Crosscurrents: God’s “Presence in the Present”

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I’m not feeling terribly optimistic about current events–yet I don’t wish to pollute my or anyone else’s celebration of the birth of Hope with excessive brooding over our ephemeral world.  Allow me, then, to share with you one chapter from the rough draft of a book that I plan to see finished in 2020.

I intend for this final chapter of the book’s first part to summarize by compacting several assertions made about the “numinous moment” or “event outside of time”.  Yet before I attempt that act of stitching together, an analogy may be helpful.  I’ve been racking my brain for an adequate one—for a parable, almost, that could convey to our linear-thinking minds how real time might match up to time as we know it.  I at last came up with something akin to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.

Imagine that you are walking across fog-strewn terrain toward a vague but steady light source.  You really have nowhere else to go that offers any apparent sense of destination; for the mist curls so thickly about your feet that you can’t even see your shoes, and that shimmering beacon on your horizon is your single reference in the soupy haze.

Unrevealed to you, then, in any very clear manner is the enormous but very gradual staircase across which you walk.  Its steps are suited to a giant’s feet, each being perhaps three yards wide; yet despite their great breadth, they rise by only an inch at a time.  You’re actually cutting across these stairs at a broad angle.  The result is that you can advance for fifty or sixty yards along one step before you stumble into the next one’s rise.  Naturally, since you can’t see your feet, you conclude at every mild stumble that the ground beneath you is a bit uneven.  You have no notion of slowly ascending a great staircase rather than moving ever forward toward the light which—you hope—will be the refuge liberating you from the milling gloom.

Those stairs that come at your progress laterally and throw it off balance once in a while are, of course, meant to represent the “outside of time” moments that subtly take us by surprise once in a while… and then, usually, are forgotten at once, since we assume that our attention should be fixed on forward motion.  The biblical phrase “stumbling block” had a part in helping me weave this strange analogy, for we indeed tend to treat such moments as interruptions or distractions.  We dismiss them with whatever explanation is ready at hand and get back to the serious business of “progress”.  Yet what could be more serious, in a spiritual sense, than climbing the giant’s staircase and seeing where it takes us?  If only we knew that it was there beneath the haze—that the little trips that sometimes throw us off stride all have an order!  But our senses aren’t equipped to provide such information directly.  Any knowledge of the stairs would have to be pieced together with extreme patience, most of it requiring a certain amount of inattention to that forward motion we think so full of promise.

For what kinds of experience, exactly, should we keep an eye peeled?  In the course of Part One’s ramble, I believe I have volunteered three at various points.  The first would be personal experiences that have stubbornly stayed with us for years, many (perhaps most) of them deeply rooted in childhood.  In discussing the sort of encounter that I myself recall as having knocked me off my stride and stood me upright, I did not mention anything as numinous as an angelic visitation, a message delivered in God’s voice, or a Near-Death Experience.  That’s because I have never lived through any event of the kind.  I suppose that those of us to whom God does not speak plain English in a deep, unmistakable voice have a little trouble fully believing those who claim to have been so contacted.  We don’t necessarily disbelieve them… but we wonder if their personality may be of a naive and very excitable type.  Everybody has dreams, and some of us have vivid dreams.  (Here I may include myself: my dreams are always in color and sometimes more “high-def” than any waking experience.)  A stable person understands, though, that you take a dream with a grain of salt.

Near-Death Experiences I find to be far more intriguing.  No doubt, some people massage a rough stay in the hospital until it looks like a trip to the Beyond, just as some people innocently mistake an escaped balloon that catches the sun’s last light for a UFO.  When so many witnesses of sound mind and solid character, however, testify so resonantly to the presence of something that greeted them as their vital signs flat-lined, I can’t wave their words aside.  (For that matter, a seasoned pilot makes a very good UFO witness—and there are several such reporters of strange aircraft.)  In attempting to retrieve a particular title for citation here, I found that the medical doctor/author whose name eludes me is veritably buried on the Internet under a mass of similar professionals who have documented the NDE over the past forty years.  Take your pick of them all.  It’s a pretty impressive witness list, however you arrange it.

But, no, I have presented in my discussion no such mind-boggling evidence.  The encounters I tried to describe do not grab you by the lapels, shake you, and announce sonorously, “I come from the other world!”  They simply don’t fit into the routine… and they fail to fit in after a fashion that you can’t forget, because it so insistently seems to mean something.  Just what it may mean, you never manage to decide satisfactorily.  It’s there, sticking out… and you can’t smooth it away as the reasonable effect of some handy nearby cause.

Which brings me to a second kind of experience, and a clearly related kind: art.  If I had to define an art object (or if I were given the chance to do so—for this is my wheelhouse), I should start by saying succinctly that it “expresses the inexpressible”.  Then I should probably try to express myself better and end up making a mess of my definition… because the paradox here is ineradicable.  A work of art assembles material impressions in such a way as to leave you convinced that their collaboration encodes a vital message, a whole greater than the sum of its parts.  You proceed to write an article or a book about the work, if you’re a scholar—and the more words you weave together in trying to nab the message, the more fish slip through your net.  What we academic types always seem to miss about art is its most fundamental characteristic: that it forever points to something not quite there.

Art, I’m convinced, is an angel that God sends to all of us.  The winged visitor might be a painting, a temple, or a mere tune—or the simple-seeming lyrics of the tune; but whatever his specific shape, the cherub manages to whack us lovingly upside the head and make us stumble a little on the invisible step of the giant’s staircase.  All true art calls us to faith.  It does so just by nudging us out of our determined forward stride for an instant.  Its subject by no means has to be the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, or anything related to any item of orthodox belief.  When I was an officer in a regional division of the Conference on Christianity and Literature, a lot of paper- and article-submissions passed under my eye—and the vast majority addressed some issue in the work of John Milton, C.S. Lewis, Flannery O’Connor, or some other overtly Christian writer.  I always regretted such narrowness of focus in our undertaking.  I wish we could have faced the academy head-on with the confident assertion that all true art comes from God.

For the academy needed a good stiff slap in the face—or punch in the nose—from those of us whom the angel had smacked… but we instead huddled around “our” authors who, for the most part, had been banished from contemporary college classes, anyway.  As I described in an earlier chapter (and will not reiterate now), our ailing culture’s intelligentsia have exploited the free pass we gave them to dismantle art entirely, presenting its essential mystery as no more than a cheap kind of hypnotism practiced by the powerful upon the oppressed.  That thick-headed, empty-souled program of demoralization should never have been allowed to pass unchallenged.

But it was… and so, as a culture, I think our sense of the mystical lurking in material things all around us took refuge in nature.  Again, the overlap with other kinds of numinous experience is obvious.  Many of my personal “outside of time” moments involved a particular natural setting, and many of the arts draw heavily upon nature, as well.  In their quasi-scientific zeal to explain everything away in some “sensible” deterministic fashion, our intellectuals like to attribute our visceral bond with nature to a genetically hardwired response to life on the savanna.  Of course we like trees!  They represented safety from lions when we were naked apes.  Of course we like purling streams!  Every living creature needs water, and water that runs swiftly is least apt to cause illness.

You can hardly win at this game if you protest, “No, it’s not the tree’s height and the stoutness of its limbs for climbing that I like.  It’s the intricate play of shadows in the pine needles—it’s the soughing of the branches in a breeze.”  What do you know?  You don’t have a Ph.D.!

One of the responses that most fascinates me is the one we register to distant sounds.  A far-off train whistle or dog’s bark… such “racket” can induce a deep sense of peace when, a mile or two away, it is scarcely heard.  Isn’t that because of its delightful (yet painful—delightfully painful) hint that even the most energetic spurts of life are but bursting bubbles on a vast ocean’s surface?  The abyss of meaning here is grandly unfathomable.  And how on earth would the evolutionary biologist disarm such a spiritual phenomenon?  Would he say that our apelike ancestors of course perked up when they heard distant sounds, because those were warnings of approaching predators?  But the approach of a predator would ignite an impulsive fear, not stir up a leisurely meditation—and to argue that the reaction has evolved as we have become less susceptible to predators might explain a diminution of fear, but couldn’t conceivably explain the emergence of pleasure.  Why can our “best and brightest” not accept that their explanations won’t reach every nook of the forest?

I will wander off target again if I don’t take care… but I might point out, in passing, that even we non-scientists are now sabotaging our relationships with nature through intrusions of progressive thinking—through cultic outbursts of “future-worship”.  We can’t simply let the indefinite play of light and shadow in a forest or down a mountain glen speak to us of the unspeakable: we have to bend that moment into “activism”.  We must “save nature” by outlawing the removal of underbrush and deadwood, by replacing mines with the “renewable energy” of wind turbines.  In the process, we create tinderboxes that will incinerate millions of acres in the next wildfire, and we erect killing machines that slaughter hawks and other high-flying species by the tens of millions annually… but we sleep better at night, because we have come home from our nature hike with a “mission”.

I’m no fan of the internal combustion engine.  I recall dropping a word or two about my long walking tours in Ireland and Scotland, and I routinely walked to and from work before my retirement.  I’m not out of sympathy with the general distaste for our high-tech pace of living—not at all.  But, please… let nature live!  Don’t be the doctor who starts cutting out organs when a little bedrest would cure the patient.  After putting up bluebird houses around our property, my wife and I have seen families of bluebirds a dozen strong congregate around the watering dish almost daily.  That’s a good feeling.  We don’t really have to go beyond that and agitate to increase the percentage of ethanol in gasoline—which will cause yet more meadowland to be put under the plow, which will destroy yet more wildlife habitat.  Every experience of nature doesn’t have to feed into a political agenda… does it?

To the extent that it does, or that we let it do so, we seal off what may be perhaps our decaying culture’s final portal upon the numinous.  I have come to adopt a single word in my thoughts for the ungainly phrase, “numinous experiences”, which I shall begin using from here on out.  I call these “outside of time” encounters, or smacks in the side of the head, or glimpses out the train’s window, or nudges off the tunnel’s track… I call them crosscurrents.  We need to yield to these rare transverse currents whenever they briefly stroke us: we need not to attempt to wrestle them onto a vector that parallels our forward motion.  They won’t go there.  They are all telling us the same thing, and it is this.  “The purpose of what you do is not the purpose you offer when explaining what you do.”  Our actions are indeed purposive, if we are good people—but not purposive in any sense that we can define, since their ultimate objective is not of this world.  When we nevertheless succeed in reducing our explanations and definitions to terms that make complete sense in this world—and when we thereafter adjust our actions to suit the verbal formulas we have produced in mutilating efficiency—we become less good.  We lose touch with the spirit.  We skew our forward motion so that we no longer trip over the occasional, invisible step of the giant’s staircase.  We proceed, instead, along a perfectly flat surface, paying attention only to its “corrected” smoothness that permits a speedier advance… and we climb the staircase no farther, nor do we even notice that we’re straying from the beacon at our lower level.

