most hideous acts imaginable can turn picturesque.

The “snapshot” variety of narrative, where a sequence of acts is aestheticized into a luxuriant pose purged of squalid attendant circumstances, contradicts the essential nature of narrative.  One thinks of the gorgeous canvases of Delacroix representing wholesale rapine and slaughter in rare tones of rich red.  Decadent art has had the same qualities for centuries, and they are always a tip-off to deep cultural malaise.  I should say that, in Nabokov’s case (for at least Delacroix’s medium was static, not a lubricious traducing of dynamism into stasis), the sickness revealed in our intellectual culture is far more virulent than the superficial tawdriness of our shopping malls and infomercials.

For here’s the point that I wished to reach, and where I will finish: though an ideological offspring of the post-war years, Nabokov remains symptomatic—and even prophetic—of our ailing intellectual culture today.  Our educated elite view complex moral issues in the framework of a “selfie”.  What appeared to be the corpse of a toddler on a beach softened up Europe to receive tens of thousands of restless young Muslim immigrants in search of welfare-state largesse.  None of the “journalists” or “commentators” who tweaked his culture’s conscience over this photo thought to ask why no footprints were pressed into the sand, as would surely have been left if anyone had checked the toddler’s condition.  A five-second YouTubed clip of a young black man being cuffed by three or four cops suffices to throw major American cities—stirred up by talking heads and editorialists—into deadly chaos: no one waits to reconstruct the context of the arrest.  A mere mention of date rape or unwanted groping is enough to bring lynch mobs out of the woodwork: accurate supply of previous events leading up to the camera’s click (or the emoji’s upload, in many of these cases) is a stall, a concession to the ravening perpetrator.

How “aesthetic”: how evocative of “another state where art is the norm”!  But to live in and by such fantasies is the program of a lunatic.  Indeed, to conceive of art itself as serving such fantasy is the notion of a tasteless, depraved decadent.

I thought this sick, sloppy wet dream of an expatriate solipsist would never end.  What a relief, that even “narratives” produced to mock the purposeful passage of time cannot continue forever in this world!  The place where that happens is called Hell.

Benign Husbandry—and the Lethal Idiocy of Those Who Condemn It

In the process of shifting the contents of a moving van into my pickup truck, load by load, back in July (since the half-mile stretch to our front door was unnavigable for large vehicles), I managed to pull something behind my left shoulder.  It nags me from time to time.  I apparently re-aggravate it every other week without knowing precisely how.  The weather may be implicated this time: our autumn’s first genuine cold front has wrung the moisture out of my body like water out of a rag, and mild dehydration never helps sore muscles and joints.  A doctor would tell me to slow down and give me some pain pills, without coming any closer to the specific cause of aggravation.  I can buy Tylenol and save the deductible: just need to pay closer attention to what I’m doing.

It was Tiberius, of all people, who once remarked sagely that a man in need of a doctor after the age of forty is a fool.  His intent was that we should get to know our bodies better and better as we age.  Now the formula has been reversed. Aging people run to the waiting room with every nag—and demand that Government foot the bill.  Result: nags continue, doctors are overwhelmed, waiting rooms overflow with coughing wrecks, and the tax man forces you to purchase crappy insurance like a crooked sheriff exacting extortion money so that Medicare may be supplied to illegally resident drifters (in the hope that they vote—illegally—for a certain party).  You see?  Tiberius was right!

As I lay gingerly in bed this morning, at any rate—dreading the instant when I would have to lift myself—I heard a coyote’s yowl.  I had heard it yesterday, too, at about the same time: maybe an hour before dawn.  Then, however, it had puzzled me.  Today I had no doubts: solid confirmation that the rumors of coyotes in the area are not just more yarns spun by my brother-in-law, the self-styled wit.

Like my body’s protests against incidental abuse, this 25-acre tract of hilly woods has confronted me with a lot of “teachable moments”.  I don’t necessarily profit from every lesson the first time.  I’d already decided, though, that having a small pet running loose about the yard would only invite tragedy.  The image of a coyote wandering around beneath a red sky as the temperature flirts with freezing tells me I made the right choice on that issue.  And I needed only one lesson on the inadvisability of hacking down summer undergrowth with wild abandon.  Having scythed my way into the middle of a yellowjacket nest back in August, I emerged with the healthy resolution that there would be no more such hacking until after the first freeze.

That time draws near—and much of the underbrush, as a bonus, is dying on its own.  I can see farther into my unexplored acreage every day.  Natural paths appear where I had never expected anything but wild blackberry and other creeping, stabbing desperados.  A nice spot to the northwest of the house actually receives a generous portion of daylight, though I had previously written it off as unusable land.  (The builders had felled so many trees and dumped so much spoiled lumber in the patch that I had subconsciously marked it a “no go” den of snakes and scorpions.)  Now that leaves are falling—and now that I have begun peeling away the tree corpses one by one (mostly for use in bridging a stretch of road that always goes muddy in any sort of rain)—I can see a new home for several fruit trees.  I’ve just piled up a mound that waits to receive an apricot tree—a unique kind bred by Stark Brothers whose almond-like kernel within the seed has no significant cyanide and is good to eat, along with the fruit.  That’s killing two birds with one stone (though I have no plans of killing any bird at all, despite the family of nine turkeys that struts in and out of the road in incredibly foolhardy confidence).

Most productive trees must root where water can drain: that was one of my more anguishing lessons.  I managed to murder a pecan tree, and probably an apple tree, by digging them up and transporting them from Texas.  The deracination process would likely have killed the pecan, anyway; but the apple was doing fine until, as I realized too late, rainwater began clinging to the clayey soil where I had bedded it down.  My latest nurslings have been nestled into an airy framework of deadwood over which I poured good, loamy soil: two pecans and two apples, beneficiaries (hopefully) of their unhappy brethren’s tragedy.  One of the new apples was sagging a bit before I removed a pine that was monopolizing the midday sun.  It already looks better, though the pine (sorry, old girl) has ended up bridging the mud slick.

All of the new trees have netting around them to keep the deer at bay and sevin sprayed liberally upon them to repel grasshoppers—a species of plague that the local birds have decided to overlook, for some reason.  The construction activity, noisy and horribly destructive from an avian point of view, probably sent some of the more timid species into exile.  Maybe I need to erect a few bluebird houses next spring.  I hear robins occasionally, but I don’t see them putting in any insect-slaughtering labor around the house.  Note to myself: research which species of bird loves to chow down on grasshoppers and “stink bugs” (the local name for an exotic Chinese import).

Sometimes I pause to think about how very un-PC my new life has become.  Killing trees, killing insects, killing snakes… I killed my first serpiente a week ago.  He was curled up on the back doorstep.  I knew that he might have been a benign rat-eater—and anything that eats rats around here is at least as welcome as anything that consumes grasshoppers and yellowjackets.  I couldn’t take the chance, however, that I might let something poisonous slink away and hide next to the house as I went running to the Internet in an attempt to identify its scaly arabesque.  Sure enough, I’d decapitated a rat snake, as it turned out.  Sorry, again.

The grief may be mine today, and a tree’s or a critter’s tomorrow… but grief is ineradicable from life.  If the snake had lived, many rats would have died (and I hope its offspring pick up the slack).  Where rats or their suburban cousin, the bushy-tailed squirrel, abound, bird’s eggs and hatchlings are at grave risk in the spring.  Too many birds of the “wrong” kind, and fruit never reaches the ground nor berries the table.  The horrid blackberry vine exploits the space cleared by bulldozers with such greed that no new hardwood can ever grow naturally in its tangle; yet if a forest is left entirely to its own ways, old trunks maul new saplings and ruin broad spans for generations when they fall—or they half-tumble, occasionally, into bizarre postures where they somehow stay alive and equally deny prosperity to everything for yards around them.

