This blog begins with basic concepts, and branches out from there. Some of the posts are a continuation of an earlier post, or may somewhat modify the content of another posting through the introduction of other concepts for which the necessary groundwork is now laid. Consequently, you will comprehend best by starting with the oldest posts; for the convenience of those who have been with me from the beginning, the newest posts are listed first. Feel free, of course, to read in any manner you choose, forward, backward, or sideways!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

YOU, ANDREW MARVELL

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You, Andrew Marvell

by Archibald MacLeish

And here face down beneath the sun
And here upon earth's noonward height
To feel the always coming on
The always rising of the night:

To feel creep up the curving east
The earthy chill of dusk and slow
Upon those under lands the vast
And ever climbing shadow grow

And strange at Ecbatan the trees
Take leaf by leaf the evening strange
The flooding dark about their knees
The mountains over Persia change

And now at Kermanshah the gate
Dark empty and the withered grass
And through the twilight now the late
Few travelers in the westward pass

And Baghdad darken and the bridge
Across the silent river gone
And through Arabia the edge
Of evening widen and steal on

And deepen on Palmyra's street
The wheel rut in the ruined stone
And Lebanon fade out and Crete
high through the clouds and overblown

And over Sicily the air
Still flashing with the landward gulls
And loom and slowly disappear
The sails above the shadowy hulls

And Spain go under and the shore
Of Africa the gilded sand
And evening vanish and no more
The low pale light across that land

Nor now the long light on the sea:

And here face downward in the sun
To feel how swift how secretly
The shadow of the night comes on . . .
Send Poems to ddcomfort@gmail.com

Thursday, December 24, 2009

SPOLIA AEGYPTORUM

I've gotten a little behind with the poetry thing, so here's another.

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Spolia Aegyptorum

Leaving this place,
The land of sin,
We find us loaded down
With all the golden lucre of the land-
Hold! Is it not best to travel light?
These Goods do not combine;
What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?
How to unite contradictory minds?
Still, we heft our weighty packs,
Turning toward the forlorn wilderness.

Later on, encamped beside the Mount,
Uneasiness speeds its way among the tents.
Moses has gone up, seeking God;
Perhaps God slew him-
Such perilous Gods we do not need.
Fretfully we wait, repining for
The leeks and onions of the fertile land;
Who now shall guide us,
Take us out of the wilderness of sands?
New gods are made out of our treasure,
Convenient, beautiful, by us controlled;
No more forced marches!
And the revelry began,
Dancing around the altar of our god
Brought out of the Land of Egypt.

What went awry I still don't know,
Head reeling from the weight of wine,
Stomach sour, with a metallic tang,
For Moses, coming down,
Seeing the orgiastic dance,
In temper, threw the plates he bore,
Wasting all his labor there;
On us, his anger broke like storm.
To pull down the Idol he commanded;
Madmen brook no contradiction.
Worse awaits; grinding it fine,
Polluting the one source of water,
He made us drink; now on our tongues,
The bitter, bitter taste of wrongful knowledge
Reminds us of apostasy's reward.

That was then; now, the Law is given.
Ready we are for our new home,
But first, our treasure is required,
The same which once was misapplied,
Made into a tabernacle,
A fitting home for God;
He will dwell among His People
And lead to that which is beyond.

After much wandering we have arrived,
Driving the giants from the Land,
Brought to this fit end,
Having learned right and wrong uses
Of gold brought from the land of Egypt.
A trouble it is still to me;
Though gold, brought to God's altar,
Is rightfully used, was it rightly acquired?
Many the bones lie with gold blended
Bleaching in a roadside bed of sand,
Both temptation, and a warning
to all who will not give their treasure.
Perhaps it would be better,
When fleeing the land to leave the gold;
Many a soul to hell has fallen
for the costly Babylonian robe.

--Don Comfort

Send poems to ddcomfort@gmail.com

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

OZYMANDIAS

Jeremy and Rachel have submitted this poem. It's one of my favorites as well.

OZYMANDIAS

by Percy Bysshe Shelley

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Submit poems to ddcomfort@gmail.com

Friday, September 4, 2009

PUNISHMENT

We are told "The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom". What does that mean? We tend to think that Love is inconsistent with Fear; are we not to love God? After all, we are also told to "Love the Lord your God". I believe much of the modern disorder is connected with this confusion. Often, when one refers to the Fear of the Lord, someone will say "Love casts out fear" or even quote St. Anthony in saying "I no longer fear God, but I love Him, and Love casts out fear". We much too easily forget what an exalted life was led by our Father among the Saints St. Anthony of Egypt, and how far we fall below even the most minimal standards in terms of sobriety of mind and ascetic practice. Many of those who say such things don't even believe asceticism is necessary, but St. Anthony, who did not fear God, spent his life in repentance, doing battle with demons lest he should be deprived of the grace of God. It is no doubt true that St. Anthony would not have learned to love God as he did had he not lived in the fear of Him all his life. Reverential fear, the fear engendered by just authority, inspires love, counter-intuitive as that may seem to the debased reasonings of our time, which knows only the craven fear of tyrannical authority.

I much prefer prisons to asylums; punishment is a moral thing, and the prison is a moral environment, erected by those who believe that the will is free, and that there is such a thing as moral choice. Asylums, on the other hand, are shops for repairing broken machinery, and therapy the tool by which we seek to re-create damaged psychological instruments in our own image. They are, therefore, a mechanistic environment which cannot truly believe there is such a thing as real choice, and as a consequence cannot really believe in freedom. In the one, people on the outside are regarded as free, and a person is only put in prison because he has abused this freedom; in the other, the person on the outside is already in prison, and people are brought to the asylum for adjustment so that they may become better adapted to the conditions of their incarceration.

This is, perhaps, a somewhat perverse portrayal, but I believe it communicates the ideal essence of these institutions; Prison is a moral environment and the Asylum is not. Morality is the practice of Right and Wrong; a Moral environment is one that aids the clear perception of Right and Wrong, one that rewards right behavior and punishes wrong-doing. Modernity, on the other hand, has an acute abhorrence of the very idea of Right and Wrong; it believes with fanatic intensity in a world where different shades of gray blend gradually into each other. In the Modernist twilight there is no longer sufficient spiritual illumination to make a moral distinction. The stronger the light of the Spirit, the clearer emerges the distinction between black and white. It is, of course, possible to over-simplify. The color gray does really exist, as a generality, but when one examines the situation particularly, it becomes a field of black and white particles in a very complex arrangement. Since every human heart is a similar dot-matrix, we do not judge the souls of Men, but we can and should be able to say right is right, and wrong is wrong, and act accordingly.