“Radicalized” Teenage Girl With Kitchen Knife Shows Us the REAL Threat to Our Nation… Uh, No

“White teen girl detailed plan for racist attack on black churchgoers in notebook, police say”: that’s literally the title (with only first word capitalized) of the Washington Post article trumpeting a non-event.  Ponder those words.  A white girl scribbled some troubled thoughts about murdering congregants at a black church.  Essentially, this is the content of a “story” that made headlines throughout the Southeast, and upon which WSB-TV Atlanta lavished at least three minutes on the evening of November 19.

Once you know more details, the episode becomes even more… non-eventful.

The “white teen girl” was sixteen years old.  Not eighteen or nineteen: sixteen.  She had apparently amassed a collection of… no, not handguns, not bombs or grenades, not clips for assault rifles: knives.  She collected knives.  So now we have a sixteen-year-old white girl with “knives”, in the plural.  There was no indication that she had trained with the Mossad, or that she possessed a black belt in some ancient Japanese art of firing out blades at a rate of five per second.  As far as we know, she has only two hands.  As far as we know, members of the Bethel AME Church in Gainesville, Georgia, are not exclusively octogenarians or manually challenged female invalids.  And of course, as anyone can be pretty sure of knowing, the Church was a “gun-free” zone, making it a target even for someone with no more than a kitchen knife (the species of blade involved in this case).  Our Gal Gadot wannabe was too respectful of the law, it seems, to equip herself with deadly weapons illegally.  Sometimes the “gun-free” idiocy works.

The WaPo article bestows much quote-space upon one Sergeant Kevin Holbrook, who was most likely the blond, baby-faced young man I saw interviewed on WSB news.  That lad is going far.  He pressed all the right keys to sound just the right notes.  The girl’s notebook contained “manifesto-type” ravings, observed the officer with wisdom beyond his years (and training).  He continued, as WaPo reports faithfully: “There were many writings and drawings, different depictions, and a lot of hateful messages in it….  As far as the details go, they were down to very specific information.”  Turns out that Holbrook is also something of a theologian.  Carnage of innocents was averted, he concludes, “by pure grace”: had the normal Wednesday night Bible study not been canceled, the teen fiend would not have found the compound’s buildings empty when she visited them, a dagger clutched Bluebeard-like in her teeth.

The church’s pastor, interviewed by WSB, confirmed God’s intercession in the canceled Bible study—and confirmed, further, my own inference that no men attend this church and that no women there are capable, say, of lifting a chair or coming at an assailant from behind.  But… might God be whispering to these good people that Bethel AME should host a self-defense class in the near future, if not actually persuade a retired soldier to slip a Glock inside his coat during services?

Now, the pastor and the sergeant weren’t quite on the same page as to motivation.  The former, while admitting that the sixteen-year-old had to be very troubled, wanted her tried as an adult (tried for snooping around the sanctuary with a knife in her belt); the latter was convinced, as he revealed in his WSB interview, that she was “radicalized” by “white supremacist” websites.  Now, if our would-be mass murderess were hypnotized by Internet conditioning, then she can scarcely be held fully responsible for her acts; but if she is actually to be prosecuted as a full adult, then the assumption must be that she had complete possession of herself—more so than one would expect of an ordinary sixteen-year-old.  And in that case, the “radicalizing white-supremacist websites” are utterly irrelevant.

An aside: I wonder how long Sergeant Holbrook has dreamed of using the word “radicalize”?  Doesn’t it sound cool?  But you can’t use it to describe, say… I don’t know: say a jihadist website.  I’m afraid you can’t even use the word “jihadist” any more.  I didn’t write that.

But “white supremacist”, now—you can and should drop that phrase early and often, at least if you hope for a long and ascending career path in law enforcement.  White-supremacist songs… white-supremacist holidays… white-supremacist weather and condiments and ways of pronouncing the word “tergiversation”: it’s everywhere!  The white-supremacist menace is everywhere!

Just be grateful that white supremacists honor gun-free zones.  Can you imagine if….

Meanwhile, the city of Atlanta continues to have daily drive-by shootings, daily convenience-store robberies at gunpoint, daily brawls that go ballistic when someone pulls out a handgun—and the crimes are almost always black on black.  But the city’s African American community shouldn’t allow its collective eye to be diverted from the real problem, which is…

The KKK is back!  White people are coming for you—and with knives this time!

WaPo wraps up powerfully, “The girl’s arrest comes as black churches and other houses of worship around the country have faced a wave of violence and intimidation.”  See, you hadn’t even heard about that!  I’m afraid it’s not quite clear to me whether the adjective “black” is intended to stretch to “other houses of worship”, or if the latter is clever MSM code for “mosque”.  (Of course, to WaPo, all Muslims are dark-skinned, so my interpretive confusion is a non-issue.)  And you certainly shouldn’t be misled into thinking that Christian churches everywhere are under escalating attack from outfits like WaPo to surrender their orthodox views on marriage, on gender, on the value of hard work… that’s not intimidation, it’s the inevitable friction of Neanderthal-meets-Homo Sapiens.  The real story here, once again, is that whites are out to murder blacks.  If you didn’t know that… well, what are news outlets for?

Sergeant Holbrook and his crack team apparently lost no time analyzing the girl’s Internet activity and ferreting out the insidious influence of WS propaganda; but they haven’t yet had the leisure to visit her high school and find out if,  just maybe, she had been routinely beaten up by black girls and decided upon the church attack as her revenge.  Wouldn’t it have been wonderfully Christian if she had stormed through an open church door, knife drawn, and then been talked to tears and surrender by the suffering Christ’s words of peace delivered by a true believer?  Maybe an invitation to sit with the group and pray instead of a call to 911?  We’ll never know if that might have happened—if someone other than Pastor Try-Her-As-An-Adult might have stood up and borne God’s message.

And we’ll never know about that high school situation, either.  Something tells me that the girl would have confessed that part of her motivation right out of the gate—and that our ambitious young investigators would instantly have buried it deep in the “unusable” file.

Squishy Faith vs. Hard Reality

I have become a Ryan Bomberger fan.  It appears that his October 7 post on townhall.com has been lifted without explanation from the archive, so I cannot now adequately reference it; but the discussion concerned whether or not evangelicals should be supporting Donald Trump.  Predictably, plenty of the mainstream media’s jabber-puppets have chastised the Christian community as a pious fraud for not denouncing a man so rude and worldly—a hard pill to swallow, when one considers that none of these self-anointed Jeremiahs has any faith beyond secular utopianism (or any recognition of moral stricture beyond leaving the boss’s parking space vacant).  One might as well listen to a jackass criticizing an eagle for not flapping his wings enough when he flies.

Bomberger was having none of it—nor was he won over by the argument of his co-religionists that Trump is foul-mouthed and says (generally via Twitter) hurtful things.  Naturally, the standard reply to such protests is that the anti-Trumps are one and all in favor of very late-term abortions, up to and including abandonment of a child “mistakenly” born alive; that one and all promote the chaotic non-enforcement of our border which has produced a magnet for human traffickers, child-molesters, and other two-legged monsters; and that one and all, therefore, have a lot more to answer for than a crude Tweet.

This was Ryan’s approach to dismissing, or diminishing, the so-called Christian objection.  I don’t know why it left me unsatisfied: certainly I disagreed with nothing in the article. I believe I was rankled, however, by all the things left unsaid.

Such as… well, we’ve been listening to a placatory Church now for most of my time on earth, its hat in hand, its head humbly bowed, its lips murmuring, “Who am I to judge?  Let him without sin cast the first stone.  If two gay people wish to marry… who am I to judge?  If two heterosexual people wish to cohabit and raise children outside the formal bonds of marriage… who am I to judge?  And I’m not going to judge our Muslim brethren, by any means!  Why should their faith be inferior to ours?  I wish they wouldn’t behead people… but those who do such things aren’t true Muslims, you know. And then there were the Crusades, where we behaved abominably!”

Oh.  And now you don’t want to dirty your hems by walking through the muck of Donald Trump’s Tweets.  Thank you for that sudden—very sudden, one might say random—burst of moral enlightenment, o ye beacons of the Christian faith!

I find myself wondering how these “good Christians” would have received a marine who returned home in 1945 after surviving Iwo Jima.  Would they throw him a parade down Main Street in Middleville, USA?  Excellent—good for them!  Let’s give the lad the key to our not-quite-city!  But what would have happened if the church-every-Sunday town fathers had discovered that the returning hero had collected an ear or two from Japanese corpses?  Would they pause to consider that the boy had passed several sleepless nights under fire, watched several of his buddies have their guts shot out, and seen his own young life flash before his eyes several times as he stormed machine gun nests in caves?  Or would they stop at the reflection, “Oh!  How brutal!”

I’m betting that the parade would have been canceled if our “good Christians” of today had lived seventy-something years ago.  Fortunately, they didn’t.  My grandfather wasn’t that kind of simpering, whiney, safe-zone-seeking study in moral anemia.  Neither was yours.  They would understand that when you put a man through living hell, he’s apt to do a lot more than exceed the exclamatory limits of, “My goodness gracious!” when his pal from boot camp loses the right side of his head.

I didn’t vote for Mr. Trump in 2016.  I didn’t like the “Lyin’ Ted” lie one bit, nor the insinuation that Cruz Senior had been implicated in the JFK assassination.  Those remarks were Bush League (and, no, the namby-pamby Bushes would never have made them… which was one of the few things I liked about the Bushes: they didn’t play in that league of cheap shots and behind-the-back trips).  But Trump has swallowed his own medicine times ten times ten since his election.  How many days, weeks, and months of 24/7 slandering by a pack of slavering media jackals could any of us put up with before we started shooting the bird at CNN?  Oh, Jeb would never have done such a thing, under any circumstances (and he would never have needed to; he would have been busily tossing the jackals some carrion).  Ted Cruz would have come back with a classier response… and he wouldn’t have come back from Iwo Jima with Japanese gold teeth in his pocket, either.