Conservation means husbandry: it means that some must endure stress so that others may survive.  As old Seneca wrote, Nulli accidit impune nasci: “Nothing lives without paying a cost.”  The conservator attempts to maintain a healthy balance.  Where I removed some trees, I planted others of a different species.  I will not eat all of the fruit produced by these latter: the birds will get some, and their populations will enjoy a modest statistical bump.  The feathery friends that depredate my trees will themselves, as potential prey, draw more hawks—and the hawks will consume rodents, as well.  To some extent, I can assist such balance.  As I grow older in this task and learn more, I can assist it better.

Throwing open the forest to all comers will mean that the prolific and the voracious drive the modest and the frugal to extinction.  It will create a desert waste within a few generations—for the ravagers will themselves end up with nothing to eat, and will starve miserably.  Showing “mercy” to some cute/cuddly species that plays upon the heartstrings by feeding it artificially from the back porch means that said species forgets how to thrive on its own; and the free bowls of manna will also likely draw unforeseen competitors that not only overpower everything cute and cuddly in the universe, but quickly devour the back porch itself and go after the house.

There is a kind of dumbfounding stupidity that has taken possession of those among us who never live in and with nature, day in and day out.  Their imbecilic utopian agenda is likely to kill us all, themselves included, by the time nature laces her tendrils through every key, string, and pedal of the orchestra.  No grand symphony will result—only cacophonous screeches and rasps.  Yet the visionary imbeciles stop their ears when one tries to explain life to them, and lately they have even begun freeing a hand to sling projectiles.

Those who have ears, let them hear.

The War on Mystery: Stars vs. Robots

When I pulled together some short stories last month from my scribbling over the past two decades, I didn’t really understand that “open-endedness” was their common denominator until I saw the collected whole.  All of the twenty tales left something unresolved, or else resolved the critical question in a way that confronted the reader with mystery.  Now, if you write “mystery” or “fantasy” in the context of a literary creation, readers naturally picture a supersleuth detective or a journey to Unicorn Land through a wormhole.  That’s not what I have in mind.  Out here on my thickly wooded hillside, the Milky Way unfolds mystery after sunset: sending Captain Kirk out to map its corridors with script and cast of thousands reduces that mystery to childish fantasy.  All irreducible mystery belongs to God.  All reduced or resolved mystery belongs to the dustbin of crumpled wrappers after a child has pillaged his pile of Christmas gifts.

The educated elite, of course, have pledged themselves to “demystifying” the world far and wide.  This they may accomplish (in their arrogant minds) by exposing the political propaganda hiding in a fairy tale and laying bare the gender-stereotyped brainwash circulating through a classic novel… or they may—the “scientists” among them—more empirically assign our longings to a certain gene or hormone, or establish that no life-supporting planet could possibly be orbiting Sirius.  They make a desert and call it progress.

Sirius has actually become quite prominent at my bedside.  It is now well up (on clear nights) by the time I turn in, and its very distinctive blue-red flickers lead one irresistibly to suppose… well, that it’s on fire.  Sirius is burning.  I know that the flickers are “in fact” caused by interstellar dust absorbing and re-emitting light waves at their differing component frequencies… but it pleases me to impose a metaphorical value upon this evocative spectacle, as if I could watch the star’s mane blaze across light-years.  Is it the untamed hair of Camilla joyously descending from her mountain ridge… or is it the wild hair of Cassandra running through the doomed halls of Troy?  Is it a greeting or a warning?  I see a higher power, in any case, which is invisible in its direct and perfect truth.  I see beauty, for I sense more of a message than I can read.  The image turns the key on doors that must remain locked forever to dull eyes.

The “scientific” community appears willing enough, in its way, to tap the enthusiasm of those who divine secrets in the stars: messages transmitted, not by the voice of God, but by alien civilizations.  Okay (smiles the cosmologist in need of a grant—and not averse to camera time)… so maybe there really are little green men trying to send us a handshake in the night.  New planets are being discovered all the time—and who’s to say that only a terrestrial equivalent could support intelligent life, when life on Earth was itself so improbable and when life indeed prospers within Earth’s oceans that never sees daylight?  And so on, and so on… until we arrive at Steven Spielberg, and a nice little grant to book a few hours on Mt. Palomar’s telescope.

Spielberg, by the way—I can never let this irony pass—was the home of the prison where Silvio Pellico wasted away for fifteen years after openly criticizing a tyrannical regime.  Our space fantasies, if they assume any real life at all, always seem to join the trajectory of political totalitarianism rather quickly.  Space exploration will require a wholehearted and minutely coordinated commitment of energy and resources.  Political centralization will prove essential.  The mass of taxpaying citizens, who are the tiniest, humblest of tributaries in a vast root system, must accept that our “destiny” is to colonize the stars—to “evolve”.  Those who resist occupy the indefensible position of the old granny in the magnificent Elia Kazan film, Wild River: they sit upon an island slated for flooding in order that progress may be brought to eager thousands.  Granny is eventually carted off, retrograde to the end, in her rocker to the mainland, where she dies within days.

And why is contact with superior beings our destiny?  What are they going to tell us with Sibylline urgency—how to make an anti-gravity engine?  How to draw unlimited electricity from thin air, as Tesla is supposed to have managed before he was silenced?  (To this mindset, conspiracies always aim at keeping us from our destiny.)  What will we do with all of our sudden wealth in free kilowatts?  Travel to farther star systems?  To what end?  To discover men more lime than green?  To discover an all-female planet, like something out of Ariosto?  And in what way will that advance us?  Having reduced hundreds of fairy-tale possibilities to a single reality… what then?  On to the next planet of mystery, to pull off another wrapper and find another shockingly confined and humdrum species?

I seem to be straying into the War on Mystery these days no matter which way I flee.  The academic world I abandoned had come to insist (with characteristic stifling smugness) that all stories are propaganda, and that good stories are those that promote an insurgent cause over the status quo.  I, on the other hand, have lately grown convinced that great tales are those which leave the reader swollen with a sense of the untold—of the “untellable” rendered almost told.  Narrative is the poetry of time.  It is flickering Sirius transposed into a series of events.  It leads to an end, when done well, which is yet not quite an end.

To the Academy, a female Sherlock Holmes receives an automatic stamp of approval.  To me, even the Conan Doyle original fails to reach the top tier because our sleuth simply dissects enigmas like a master samurai practicing on a stalk of bamboo.  The dramatizations of the Holmes mysteries that embed their resolution within the misfit, vaguely sociopathic qualities of a bizarre genius are literary triumphs.  Behind the solved mystery of the stolen jewels remains the unsolved mystery of a loner so maladjusted that he is never lured astray by routine expectations.  (I think of the Holmes played by Jeremy Brett: the latest version, with Lucy Liu as Watson—wouldn’t you know?—goes too overtly Freudian, as if a deadbeat dad explains everything.)

Lest I seem to ramble unforgivably, let me converge on my own evasive ending for the day by declaring that an answer to my last week’s question also lurks here.  Why is our society in “self-destruct mode”—why do we grind out talking heads, intellectuals, chronic misfits, and young people who loathe our collective past and want to see the republic turned upside-down?  I offered several suggestions specific to the American cultural experience; here’s one that applies to all humanity.  When there are no more wrappers to shred under the Christmas tree, we attack the tree itself.  Demystified of its lights and ornaments, it turns out just to be a sad mass of withering needles.  What else can we ravage—where else might mystery be hiding?  See the warm light in the neighbor’s window?  Maybe his Christmas was better—maybe that’s where our ultimate heart’s delight awaits us… and if it doesn’t, we’ll raze the deceptive space with a vengeance, like Genghis Khan punishing a resistant fortress.