One who perceives moral categories clearly is in an atmosphere of Justice. Punishment is Justice in action. Human justice is, of course, fallible, and fails to perfectly reflect perfect justice, but human justice is the model in society of Divine justice. Mercy is the reconciliation of one who has fallen under condemnation, the receiving into fellowship of a brother who was once lost, and has returned to his Father's house, not an eternal excusing of the offences of those who do not truly have any wish to be reconciled with their brothers. Ultimately, justice and mercy are the same; justice which is not merciful is no true justice, and mercy which is not just is not really mercy, though only God can reconcile the two perfectly.

One who preserves clear memories of childhood can no doubt remember the pain of one who turns to authority for the redress of a wrong to find that his situation is regarded as being of no significance; it is a feeling of violation, a loss of innocence, and diminishes one's sense of goodness in the world. The idea that evil may continuously revel unchastened is souring, and erodes the very concept of Justice. Ceasing to believe in Divine Justice is the beginning of moral degradation; once we believe completely that there are no penalties, sin becomes bold. It is interesting that, as mankind ceases to believe in Hell, it has also ceased to believe in the necessity of punishment in governing human affairs. Earth becomes Hell as Man ceases to believe in Hell, as evil no longer is under effective restraint. Since reality keeps intruding even into the heavily-protected sanctuary of the modern psyche, modern institutions in fact oscillate between extreme permissiveness and iron-handed oppression, without once touching down on the hallowed ground of sanity, stressing forgiveness where it has no right to forgive, and exercising unremitting harshness against those who have truly transgressed its values.

Forgiveness is a divine virtue, but modernity forgives offenses committed against other people, which requires no very high degree of magnanimity, and is rather a sin against compassion for the victim, showing plainly a marked inability to give any weight to another's anguish, as the complaint of the outraged individual is shrugged blandly aside. Sometimes multiple crimes are committed before the offenses are taken at all seriously, thereby increasing the burden on the souls of unjust judges of crimes that would not have been committed had action been taken in the first place; this is the result when the societal organ of justice ceases to believe in Justice. The penalty for those that offend against the values of Modernity, on the other hand, is never to be forgiven, even if they have paid a substantial penalty, for punishment is expiation, and Modernity accepts no expiation for sins committed against it. Modernity is unjust in two different directions, and there is no justice in it.

Human justice is finite; infinite punishment is reserved for diseases that are truly irremediable, and only God can judge of that. Sin and disease are often equivalent terms; sin produces spiritual disease, and perpetuates it. Spiritual disease is cured by repentance, and only our own will can keep us sick. No matter what the condition of mind and soul, no one is forced to do wrong; everyone fights a different battle against the passions which prevail within them, and what is a walk in the park for one person is a battle for another in which he has to strain every nerve to avoid falling into evil. Those who lose this battle to the extent that they represent a continuous threat to human society must have their cases referred to the high court of Heaven; this is the true meaning of the death penalty.

Ultimately, the power to punish is the power to form; with this in mind, it is plain why the worldly powers don't want parents to be able to freely punish their children. Parents are not to be permitted effective tools of interference in the instruction of "The State's" children. The State will hold the instruments of coercion, and will dispense reward to those who are submissive to its will; children will be formed collectively by adapting to institutional structures designed to mould body and soul as it wishes, and there is to be no alternative, and no redress permitted. As punishment is an inevitable aspect of government, to cede the power to punish would be to disperse governmental powers on the popular level, to have ordinary people making decisions of real moment, which would shape their families and communities, and this would be the death of the era of centralized government, and the end of the Modern State.

SELF-ESTEEM

When I speak of Self-Esteem, I do not mean the self-infatuation promoted by modern Psychology, which is a deadly sin. True self-esteem is closely related to humility, as counter-intuitive as that may seem to us in this Dark Age of the Soul. The Prideful put themselves in a false position, as they wish really to be regarded as gods by their fellows; as they can never fill these shoes, they become filled with a deep sense of insufficiency, and this turns all their strivings to best their fellows into a hollow mockery. It is this which leads to the posturing and strutting that we are all so familiar with. The Humble person, on the other hand, truly does not regard himself as anything special; he is a child of God, like any other, and whatever his abilities may be, they are to be used in His service. So the Humble live in Reality, rather than the He-Man/Marvel Comics universe inhabited by the Prideful, in which each one tries to play the role of the ultimate Hero, with a throng of admiring on-lookers. One advantage of living in reality is that the universe backs you up; if you know who you really are, everything around you confirms this. By contrast, the prideful man is always getting shot down by reality; his expectations are always unfulfilled, and so he lives continually with wounded Self-Esteem. What is currently endlessly promoted as self-esteem is in fact the cherishing, pampering, and perpetuating of this woundedness; those caught in the current Self-Esteem environment can never even aspire to true self-esteem, because they have chosen to be moral and psychological cripples rather than apply themselves to the hard therapy which leads to healing, freedom, and the proper estimation of the self in the light of Truth.

Friday, June 19, 2009

CHILDREN

We all come into the world as egoists; it is our job to get over it. It is our parent's job to help us, and it is our responsibility before God to assist our children in every way possible in this most difficult and most important of tasks; C. S. Lewis portrayed the ego as multiple layers of thick, tough, knobbly, scaly skin which obscure our true personality, but we identify it as our personality. Shedding this skin is the most painful thing possible, for it feels to us like the death of our person, of everything which goes to make us a personal being.

I generally say that the way to discover the truth of any issue is to find out in detail what the modern world teaches, and then contradict it point by point, and this is especially true when it comes to the subject of child rearing, for the World indeed has told nothing but lies to us on that subject; that is, it has told lies to those of us who intend to raise our children as Christians. It has told the truth about how to raise a certain kind of child; if you want to raise an egotistical pagan, a self-satisfied narcissist, destructively self centered and self nurturing, being at the same time utterly dependent on the forms the contemporary world has invented to contain these impotent egos, then you can follow no better course than the one the world has laid out for you. If you follow the advice the world has given you for producing the kind of children it wants, and foolishly take it as a sound program for producing the kind of children you want, whose fault is that? We seem to have this very strange idea that we can take advice from those whose motives and ideals are utterly alien to us, and productively fit it into our Christian worldview without seriously distorting our Christian universe, but of course this is not possible.

What kind of child should we, as Christians, wish to produce? Of course, we want a child that will be submissive to God in everything, unhesitatingly laying down his own will before the Divine Will; but how does one go about raising a child like that? In a word, Obedience; Obedience, we are told, is the key to all the other virtues. When we practice obedience, we act as if we are a part of something larger and more important than ourselves; when we are disobedient, we proclaim in a language everyone understands that we are the largest thing in our Universe.

Our time is unique in that many (if not most) children fail to follow the values of their parents. This represents a failure of parenting on a vast scale. The State practices effective parenting in its self-appointed role of One True Parent, (to which the child's natural parents are subservient). As the State does not wish for the caretaker/parents to erect effective obstacles to its efforts to form the minds and wills of the children, Parents are in many ways obstructed, and even forbidden from practicing effective parenting.