I can only speak for myself.  I get mad—really mad—when someone defames me.  If someone were to call me a Nazi before the camera, I wouldn’t smile: I hope I could confine myself to William Buckley’s, “You call me that again and I’ll punch you in your goddam mouth.”

Would I be less of a Christian for registering such a reaction?  Is that really what we’ve boiled our Christian faith down to: an insipid pabulum that amounts to never “hurting” anyone?  I’ve struggled for years with this bloodless, invertebrate morph of the faith in seminaries and at national conferences.   I thought we stood for truth; I thought we acknowledged our incapacity to grasp ultimate truth in our present state, but also accepted the direction of inner imperatives that forbade us to make peace with the self-serving prevarications of men.  I thought we humbled ourselves in confessing our passionate excesses—but that we also scorned death itself when ordered by despots to stand passively by and witness brutal abuse of helpless innocents.

I do not recognize my faith in the creed of our castrated male leaders and of our testosterone-charged females.  I will not apologize because my abiding by the rules of grammar makes you feel the oppressive fingers of the “patriarchy” or because my recipe for tacos smacks of “cultural appropriation” to you.  I’m not “sorry” that you feel “hurt” or “offended”.  On the contrary: your decision to feel hurt when you know nothing of my motives—or know damn well that they were not malevolent—offends me.  What kind of friend says to another friend, “I never want to see you again!  The way you said, ‘Hey there, old boy!’ reminds me of my father’s greetings—and he used to beat me!”  You’re insane if you mean that seriously.  As a Christian, I’ll tell you as much straight up and help you work through your problem, if you like.  The one thing I won’t do is help you pretend that you don’t have a problem.

I will most certainly vote for Donald Trump in 2020, foul mouth and all.  And I will do so as a Christian, because the campaign of incessant slanders and legalistic bullying launched against him by whited-sepulcher political hacks and prostituted propagandists sickens me to my stomach.  Just as indigestible to me are those who piously whine that a good man never “hurts” anyone.  I have no fraternal affinity left over for them: not any more.  If you won’t slap in the face a man who wants to leave babies unprotected, to surrender young girls to kidnappers and pimps, to deprive people of the right to self-defense, to brainwash schoolchildren into thinking that all sex is good sex, to invite unvetted adventurers from terrorist breeding grounds into quiet communities, to give mega-corporations free access in bidding wars to buy his patronage as he dangles restrictive legislation… if you won’t scream “scoundrel!” in that man’s face because it might hurt his feelings, but neither will you support the man who would stand up to him because the language might turn foul… if that’s where you are in your “faith”, brother, then you’re an empty fraud, and quite possibly a pompous idiot.

Let Freedom Ring… Where? How?

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This roundabout discussion begins with a strange “revelation” that struck me earlier in the month.  Question: why does almost nobody in either house of Congress appear concerned about a 23-trillion-dollar national debt (not counting unfunded liabilities that would run up the tab at least fourfold)?  Some of our elected representatives can’t count, granted; and some are so deeply mired in graft and corruption that their interest in their fellow citizens’ future is equivalent to Marie Antoinette’s.  Yet I consider it obtusely cynical to consign virtually every member of both parties to one of these two categories.  What about the members who can do addition without their fingers and toes and who have also graduated to a modicum of normal adult responsibility?  How can they sit by and watch the dollar’s purchase power overheat and explode?

Answer (revelation): they must genuinely believe that the dollar’s collapse will be a good thing.

How can they believe this?  Because in such calamitous circumstances, the nations of the world would have to become—in a word much beloved of President Clinton whenever he discussed economic issues—interdependent.  All nations having grown equally insolvent, various political rivals around the planet will have to patch up their differences and create a single worldwide system.  Though I understand pitifully little about banking, it seems to me (based upon my limited research) that the world banking industry has already taken large strides toward assuming control over everybody’s finances, thanks to digitalization and other “initiatives”.  Baron Rothschild et al., for example, have a very clever plan for transforming “carbon credits” into a single world currency, centrally controlled by… Baron Rothschild et al.

All the same, would that be such a insufferably bad thing—I mean, one big clunking system?  The truth is that we haven’t yet seen a World War III, with over half a century having been run off the clock since the Cold War’s first dark days.  China, for all her saber-rattling, obviously knows that she can bring us to our knees just by standing back and watching us collapse under the effects of our own moral flabbiness.  No need for her to push buttons that may envelope the planet in radioactive dust for centuries: just let the Yanks continue to forget how to procreate, to snarl at each other because of skin color, and to medicate themselves with gateways to what Baudelaire aptly called “artificial paradises”.

Okay… I can see how some worldly-wise attorney whose understanding of human nature and history hovers at imbecilic levels would buy into this vision enthusiastically.  No more war.  No more borders.  No more doctors for some but not for others.  We know that Congress’s membership now includes several genuine, outspoken socialists—and many, many more on the Republican side have imbibed of Socialism Lite and decided that they can get used to the slightly sickening aftertaste.  Besides… well, I no doubt drew too heavy a line earlier between the principled and the corrupt.  You can endorse the “no more wars, no more borders” scenario in principle and also calculate, in the back of your mind, how you and your children are bound to enjoy certain privileges as members of the governing elite.

For the rest of us, though… I ask sincerely: what would be the disadvantages of living under a one-world government whose citizens are now forced to settle their differences without mushroom clouds?

I suggest that we can effectively prophesy daily life in such a “terminally safe” world just by looking closely—or, even better, viewing distantly for enhanced perspective—the beams and joists rising all about us right now.  Let this picture settle into focus. We would be fed constantly the “soma” of the broadcast media to sustain our state of contented ignorance and somnolent amusement.  We would be disarmed to ensure that the rare individual who went off his meds wouldn’t pose much of a threat.  We would be watched around the clock by indefatigable electronic eyes.  If we strayed into a public expression of “unproductive” criticism (and all criticism of the Unit, of course, would be classed as unproductive), Nanny Google would send us into time-out.  (In the classic BBC serial, The Prisoner, the extreme form of time-out—utter social ostracism—follows the Village Council’s verdict that one’s behavior is “unmutual”.)  Intrusive oversight wouldn’t stop at utterances, either. Our very facial expressions and body language would be monitored and graded.  The “People’s Republic” of China is already blazing the trail with ubiquitous surveillance cameras and a system of “virtue points”.  Those detected in moody or uncooperative attitudes would see their “credit score” docked sufficiently to deny them travel rights, perhaps, or to thwart their children’s entry into a good school. (Egalitarianism notwithstanding, the “right school” will remain a secret passage into the oligarchic elite’s corridors of power.)  I believe the Trump Administration has nodded in the direction of allowing similar surveillance to influence Second Amendment rights.  Nothing to worry about just yet, just now… but if you pay attention to the sand vibrating under the soles of your shoes, you can indeed discern the thump-thump-thump of some rough beast slouching toward Bethlehem to be born.

So… there’s your choice.  Option One: life without fear of nuclear holocaust or immolation in Walmart’s bread aisle when a psycho’s girlfriend splits, at the cost of having your brow movements monitored as you brush your teeth.  Option Two: risk of all the fears eliminated in Option One, but with minimal cost of invisible surveillance and moralistic lecturing from Super-Nanny.  The more elderly of us will resist the first choice as its popularity swells, and we’ll probably end up in a mass grave after we flunk out of Re-education Camp for the third time.  The younger of us will be right at home with two-way mirrors everywhere they go, since they actually invite such constant universal exposure into their lives already with their “devices”.

Die, then, old warhorses!  Ye shall not by much precede the generation of asses who win but a few more years before the Committee on Social Harmony euthanizes them as they wait for a hip or knee replacement.

But is there really no alternative?  Are not our so-called “sanctuary cities” in fact pointing us in its direction?  What if we created discrete communities wherein people could live by their own rules—what if we went in that direction rather than transforming the entire human race into robots with uniform behavioral programming?  Let the West Coast, for instance, have marriage of species to other species or of one to three, five, or ten; borders that appear only on paper; one school curriculum, one income, one housing module, and one doctor with one bag of meds for all and sundry; free weed; and elections modeled after Major League Baseball’s All Star Game, where you vote as many times as you like.  Let those happy campers become a province of China, for all I care: they already are, for all I can make out.

On the other side of the continent, let the Southeast insist upon postings of the Ten Commandments in all public places.  Let her citizens be required to carry self-defensive weapons upon exiting the front door.  Abolish school districts: let each school teach that curriculum which concerned parents approve.  Let marriage exist only between a man and a woman, and let vandals who deface monuments cool their heels for a few months in the calaboose.

Let residents of one area who flee its “horrors” to a more congenial space be required to have settled in for five years before they enjoy full voting rights; and let regional legislatures be required to approve new law in two sessions with an intermission of at least two years between confirmations.  Build in some stability, some “drag”. Give customs and manners a fighting chance against George Soros and Mark Zuckerberg. Let cultures separate out according to their preferred values… and let surrounding cultures honor the shift of ethos that accompanies crossing a boundary marked on paper.

Why is this vision a pipedream?  Idealistic critics will say, “We went through all this Tenth Amendment crap with slavery.  If higher moral principle had not trumped regional special interests, human beings might still be laboring under the whip in the Deep South.”  Well… the rude release of illiterate and unskilled slave populations into “freedom” was in fact responsible for much of the misery that descendants of freedmen carried well into the next century; and the considerable opposition to slavery within the South would have expelled it even before the Civil War, perhaps, if national politics hadn’t introduced a complex friction of economic interests (cf. Marc Egnal’s Clash of Extremes).  May I point out, too, that many of our idealists who would raise this protest make no such noise when Muslim immigrants insist upon introducing the brutality of Sharia into their new neighborhoods?

The real obstacle, of course, is practical.  What will keep regional equivalents of the insatiably power-hungry Chinese elite—or the Chinese themselves—from occupying Alabama if New Mexico becomes a convenient launching point? Should states (and I mean all political states, not just the late-great “united” ones) solemnly undersign a treaty that will require each to come to the rescue if a bully invades a weakling? But we know this won’t work. Our current domestic politics show us nothing if not that progressive ideologues treat promises with contempt—and why wouldn’t they? Since reality is “evolving”, the circumstances involved in the promise you made yesterday are already irrelevant tomorrow.