When we do not accept mystery as the permanent projection of the divine into our material world, we must create and destroy one material mystery after another.  That is our destiny, as a people with its collective back stubbornly turned upon the spiritual.  Have you detected the recent but contagious longing to fuse with robots that moves among us?  To be a robot… to live forever (with occasional recharging), to have one’s “soul” passed along in the form of an information-laden chip to robotic upgrades (what a debased notion of the soul—information!)… and unspoken beneath this fatal romance, yet very much courted in my opinion, is the death of mystery.  At last!  Finally!  To be a robot… and to feel the tug of mystery no more.  To look up at Sirius and perform immediately a spectral analysis, but otherwise to have no response whatever… oh, what liberation!  To undo what God has created… to be a spiritual being no more!

We will continue our search-and-destroy mission against mystery until we indeed render all terrestrial societies uninhabitable for human beings, because it seems that we must.  Or maybe not; maybe we will—some of us—pull out of the death spiral as others of us plunge to annihilation.  After all, we were made to adore mystery: that, too, is our destiny.

The State Must Collapse When Self/Other Recognition Dissolves (Part II)

We have a growing problem.  Urban crime was bad in the Eighties, terrorist attacks were no minor annoyance as the millennium turned over, and Mexico’s gang violence has steadily percolated even through small-town neighborhoods… but will the future’s greatest physical dangers be posed by our own children?  Our college campuses have become nurseries for pathological introversion and extreme incivility (including overt violence).

I wrote last time about the dissolution of self/other recognition, which might meaningfully be characterized as a morbid slide back into early childhood.  Certain young people, especially—but also many old enough to know better—cannot distinguish, apparently, between a source of personal distress and a global crisis.  Their preferred method of bridging the gap from the near side of the ego’s deep chasm to the wide world’s busy traffic is, perversely, to lay upon that world the responsibility for a weak will or for poor personal judgment.  Thus everyone around them must tread eggshells if they are “unfriended” on social media; all males everywhere are responsible if they wake up without their memory and their panties after a wild party; and mainstream society is positively un-Christian—as a sudden burst of pious inspiration seizes them—if laws impose a minor inconvenience upon their need of a “hygienic procedure” for cleaning out the uterus.

Again, my position is that “they” are “we”, or at least are our children.  “They” would not exist in this degraded form if we were not creating and sustaining a degraded environment.  What, exactly, are we doing to bring this twilight of insanity down upon ourselves?

I can think of a few things: four, for sure.

1) Contemporary life is too soft on us: it excuses us from confronting basic realities.  We all know what a debilitating obstacle is posed to us by a little fluctuation in temperature.  Now that our central heating and air-conditioning have groomed us to dwell within a “comfort spectrum” of about ten degrees, any intrusion of forceful weather upon that meteorological safe zone must indict some epochal catastrophe like planetary climate change.  So for other aspects of modern living: success has emasculated us.  I hear proponents of the MAGA persuasion crow all the time (in ironically rugged, robust language) about the high-tech atrophy of our vigor as if it were a measure of our civilization’s triumph… and I suppose it might be, from a certain perspective.  “We don’t need to conserve fuel,” they bluster.  “We have shale oil!  And look at how free the car has made us, and how many jobs it creates!”  But such lavish “freedom” has also made us prone to yearn for or demand frivolities—and even corrupt pleasures—with a passion out of all proportion to the worthiness of what we desire.  The rebellious children of the “bring back progress” voting bloc are, of course, still more addicted to imaginary “rights”.  Not having an iPhone appears to be a social injustice tantamount to slavery for some people, and catching a few scowls for sporting spiked purple hair is the equivalent of having to wear a Yellow Star.  Come on, will you?

2) The cause of highest impact in our collective crisis of incivility, I’m convinced, is the Internet, in all of its “social media” ramifications.  A generation of young people has now been reared without an adequate degree of integration into broader society, but seduced, instead, into artificial worlds inhabited by various “human tokens” (profiles, avatars, selfie-plated façades) that may or may not reflect faithfully the real beings projected in them.  Retreat into such fraudulent communities is so general that it absolves even passers-by on a sidewalk of having to look up and say “hello” (or to avoid physical collision).  It is not beyond the pale of possibility that many college students know no one in the conventional sense.  Hence they haven’t learned how to suppress certain utterances that will not be of communal interest or are not cast in terms appropriate for a mature audience.  Their “feelings”, naturally, are the source of whatever concern happens to consume them today; and people who do not share this concern are callous and brutal (since everyone in the online group, of course, acknowledges that each personal grievance belongs at the top of the Cosmic Crisis list).

Unfortunately, the electronic god that giveth also taketh away.  A spat with an e-friend—or, Heaven forbid, disgrace before an entire e-community—can send the young person’s world into a tailspin.  All is over.  Life is no longer worth living: the future is sealed.  Nothing remains but to pull the plug.  We hear or read all too often about teens committing suicide because they have been “flamed on SM”—and the moral of every such tragic story is supposed to be that we must fight online bullying with more seminars, more “awareness”.  Malefactors guilty of over-indulging their slanderous thumbs have even, I believe, been prosecuted, sometimes successfully.

Am I the only one who identifies the greater problem here, and indeed the only substantial problem, to be the “victim’s” woeful failure in developing a functional, resilient, mature ego thanks to a brief lifetime spent hypnotically before a screen’s glare?

3) I will surely be derided for volunteering this further point—and readers familiar with my “obsession” concerning the subject will likely roll their eyes… but I’m convinced that we spend far too little time in physical activity.  Exercise.  I could immediately ramble off the names of three or four major spokesmen for the American Right who routinely scoff at physical fitness as if it equated with some left-wing, New Age adoration of yoga or veganism.  To these “philosophers”, unnecessary activity seems to imply a rejection of technological innovations like the elevator or a voice-commanded Siri or Alexa.  It’s anti-free enterprise!  It’s un-American!  Eventually (and sooner rather than later), our rugged-individualist cream puffs are going to have to decide if they want artificially engineered organs replacing vital portions of their abused and malfunctioning bodies… or if they believe that such engineering may intrude upon the spiritual territory that they claim to hold dear.  Many will work out some kind of compromise in their thoughts, which will naturally spill into their jabber within minutes; and virtually none of them will notice that, in the process, their worldview has fused with that of their enemy-unto-death, the utopian progressive.

Indeed, there may be no more graphic and more specific case of “conservative” America ideologically plunging into the swirl of young-progressive socialism and dehumanization than we find in this contempt for the body as it is—as God has given it to us: a delicate ally whose proper care and maintenance teaches us a discipline of the soul.  In fact, speaking of a bridge from the internal subject to the social object… your body is a dress rehearsal for building such bridges, is it not?  Yours but not yours, obeying but betraying your commands, it needs to be flattered, bullied, cajoled, and overruled at various moments so that your true intent may translate into an undistorted action.  It doesn’t belong to the World Beyond… but it is the ambiguous doormat of that intimidating mansion.

Much of our present misery appears to spring from an utterly inept identification of body and soul.  You are what you look like: your sex, your height, your racial or ethnic characteristics.  No wonder so many young people grow suicidal when they peer into the mirror, or else struggle to maintain a false visual persona on the Internet!  No wonder we all seem so preoccupied with having our DNA tested!

And then, when the verdict cannot be finessed as we would like, the gush of anxious hormones within us is responsible for our mood.  Pills, bring us pills!  Political Left and Right apparently select from different menus, but everyone places an order.  The face in the mirror isn’t responding when we tug the reins: we must stir some magic potion into its feed.  Whether you consume legal or illegal anti-depressants, however, you are addressing the cracks in your soul’s temple by hanging pictures over them.