Many parents wish to instill obedience in their children, but few in our day are successful. Why is this? Perhaps partly it is because we have confused obedience with getting our kids to do what we want them to. Children who obey grudgingly and only after much haranguing, and who go back to doing whatever it was they were doing the moment your back is turned are not being instilled with a spirit of obedience; children who have to be bribed constantly, in many and sundry ways, are not being taught obedience, but are being turned into little mercenaries. We need to teach our Children the value of Obedience, so that they can be inspired to acquire that virtue; once, when my daughter was being over-argumentative I simply turned to her and asked, "Do you intend to obey, or not?" (I wouldn't recommend this for those whose children have been raised without effective restraint). Because she really did, deep down in her heart, (really deep!) wish to be obedient, that was enough (for the moment).

Our children also live in a social environment which preaches relentlessly to them the supreme value of the unfettered will, and there is no way to shield them from this totally; there are however, things we can do, and they all need to be done in conjunction, or we have done nothing. It's like trying to contain water in a bowl with holes in it; if you plug only one hole, the water will just leak out of the others. So if you choose to homeschool, and yet watch T.V., you have essentially done nothing; if you use your television only for watching movies you must be very careful if you are to avoid exposing your children to the full panoply of modern social propaganda. Almost all contemporary children's movies have very explicit pedagogic messages woven intricately into the story; unfortunately, most parents are primed to pass a movie for consumption as long as it doesn't have too much gratuitous bloodshed or explicit sexuality, and if the language isn't too bad. These aren't even the first things I look at as a parent; the most important thing is, what's the moral? I have known parents to reject a movie that actually had a rather wholesome treatment of human relationships because it showed a little "skin", while accepting a movie for the consumption of their teenagers that portrayed a very perverse view of sexuality because it didn't. You also have to be careful of your child's friends (a common piece of parenting advice in the past that has gone way out of vogue) or they will get all the influences of public school and television through the mouths of their playmates.

The most important reason parents aren't successful in forming their children is that we deny ourselves the necessary tools, or so circumscribe their use, and use them so inconsistently, that they are ineffective for any long-term purpose. I am speaking here primarily of the much-despised "corporal punishment" (I used to tell people that in my view, parents should use capital punishment only in extreme situations). In our day, spanking is looked on as extremely barbaric, (I have even been told that I was evil for advocating it). What is it, in our time, that produces this extreme aversion to what, after all, is only one of the constant realities of human existence? Until recently, corporal punishment was commonly used on adults for many offences against the law. As Christians, we accept many aspects of the temporal world as Divine chastisement of sin; we are sentenced to death and a vast assortment of painful circumstances by a just God whom we also confess to be merciful.

I believe the root of our contemporary aversion to these harsh realities does lie in the progress of western culture, which in many ways can be seen as the rebellion of the rich and comfortable against the idea that the pains of mortal life are dictated by God for our improvement. Obviously, it is going to be more comfortable for those who have made themselves comfortable to believe the pains of life are more or less accidental, and that the purpose of human society is to alleviate as many of these discomforts as possible. This necessitates removing God from the picture as One who is in control of all aspects of our life, either by eliminating him entirely, or removing Him a great distance from mundane affairs by positing Him as a "Grand Architect" who, after drawing out the plans left their completion to lesser, fallible hands. Much of the modern hostility against God is because of the pain in the world.

How can we recognize God's righteous chastisement of our misdeeds, and not recognize that it is right to punish children when they misbehave; are we more righteous than God? Obviously, we are less competent; it is nevertheless our responsibility to form the character of our Children in the pattern of godliness. We also know that if they do not learn responsibility that they will suffer many things in their encounters with the world, that if they grow up selfish there will be pain in all their social encounters, that if they do not acquire self-discipline they will be thwarted in all their endeavors by their own weakness of will.

Knowing all this, what is it that prevents parents from training their children to act responsibly? We love our children, and it is hard for us to punish them; we worry that if we strictly impose punishments we will loose the love of our children. This is not true, by the way; it is typically the indulged child that despises his parents. This is necessarily so; the indulged child is one thoroughly in thrall to his ego. For such a child, the parent is only a hateful object that stands in the way of the fulfillment of his wishes; the properly disciplined child loves his parents. There were some boys at one of the churches I once attended who tended to make things a little "lively" at times. Their father's entire notion of parental discipline was to sit them down and have a heart-to-heart chat with them. The kids would sit there, faces aglow with adoration, saying, "O.K. daddy; we love you, daddy". My daughter would then tell me the kinds of things they said about him when his back was turned; "Stupid old man; we sure pulled one over on him". It is a very bad thing to let your children grow up thinking you're dumber than they are.

Despite our love for our children, it is our responsibility to make sure they are able to win the battle over the ego, and we do this by chastising the serpent whenever it shows itself; it is our love for our children that should powerfully motivate us to do so. The problem is that parents have very tender feelings for their children; these feelings are commonly confused with love. It is not our job to indulge our parental feelings, but to love our children with strong, active love that stands beside our children to help them fight their battles, the kind of love God has for us; not weak, trumpery love that will not act to gain any benefit, but is only a languid feeding on the sweetness of our own feelings. God judged Eli because he did not bring up his sons in righteousness, and would not act to restrain their wickedness; there are many contemporary Eli's. Our time looks upon itself as being possessed of a very special tenderness of heart, but what it has is only a very pronounced weakness of stomach, an inability to deal effectively with any of the harsh realities of life. The refusal to discipline is one aspect of the modern rebellion against authority, and against God, the source of all good authority. We cannot fully recognize God's just authority over us unless we first recognize the principle of godly authority and its operation in bringing order to the world.

Modern children are essentially over entertained, over socialized, and way too divorced from the context of adult life, and the reality of Family as a working community. Because they are over entertained, they cannot take an interest in what is going on around them, hence the ubiquitous childish boredom whenever they are not involved in some sort of game, and resentment whenever life itself is not made into a game for them. I know kids who are unable to take an interest in anything that isn't a video game. My daughter had time to play, but the only entertainments available to her on a regular basis were books and piano; consequently, she was interested in books and piano. I made sure not to have too much "children's" literature around (that staple of Public Schooling's anti-literacy campaign). She was able to take an interest in what was going on in the family because her consciousness was not deluged by fabricated entertainments (the sugars of the intellectual diet); I largely attribute to this the fact that she was able, at the age of sixteen, to seriously desire to enter the rigors of the monastic calling.