The Chinese will lie, as they always do (unless truth proves more expedient in specific instances); and their ally states from California to Washington will connive at the lying, since their governing elite is more Machiavellian than that founding father of calculated duplicity. I see no alternative but for more principled states to bend their principles—near the breaking point sometimes—in the formation of effective counter-alliances. The Southeast, for instance, could team readily enough with Israel… but to muster the muscle necessary for browbeating China into retreat, it might also have to pact with Putin. India is another obvious friend; but Indonesia? Some of the more stable, adult-friendly Islamic republics?

This is a new pair of unsavory options. Do you lock arms with a neighbor who beats his wife as the pirates come streaming off their ship… or do you board up your own doors and windows, hoping for the best? The survival of states where the individual may still be free to grope his way toward God will almost certainly depend upon alliances with other states whose god is not ours.

Putin at least claims to be Christian, and at least makes an outward show of valuing the nuclear family and a modest level of public decency. He sent the obscene Pussy Riot crew to prison for a year: not an act that sits well with an American constitutionalist, but vastly preferable to Ted Wheeler’s allowing Antifa to bludgeon harmless bystanders. Aleksandr Litvinenko was probably poisoned on Putin’s nod… yes, and Vince Foster probably didn’t commit suicide. Putin seized Crimea—after a public plebiscite overwhelmingly approved the annexation. Putin silences dissident reporters, we hear; minister’s daughter Angela Merkel silences them at least as well with the help of former East German propagandists policing the Internet and wielding “hate speech” like a Stasi thug’s choke-hold. Our Pythoness, Wikipedia, warns that Putin’s trusted advisor, Aleksandr Dugin, is a fascist—but Dugin seems very confused himself about his pedigree: an anti-communist who admires Lenin and a Russian nationalist who treasures culturally diverse traditions.

When the most important thing is at last to have co-signatories in the mutual defense pact who keep their word, it may be that belief in God—some immortal god, any creator-god—is the only relevant factor in resisting the aggressive holy war of Secular Utopians, whose god is tear-it-all-down Whimsy. Societies whose members hold something immutable and sacred beyond this world’s terms are under vast attack. (I’m not keen on the Koran—but we “Islamophobes” should notice what the Chinese are doing to the Uighurs.) While not all such “believing” societies encourage the individual search for the divine, the alternative is an annihilation of the divine in bursts of individual petulance that soon settle into an animal sameness (lust, fear, envy, and the rest).

Of course, if our critical requirement for alliance is a belief in a higher power that postpones utter joy and perfect justice to another dimension, then a good many of our “Christian” ministers and priests will have to ally themselves with our adversaries. We would have to banish them to California, if they aren’t already there.

In summary, I would dare to say that a realistic hope for humane civilization is possible… but only if we don’t hope for too much humanity from our military back-up.

Me and MPC: “Christianity Lite” and the Death of the Spirit

For the purposes of this “dialogue”, I’m going to personify the doctrine that I see (on websites) and hear (in services) coming out of contemporary Methodist and Presbyterian USA congregations as MPC.  I will also lay as a ground rule that we will not bandy Bible verses.  I freely concede that I would lose such a tennis match to anyone who has spent years in a seminary… but I find, in any case, that bending Scripture into heated discussions is equivalent to wrangling over whether an Inkblot Test portrays a dog on a chain or a prickly pear cactus.  That kind of exchange isn’t very edifying.

ME: My thumbnail definition of Christianity would run something like this.  Every human being has a soul, and all souls are unique and precious to God.  They are constantly called toward closer union with Him, and that coalescence becomes a state beyond time that discovers utter fulfillment.  Yet souls resist the call as they pass from earthly childhood to adulthood, and they may be lost when the ends of this world replace the higher, inexpressible ends that work through this world’s matter to make themselves more visible.  Hence a radical reorientation in the adult—a “birth from above”—is required to lift his nose out of the glittering muck.

MPC: Yes, of course.  God calls upon us to serve others… and we fight fiercely against that duty as we busily feather our own selfish nest.  It’s a shock to us to realize that we’re often not living life even when we are busiest—but we busy ourselves with the wrong things.  We are immersed in life, but not in living it. For we must act in the here and now in order to serve others.  Airy pieties do not feed the hungry, cure the sick, or clothe the poor.  The way to the Kingdom is through energetic activity.  We must give generously of our time and possessions.  We must fight on all fronts against worldly forces that starve the less fortunate or hold them in chains: that is our high calling.

ME: Is it?  In a way, certainly… but your explanation appears to me to risk confusion.  Isn’t part of our calling also to dissuade other people from surrendering their lives to utter immersion in worldly affairs?  Yet if I will achieve my high purpose only to the degree that I fight poverty and injustice, then it seems reasonable that I would spend every waking hour soliciting donations or filing motions; not only that, but I should probably also amass a maximum of wealth so that I might devote it to those worthy causes.  And it would also seem that the impoverished and the unjustly imprisoned cannot live fulfilling lives without the intercession of energetic, wealthy benefactors like me.  Yet I personally find that such people are often light-years ahead of their “benefactors” spiritually.

MPC: Which is precisely why we must assist them rather than standing by in idle complacency.  They’re our brothers and sisters!  We would readily recognize the common humanity in them if we did not allow social convention to insulate us from the greater need, the higher calling.  Our membership in the arbitrary socio-economic communities into which we were born keeps pulling us down into a torpid, “us/them” mindset that paralyzes us.

ME: Yes, I’ve often noticed that you’re an inveterate enemy of social convention.  You don’t like settled communities, do you—except those church communities of your own design, some of whose orders of worship and representations of duty can be… pretty inflexible.  Somewhere in all of your “replacement conventions” is the line one crosses into introductory cultism.

MPC: That, of course, is an invidious portrayal of our mission and not deserving of a response.  Yet it is true that we must labor tirelessly to loosen the glue that holds people inactive because they believe their brethren to be only among those who speak their language, wear their kind of clothing, and live in their kind of neighborhood.

ME: Well, there’s no condescending generalization at all in that portrayal, is there?  But let’s stipulate that human communities (your communions, too, by the way) tend to brainwash people—for I see no need to mince words: we’re talking about behavioral conditioning.  Do you not find it perfectly absurd to maintain that any human being can mature healthily and successfully in a cultural vacuum—an environment where the day has no tendency to rhythm and social interaction no predictable niceties?  People would go paranoid en masse!  They would live trembling under rubble like the survivors of Troy after the city was sacked and burned.

MPC: And this, brother, is just why our communions groom that “cult” of worshipful daily life at which you sneer.  People need organization—and how better to organize their lives than around acts of loving concern and ritual sharing?

ME: You have now negated the moral value both of loving and of sharing, though you have blundered into a very honest description, I believe, of your objectives.  What I see in all this is you of the priestly caste prescribing virtuous behavior to your… flock, shall we call them… and they obeying mindlessly in the confidence that their prophets know better than they what is to be done.  You will tell me, perhaps, that playing Moses to the herd is an onerous burden, and one that you would willingly have rejected if not impelled by a higher voice.

MPC: Mock on, brother.  We are not strangers to persecution.  But the sad truth is that the oppressed would remain in chains and the poor sit starving in their hovels if all were such as you.  Yes, people require leadership.  They must be organized.

ME: Organized to accomplish the bare necessities of living, yes—but their will must be left free!  Look: is your objective to enter the figure “zero” in the Homeless and Starving categories, even though you have to program the populace rigorously to reach that end; or is it to facilitate the discovery of a passage to God among individual souls?

MPC: This is more of that airy speculation which, if indulged, would indeed leave thousands of people homeless and starving.  We promote action, not “feel good” formulas.

ME: I consider that very, very debatable.  But let’s stay at the practical level.  Do you dispute that even the bluntest pagan will share food with his starving neighbor out of primitive decency?  In fact, small tribal societies are the most generous in the world at this kind of thing.  Yet you say that vast communities of givers must be orchestrated to maximize the efficiency of the relief effort (once again casting yourselves, I notice, in the role of the unit’s collective conscience).  Shouldn’t your calling, rather, be to awaken people far and wide from their fixation with mere physical survival, and beyond that from their determination to strike a admirable pose before the eyes of the masses?  If you can do that, then they will embellish their rudimentary decency with higher service—perhaps with less money-making and more dedication to playing with their children or cultivating trees that survived the developer’s bulldozer.  If you awaken people to indefinite ends, that is, you may just find that you get most of the definite results you want.  A man who pauses to notice the stars is at least as likely to play Good Samaritan as a robot programmed to change tires for stranded motorists.  But no!  Not good enough!  You’ve hopped several squares at once in this board game, as it were: you’ve directed everyone just how to be concerned and where to give.  You’ve created efficiency.  Your gospel might as well be a Stalinist five-year plan.

MPC: Oh, yes—it was bound to come to this sooner or later, wasn’t it?  The “c” word, the “s” word.  We’re communists, then… we’re socialists, is it?  Well, I know you don’t like to hear the Gospels quoted… so let’s try a different citation.  As a matter of fact, the plan that Jesus lays out for human society is essentially a socialist one, and there’s no reason why he wouldn’t have uttered, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”

ME: Ah, yes: Saint Karl!  But let me shift this… discussion… to a different footing.  Let’s grant that the Christian’s high mission is to feed the hungry and clothe the poor.  And let’s say that the mission is accomplished, as it may indeed be.  Obesity is already reaching epidemic proportions even in some Third World nations—and look at the so-called refugees pouring into Europe who are sporting Nikes and Land’s End workout suits.

MPC: The poor are always with you, brother… but pardon my slip of the tongue!  I quoted Scripture!

ME: No harm done—you happen to have quoted it very ineptly.  Christ utters those words exactly to underscore that the objective is not a smooth-running social machine.  But say, if you can possibly imagine, that one day you awaken to find no hungry to feed and no naked to clothe.  You’d be done, wouldn’t you?  Your church would have no further reason for being.  You need the needy!  You desperately need them.  You need them to be needy.  If they didn’t exist (as Voltaire quipped of God), you’d have to invent them.  Your purpose, your direction… it would be gone.  Your god would be dead.

MPC: How puerile!  How pitiful!  And all of this just to justify your sitting on your pile of loathsome lucre instead of helping your fellow man!

ME: Not an answer… and, by the way, you have no idea how I live or what my income is.  We can compare homes and cars later, if you like.  But okay, let’s stay with your new theme of rationalizing an egotistical choice with hifalutin motives.  Let’s talk about justice for a minute—a word you strain with even greater overuse than “gift”.  You exhort your congregation not to go to bed at night if the day hasn’t included some step toward bringing more justice into the world.