I’ve often been shocked at the number of young people being treated in some fashion for depression.  I ask them if they exercise at all—if they bike or play tennis—and the answer is always negative.  The electronic black hole into which they have been sucked causes much of the paralysis, as does the broader servicing of all wants and needs by gadgetry: in other words, this crippling flaw in our culture is actively nourished by the previous two. I might add (if doing so will not make a socialist of me to eyes that see only in black and white) that Numbers One and Two above are themselves fueled by the “creative genius” of the capitalist spirit—which, while powering our mainstream like a mighty dynamo, does not appear to have found a reliable source of profit in our eternal spirit.

4) This brings me to my final culprit: the collapse of our culture’s spiritual scaffolding.  I am not going to write anything so insipid as that Americans don’t attend church with their erstwhile regularity.  That would be the parent’s explanation of what has happened to his child—but here I am suggesting that the parent look to his own practice.  What, exactly, is this “church” whose negligence is so often cited as the reason for our degeneracy?

The contemporary American church disdains none of the digital sophistication that riddles other aspects of our life as it woos visitors—especially, yes, young visitors.  The services I have observed at my son’s church (a very prosperous one) impressed me on two scores.  First, the expertly manipulated lighting and the music seemed to lure participants into subjective fantasies of ecstasy normally attributable to drugs in the harsh brilliance of day.  Second, the purpose or “mission” of the church was very distinctly oriented to social welfare: relief for the Dominican Republic, offerings for underprivileged school children, and recruitment of racial/ethnic minorities for the church’s membership.  Not necessarily bad objectives… but when did the church become an appendage of our paternalistic central government?  At what moment did this high-tech service encourage reflection—honest and intense self-examination—during a sustained silence?  I witnessed various opportunities for writing checks and for feeling good with a little “go, team” fist-pumping.   When was death stared in the face? Where was the message that our mortal life doesn’t really matter except as a proving ground for and a window upon the transcending life of the eternal spirit?  Where was the discussion of how poverty is sometimes to be embraced, or how the gift of sympathy may be worth more than material largesse?

Such an interpretation of Christianity renders it very hard to distinguish from other varieties of collectivism—and collectivism isn’t a successful integration of self and other.  It is a complete absorption, rather, of the former by the latter.  Yet at the same time, “religious experience” of this order seems almost solipsistic.  The other has to exist so that the self may feel worthy by serving it; and an other that needs to be waited on hand and foot like a mute paraplegic is a mere egotistical construct, not a distinct human creature who will prosper spiritually from the encounter.  The term I hear frequently used to designate such clumsy gestures at social conscience is “virtue signaling”.  Precisely.  You’re telling the world in semaphore that you are a marvelously decent, caring person: you’re not perceiving, assessing, and addressing specific realities with respect to their full impact on your neighbor.
My son isn’t much interested in this particular church, for which I am grateful… but I’m also distressed that he may not find a better option.  I have rarely succeeded in doing so myself, in our land of plenty.

Dads and Moms, if you want to know why your bouncing babes are now overturning squad cars and demanding that wealth be confiscated and redistributed, maybe it’s because of the morally bankrupt “social justice” sermons you made them sit through during their formative years.  Or maybe it’s simply because they nonsensically conflate violence with peace as they struggle to find a script that projects them as concerned adults.  When the chasm between self and other is negotiated with disastrous ineptitude, such whopping contradictions are not unusual.

Getting back on track is going to require effort of a kind and magnitude that seem well beyond human capacity… but through God, all things are possible.  American mainstream practice is not that god, though it was once kept helpfully on the straight and narrow by a more mature spirituality.

Society Collapses When Self/Other Recognition Dissolves (Part I)

Sometimes an attempted trail of reason, in working its way through cacophonous riot and poignant sentiment, doubles back on itself; sometimes, in honest perplexity, you write contradictions.

I wondered if, in the course of the past two weeks, I might have sealed myself in a rhetorical labyrinth.  I recall declaring myself ready for a formal, political severance from people who think my kind fit for a death camp merely because of our genetic composition (viz., “old white guys”)… and then, a few days later, I appeared to hold mainstream society responsible for producing that poison, and I confessed a certain pity for the little vipers who bore it in their bite.

I have put myself on trial, therefore: am I being contradictory?

In my defense, I would first observe that the idea behind a looser American Confederacy, with the secessed Caliwashegon enforcing no citizenship requirements whatever and taxing her few productive members to the hair roots, was one of self-teaching.  The newly formed republic would be free to prosecute her utopian experiment fully, as the rest of us watched in great interest.  The cadets aboard this space ship would be at their stations, not to suffer punishment, but to see if she would fly. True, I was convinced that the experiment would be truly punishing: the foolish upstart states would repent and come begging for readmission to the broader group under the Constitution’s terms.  I still believe—firmly—that such an approach is infinitely better than imposing the Southeast’s will (for instance) upon the Western Seaboard.  I wrote, indeed, that if the US had embraced this policy a century and a half ago, the nation would not have slaughtered three quarters of a million of her citizens, industrial and fiscal imbalances would have been reconciled, and slavery would have died of is own primitive torpor.

Now, as for the people who shower me with porcine epithets because I’m an “old white male” and feel themselves inspired by holy zeal to spit accusations of rape, assault, racism, and genocide in my face when I enter a restaurant… why would I not, a fortiori, be willing to give them their own island whereon to learn good manners as they spray each other with excrement like Yahoos?  Actually, I would be entirely willing to do that, for their numbers overlap almost perfectly with those of the Far West Utopia.  Austinites could emigrate back to California (where most of them come from these days).

Yet at the same time, I believe I was extending an important point last week, which was the following: new members of the spit-and-spray species would arise among us even as we rejoiced in their formal exile, for something within our socio-cultural engine is churning them out.  There’s a reason why bratty children exist, and it must be sought in the quiet suburbs where their virtuous parents reared them.

As I mulled over all of these complex connections, my mind drifted back to perhaps the most disappointing day of my career as a college professor.  I’ve related it before, many times: I had grown vexed with the rate of absenteeism in an upper-division English class, and I vented my irritation one day by quipping that X, Y, and Z must be missing because Question 4 had driven them to suicide.  I believe several coeds probably wanted me dismissed that same day.  Little did I know—for I have only found this out within the last month—that suicides among young women have spiked dramatically over the past decade.  Should I have known that at the time?  Should a teacher construct a demographic profile of each class—detailed with the moment’s hot-button issues—before Day One and prepare himself to steer clear of possibly delicate subjects?

I didn’t apologize for the remark, and I wouldn’t today.  It was quite brief, clearly intended as a joke, and indexed both to an undue amount of whining about homework and (as noted) a sloppy level of participation.  I will go further now than I ever have before in my defense: suicide is always an apt burlesque of a situation where difficulties are melodramatized, for suicide itself is always melodramatic (if you exclude examples that ancient Stoics offered of resisting a tyrant, some of which are physically impossible).  No misery in this world justifies self-murder.  Such a response indicates a disastrous lack of proportion (often equivalent to an utter absence of faith).  We are not mocking the victims of suicide when we use it as a trope for excessive drama any more than we’re denying the seriousness of alcoholism when we hold up drunken behavior as buffoonish.  We may grieve over a brother who ruined his life in a fanatical religious cult or through a gambling addiction: that doesn’t mean that the bizarrely warped thinking in one situation and the surrender of self-control in the other cannot be scorned.  It certainly doesn’t mean that either behavior “deserves respect”.