That children are over-socialized is sufficiently demonstrated by the kids you see with cell-phones, who feel they must constantly inform their friends of what they're doing; "Hi, I'm at the Mall; now I'm going to get lunch; now I'm waiting at the crosswalk; now I'm crossing the street.....". Peer Pressure is social addiction, and the consequent inability of over-socialized children to resist any movement of their peers. This kind of socialization is what Public Schooling was invented to produce (It didn't really have anything to do with education). It used to be that socialization took place mainly in family groups; that is, families gathering together for some social function or another. Of course people tended to roughly congregate in age-groups, but the point is, socialization was done in the context of the Family, and consequently people had social contact with people of all different ages. When Public Schooling imposed its grid on the development of children universally, you immediately begin to see a very different kind of socialization emerging; sausage-link socialization, in which each age group socializes primarily with those of the same age, and has little social contact with any other age-group. This is the environment the social engineers of the early 20th century desired to produce, an environment in which the opinions of one's peers are not only an important factor, but almost the only factor. Each link thus segregated from the others provides a tasty meal for propagandists, who are then free to devise social experiments on each age-group independently, without interference from those who have enough life-experience to be somewhat resistant to manipulation. My daughter was raised apart from this model of socialization by intent; it was really my most important reason for homeschooling. This made her kind of an odd duck; she really didn't fit into the groups where the kids were locked together in a social embrace after the public school pattern. I don't really think she missed much. She developed into a young woman who liked very well to be with children her age, but wasn't dependent on it. I think the kids who were involved in that type of socialization were much sillier and much less emotionally mature, and (incidentally) much less truly self-reliant.

Children aren't meant to live in a Never-land world made especially for them, but to fit into the context of adult life, and learn to function in that context. The Family is the most basic unit of social order, and as such it is a living, working community in which each of the inhabitants needs to have a productive place, not a dormitory for detached individuals on the way to their various destinations; consequently, the children need to be managed in such a way that it doesn't make the smooth and efficient accomplishment of daily tasks impossible. Many, if not most, families are entirely dominated by the children, and so any productive purpose is entirely suspended, as the daily activity becomes to keep the children barely within the most minimal bonds of civility. Adult life should not come to an end whenever the children are present, therefore children have to be made to behave in such a way as to make Adult concourse possible in their presence; the old rule "Children should be seen and not heard" was a real necessity back in the day when most everyone had eight children. Can anyone even remotely imagine what a gathering of families would have been like back then under today's conditions? The mind reels!

Children are a mirror, reflecting the whole range of human passions with the utmost clarity. In them we may most plainly see what the human creature is, with selfishness, greed, lust, and cruelty alternating with the innocent expression of love, trust, pity, and what can only be described as a primordial hunger for the Kingdom of Heaven; like clouds covering the face of the sun and passing on, so are the alterations of childish moods. They have not yet learned the arts of subterfuge and self-deception at which adults become so adept.

Children need solidity in their environment, and they will run tests to make sure it is solid. They push the boundaries not because their deepest wish is for there to be no boundaries, but to establish that the boundaries are firm; they know adults say many things they don't really mean. When an adult means something strongly enough to make a child comply with it, this establishes the importance of that thing in the child's mind, or at least how important the adults in his life really think this is, despite what they say; think of the difference in the reaction of parents when their child runs out into the street versus their reaction when the child, for instance, doesn't want to go to church, or say prayers. In the former instance, the parents are likely to be angry, and they will make sure the child does not run out into the street; in the latter, there may be a manifestation of some concern, but it's not as likely to be treated as a big deal. Children, who intensely study adult reactions as clues to the nature of reality, read: "Physical dangers are real, but spiritual dangers are illusory"; Indeed, this is what the parents have communicated, and possibly what they, in their heart of hearts, unreflectively believe.

The forlornness of a child who has his own way in everything can sometimes be observed; everything he has set his will against has proven unsubstantial, and he is left standing in the nothingness of his own will; children engage in intensive battle to establish the supremacy of their will, and are intensely unhappy when it is established. A child doesn't have the capacity to order his own universe, so when outside order evaporates, he is left to the chaos of his own impulses. They are little lawyers who relentlessly examine and press each article of the parental command, compulsive gamblers who will risk all over the possibility that maybe this time he will get away with it. This is why persistence and consistency in discipline is so necessary; if you punish nine times for a particular offense and the tenth time let it go, the memory of the one time he got away with it is enough to push him over the edge. Children also develop internal and symbolical resistances to authority; when I was little and got my hand slapped for something, my mother noticed that for some time afterward I would pick at the place that had been slapped, and fling my arm in the air. When she asked me what I was doing, I said, "I'm taking it off, and throwing it away". I just barely remember the incident, and believe that was my private way of internally rejecting the reprimand; my parent could slap my hand, but I was not going to accept it. Of course, if you just settle for superficial compliance you're treating the symptom, not the disease; in order to effectively parent, you have to be inside the mind and soul of your child.

It is important to start early; expectations are established at a very early age, and have to be painfully refuted once rooted. I know someone who had a child with a very loud cry; this baby was treated differently from their other children. As soon as the child started to cry, it got what it wanted, just to stop the noise; of course, the child developed with the expectation that when he said "jump" everyone else was to say only "how high?". The parents have been battling that one out for the last several years.

Saying "They're only children" is the blanket excuse for any kind of misbehavior; as if you can't be held responsible for the behavior of your children as long as you persistently remind everyone that they are children (as if we thought they were Senior Citizens). Now, it is true that we need to remember that children have small attention spans, and have to be reminded of things, but they should be expected to behave in a civilized manner. Drawing mustaches on the Icon prints on the church bulletin-board is not something that should be excused by their being children; they should know what inappropriate behavior is. If they don't know, they should be taught. Many children don't appear to think it necessary to listen when they are being spoken to, and the magic words "I forgot" make everything O.K. . I can tell you, when a child is held responsible for hearing and remembering what you said, both hearing and memory improve by about 150%.

We should be aiming to produce children who behave well; the highest ambition of many parents appears to be to produce children that only a mother could love, and who regularly press her to the limits. If we were truly concerned about self-esteem, we would discipline our children; a child whose behavior is so bad that it is a penance to be around him is going to feel this disapproval, whether it is articulated or not, and this will influence his self-esteem. A child who learns to discharge tasks swiftly and competently will have better self-esteem; this may seem like a mystical statement to those whose minds dwell in the dense mists of modern psychology, but self-esteem, if it has any substance to it at all, and is not just a kind of gas with which we regularly have to pump up the psyche, depends upon really being esteemed, and those who are esteemed are those who comport themselves in a way that is esteemable.