MPC: And, no doubt, that disturbs you for some strange reason.

ME: Yes.  It disturbs me because… how do you know?

MPC: How… do we know what?

ME: Where the just course lies?  How do you, miserable human being, know that a boy’s life of relative poverty isn’t preparing him for an adulthood of noble, enduring, invincible accomplishment?  You haven’t even visited the boy’s home!  How do you know that the dark-eyed alien facing twenty years for child-molestation isn’t actually a child-molester?  You haven’t even reviewed the case against him!  You cram individuals into sweeping categories that fit your script—and then you proceed with the script, ignoring specific circumstances and significant evidence.  You have no time for details: you have to create a fairy tale in which you play the plumed hero on a white charger!

MPC: Whereas you, once again, would just leave the boy mired in poverty and the disenfranchised suspect rotting in jail while you interminably dig for “further evidence”… all so that you don’t have to move a muscle.

ME: You’re claiming that I rearrange reality to favor my complacency—yet you can’t so much as conceive of the possibility that you do the same, at a much worse level, by brushing over details in generating just the little drama where you can play the hero, the true believer.  You never seem to harbor the slightest suspicion that perhaps what you call “justice” is a very simplistic reading of a complex situation.

MPC: Yes, everything must always be complex, mustn’t it?  Complexity is always an excellent excuse for doing nothing.

ME: And doing nothing is usually a better alternative than doing the wrong thing—such as destroying initiative in young people to have them be the little victims you pull from the fire, or releasing a mass-murderer upon the public who has been cast as someone wrongfully condemned by a racist jury.

MPC: My goodness!  We wouldn’t be speaking just a little bit stereotypically there, would we?

ME: No!  Not typically at all!  Specifically!  I speak of specific cases that get nudged aside in your stereotypes… and you refuse to allow the reality of exceptions to your rule.  Anyone who questions your categories is “stereotyping”!

MPC: I can see little hope for discovering common ground in this conversation.  I’m afraid the action of the spirit must precede any such exchange if significant compromise is to be reached… and the spirit has simply not touched you.

ME: What spirit, precisely?  For that’s the final point I would have made, the endgame.  What in your system, finally, is spiritual?  What you project forward into the “eschaton” is the truly perfected human society, where nobody does anything he doesn’t want to do, where all have their needs utterly fulfilled… and I don’t see where God fits into the picture, except as the architect of the whole thing: a boy with an ant farm between two pieces of glass who wakes up one morning and finds that his insects have finally figured out their tunnels.  The ultimate purpose of the human soul is to crawl happily about in human tunnels, visiting a friend here, a friend there.  Nothing but friends, everywhere!  But no God.  Where is the fusion with God’s mind in which the Christian is supposed to hope and to which he is meant to summon others?  Where is God’s mind?  Where is the intersection of the galaxies, the music that plays outside of linear time?  I see nothing in your miserable utopian prison but human architect ground out by very human minds.  It sickens me!

MPC: Peace, brother.  We’ll all pray for you.  Struggle can be fertile.  Our doors are open to you whenever you wish to enter.

… And so it goes.  Please view my brief new videos, The Perverted Concept of Justice in the Secular-Utopian Church and The Perverted Concept of Giving in the Secular-Utopian Church, if these subjects interest you.

The Seventies: Our First Full Decade of Cultural Decline

(I’ve been utterly preoccupied this week with preparing a re-edition of a novel invisibly published almost twenty years ago: Footprints in the Snow of the Moon. I hope to have it accessible on Amazon by mid-week. In writing the preface, at any rate, I decided that I could post an excerpt here that might not be uninteresting to IC’s audience.)

I heard a television documentary declare recently that Sharon Tate’s murder at the insane hands of the Manson gang was the end of the Sixties.  The remark wasn’t intended chronologically: its implication was plainly that the depraved brutality of the deed corrupted the “Sixties dream” and exiled American culture from the Eden of free love and rejection of social hierarchy.  If only, if only a few crazed loons hadn’t flown off the preserve!

In a far more significant sense, the Manson murders (there were several, by the way) were the climax of the Sixties—the necessary, inevitable dark fruit of a poisoned tree.  When human beings are freed of their inhibitions, the animal impulses that come to the surface vying for control may be lamb-like one instant… and then lupine the next.  Not that any wolf deserves to be defamed by comparison with Charles Manson: no, the human being wholly liberated of shame or guilt is an infinitely more atrocious creature than anything we can find in raw nature.  Thanks to his imagination, he can indulge a lust that has no analogue in any merely brutish chemistry: not a lust for sex or food, but for dominating the will of others—libido dominandi.

In unmooring the individual will from the cables with which two and a half millennia (punctuated by a few notable lacunae) of Judeo-Christian and classical Stoic morality had secured it, the Sixties set a generation of directionless young people loose upon each other—looking high and low for what they “wanted” and what they considered “relevant”, brushing aside entire systems and institutions that they considered “old” or “patriarchal”.  Frankly, this thumbnail sketch of the Sixties ethos is already in error: only the final years of the decade grew “radical”.  Most of the cultural clearing-and-leveling labor was accomplished in the Seventies.

Now, I will not maintain that the decade of flaring cuffs and collars, bushy unisex hair styles, and anorexic pop-singers saw a proliferation of drug-addicted mass-murderers.  Manson, let us say, was the face reflected in the pool at the chasm’s bottom.  For if human beings are distinct from the purely animal in bearing their blessed curse of free will and imagination, their distinction remains grafted upon an animal substrate.  They like to move in herds.  The herd lifts from the individual’s shoulders the complex burdens of freedom.  The hand of Satan that scrawled “helter skelter” in Sharon Tate’s blood no doubt hazed many a young “free spirit” away from the edge.  Indulging impulse was tamed (superficially and for the time being) into a social endeavor, and even a sociable one.  In those passive, pacifist Seventies, it turned out that you could “find yourself” while looking and acting exactly like the legions of “seekers” all around you; and this was indeed unsurprising, because it also turned out that our “self” was essentially a construct of DNA—our instinct to mate, our natural aversion to forced labor, our inbred terror of physical threat, our primate comfort in belonging to a group.

Statistical outliers—rogue elephants—would register a dangerous resurgence in the Eighties, when the cult of pleasure irresistibly fed into a cult of acquisitive hunger.  For most of the intermediate decade, however, I observed my peers to be lingering in an insipid sameness, neither searching for a guru in India like the Beatles nor snorting cocaine to amass royal fortunes on Wall Street.  The Seventies were a trough between crests.  They were a lull in whose wash uninspired hordes supposed themselves to be riding the wild surf.

The word “infantilism” would leap to mind if the present time had not laid yet a better claim to it.  Today, as I sit writing, college students are (as an abandoned cliché once had it) “much as nature might have left them”.  Several years ago already, my undergraduates hadn’t a clue what I intended when, as we read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight together, I associated the evocation of fertility in Arthur’s all-green visitor with the recovery of longer days after the winter solstice.  Most of them didn’t know what a solstice was.  Now their younger brothers and sisters are lecturing all of us on the planet’s climate and ordering us to “shut up” if we raise an objection.

In comparison, the overgrown children of the Seventies were at least not rude brats.  And they had developed a decisive gender—very decisive!  In that they could be said to have blazed a trail into puberty that leaves their contemporaries far behind.  Yet their hair still grew long in the pristine ringlets whose first formal shearing brings mothers to tears.  Their bodies were of the supple quality that allows toddlers to absorb infinite falls without taking much harm.  In fact, it was wrong of me to celebrate puberty in them with such confidence; some of the girls, at least, had found a way to resist menstruation.  I know I mentioned anorexia in passing.

Wasn’t abortion part of the same bid for “prolonged innocence”?  Children don’t become mothers and fathers, so… so pregnancies just shouldn’t be happening.  Something was amiss there.  Reset the clock and go back to playing in the nursery: those two months of alarming discomfort never happened.

Well, our overgrown children today appear to have discovered the full Mansonian potential of sacrificing small, fleshy masses with little fingers and tiny noses.  It’s a rite performed to a known god whose name I shall not repeat.  In that respect as in so many others, I prefer the “terminal adolescence” of the Seventies.  Observers of the scene back then could still see that something was wrong; and the gullible young fools sucked into doing the wrong still had, as often as not, an inkling that they had been led astray.  It was a time suitable to be the backdrop of a morality play, whereas today… today we find only the appalling chaos fit for writing what the ancients would have called a catabasis: a journey through Hell.

Why the difference?  I think it consists entirely in this: fifty years ago, vestiges of those twenty-five hundred years of Western culture lingered among the herd’s hoofprints.  Today, they’re all gone.  Fifty years ago, the young who had jettisoned the cargo of Western civilization in favor of “relevance” (which, in terms of college work, involved a much lightened reading list: a very happy accident in the Decade of Pleasure) had still seen Franco Zeffirelli’s version of Romeo and Juliet and Robert Bolt’s Man for All Seasons at the movies.  Today’s graduate students have cut their narrative teeth on comic-book superheroes—about whom some of them will probably write a dissertation.  I devoutly hope that a few of our twenty-first century crop will find their way out of Hell, having heeded a spiritual voice within that can easily outshout the Call of the Sociopath if attended to… yet Hell is where they are, where they have to search for exits.  Fifty years ago, exits higher up the road were still open.  They just weren’t being well maintained.

Nothing distresses me more in retrospect about that lost decade than the invertebracy of the Christian church in the face of so many formidable challenges.  As a young man navigating the day’s troubled waters, I had a keen sense that most Christian denominations were responding to the times, “Wait!  Don’t leave us behind!  We’re one of you!  Love, peace, togetherness, a better world… that’s what we’re all about!”  Yes… and that was apparently all they were about: no sin, no guilt, no repentance, no abstinence, no difficult ascent through stones and briars, no resistance to worldly seductions.  No comfort.  In my experience of the Seventies, the Church desperately fought against irrelevancy by rendering itself irrelevant.  Those whom it courted abjectly had already found what they craved in the here-and-now; or if their souls were not wholly drained of breath and secretly craved a lifeline to the Beyond, the Church had cast aside that line in its zeal to fashion a better here-and-now.