Perhaps I can best convey my position as an educator with an analogy.  Picture, if you would, three houses.  Two are private residences adorned to the taste of the occupants: the third is a temple.  To me, the subject matter of that advanced course in English grammar was the temple wherein we were all meeting to honor and absorb as much cultural tradition and wisdom as we could.  One of us, say, didn’t usually wear shoes in his personal dwelling, and one of us liked to have loud music running in hers.  In my opinion, all such personal predilections should become irrelevant the instant we cross the temple’s threshold.  I’m not in your house, and you are not in mine: we are collaborating in a service which, done properly, should join both of us—along with our entire culture, if not our species—in a harmonious unit.  So I wear the slippers prescribed for respectful entry, and you temper your ear to accept the rhythms of gongs and chimes.

I wouldn’t know that you might be offended if I remarked upon chimes being more restful than drums… but I really don’t care if you contest the judgment.  Suppress the personal here for a moment, would you?  It’s not appropriate.  In my erratically attended class, I was wholly unaware that suicide had acquired the mystique of the AIDS epidemic thirty years earlier.  People continue to say, “I’ll kill myself if her mother stays another week.”  It belongs to our general parlance: not all of us are twenty-year-old girls witnessing a crisis peculiar to their circle.

When we are nevertheless commanded by the Politically Correct to “respect the feelings” of this or that prickly demographic subset, we are being compelled to adore a new mystery.  Suicide is not a god to be venerated.  She is not Suicide.  Her name should not be uttered seldom, and then only whispered with downcast eyes.  The problem that the current generation of females has with willingly staying alive is indeed peculiar; and, like all peculiar behaviors, it arises at least partly of their own choosing.  Young women spend too much time on iPhones and are far too concerned about popularity and criticism in this fantastical alternative reality.  As an older person, I should not consider myself morally obligated to memorize a through-the-looking-glass geography in order to communicate with one of these spirits as she fades in and out of our three shared dimensions: not unless I’m a therapist and she is my patient.  I am not a therapist. The outrage directed at me as we attempted to understand subordinate clauses had all the shocking suddenness of a black student’s warning, issued to me years earlier, that I was risking my life (because of my race) by pronouncing “gangster” as “gangsta”; and in that instance, I was actually trying to understand and fuse with the trend.

The attempt to understand never matters in these cases, it seems. Only the occasion for the “wounded” party to bleed in public matters. If a catalytic brute like me didn’t exist, he would have to be invented.

I submit that something very similar to that unhappy day’s events is unfolding with the “I believe her” and “all men are rapists” micro-orthodoxy.  Very specific and personal experiences are now being forced into the collective consciousness as objects of awe commanding us brutes and clods to servile obedience.  Their causes—their surrounding reality—must be excluded from all questioning.  “What do you mean, she might be lying about the assault?  How dare you suggest that women are not universally abused!” is the contemporary equivalent of a radical Puritan’s roaring, “What do you mean, things sometimes happen by accident?  How dare you suggest that God hasn’t a plan for everything!”  We are to fall to our knees as soon as certain words are whispered.  Your bad day, once upon a time twenty years ago, must smite me like a thunderclap because others in your clique claim to have lived through similar days.  I don’t get to question the precise extent of your clique, the degree of similarity in its experience, or the causes behind that experience.

But as a free, reasonably sane human adult, I claim the right to question.  In your specific case, Traumatized Coed, I’m sorry if a boy forced himself on you during a wild party in college… but that doesn’t mean that I have to suppress the wisdom of Ulysses’ judgment when he says of Cressida, “Her wanton spirits look out at every joint.”  Shakespeare’s Cressida is not Juliet: she does things she shouldn’t have done—that a “good girl” doesn’t do.  Is there an implication that you should perhaps not have attended that party, or perhaps shouldn’t have accompanied that boy up to his bedroom?  I agree that no woman should be a victim of force… but I’m not trimming my lesson plans to absolve your conscience of any possible degree of fault or complicity.  (And I’m sorry your sister leapt off the Golden Gate Bridge, very sorry… but I’m not apologizing if an, “I’m jumping out the window the next time this computer system crashes!” leaks out of my mouth.)

And as for your claim that all men are rapists… if this were so, then raising an uproar about a specific incident would be futile, for a good half of your likely auditors would be rapist males.  Your outrage can exist only if there is a higher law recognized by all sane, mature human beings.  How is Shakespeare’s Angelo a monster unless his abuse of power in attempting to seduce Isabel offends decency and fairness—and how can his attempt so offend if all men do the same thing routinely?  (The blunt irony here is that feminist critics uniformly detested Isabel in the Seventies and Eighties for being a stodgy prude whose virginity mattered more to her than her brother’s life… what’s a little rape now and then, especially since dating options in the nunnery are limited?)

We can’t discuss issues of general importance with people who refuse to leave their house and enter the public forum—washed, wearing shoes and clothes, their favorite swear words bottled up.  We can’t conduct classes when a third of the group sits it out in an acute attack of depression or screams for the teacher’s head if he blurts, “This is killing me!”  We can’t plumb the depths of Shakespeare when we have to anticipate treading on twenty-first-century, politically sensitized toes.  We can’t evaluate a Supreme Court candidate’s credentials if the faintest aroma of alcohol in his adolescence revives memories of date rape in some unspecified portion of the population.

I can’t be responsible for not living in your house, surrounded by your furniture and saturated with your preferred sounds and smells.  Honestly, I don’t want to enter your house, because the “you” that has exited its front door screaming at me for uttering innocent quips, dropping gendered pronouns, and ordering the occasional hamburger doesn’t strike me as fit for participation in civic life.  But if you can attract enough visitors to your salon, why not declare it a forum unto itself?  Then the rest of us will be able to mark it plainly on our map as a place to avoid.

If things are happening beyond your front door that have hounded you into your little house of horrors, then we should address those together and decide if they are objectively problematic.  Don’t tell me that I may not say “suicide” out loud: tell me that people of your age and gender are neurotically sensitive to the word because of an epidemic among them.  Let’s talk about the epidemic—its causes and possible resolution—but not wail over it and keen its victims as we pour ashes on our heads. Suicide is melodrama: that’s where the discussion begins (and I say that as someone who battle suicidal tendencies off and on in his twenties, alone and quietly).

Having a phobia of the next sunrise is not normal; neither is entertaining a phobia of all males.  (If “homophobia” is a genuine article, by the way, then why isn’t “androphobia” equally so?)  Do not demand that I “honor” your cold-sweat terror of sudden air travel, solitary doors of entry, or words that end in “-cide”.  Let us begin in admitting that you have a weakness—not in condemning me for blasphemously declining a tone of abject awe.

If you felt yourself compelled to have an abortion in college after waking up without clothes or memory in a fraternity house, let us by all means discuss campus policies about “recreation”—and especially the explicit campus endorsement of unconditional sexual adventures.  But let’s also recognize that you were not whisked off the sidewalk, bundled into a car, and dragged into the fraternity house.  You arrived there under your own power, and of your own volition.  Sucking out the brains of viable babies should not be legal just because your social life took a dark turn.  Come out of your bunker for a moment, will you?

Certain people cannot be taught because of the rigorous “safe zone” that they insist upon squeezing through every classroom door they enter, and certain people cannot contribute to a public debate because of the unresolved personal traumas that impel them to quest for vengeance or broadcast their nightmare incessantly.  Yes, we should listen to the wronged and the troubled; but when they cannot render themselves “listenable”, the best thing for them might be to retreat to some commune where their unprocessed grief and fury can find infinite echoes in the howls of other tortured souls.  Sooner rather than later, those who wish to opt for sanity will have had enough, and they will flee back into the world of the living with something like a coherent grievance.

Well, I’ve just finished my longest entry ever… and I still haven’t addressed the forces within our socio-cultural mainstream that are producing fringe behavior. I’ll try again next time.