Children have to be trained to focus before they will be able to regularly and competently carry out any task; a child that is not required to focus his attention on the task-at-hand, won't. It is much easier to let your thoughts tumble around in LaLa Land, if you know that you are not going to be held responsible for the hash that results because you're not paying attention. The only way to focus a child's attention that I know of is to have some kind of awful penalty, and of all penalties, the one which seems to hold the attention most is the afore-mentioned corporal punishment. This, of course, makes sense; we are conditioned to be influenced by pain. Pain is designed by our beneficent Creator to be the teacher-of-last-resort; when we feel pain, it tells us, "this is bad; I'd better stop doing this". It sets up internal resistances and inhibitions which are a great aid in later life in resisting various seductions, and in attaining the degree of self-compulsion which is so necessary in becoming a responsible person; there are, of course, other ways to learn, but none so deeply emblazons itself on the memory, as indicated in the adage, "The burned hand teaches best". The only way other forms of learning can be effective is if some amount of self-discipline has already been acquired. Pain also educates on a deep level; it is relatively easy to get a person to adapt their superficial behaviors, but painfully difficult to educate on a moral level. This, of course, is where it is determined what kind of person the child is to be. If a parent does not carry the battle into this arena, they effectually cede influence in the child's moral development to outside influences, i.e., the World.

Though Parents expend their best efforts, it is still necessary for the child to choose. It takes a great effort of the will to overcome lessons reinforced with painful consequences, though. This makes it a moral thing, for the will is involved on a conscious level in choosing right and wrong, not just overridden by the strength of passions which have never received an effective check. It is necessary for those for whom the wrong lessons have been enforced to choose against their upbringing, and of course a child may choose to reject a good upbringing despite all compulsion; but it should be made easy for children to choose the right, and difficult to choose the wrong. The undisciplined child is hag-ridden by his own will, and will choose his own way even if he dimly perceives he is leaving happiness behind in so doing. Choosing one's own way is the direct road away from God; it is the path Adam and Eve chose in the Garden which led them out of Eden, and it has been leading the Human race through an infinite diversity of sordid hells ever since.

One weapon the Psychobabblers use to great effect against the Modern Parent is the idea that, if they do not utilize great care, they will irreparably damage their children by inflicting them with low self-esteem. Once a child recognizes his parent's concern in this area, he will play this card over and over again to avoid punishment, and can even leverage it into a series of rewards for bad behavior designed to bolster his self-esteem; life is good for a child whose parents read Pop Psych literature. What low self-esteem is, of course, is wounded pride; it used to be called "the sulks". The path to esteem is for one who does not succeed to try harder, and if success still doesn't come, to recognize that you are one of few and poor abilities, but as a child of God your life's fulfillment comes in using your talents, such as they are, in His service, without finding it necessary to determine the exact order of magnitude of your abilities in the galaxy of God's Kingdom. Children used to have to function as members of human communities, and became able to discharge adult responsibilities at a young age; this is true self-esteem, being a valuable component of human society, using your abilities for the love of others, and being loved by them in return.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

MARRIAGE

Despite the relentless proclamation of female superiority at present, I believe men and women to be essentially equal, both possessed of foibles characteristic to their gender; the masculine abuse of sexuality tending in the direction of rape, the female toward prostitution. These, however, are the grosser perversions of human sexuality, and there are all sorts of unhealthy attitudes and practices between these two extremes; but human sexuality itself is blessed of God. It is a temporal virtue; we are told in the Fathers that sexuality exists because of God's foreknowledge of Man's fall, that it is a provision for Man in his fallen condition, and even that the close association between the procreative and urinary organs are an indication that sexuality comes of the corruption of mortal life. Nevertheless, it is a provision, and almost a necessity; it is very difficult for most to turn away from the yearning for a sexual relationship even to pursue a higher virtue, for the pleasure associated with it, even in its most corrupted forms, is very intense and poignant. Therefore it must be guarded by discipline from taking over and dominating the life of a human creature. Because of the pleasure associated with it, Modernity elevates sexuality to the very pinnacle of priority, and aggressively promotes a sexuality that is unfettered and insatiable, but it is Pleasure that Modernity worships; it has very little use for fecundity or any other aspect of sexuality. If it did take these things seriously, it would produce inhibitions in its singleminded pursuit of pleasure. The Paganisms of the past did seriously worship sexuality, and so set bounds on it (though they were inconstant observers of these proprieties). True Christianity, though, does not worship sexuality; fecundity is for a purpose higher than itself, and must be directed toward those ends to be truly good. Consequently, it is set in an environment structured to promote these purposes.

Marriage is the form of discipline sanctioned by God for governing the passion of sexuality. In explaining these things to my daughter when she was on the eve of Young Womanhood, I compared marriage to a fireplace, which is the only safe place in the house to build a fire; if you elect to build it in the middle of the living room floor, it will likely spread uncontrollably, reducing the entire house to ruin, and possibly even involving the neighbors in the catastrophe. Marriage is the only way I can truly love my neighbor in the context of sexuality; apart from it, the fires of my lust will spread perpetual grief in my community. In marriage a man and woman moderate each other's characteristics, bringing one another closer to balance.

What is marriage, essentially (apart from the sacramental aspect introduced by Christianity)? It is the recognition by a human community of the relationship between a man and a woman, and a public sanction of this relationship. In this light, it is apparent that what most modern people practice is not marriage, but a kind of conventionalised fornication, because we're not asking anyone's permission for anything; marriage is no longer an expression of obedience, but of self-will. In the past it seems like marriage generally worked; in our time, though, we seem to be in a condition in which marriage generally does not work, even if the couple, for whatever reason, never does actually separate. This was brought to my attention when I was attending an Evangelical church in Denver; I could remember (I'm such an old fogey) a time when married couples seemed like a single entity. Though there were still older couples in the church where that seemed to be the case, most of the married couples in our community seemed more like loosely associated individuals, each with their diverse interests and activities, with a broad demilitarized zone between them of issues that they realized couldn't be approached without conflict. This was even in couples which would generally be characterized as having a "happy" marriage. Every once in a while, the equilibrium a couple had maintained for years would fall apart, almost always resulting in the termination of the relationship. It seems like we should be looking to older marriages for information on how to heal contemporary marriage; why could they survive anything when we can survive nothing?

Perhaps it is really so that marriage has a particular structure which makes it work, like any other aspect of reality, and to conform to that structure produces a working arrangement, and to depart from it results in friction, the overheating of the components, and the resulting breakdown of the arrangement. I think especially of the imagery of the husband as the head of the family; I know lots of women bristle when that is referred to, but why does everyone need to be a head? This can arise only out of the perception that the head is the only important thing, assisted mightily by the fact that we all really want to be in control. It shouldn't be a threat to female dignity to recognize the man as the head of the family, so long as it is clear that she is the heart of the family. The Family has traditionally been viewed as a corporate unity. A body needs a head and a heart, but it does not need two heads or two hearts, neither are they interchangeable; each part must function where and how it was meant to, or the integrity of the system breaks down. A favorite mantra of the Feminists of the last generation was "Biology is not destiny". Excuse me; for a human creature, biology is destiny. To affirm the contrary is simply to say "I do not have to be what I was created to be"; at the extreme edge of this attitude toward life are those who hate their own gender, and either act out sexual roles appropriate to the opposite sex in one way or another, or even, with the aid of modern surgical technology, seek to physically alter their gender.