Again, one might make precisely the same claim of organized Christianity in the twenty-first century, and make it with a vengeance; but the trend began when trousers rode low, their buckles spread broad, and their bottoms belled wide.

I could write lengthily about the “charismatic” movements that sometimes spiraled into cultism during this decade—but I should be wandering too far afield from the subjects addressed in Footprints, which do not include these.  If I lend any emphasis at all to the matter of religion here, it’s because the novel struck me so powerfully—as I edited it after almost two decades—as groping for the spiritual.  This, too, seems to me characteristic of the Seventies: I mean, groping clumsily after something fulfilling and immaterial… and not being able to find it.  Finding substitutes for it in all the wrong places.  Yet again, yes, one might say as much of any generation of human beings.  The difference is that most such generations were graced with some form of organized faith that offered a clear alternative to sex, drugs, wealth, and power.  The Seventies, having inherited from the previous years a contempt for all reverend institutions, were left with a Church that embraced the secular world’s facile opposition of sex and drugs to wealth and power, as if those pairs defined adversarial ends of a spectrum.

The charismatic represented less a third way—a midpoint on the spectrum—than a retreat into that infantilism (too young for sex, too young for power) typical of the era’s approach to other moral crises.  There was no genuine escape from this world’s traps (and Sartre’s Huis Clos, whose title literally translates such despair, was taught in every sophomore French class).  Those who survived the day’s Charybdis of rival forces circling the same focal void and were at last spewed out upon Odysseus’s stunted fig tree faced a bleak, lonely prospect.

One of my faithful collaborators in the charitable venture, The Center for Literate Values, gave the original novel a kind review (what else would you expect of any officer in a public charity?)—but voiced a mild regret that the book did not investigate faith as a solution.  I won’t say that I took the criticism under advisement in my rewriting.  Rather, in my rewriting, I discovered that the forces I had unleashed in these fairly ordinary Middle Americans (ordinary on the surface—the only level at which anyone is ordinary), most of them well under thirty, needed to “blow up the world” a little more.  There needed to be more frustration with the options offered by a relatively smooth-purring, profitably hedonistic society now free and clear of the Vietnam nightmare.  I don’t say that there needed to be more options: faith often grows exactly because more is needed but no further options are possible.  I felt a considerable pressure to let something intrude into my “dystopic pastoral” which would lighten life’s burdens, paradoxically, by acknowledging that burdens don’t disappear in this life.

I had to make the narrator turn somewhat more consciously mature at the end.  And I did so: that’s the book’s major change.  Some may persist, “But I still don’t see his faith taking shape.  Where’s his faith?”  My answer: not in the things and people of this world—but running straight through them; not in the institutions of this world, but thriving in spite of them.

How many people in fact weathered the Seventies with a spiritual insight of such elevation?  Well… as a novelist, I don’t do statistical analysis.  I try to present the most instructive case, and sometimes I thereby present the least probable.  I will bring to general attention, however, that the narrator’s retrospective places his final thoughts in the late Nineties: he’s had plenty of time to mull it all over.  If you were “on the ground” during that somnolent spiritual war which was the late Seventies, you didn’t yet know that promiscuous sex might harm your body as well as your soul: AIDS was yet unheard-of.  You didn’t know that foreign nationals might plot to murder thousands of your neighbors in the midst of their routine: plane hijackings always ended with a rerouting to Beirut or Tripoli, usually after the passengers were swapped out for a million bucks.  You didn’t know that school children might so much as fantasize about gunning their classmates down: video games and our sociopathologizing “social media” were a glimmer in some developer’s eye.

I doubt that we learned much of anything from the Seventies, in short, while they were being played out.  Any lesson would have come years later (and it doesn’t appear that most of us have learned the full lesson, even fifty years later).  What I like about the Seventies as an artist, though, is precisely that they are “pure” of mixed motive when one scans them for moral cautionary tales.  At the time, no one would have known just how risky to bodily health and mere survival were many trendy new habits.  The only reason for resisting them would have been abstract: a stand in principle uncomplicated by a gun pointed at the head.

My Uneasy Truce With Liberal Christians on the Border Crisis

My wife and I, having retired to an area of the Appalachian foothills where she grew up, are supposed to join formally a small church this Sunday.  I have few expectations, and no illusions.  At my age, one is aware that faith either lives and breathes in what one says and does… or else it is a body without breath, a mere word gracing a convenient nexus of social diversions.  I love the compound’s century-old trees, the whispering creek under a small bridge, and the 180-year-old-church itself.  The people are probably no better than I at my best or worse than I at my worst.  I don’t really need a church to tell me when I walk with God… and I’ve never been able to convince myself that I’m walking with God because I belong to a church.

It’s actually very hard to find a denomination that will countenance the sentiments of my last sentence, especially along the more conservative edge of the spectrum.  Among the hardliners, you either hear and adore the Word every Sunday… or you’re hell-bait; and to hear the Word, you come to church and listen to Preacher Paul exegize select verses (which need no exegesis because everything in the Bible is literally true and means just what it says, except… whatever).

Well, we have steered clear of Preacher Paul this time.  I like our new minister, though a passing allusion (which I may have misconstrued) to LGBT issues in one of her sermons made me squirm.  As a woman who attended seminary in the Deep South, she endured a baptism of fire, I’m sure, that left her more sympathetic to liberal causes célèbres than I could ever be.  And as a straight white male who has navigated the shoal waters of college English departments for over three decades, I’m sure I could tell her things about leftist hypocrisy, coarseness, and inhumanity that would shock her.  But I probably won’t.  We settle where the tides of life have cast us ashore.  Some of us have known dense swamps, and some only barren rocks.

Yet this general magnanimity of mine doesn’t always wear well in specific cases.  The defense of our border is one such: I’m challenged to give my “live and let live” shrug when I hear trash talk about ICE.  If a devout libertarian were to explain to me why all borders should be nullified, I would heartily disagree, but I could understand how his principles had generated his position.  The connections would be logical and relatively unprovocative.  What makes me want to cry foul on discussions of this subject is the mention of children.  It’s tantamount to hitting the lights when you know you’ve drawn a losing hand and then raking in all the chips during the scramble.  No, sorry—you don’t get to skulk away free on the border crisis just by uttering the word “children”.  Even if you squeeze “Christ” into the same sentence, you’re not sneaking out of the room with the pot.  In fact, if you start throwing “Christ” at me routinely, I’ll have you permanently banned from the game… or I’ll just stop playing games, since I’m not the organizer here.  I’ll design my conversations to orbit tightly around “hello”: I’ll keep the peace of a quiet outsider visiting a lunatic asylum.  Sound familiar?

Let’s look at children, by all means—we of sound mind.  Take a six-year-old who’s been dragged from the rural village whose lanes, creeks, briar patches, and sand flats are all he’s ever known… and bundle him along a series of rattletrap bus-rides and crawling night transits in flatbed railroad cars until he comes to the desert.  Then make him walk two or three hundred miles through spaces that have no water and steady, brutal sun.  Why art thou doing this to him, thou follower of Christ?  Or why are you defending those who do this to him?  The reason is said to be a “better life”.  What better life?  Better how?  Better for his “parents”?  (Let’s assume for the sake of argument, and in the teeth of probability, that all our six-year-olds are being dragged through Hell by a true parent.)  How better for his parents?  Because they will harvest free health care, free police protection, free food and shelter in some cases (so they’ve heard), and free-and-permanent victim status in our ongoing high-stakes political game of subverting the republic?  How will this profit our boy?  What positive life lessons—assuming he survives the trip intact (and waving aside more probabilities)—will he learn from these new habits?  Dependency, indigence, victimhood, protest, envy, resentment… along with all the duplicity, cynicism, despair, and passive-aggressive tricks of exploitation that are first cousin to these… have we given this child, my brothers and sisters in Christ, a better upbringing than he would have enjoyed on the dirt floor of his hovel?

My Beacons of the Christian Conscience, ironically, are always among the first to deplore our overcrowded cities (and little Pedrito’s dad does not intend to pick apricots and lettuces), our high unemployment levels and (when those fall) low wages, our soul-killing ghettos, our deadly-violent streets, and our garbage-laden popular culture.  Yet by inviting hordes of fortune-seekers to ignore our laws, they are feeding the machine that generates all such misery.  Is it so important, then, that Pedrito not be brought up on a dirt floor?  Why?  For health reasons?  Are the mouthpieces of our Collective Conscience remotely aware of what massive movements of people into tightly condensed population centers do for infectious diseases?

But the children, the children!  They’re already here.  How can you turn them away?

An observation, and then a suggestion.  If it were known far and wide that our border was firmly shut to illegal penetration, then no child would ever be forced to endure this excruciating, sometimes fatal ordeal.  If a “parent” nevertheless feels so drawn by the prospect of a rich payday that he will submit his child to such torture, then I say that we have a prima facie case for severe child abuse.  Therefore (and this is my suggestion), instantly put each child up for adoption who is rescued from such a parent, and send the parent back home.  Fortunately, the volume of American families willing to adopt a child within two hours of a phone call is immense, thanks to the success of the Left at killing off very adoptable infants.  My wife and I would take Pedrito tomorrow.

Why is that “not Christian” of us—but leaving children in the hands of anything-to-get-ahead parents is a deed of mercy?  Are we truly trying to be disciples of Christ in a fallen and intricately compromised world… or are we posing for a selfie in some situation whose props and lighting “look Christian”?  (“Here’s another of Jesus and me… that’s me on the right.”)

I try to remind myself that inviting ignorant, dependent masses into red states at grave risk of igniting plagues and gang warfare—all for the sake of illegal enfranchisement and permanent hijacking of the nation—is the psychotically amoral scheme only of the Democrat Party elite (and more than a few Republican fellow-travelers in the beltway).  I try to recognize, even, that not all the “Lord, Lord” Christians who condone this calamity are merely of the virtue-signaling, selfie-snapping sort.  I truly believe that some, perhaps many, are honestly mistaken about the situation’s squalid facts… that is, I think I truly believe it.  I try to.  Truly.

But my vexation with people who are well old enough to understand just what a desert is, even if they’ve never seen one, can get the better of me.  My impatience with people who decry our repellently commercialized Christmases yet cannot accept that children may grow up spiritually healthy without iPhones and x-Boxes makes me nearly snap sometimes.  I know they mean well, some of these people… maybe most of them.  (More likely just some of them.)  And scarcely a one of them, at the same time, can credit that anyone holding my position isn’t a racist animal.