“I Believe,” “Me, Too”: Women and Transferred or Postponed Rage (Part Two)

Words like “transference” do not typically grow in my author’s garden.  “Postponement” is a little more characteristic of literary haunts, and seems to me (in my amateur’s carelessness) to point to a very similar psychological phenomenon.  That women in Western societies have delayed or suppressed a lot of rage at the male sex is smack-in-the-face obvious to me.  Today I will try to extend my case to the idea of how that rage, broken loose at last, might transfer itself to a particular target (the original source of outrage having vanished, quite often, into murky decades).

First, to recap: I accept that many women today have been abused and violated by men in the past.  It’s grossly unfair to accuse all of us men of such behavior… but we who minded our manners were not “players” in the Seventies and Eighties, only mute bystanders.  Indeed, academic feminism, which I hold ultimately most responsible for the contemporary woman’s plight, began in the assumption that “men get to play around”.  I recall that notion from fifty years ago—I recall such blather flying from the mouth of a high school English teacher; and I further recall muttering to myself in futile protest, “Men in my family don’t play around.”

That was the point of departure: take the most reprehensible behavior of the most undisciplined males… and make it the standard which, in simple fairness, should also apply to females.  Once women began stooping to pass beneath a steeply lowered bar, men either followed their lead or… well, to repeat, some of us were left spectating from the game’s sidelines in gaping disbelief.

I didn’t write this last time, but I should say it now in so many words.  Today’s women don’t live up to men’s expectations: those times are branded “the patriarchy” and consigned to the Dark Ages.  Instead, men adapt themselves to women’s expectations in modern Western society—and the vector of those expectations was decidedly downward in 1980.

A second quick addendum: women are far less apt than men, in my experience, to be shamed by the example of an upright individual and to alter their habits accordingly.  Instead, they are likely to savage the “good girl” mercilessly until they drag her into the mud wrestling.  The female ego is stunningly fragile in that regard: it will sooner transform the whole world into a gallery of the macabre than recognize that it has allowed itself to be disfigured and corrupted.  (In that respect, women are natural progressives: they prefer blundering forward with back firmly turned on a dubious past to brooding over errors in a confessional, corrective frame of mind.)  No doubt, we men bear some of the blame for this.  To become “unpleasant” or to acquire “soiling” experiences is practically a death sentence in the female mind, whereas to a male it can be viewed as the Prodigal Son’s constructive adventure to the bottom.

Imagine, then (and here I pivot to this day’s subject), a woman whose head was filled from early adolescence with the “virtues” of freedom and self-assertion as expressed by giving her body casually to a different male every month, or every weekend… or every day or hour.  (There’s a satanic progression in such conditioning, just as may be observed when the gang recruit’s initiatory shooting graduates to cold-blooded mass-executions.) Imagine, for instance, someone like singer/actress Alyssa Milano: endowed (cursed?) with an angelic face, swallowed up before the age of consent into the most malodorous cesspool of moral degeneracy in American life (the entertainment industry), submitted to more kinds of assault and seduction than were ever seen by patrons of a Tiberian bath house, and finally spewed out with fading looks upon a pile of money with a mic and camera never far away.  At whom would such a person flail, now that she may safely throw a punch or two?  The agents and producers on whose couches she first auditioned have long, long ago drifted far, far out to sea (where, as this male hopes, the fishes gnaw their rotten bones).  The soirées where memory has “redacted” all the details with the thick black stylus of booze and drugs are not likely to yield back their secrets… unless under hypnosis or “therapy”.  In any case, much of life remains to be lived, even though the leading roles for “hot, sexy” young things are no longer forthcoming.  Is it wise to accuse Pilate of the Crucifixion at this point instead of a palace guard?

If I single out Ms. Milano, it’s because a) her voice in these matters is among the most persistent, audible, and imbecilic; and b) because I cannot quite shake myself of utter infatuation with her lovely face (male pig that I am: it’s infuriating sometimes, ladies, to be subjugated to the hard-wired male adoration of beauty).  Yet I should append here a bit of wisdom imparted by the roommate to whose nuggets I was briefly privy at the College of Willian and Mary: plain girls are easier prey, because they’re grateful for any attention they receive.  As the irrepressibly randy old Ben Franklin put it, all cats are gray in the dark.

A man needn’t be so naive as to suppose, therefore, that beautiful women were most tarnished by the sexual revolution’s debacle.  It may very well have been Plain Jane, rather, who had the widest experience of one-night stands in her bid to be pleasing and “hip”.  O vocal chorus of outraged women, address your wails to people like my roommate (who was on probation for drug-dealing, and from whose company I soon parted) for some of those raw mornings on the trash heap—but devote a strophe to Gloria Steinem, as well: louder, longer round of outraged wails.

According to the hair-rending logic of shrieking choruses… who pays?  Now that #MeToo has attracted a supportive mass of victims from the backstreets, whose neck gets fitted for a noose?  Every man a girl has ever dated?  But you can’t hang them all, much as you’d like to.  Who most deserves to be hanged… who, symbolically, is the most compelling villain?

Why, Dad, of course!  You know: the Man Who Wasn’t There, just when you needed him—the guy who was busy making tubs of money to send you to the very best schools.  During your high school years, you could coax a smile from his weary face (on rare occasions when you saw him) by bringing home A’s from Saint Tiffany’s Academy… and you secured an A in English by writing about how women should be allowed to sleep around just as men have always done.  (Did Dad really do that?  You knew he didn’t… he just wouldn’t.)  Then it was off to Rutgers or Purdue; and Daddy Dearest certainly couldn’t have disapproved of keg parties and weekend hook-ups, because he was oh-so-proud of you for getting accepting into one of the nation’s premier ivory towers.  (So maybe… maybe the other stuff really was part of his secret life.)  How were you supposed to figure out, at eighteen, that physically walking these ivy-draped corridors was a high honor, but that listening to the subversive, nihilistic rigmarole echoing through them was a plunge into the abyss?

Why didn’t Daddy explain all this to you, if he approved but disapproved?  It needed sorting out.  Why did he turn his back on you, once more and at the most critical moment?

Yes, Dad should pay… but he’s your father, and you love him (between and behind the times when you hate him).  Daddy should hang for letting you be taken out with the trash… but not precisely Daddy.  Somebody like him.  Some very prominent spokesman for his “values”: for God, country, family, free enterprise… for rationality, objectivity, order… for the System.  The System that let boys treat you like a toiletry before flushing you away.  All rise for the Pledge!

Who gets croaked for all that?  Why, Brett Kananaugh, of course.

To the Alyssa Milanos of this world, and to their Plain Jane sisters, I believe there is a weirdly logical cogency in the “I believe her” professions.  Yes, he did it!  The wrapped-in-flag Mr. Clean who made straight A’s as you were supposed to do and drew the priest’s benediction that was supposed to be yours—all the while enjoying his beer-guzzling games with rowdy mates and being Man About Campus though saving himself for his future bride… what nauseating hypocrisy!  The sham of it all!  The lie of it all!  Oh, yes, the specifics—the details!  They make it look as though the truth is on his side and the lies on yours.  You always get snared in details, because that’s how the game’s creators set it up.  So Justice Kavanaugh gets off on a technicality?  Not on your life!

He’s worse than the boy who wouldn’t stop when you said “no”, the young man whose panting face on top of you doesn’t quite crystallize from the fraternity house’s drunken mob, the boss who showed up in your apartment to go over tomorrow’s presentation and wouldn’t leave… he’s the man who facilitated it all.  The pimp.  The hypocrite who nods, smiles, collects his fee, and shuts the door on you.  He needs to hang till his face turns black and puffy.

I can understand all that.  It’s wrong-headed thinking.  It’s miserably misguided: the degree of transfer is pitiful, surely pathological.  And yet… and yet, is such a transfer of fury entirely irrational?  The lunacy must stop—but the hypocrisy which drives weaker characters to lunacy must stop, as well.