An image of the Family that has helped me in thinking about the issue is that of a wheel; the Father being the rim of the wheel, built to handle the shock of contact with the world's rough exterior, the Mother being the hub of the wheel, possessed of a different kind of toughness, which absorbs the stresses generated by the operation of the wheel, and children the spokes which bind them together. Obviously the hub must be in the center to function, and in order to function well, it has to be a real piece of work. It is clear to me that a woman is a more complicated piece of equipment than a man; this does not confer superiority either (modern people being always ready to assume that when you are saying that two things are different you are saying one of them is superior), for a thing need be only as complex as it needs to be to perform the function for which it was designed (excessive ornamentation might interfere with the flight of an arrow). Referring to the analogy of the fireplace, in another way the Mother herself is the fire at the center of the home, the source of warmth and comfort. Femininity is a vital energy, badly needed in our homes and communities; I think the social fabric of communities has begun to decay since women's flight (or, in many cases, forced march) to the workplace. There is hollowness in the community since women have abandoned the home; the one who formerly tended the domestic fire is gone, and the convivial glow of communal life has gone out as well.

Another necessary thing for the integrity of the family is that all its components be moving in the same direction; this, it seems to me, is the primary way in which families in past and present differ in their observable operation. When man was the breadwinner and woman the homemaker, their tasks were different, but their goal was the same; they were both working on the same project. Now, the tasks are the same, i.e., to bring in a bit of income by working for someone else, and come home tired in the evening to try and pull together the neglected and disordered strands of domestic life, (now largely consigned to weekends), but their careers pull them in different directions, producing many conflicts of interest, and the children are also all going different directions between school and various activities; even those who intend to be stay-at-home mothers end up going in a hundred different directions a day, just trying to ferry everyone to their various social activities. This is not a Family, but a boarding house for detached individuals who happen to be of the same blood. News Bulletin: the "Soccer Mom" is not a traditional mother, just at the opposite pole of the corporatist social economy from the working mother. The assumption that everyone must be perpetually entertained is destructive of family life, for a family is designed to be a working community. More on this theme in my next post (when and wherever that may be).

Here we arrive again at the question of authority. In order for any group of people to move in the same direction, it is necessary for a single hand to be on the tiller. Also, (a small snippet of reality here) all effective social authority is established by force; sad, but true. You simply can't get people to do as they should consistently unless somewhere there is a strong, forceful figure who says, "If you cross this line, there will be painful consequences.". The reason why we still have Police forces and Armies is that we still know this, in the back of our little democratic, egalitarian, anarchistic minds whenever it comes to a question of an authority we believe really must be preserved (such as the idea that strangers shouldn't be permitted to sack my house). Now, as a Christian I believe that somewhere in the insanely complicated workings of the Universe, there is reason behind everything. I believe the reason Men are made larger and stronger than Women, and Parents larger and stronger than Children, is that this is a conference of physical force to bolster the natural authority dictated by God for the ordering of fallen human society. Obviously, large measures of injustice and pain have sprung out of this arrangement, just as they do from the exercise of all earthly authority; injustice and pain are the fruit we elected to eat as our daily bread when we tasted the fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Obviously, the more godly a couple becomes, the less onerous is this authority; the more obedient the wife, the more responsible the husband, the more gentle, and almost invisible become the bonds of authority. I cannot understand why any woman would surrender to me the intimacy of her body if she felt she couldn't trust me not to tyrannize over her.

When I say that a Wife is under authority I do not take it to mean that she is a child, and not an equal partner. A woman has her characteristic insights and influences necessary for the health of the Family; a woman under tyranny is one unable to do her part in the functioning of the God-given entity of the Family. In Modernity, we labor under mistaken ideas of authority (well, we labor under mistaken ideas of almost everything). The only possibilities present to us seem to be Tyranny and Anarchy, but classical philosophy knew both of these to be aberrations of authority, not examples of the good exercise of authority. Before the Modern period, the idea of good monarchical government (examples of perfect goodness being rare to come by in History) was of King ruling in Council; this Council was not a modern Parliament which abrogated kingly authority, but an assembly of wise men who used their talents to bolster and uphold kingly authority by their sage advice. It was understood that a king is probably not the wisest man in the kingdom, and so for a king to habitually disregarded the advice of his council would likely lead his kingdom to ruin. So in the Family; a man disregards his wife at his peril. Many foolish men have been saved from ruin because they heeded the council of their wives; does this mean that the wife should become the authority if the husband is foolish? Any medieval person would tell you what results if a Council rebels against the King because he does not follow their advice; years of social disorder and bloodshed. Obviously, something to be considered in only the most extreme circumstances.

Both Masculinity and Femininity have their specific powers. A good father strengthens the character of his children; a good mother soothes her children, reconciling them to their duty. A bad father alienates his children; a bad mother spoils her children. Here is a long-standing argument. At a church I used to attend, some of the ladies, when disagreements arose on how to handle the children, would accuse me of suffering from "Testosterone Poisoning" (that favorite diagnosis of Feminists). I, in turn, would shoot back, "Motherhood is a Sinful Passion". Well, there we have the conflict in its essence. It is possible for men to let their characteristic reactions run away with them; Motherhood is a passion, and it takes not very much of a push to turn it into a sinful one. Both Men and Women need each other to moderate the characteristics of their gender, and they need to be held together in a stable relationship to give one the chance to act on the other. My maternal grandparents were very different people; my grandmother was a very vociferous woman, who would loudly and often voice her opinions. My grandfather was a taciturn individual, accustomed to uttering about five sentences a day. My grandmother had a lot to say about every issue, but when my grandfather finally said "This is what we're going to do, and that's the end of it" my grandmother would accept this. Women need to actively advocate their viewpoints, and they have; women in the past were not the brow-beaten, downtrodden caricatures presented to us by Feminists, but at the end of the day, someone has to make a decision, or there will be no peace. I think if my grandmother were a woman of our generation, she would have made herself and everyone else miserable by ceaselessly clamoring for her own way; because she had the good fortune to be born before the revolution, she was able to live a relatively happy and productive life. There are, of course, also men whose character is stabilised by their wives. There is this difference; I believe Men are somewhat prone to be influenced by Women. After the initial infatuation, I do not believe the same can be said of women generally; an "equal" relationship between the sexes is dominated by the woman, nine times out of ten. There are people I know who illustrate this perfectly; she rules the husband, the kids rule her, and the result is perpetual chaos. All my experience tells me that a Woman must be the moderating, not the controlling influence, or there will be no moderation, and the influence of the masculine gender, just as badly needed as that of the female, will be lost. The energies of femininity are too fierce to be permitted to rage uncontrollably; if the Mother of the family is the fire, the Husband is the fireplace. If properly contained, the whole family may draw close to the warmth of maternal love, nurtured by the feminine sensitivity and care for those she loves; if not, everyone gets burned. Only in the Insect World is the Female made larger and stronger than the Male, and the entomological romance typically ends with the male being devoured by the female; there are a lot of Insect marriages in our time.