I’ll be okay.  I’ll listen to the wind high in the century-old pines, and the incessant watery whisper beneath the bridge.  All the projects of this world end in futility, from an earthly perspective… and the stream flows on.  Who knows?  Maybe I can politely nudge a mind or two in a different direction.  Maybe I will discover that one or two minds covertly occupy the same turf as mine.

But it’s a shame that so many children will have to suffer, in the meantime.  And it’s beyond shameful that their suffering will be abetted, and even engineered, by people calling themselves Christians—engineered in the very exercise of this self-indulgent, extravagant short-sightedness that they are pleased to call Christian living.

A Fearful Future Designed by Fearless Idiots

I’ve evaded this issue for months; I evade it every day.  I politely step around it as one might smile distantly at a visiting relative over the holidays who shows up with a cold.  I don’t utterly ignore it… but I sidle away, postpone, and break off in mid-thought to address more “pressing” matters.

The future.  I happened (don’t ask how) upon a collection of off-beat essays by a late twentieth-century author, now deceased, named Giorgio Manganelli.  A particularly long piece comments on a just-published (back in about 1980) anthology whose distinguished contributors anticipate what life in 2000 will be like.  In other words, I was reading a wry satirist’s view of several views of the near future from my own view almost twenty years later than that near future.  It’s an uncomfortable experience… and the pathos is a little too keen for me to delight in the absurdity.

Forever present in the human animal, apparently, are certain projections about the future… which would lead one to believe a) that notions of tomorrow are hard-wired in our imagination, and b) that the “real future” may be shaped quite deterministically by this stubborn hard-wiring.  There are the visionaries who foresee the resolution of all problems (without defining a “problem” while preserving any sense of human nature) by technology.  Cancer?  Cured.  Illiteracy and ignorance?  A computer chip implanted.  Traffic congestion?  An air-buggy in every floating garage.  Then we have this giddy band’s dark cousins, the visionaries who see right-wing generalissimos under every bridge just waiting to blow the high-tech train off the rails.  The less lyrical, more clinical prophets possessing an actual background in science will describe a society whose citizens are telepathic or semi-robotic without stirring in un-scientific words like “good” or “evil”… but one can sense their myopic eyes glowing in excitement through the print.  Dour moralists, on the other hand, will point to the script of Sodom and Gomorrah and advise the hasty construction of another Arc.

I remember an edition of My Weekly Reader that must have passed through my hands when I was in first or second grade.  I won’t attempt to peg the year… but let’s just say that 1980 may have been to those estimable publishers of educational matter what 2000 was to Manganelli’s elite commentariat.  What I truly remember—all I truly remember—from that delightfully newspaper-scented front page is the bichromatic image of a monorail.  Yep.  By 1980, well within my generation’s lifetime (we hadn’t heard the word “Vietnam” yet), all of us would get from A to B by hopping aboard a whirring, slightly subsonic centipede.  We’d go everywhere that way: to grocery store, to church, to ball park and movie theater.  There would be no on-board crime, no risky drop-offs at midnight… and cost?  What’s cost?

Apparently, a large portion of California’s current population recalls the same My Weekly Reader issue, was just as impressed by it—and has not learned in the intervening decades about factors like blown budgets, tax hikes, government waste, contractor fraud, zoning laws, and the inviolable limits of three-dimensional space.  I’m surprised, frankly, that the late great Governor Jerry Brown didn’t substitute a teleportation system when his Pacific-corridor bullet-train went bust.  The current governor, I believe, has in fact teleported to us from some other planet… some planet rendered uninhabitable by his race’s brilliant engineering.

Meanwhile, the future continues to arrive on its own terms.  Every day, tomorrow becomes today; and every day, today preserves qualities of yesterday that we had hoped never to see again but did virtually nothing to eliminate.  That’s why the future… yes, I’ll say the word: that’s why the future frightens me.  Because what frightens me is ourselves.  We don’t learn.  We never learn.  We keep turning the page expecting the tragedy to end and a comedy to carry us the rest of the way through the book—as if we were merely browsing through a book, and not writing it.  The boldest (i.e., most insane) of us express a keen interest in scribbling all over a fresh page, but… but they didn’t read the earlier pages, where the tragedy was ignited precisely by a zeal for erasing everything and starting from scratch.  We are held in thrall by the most incorrigible idiots among us, who also seem to have the most energy and the “boldest vision”.  Why wouldn’t they?  Wouldn’t you be bold, too, if you knew nothing about history, resisted acknowledging anything about your nature, and indulged your selfish whimsy as if it were the voice of God telling you how to arrange everybody’s life perfectly?

What could possibly go wrong with such “dreaming”?  How many graduating high-school and college seniors have just been exhorted by impressively idiotic speakers to dream their way out of the present’s miseries?

The very act of writing these paragraphs today, as it turns out, has proved another sly evasion of the future on my part; for I have written in very general terms about the futility of forward-aimed thinking, but not about several specific details of tomorrow—or this afternoon—looming so plainly as to be almost unavoidable.  I wasn’t always such an escape-artist.  When I was childless and single, I used to spend hours trying to bore straight into the future’s thickly veiled face.  Now that I have others to fear for, I can scarcely tolerate the misgivings that the stare-down produces in me.  That cavernous gaze is too similar to the Grim Reaper’s empty sockets.

John the Gospelist writes in his first epistle, “True love hath no fear.”  I’ve never understood that one, honestly.  It seems to me that those who truly love are precisely those who would truly fear.  The idiots with their designs unrelated to anything of the past or to any shred of common sense or practicality, in contrast, seem to be as fearless as lions… or as fearless as tripping addicts who imagine themselves lions.  I understand, from the perspective of genuine faith, that all things of this world end and that all worldly devices and desires are condemned to nullification… but that, in the ultimate comedy, none of the vast desolation matters, since this world is not the real world.  Nevertheless, as a traveler—a drifter, a vagabond—making his way through this futile, trivial, vainglorious, ridiculous world, I cannot completely inoculate myself against the anguish of gullible children who must watch the idiot-dreams of idiot-prophets explode one by one.

Heaven, maybe, has monorails powered by moonbeams.  I’d never thought of My Weekly Reader as a proselytizing instrument… but that’s exactly what it was.  Childhood dreams become reality where adult corruption is forever washed away.  That location is not right here, awaiting just another sunrise or two.  It never will be.

“Reparations”: A Tribal Drum Calling Human Beings Away From Responsibility

I tend to write either upon a subject that has fermented in me for a while or upon one that breaks down my psychic door, even though I would as soon concentrate my attention elsewhere.  Today a door has come off its hinges, so… I yield to the necessity of cleaning up the mess.

I have grown irritated at several thoughtful people who write against the propriety of “reparations”—i.e., the monetary indemnification of people with X amount of melanin for the ordeal endured by their slave-ancestors.  The bright but annoying types with whom I’m peeved will protest, “I’m white, but my ancestors had nothing to do with this outrage.  They arrived at Ellis Island in 1890”; or perhaps they tender the version, “My ancestors were German farmers and Italian craftsmen who emigrated in the 1850’s and probably contributed children to wear Union blue.”  The implication is that the demand for “reparations” is itself not unjust or unreasonable, but that the writer in question shouldn’t be liable for paying a dime.

I could shred this argument on its own terms if I wanted to.  I actually have little doubt that slaves lived in the households of my progenitors on both sides—not hundreds of slaves to work vast plantations, though Hollywood would have us believe (and has duped most of us into believing, apparently) that no other kind of slavery existed.  Rather, among my ancestors as among most slaveholders (“most” as in 95 percent), there was a groom, a cook, maybe a girl to wait the table and tend the nursery, maybe another man to oversee heavier chores about the house: three to five adults, in total.  These people were employed in the same work given primarily to indentured white servants before the early nineteenth century.  Why the gradual shift from indenture to slavery?  Because Northern slavers found it profitable.  Arabic raiders plundered villages in northwestern Africa, and Yankee schooners from Long Island or Boston or Baltimore shuttled them across the Atlantic to Southern slave markets.  The North had no great need of slavery—or indenture (though the myth that no Union state practiced legal slavery during the Civil War is an ignorant falsehood).  With its far more industrialized economy, the North favored allowing competition in its populous towns and cities to drive down the daily wage and impose no burden of room and board on the employer.  The South, being far more rural and sparsely populated, was ripe for exploitation by the slave trade.  Slavery was an ugly business, all the way around—but it was a business from which the North drew a handsome profit.

It isn’t the sanctimonious hypocrisy of the, “My ancestors didn’t do it!” argument that most irritates me, however.  No… and it isn’t even the utter absence of historical awareness visible on all sides—but I’ll mention that in passing.  Were some slaves whipped, raped, separated from their families?  Unquestionably.  Slavery was a wicked, horrid institution—as were many institutions of the day.  The British Navy manned its fleet by “impressing” young men wherever it could find them.  The raids of its press gangs upon American merchant vessels, in fact, were one of the causes of the War of 1812.  This practice was essentially enslavement with a fairly high probability of mutilation or death in the aftermath.  Another example: in many parts of New England, drunkards and rioters were pilloried or otherwise brutally punished.  Farther south and west, feuds between families frequently produced a bullet in the back along a lonely road.  Thieves of a relatively petty variety were hanged.  Dueling was not uncommon.  Life was rough.  Women not uncommonly died in childbirth.  (And yet, for all the cruelty of the times, a newborn whose mother had no means of support would leave it at a church’s doorstep rather than, with the doctor’s help, cram its face in salt before shifting it to the dumpster.)

For all that, many slaves were considered part of the family.  The church which my wife attended as a child preserved evidence of a wall down its middle, created to divide slaves and masters.  In the Christian family, there should be no such division, to be sure—but here is solid evidence that the slave attended worship along with the owner (something that would never have happened up North).  My grandparents and their parents grew up playing with children of color.  The photo at the top of this piece was taken in about 1900 by a member of my father’s father’s family.  You can tell that black and white children, squeezed together (with the tiny tots of darker complexion in the middle), are playmates.  Brutality, in other words, was not universal nor even the norm—or perhaps only on large plantations, whose owners (often speculators and profiteers from the North) were typically despised by smaller, much more numerous farmers and had political interests inimical to most of their neighbors.  May I ask, in closing this digression, what Sherman’s ravages of the South did to keep either white or black children from starving, or how a “reconstruction” which abruptly ended in a couple of years left freedmen in a fit state to feed their families and make their way?