We should no longer surrender our daughters for sacrifice, like Aztec maidens about to have their hearts cut out, to polluted “institutions of higher learning”—and we should no longer patronize an industry that degrades them for our amusement.  Both of these cultural burn barrels are radioactive with hatred of the American mainstream… and the American mainstream, in retaliation, continues to channel its impressionable youth straight into their furnaces.  Why is that?

“I Believe,” “Me, Too”: Women and Transferred or Postponed Rage (Part One)

I’m not wading into to a discussion here of the Supreme Court’s nomination and confirmation process; rather, I would draw attention to the kind of remark stirred by recent such “discussions” in certain quarters.  A college professor at a Catholic university, for instance, tweeted that she hoped male senators who supported Judge Kavanaugh’s candidacy would die a miserable death, and that they would be castrated postmortem and their testicles fed to hogs.  The “professor” was not disciplined by her institution, as far as I know.

Okay.  Please consider this hypothetical.  If I wrote (not quipped or popped off in private, but typed for public consumption) that a female who voted for X should be gang-raped, then bludgeoned to death, then have her —s cut off and fed to farm animals, I could forget about any white-collar employment forever and, indeed, forget about any job which didn’t involve getting to know said farm animals up close.  And rightly so.  Not only that… but some man worthy of the name, hopefully, would walk up and smack me into next week.

There are at least three reasons why women can spew hideous vitriol in the faces of men and get off scot free.  I’ll get the easy one out of the way first—the one, that is, whose existence no “educated” person will acknowledge, least of all the “professor” herself.  It goes like this (and I am not myself proposing it as valid).  Women often get a pass for extreme misbehavior because they’re women.  That is, they can’t control themselves as well as men and they’re more given than men to irrational outbursts.  Those who object, “Well, the provocation is extraordinary if you realize what women have had to endure,” simply confirm the passive-aggressive stereotype: viz., women absorb punishment until they can’t take it any longer, and then they explode in every direction at once.  The poor things.

To repeat: I do not write as endorsing this point of view.  I observe, rather, that it does indeed exist; and I will go so far as to say that it nestles very deeply in our cultural subconsciousness.  That’s why I will speculate with confidence that the “professor” sensed, albeit subconsciously, the presence of such a “get out of jail free” card in her invincible hand.  Her punches are free.  Their target is bound and gagged.

Now, the remaining two reasons for why savage, even insanely sanguinary remarks are routinely tolerated from female “intellectuals” and “protesters” need more space than I can give them at one sitting.  Hence I am dividing my treatment in two this week.

Today I wish to underscore the immense role played by the sexual revolution during the late Sixties—but especially by its massively destructive aftershocks during the Seventies and Eighties—in producing the kind of irrationalism we see fueling the current plague of “misandry”: not “misanthropy” (the hatred of people in general), but the hatred of males specifically.

As my wife and I arrange our new home in lower Appalachia little by little, I’ve dealt with the absence of television reception in the room where I like to work out by hooking up an ancient VCR player.  My tapes are often at least thirty years old.  One cannot sit through a stream of commercials from the late Eighties without being reminded (if one actually lived through those times) of how hyper-sexualized the marketplace was.  The consumption of alcohol and the purchase of cars, particularly, seem to have accessed the day’s most popular code for “picking up chicks”.  Shaving products, too, didn’t appear capable of occupying a twenty-second slot on the screen without a “babe” running her fingers over the smooth male jawline.

How was this wave of meretricious stereotyping able to sweep through pop culture after academic feminism had supposedly chastened the winds of masculinity in the Seventies?  The surprising answer is that one weather event directly caused the other.  Without the “freedom” to sleep around “unjudged” which feminism bestowed (imposed?) upon young women a decade earlier, the Eighties would never have been able to project the Playboy Bunny image on women in every context where they were single and young.  A certain decency had remained operative in advertising and entertainment even in the mid-Sixties.  Now the world was partying.  Females were supposed to be universally exuberant about the festivities; and any male who didn’t join in was a definitive square, at the very least—with reasonable grounds created for suspecting him of psychosis.  (“What are you all hung-up about, man?  Sex is fun—fun for everyone!  Are you one of these religious fanatics who knives prostitutes, like in that movie?  You should be in a cage!”)

Yes, that’s pretty much the way I was made to feel as a young man who wasn’t partying.  I was the psycho.  Once or twice, I was reviled almost in those very terms. My own case, I hasten to add, is not ideally instructive: I doubt that individual cases ever are.  Had I not been thrust into a children’s school where socio-economic disparities combined with my natural shyness to render me invisible, I would surely have learned how to talk to girls at an earlier age.  I would not have found myself single at a stage when the available women had either endured a divorce—and thus grown very leery of the whole “traditional lifestyle”—or else embraced since late adolescence the lifestyle of serial hook-ups.  Yet so it was.  I was a turtle in a school of tuna.

And so it is, furthermore, that listening to female intellectuals speak now about mass castration can almost make me forget my gentlemanly upbringing.  I truly think I understand how a black man would have felt forty years ago when would-be employers trotted out, “Sure, we have lots of colored applicants—but this is a thinking man’s job.”  Same thought process.  Precisely the same.  No?  Tell me how it differs.

How clear it seemed, back in the Eighties, that men who did NOT behave like predators out to “score” every weekend were shunned by single women!  Especially girls with a college education ran in the other direction if a young man happened to drop a favorable reference to marriage.  As for the less educated… even to think of marriage before giving the sexual sportscar a good spin around the block was the height of folly.  As a multiply divorced woman remarked to my wife some years ago, “You wouldn’t buy a pair of shoes without trying them on, would you?”

The irony in that thoroughly commercialized analogy would surely have been lost on all of the many who approved its logic.  Here they were (went the new orthodoxy), freed of bourgeois inhibition to be themselves and enjoy life… and, in fact (for so goes reality), they had only reduced themselves and everyone around them to a dual client/product function.  The two people in the hook-up were both consumer and commodity.  “It” had to be “good”, or they would move on… but they were also “it” for the human “it” they were slurping from a can (as it were) or ripping from a wrapper, so the pressure to look seductive and to give pleasure was oppressive.

I know it was, because I viewed the results so often.  As much as I was tempted to wallow in the self-pity generated by my abstemious lifestyle, I could never escape for long the recognition that the joy-seekers were in fact far more miserable than I.  They imbibed drugs to fight depression.  Some even committed suicide.  A few, having quickly discovered in my company that the electric Mr. Right did not animate my terminally boring habits, appear to have found me safe enough to serve as a Father Confessor.  Not the role I had auditioned for, but…

But it was from encounters like these that I acquired whatever understanding now allows me to parse stupid intellectualist slurs of the, “All men are rapists!” caliber.  In the experience of many young women during the Eighties, sex under some degree of compulsion was part of the game.  Not every guy got rough… but every girl seemed to have known some guy who’d gotten rough.  One of them told me (how on earth did I inspire such confidence?) that a man had brutally undressed her only to find that Mother Nature had made her “impenetrable”—a discovery that she answered with a trip to the surgeon rather than to the Sex Crimes Unit (having been mocked mercilessly for long minutes by her “date”).  Another girl, volunteering (unsolicited) her “first time” narrative, told me of being forced to submit in a sleeping bag while on a camping trip with perhaps two dozen youths.  The perpetrator was a young man she had always thought “cool”; and even at the moment of confession, she seemed confused about whether she had actually been raped.

Enough of this.  Have I illustrated my point, or have I buried it?  Allow me to reel in my intended insight from these deep, dark waters… and, as the line shortens, I begin to see that my fish may have two heads.