I think we should make some effort to remember exactly what are the problems of sexual fulfillment in the course of nature. First of all, the idea that the order of society reflects Patriarchal domination is sheer, raving lunacy; just look what kind of order you get when men are left to themselves. That's right, male oriented society is just a glorified hunting camp. Once this is understood, it becomes obvious that ordered society is a response to the needs of women; for order to exist in society, it is not only necessary for men to make peace among themselves, it is necessary to make peace with the women, a much more arduous task.

What are the needs of the normal man and woman? The needs of the man, it appears to me, are simple; he requires various diversions, male comrades to share it with, and sexual/romantic encounters with women. These can be brief; a few evenings at home, and he can gallop back to the hunt, fully satisfied. The needs of women are more complicated, and harder to satisfy; for one thing, she needs for men to be something beyond their superficial nature. She needs to access and call forth a deeper nature in men that usually will not emerge independently, at least not until later life; she needs for him to be a husband and father. The problem is that it is perfectly possible for most men to meet their needs by a series of unentangling romantic encounters; a man must be seduced into domesticity, if he is not socially trained for it. This is something the women of the past knew that present-day women have forgotten, or have rebelled against; in our utopian mindset, we tend to think that everything ought to happen as we think it should, or that there should be some simple social adjustment that will make everything work. Welcome back to Reality, folks! It really isn't working. I read that in Japan, in particular, large numbers of men do not wish to marry, because Japanese women have abandoned traditional roles; it is hard enough to get your normal young man to give up his independence even when it means having a nice home, a "girl to come home to", and a variety of domestic comforts. When marriage typically means having a wife that you see mainly on weekends, housekeeping chores when your day at work is done and a woman to insist that you do them, plus a house full of noisy, uncontrolled children at all times, then marriage can begin to seem like selling yourself into perpetual slavery on singularly unattractive terms.

When the family presented itself to the world as a united front, the man was seen as the public representation of that unity, and husband and wife were bound together by economic necessity. I'm not quite sure we are better off with these bonds being loosed; bonds, of course, by their nature are confining, but before loosing any bond, it seems one should examine exactly what it is that is being bound together. It may be that we are destroying the raft which keeps human society afloat. So, welcome to life in the 21st century; our families are scattered and divided, fewer are electing to marry, and autoerotic and homoerotic alternatives are endlessly promoted. The government will act as the husband of any woman who is tired of her current relationship; a woman I used to know somewhat intimately now proclaims she doesn't even desire a man. The government provides the needs of she and her children, (though not lavishly) and this way she gets to make all the decisions.

Ochlophobe made a point over at his blog about the kinds of relations we have pretty much following and being dictated by patterns of technological development, but alteration in the patterns of social relations appears to me mainly to have been accomplished deliberately as a way of preparing the ground for further socio/political developments; I guess I don't really believe social change has been dictated by technological development so much as that technology has been used as giant earth-moving equipment to sculpt human society into a previsualized pattern.

Marriage today, along with all other aspects of life, has been severely damaged by utopian thinking; this causes us to believe that if there is a non-ideal aspect to something that we should scrap it and try to invent something better. Chesterton characterized many modern innovations as going out in a rainstorm with an umbrella and a watering pot and watering the garden; in other words, creating an artificial device for meeting a social need which doesn't, in fact, accomplish the purpose nearly as well or as completely as the natural processes we are interrupting in order to interpose our devices. Unfortunately, we sometimes don't recognize the deficiencies in our machinery until we have already disabled the natural systems; having induced universal drought, we find that we just can't keep up with our little watering cans. Men and women today, I believe, are in a condition of almost universal frustration; being told by society that they must modify their sexual behavior in response to certain social theories, they have become awkward and conflicted in their responses. Men are told to curb their chivalrous instincts so as not to appear sexist, and so develop in a way in which they really respect women much less than they formerly did; Women, on the other hand, really seem to, in the depths of their being, want a strong man, but they are trained to strenuously resist anything that looks like male domination. So they go from the strong man to a more "sensitive" type, and have only contempt for him because he is not strong.

So men and women rebound off one another in confusion and pain, going through their serial divorces looking for the one that will meet all their needs, but the thing that men and women most need to discover is that they can't completely meet one another's need; there is this tendency in the West, with our influence of romanticism, to build a shrine to human love as the summit of all earthly beatitude, but only God can completely meet our needs, and we are all sons and daughters of God, no matter what our relations to one another on Earth. I think the person who drifts from relationship to relationship never learns this; he says, "This woman didn't make me happy; maybe that one over there will". Much divorce springs from these romantic ideas; when we find our spouse does not make us perfectly happy, we decide the marriage was a mistake, but marriage is not supposed to be a picnic in a field of flowers, but a mission-field, and yes, it does sometimes resemble a battlefield (perhaps the close affinity between the words Marital and Martial isn't entirely accidental).

These things should really be unspoken; sexuality only functions normally when its operations are unconcious, but in our time, under influence of the presumtuous utopianism which regards all conventions as machines that can be pulled apart and reassembled in superior configurations, they do need to be discussed. The true pattern of sexuality as it has been from the beginning must be archaologically unearthed and carefully preserved against the rampaging hordes of barbarism, for it is the primordial and most basic unit of social order, and if it is ripped from us, then night will indeed fall upon our world.

Human sexuality is like a pool in the middle of a desert, which is unfortunately somewhat polluted. There is a sign on the banks of the pool which warns travellers of the pollution, and suggests it might be best to wait until out of the desert to slake one's thirst; however, if one feels he must drink, for whatever reason, instructions are given as to what parts of the pool have the purest water, and suggestions for filtering procedures to remove most of the contaminants. Through centuries, thousands have drunk with safety from this pool by carefully following these instructions, but many have also set their sights hopefully on the far side of the desert where they know are rivers of the purest waters, and rather than risk ingesting poison trudge hopefully on. In our time, however, tons of festering garbage have been dumped into the pool by the enemy of souls, and I think it is a real question now whether any can drink these waters without damage. Nevertheless, if one lacks the stamina to walk out of the desert, he is still safest in following the instructions governing human sexuality, and entering into the discipline of Christian marriage.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

GENDER

With the Fall, we have left the realm of the safely abstract, and have now to consider the things of Earth. This is the sphere of confusion of mind and heart and life-and-death contention between brothers, of un-blissful ignorance and fog of the intellect, of woe and pain, strife and division.

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"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." Obviously, we are not talking of two different species here, the division of the sexes comes after the ordinal creation of Man. God did not create Eve also independently out of dust, but rather, as it were, divided Adam's own being. So we have two entities springing from a single source, each with a different spin, positively and negatively charged particles, the yin and yang, difference in union exerting influence upon one another, repulsive forces held in proximity by overwhelmingly powerful attraction, in order that they might act as a single entity.