All of this aside—and it’s a lot to shove aside, for the willful stupidity of imbibing all one’s knowledge of the mid-nineteenth century from Django infuriates me—but all of it aside, the true outrage of “reparations” is the moral outrage of holding children responsible for their parents’ deeds.  The crazed immigrant who pushed a little boy over a rail to almost certain death in the Mall of America… should his children pay monthly compensation to the victim for the rest of his life, if he survives?  What if the would-be murderer claims that the rabble-rousing “hate speech” of Liz Warren, Kamala Harris, and other unscrupulous flame-throwers of the Left incited him to attempt a killing?  Should the Democratic Party pony up for the bereaved family two or three generations from now?

Should I refuse to let my son marry your daughter because your grandfather wore a Nazi uniform?  I believe Ted Bundy left a son behind; perhaps that child should be monitored for signs of schizophrenia… but should we place him in a classroom all by himself?  Alexander the Great was a marvel to his contemporaries for, among other things, not slaying the sons of his political adversaries when resistance reached open hostility.  Do we, too, now marvel at such restraint?  Does it no longer make any sense to us?

I know the my-ancestors-didn’t-do-this crowd hasn’t fully weighed the implications of its half-hearted objection… but weigh them, please.  Consider what you’re not saying as well as what you’re saying.  The “reparations” canard (and I have refused to use the word outside of quotations to signify my contempt and disgust) is evil.  It’s not a dumb idea or an impractical proposal: it is evil at its foundations.  The basis of any true morality—i.e., any that is not cultural conditioning masked as unquestioned goodness—must be individual conscience.  Each single person must be presumed capable of choosing his or her acts… and held accountable, by the way, for not choosing when he or she just goes with the flow.  Such a presumption is the foundation of our free society.  If we reject it and assume, instead, that people are infinitely programmable robots who do the bidding of their tribes or their demagogic leadership, then why have another free election?  Why accord the individual the right to defend himself from deadly attack?  Program him, rather, to die passively: he can be replaced by another robot, and the malfunctioning robot who slew him can be dismantled back at the factory.  Why allow couples to conceive, bear, and raise their own children—for the real thrust of the “pro-choice” movement is to regulate the production of new humans according to some master-plan of population density and racial composition.

Notice that all three of the preposterous positions just outlined—overhaul of free elections, suppression of the right to self-defense, and state-sponsored eugenics through abortion—are fast becoming leftist orthodoxy. There is no room in the progressive state for troublesome individualists who delay the march of progress. Our individual lives have no meaning: meaning is conferred upon them only by the ascendant vector of tomorrow’s golden dawn.

Megalomaniac leftist ideologues understand that “reparations” are completely consistent with their broader vision of a deterministic, inhuman apehouse whipped into line by their own superior inspiration—they, our insane prophets sent from some inscrutable, blank-and-pitiless heaven.  Most of their allies in our currently sitting Congress, I am convinced, no more embrace this depraved ideology to its last letter than people on my side of the fence oppose “reparations” simply because of a family-tree exemption.  Democrat presidential candidates, rather, are competing in offering bribes to a base that (they hope) can be bought.  Even among that base, few whose palms grow itchy at the thought of a “reparations check” in the mail, I imagine, seriously believe that they have no power over their lives—that the cards determining their destiny were shuffled 150 years ago.  They just want the “free stuff”.

But what will the next generation believe?  Once we raise its members totally immersed in the poisonous vapors of tribalism and determinism, what else will they believe but that you are only and always your DNA signature—that this man must be my enemy because of his skin tone, and that I must pray to this god and love this music because my ancestors did so?  Those who write the checks, and those who accept them, will be responsible in a higher reality for corrupting human society with a sordid scam.  And you, too, my brothers “whose great-grandparents weren’t here at the time”… your hands will not be entirely clean.

For God’s sake, call the Devil by his name.

Spiritual Rebirth: The Contemporary Mind’s Arch-Enemy

The scribble I had in mind for today will keep for another week.  I’ve decided to offer something more appropriate to Easter Sunday, 2019.

It is difficult to sense an infusion of new life when one casts one’s eyes about the current scene.  Debate has long been terminated on the subject of abortion.  It is considered gauche, or sexist, or racist, or some such reason-throttling chunk of mud-sling, to observe that most women really needn’t get “notably pregnant” at all against their will.  They may abstain from sex; they may abstain a mere three days each month from sex; they may patronize any one of a dozen cheap, accessible varieties of contraception; or, all of the above having failed, they may at least discharge their loathsome burden in the first trimester.  What we have before us, instead, appears to be a species of woman that has sex at least once a day with no regard for the consequences and despite hating males categorically and on principle.  Briefly, the “debate” shifted this year to whether or not one might actually murder a baby already born… but now the air is once again as thick with slung excrement as Gulliver’s Forest of the Yahoos.  A significant portion of our neighbors refuses to have a civil discussion about the impropriety of infanticide.

Paris is burning… well, part of it has been burning, anyway.  I don’t believe even Adolf Hitler had designated Notre Dame Cathedral for demolition as his occupying troops withdrew—but let us cede the point, for argument’s sake, that the conflagration was accidental.  It remains nonetheless undeniable that the “religion of peace” continues to make huge, heavy strides through Western Christendom.  One must observe, in fairness, that Islam does not condone abortion: it certainly has the diseased relics of “Christendom” beat on that and a few other fronts.  Similarly, one should not attribute directly to Koranic teaching the hideous practice of Female Genital Mutilation, which is morally superior to the Aztec manner of female-body-part excision—but only just.  Yet neither are Islamic leaders outspoken in their condemnation of the ritual sadism to which young girls in their faith are often submitted. In that regard, their “tolerance” has a disturbingly Western/postmodern odor. I read yesterday that nineteen states—approximately two-fifths of our union—permit these degraded, barbaric operations to proceed unmolested by the law.  That’s pretty typical of the Christian caricature which we have become.  Christ didn’t “judge”; therefore, we mustn’t “judge”, either.  Slice away.  God bless you… and how long will racist members of Congress oppose funding FGM through Medicare?  How dare they?  If they were really Christian…

I think I prefer my Yahoo excrement straight in the face rather than kneaded into my bread. To be impassive to atrocity is to be “tolerant”; to be indifferent to the outrage of fundamental decency is to be “Christian”. Nowadays, every word of the English language is apt to have a value diametrically opposed to its original intent.  One can no longer utter the simplest sentence without its leaving the taste of the latrine in one’s mouth.  Our words have been stolen from us, or in some cases (the worst cases) returned after mutilations as nightmarish as the mad scientist’s who grafts wings onto a rabbit.  To write nada or loco is cultural appropriation if your skin isn’t the right color.  (I’ve never been able to determine just what that color is: even the original Spaniards were part Moorish in many cases—and it turns out that Portugal is home to a particularly high concentration of Neanderthal DNA!)  To employ a “gendered” pronoun is to risk professional termination, fines, and perhaps incarceration not just in our ally nations, but in our own topsy-turvy academic world.  To protest against the idiocy of it all is to manifest the deplorable “white privilege”, suspicion of which crime precludes any effort at defense and carries a minimum mandatory sentence of social ostracism for a day.  “The baby beats the nurse, and quite athwart goes all decorum,” as a white-privileged patriarch once opined.  Did that bard, prophetically, diagnose our abortion culture, perhaps?  Too many babies… the twenty- and thirty-somethings are unwilling to surrender their diapers to new arrivals that might compete for attention.

In the midst of such lunacy, Hope appears to have retreated to the Moon, left vacant by the descent of our dominant ideologies.  What does the dawn of this day in 2019 promise, other than a deeper plunge into disgrace and inhumanity?

I will attempt just a very brief answer.  As I age, I grow more aware that virtually all of our spiritual confusion arises from an intellectual (or pseudo-intellectual) confidence that we understand time.  Specifically, time in all of our constructs is linear: a “timeline”.  The times are suffocatingly depressing because, for those of us with sufficient memory, they so clearly describe a nosedive into arrogance, petulance, self-absorption, self-indulgence, absurdity, and outright stupidity.  The “Darwinian staircase” scaling upward on the shoulders of Homo Erectus, Cro-Magnon, and Homo Sapiens has now reversed its motion as precipitously as an amusement-park slide.

Yet why do we suppose that the image of time forced upon us by our human understanding is ultimately valid?  We should know, thanks to the operation of our same faculties, that we are incapable of fathoming the utter truth of things.  We are compelled by “logic” to believe both in a First Cause and in the dependency of every cause upon a previous cause as its effect.  We are compelled, likewise, to believe that every event contains causative events within it and also that no event could possibly happen if there were not an atomic, irreducible, “buck stops here” micro-event at the bottom of it all.  (Twentieth-century science latched on to the speed of light in order to keep the system from collapsing upon itself—but “C” is a mere conceptual convenience whose truth is under serious question in current physics.)

What, then, if all of our timelines are indeed illusions?  What if “then” is also “now”?  Frankly, I feel crucifixion happening all around me every day.  Why not resurrection, as well?  For the ascent from death is as inescapable as the terrestrial impact of a falling apple—or as the germination of the fallen apple’s seeds: they are all held together by an inviolable metaphysical force in a single expanding time.  Our linear timelines are constantly bombarded from right angles by the pressing reality of this superior, immutable time.  Our “progress” is constantly being knocked off course by inklings that our imagined destination is illusory—that we are “here and now” in an ultimate truth whose focal gravity our silly designs vainly struggle to resist.  What good is a promotion if we buy it with lies and betrayals?  What good is a glistening new palace erected with dollars extorted from the meager savings of our dupes?  We fight and fight against the winds blowing contrary to our “advance”, the wind that bloweth we know not whence.  We detest that interference.  We curse it.  Yet it draws us and draws us back to the simplicity of the child—the dwelling in the “here and now” which we abandoned when we decided to “make something of ourselves”.

Do not, please, misread my remarks in the light of a recent piece I dedicated to “the power of now”.  “Now” is not a renunciation of past and future: it is a reclaiming of the past and future as properly belonging to the Real, the Right, the Good.  As we fight to postpone the reign of goodness over our daily compromises and calculations, we fight ineffectually, futilely.  We may resist rebirth into the light of the true day; but to do so, we shall have to suffocate our soul, willfully and persistently, after it is already drawing breaths on its own.  Souls don’t die in the womb.  Only suicide kills them.