For one thing, the charge that men are swine whose testicles should be fed to swine is a vulgar, brutal utterance: period.  End of discussion.  Authors of such squalid, rabid visions should be scorned as intellects—and, indeed, as mature human beings.  I am a man, and I am not that loathsome animal.  I’m sure I am not alone.  If I were to say, “Well, the girls actually love a little force while it’s happening.  It’s only later, when the relationship doesn’t go where they want, that they start whining about assault”… would my coarse remark not actually be correct in certain cases?  I recall one feminist writing that there’s a difference between rape and ravishment.  Hmm.  With a No Man’s Land that broad and that gray, would my coarse generalization become justified?  Absolutely not; for a moral principle forbids the use of force, even if some women sometimes find that some degree of force ravishes them in the arms of some men.  A few people apparently like to be whipped, as well—but any hand that touches a whip always defiles itself.

Do not, therefore, throw me to the swine just because you have chosen to date nothing but pigs.

Which is the fish’s second head, or the same proposition viewed from the other side: women who came of age in the Seventies and Eighties often have a shared experience of sexual molestation because they chose, though perhaps with little forethought, to embrace the feminist ideology of the time.  Their own conduct elicited brutal conduct from the kind of man whose attentions they sought.  I do not say that they “deserved it”.  I say, rather, that they were willing dupes, exploited by an avant-garde that they idolized in youthful folly when they might have exhibited more character at the risk of temporary isolation.  I don’t hold children responsible—not entirely responsible—for succumbing to a charismatic leader who persuades them to steal candy.  I would feel outraged, however, if the same children, thirty years later, decided to sue candy manufacturers for luring them into a life of larceny or for making them fat.

Show some adult responsibility.  You made bad choices at a vulnerable time in your life.  Condemn those who exploited you… but understand that their number includes the dispensers of really bad advice as well as the brutal adventurers who profiteered from that advice.  Grow up.

Faith, Reality, and Baseball: A Strategy for Resisting the War on Boys

One of the enterprises I wanted to pursue in retirement was my work on involving boys of short stature in baseball.  The game itself, and the instruction surrounding it, has turned as dull and mechanical as everything else in our downward-trending society—yet games (more’s the pity) are no small part of a young person’s education.  One learns fast and hard rules, one must acknowledge that one may suffer certain disadvantages because of certain rules, one figures out how to turn a liability into an asset, and one emerges from it all—with honest, sustained effort—in a triumph of self-discovery and successful adjustment.

If our young people today don’t need a strong dose of what I’ve just described, then they need nothing at all.  I can scarcely imagine a group of people more adrift from basic reality—more lost in speculation about what they might be or want to be wherein no calculations of probability enter and no inventory of available resources is ever taken.

Understand from the outset: I no longer consider myself much of a baseball fan.  As now played, the game strikes me as horribly boring and inept—and the overrunning of its ranks by gigantic body types who perform superhuman feats with a sub-novitiate grasp of cardinal skills is the specific cause of my disgust.  Football and basketball virtually require extraordinary natural endowments: skills there are an adorning cornice, not a foundation.  By no accident, these latter two sports are also much the most popular with spectators on college campuses.  As our society draws ever nearer to the degenerative level of a Rome where actual sea battles were staged for the amusement of the masses, we ourselves grow ever more distant from the spectacle’s participants.  They almost represent a different species; and perhaps, with the aid of hormones and nanobot supplementation, they will soon become precisely that.

I think it well worthwhile, then, to persuade young people that they can excel at a game by identifying their particular (if not spectacular) strengths, perfecting these through practice, and offering a significant contribution to the team’s effort that draws more upon reflection and self-discipline than upon raw sinew.  That’s where baseball comes in—and where boys, especially, come in.  Contemporary Ivory Tower propaganda (which quickly filters all the way down to kindergarten, make no mistake) wails about “toxic masculinity”, labels all males as rapists-in-waiting, and applauds only the gender-uncertain who cede decisions, authority, and initiative to the Nurturing Mother (though, curiously, few women of this cult seem interested in motherhood or, indeed, in a traditional femininity of gentleness and forgiveness). Boys, in short, have never stood in greater need of a regimen that introduces them to self-control and vigorous persistence.

Unfortunately, the history of baseball has almost always garbled this hygienic message with incidental static, at least in the United States.  (In Japan and Korea, the game appears to have followed an educational trajectory more like what I should like to see.)  In America’s late nineteenth century, professional players were viewed as rowdies who shirked the productive labor of farm and factory.  Early in the next century, its practices were submitted to a considerable clean-up before any pay-at-the-gate contest was thought fit for ladies to attend. Even as figures like Babe Ruth (and Ty Cobb, too, before Fake News claimed him as one of its early victims) ushered in a heroic era, baseball’s practical and commercial parameters continued to gravitate against a positive moral message.  Games were played almost daily in numerous far-flung venues, so the players’ normal Circadian rhythms—eating habits, sleeping habits, and other bodily demands that needn’t be specified—were forever being nudged hither and yon.  As a result, late-night frolics and heavy drinking became associated with the pro athlete’s life.  Mill teams or municipal squads that squared off on Saturdays (never on Sundays!) somewhat counterpoised this unflattering image; but on the whole, women even of my mother’s generation did not wish to see their sons inking a professional contract.

Today the interference with the constructive message comes primarily from two sources.   The obvious one is the professional game’s saturation in money (following the demise of the nefarious Reserve Clause, which legally classed players as virtual slaves of their owners).  Fathers are so eager to see their sons get the free scholarship ride through college—with a shot at being professionally drafted—that, in a couple of cases I have seen personally, they start the boys on the syringe at the age of ten or eleven.  Junior and community colleges, at the same time, are being inundated with “talented” kids from the Dominican Republic or Venezuela who speak little English and can’t name the first three planets or multiply fractions but swing a bat like demons.  When boys from Third World backgrounds, in particular, ascend to the professional ranks, the freedom and the money can easily overpower them.  Then the game receives yet another black eye for being the refuge of the undisciplined and the immature.

Quite ironic: for the virtues it requires, as I stressed in opening, could not be less tolerant of self-indulgent vice.  But money—big money—now fuels the engine, and not thoughtful teaching with long apprenticeship.

That our boys need a moral lifeline of some sort thrown to them has been underscored for me during the past two weeks by the grotesque volleys exchanged over a Supreme Court nomination.  I have my own very strong opinions about where the truth lies; but in the context of this discussion, I will say no more than that the addiction of both men and women to alcohol and sex as a routine path to social integration on elite college campuses is a national disgrace—and even more: an epidemic of moral degeneracy such as no nation can survive.  Perhaps we should exclude graduates of elite schools from running for any public office or occupying any powerful position.

To the extent that my own son was able to steer clear of debauchery during his college years, I believe his devotion to baseball was the cause.  One would like to write, “his devotion to the Christian faith”… but the organized Church, as represented by most mainstream denominations, is itself in vital need of an infusion of backbone.  St. Paul was fond of comparing the spiritual life to the athlete’s rigorous program of training—but I’m afraid that today’s Church more resembles the party-animal superstar whose contract guarantees him a fortune whether he stays in shape or not.

I posted a very sophomoric video a few days ago (which became 1st part and 2nd part when I overshot YouTube’s time restrictions) entitled “Faith, Reality, and Baseball”.  I truly hate addressing cameras… but I attempted to speak on these issues with what eloquence I could muster off the cuff.  Young men, I find, will actually watch such a presentation with infinitely higher probability than they will read an essay like the one before you; and some of them, even, will be quite generous to the stammering old fool trying to reach them through their generation’s preferred avenue.  It’s clearly not the singer: it has to be the song.  Let’s sing it louder.