Nevertheless, Men and Women often seem like alien creatures to one another. Feminists (male and female) even speak as if men and women are different species, with differing interests and not a whole lot of reasons to interact, besides sexual attraction and procreation, but these little difficulties are being addressed through homosex and artificial insemination. Men, it seems, are being "phased out" just as the Bull has already been phased out of the farm; as any farmer knows, geldings and mares is what one wants to work with, not these nasty, snorting bulls.

But properly speaking, men and women are more to one another than just fleeting sexual encounters and childbearing. Now, when it comes to considering what men and women are to each other, I can, of course, speak only as a man. I realize there are those who will unreflectively discount anything I say about women on that account, but I do not consider my perspective to be thereby invalidated; we are all like people who have lived in a house their entire lives, and have never once been outside it. No matter how intimately we know the interior aspect of the house, we can have no idea what the appearance of the outside of the house is like; that we may learn only by consulting our neighbors.

Much is made of the overwhelming power of the masculine sex drive, and no woman knows what it is to have to struggle with that intense pressure, but I consider woman's sexuality to have an equally powerful effect on her person. I do in fact believe that, in comparison, a man's sexuality is more or less superficial; female sexuality is inextricably wound through all the fibers of her being, whereas a man can, at times, be somewhat detached from his sexuality.

Despite the power of male sexual responses, I do not believe that, at root, it is an entirely carnal response, unless it has been made so by the singleminded pursuit of sexual stimulation. At least I know that for me, the attraction I feel for a woman does not initially have anything to do with her sexual characteristics, but is more something that reaches out from the essential femininity of her person, touching me emotionally, though the other reactions are not slow to subsequently assert themselves. Also, women often seem to feel that a man's interest in a sexual encounter is solely physical, whereas she is most interested in the emotional aspect of the relationship. I think we have here a confusion based on the differing nature of the experience; I believe women divide the physical from the emotional in a way that men don't. Women experience both physical and emotional aspects of the event, both of which needs need to be met, whereas men experience a single physical/emotional event; it is here that a man most clearly experiences the love of his wife, and feels that he most intimately communicates love to her. It confuses him somewhat to discover that she regards it almost as incidental. Even to have a feminine presence in his environment can be emotionally sustaining to a man; perhaps the clearest articulation of this would be just to say that in many respects, a woman is to a man like water. To one without female companionship, even a smile from a girl is like a drop of water on the tongue of one perishing from thirst in the desert; conversely, the experience of a man in a marriage relationship can sometimes be compared to that of someone being waterboarded in a cell in Guantanamo.

Masculinity and Femininity model different things; this is seen clearly in most mythologies. Masculinity is of the sky, femininity is of the earth; the earth is watered and brought to fecundity by that which falls from the heavens. The masculine is the initiatory, the feminine the receptive principle, the masculine the disciplining, the feminine the nurturing, the masculine the outward moving, the feminine the inward turning; all of life unfolds in the interaction between the two influences of masculine rigor and feminine softness, is a dance of the complementary natures of masculine virility and feminine grace. Modernity rails against these things, and denies them where it can, but traditional human society has always said "vive le difference".

These things are generalities; it is especially difficult to speak of gender in a way that does not seem to falsify to some extent, because we are all really the same kind of creature, all have the same capacities, but use them differently. Also, any single statement that can be made of men and women generally will find many that fall on the wrong side of the definition; we are circles which largely overlap. Even so, when we attempt to say that a man and a woman share a particular characteristic, there will usually be found a subtle difference in the mode of approach. These things are understood best by the imagination rather than the intellect, I think; masculine and feminine characteristics have such an entirely different flavor, even when they seem to be the same type of thing.

Chesterton, writing toward the beginning of the political upheavals of his day concerning the relations of the sexes, said that no issue had any importance at all compared to the supreme importance of men continuing to be men, and women continuing to be women; in our day, we have difficulty understanding this. After all, how could men and women cease to be Men and Women? Sex is, after all, only a matter of biology, isn't it? The problem is that we have largely lost the knowledge of what Gender is in its essence; it is possible for a woman to become unfeminine, and thereby loose one of the most valuable characteristics of her soul as it was created to be. A man may become unmasculine, thereby becoming a psychological gelding, fit only to be a slave of the modern industrial complex.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

THE FALL

Authority comes from God; this, of course, is the best, the purest, kind of authority, the kind which springs naturally from God's true capacity as Creator and Sustainer, Who knows the nature of His creature more intimately than is even possible for the mind of the creature itself. That it is still possible to reject even this most basic and natural authority is shown from the Fall of Lucifer. This primordial fall spread outward to encompass, we are told, one third of the Host of Heaven, and then to Earth to involve Mankind itself in this irrational rebellion against the root of its own Being. Talk about sawing off the branch you're sitting on!

Every true authority is an extension of God's authority; we are told by the Apostle that our governing authorities are put in place by God. I take this to mean not that each particular political authority is personally appointed by God as His Regent; certainly there have been very bad kings, and even rulers that it is right not to follow, but that the principle of governing authority is a godly principle, for order, and not chaos, is of the nature of God.

That the strong rule the weak is a principle of natural authority; nowhere are we told to resist an established political order just because it is maintained by strength and not on democratic principles, or some previously established right. The strength to rule is itself given by God, and can be taken away by Him as well. The one who submits to authority is in a high moral position; it is by this obedience, this triumph over the selfish will that we all have, that makes every person wish to assert his own will over that of his brother, that social harmony is made possible. He who exercises authority must take care, for he is always under temptation to use this power capriciously, in a self-aggrandizing way, and so corrupt his will and engender social injustice. He will be judged for the use he makes of his authority, but it is equally damning for one who has authority, either by nature or position, to refuse to exercise it, because this breeds anarchy. There cannot be order without authority, there cannot be harmony either in home or society without order; without concord, there can never be peace, that Shalom the scripture speaks of which is simply the overflowing of every spiritual and material blessing. The possibility of this is what we rob ourselves of by our childish rebellion. Authority can, of course, be abused, and must sometimes be resisted. This does not abrogate the principle of authority. Those who choose to resist authority should do so with the willingness to suffer some form, at least, of martyrdom; this is what keeps the pestilential race of Activists from infecting the Body Politic.

Authority should really only be disobeyed when we are obeying Higher Authority; in Modernity, we resist authority because we are Egoists, and live under a political system which perfectly models the Luciferian revolt in all respects. This principle of Revolt affects our attitude toward government in all its aspects, in nation, state, and local community; there are many processes in all these levels which function inefficiently or not at all, just because people will not be governed. There are social costs to this inefficiency that are none the less real because they are not readily apparent. The same social disease that affects our attitudes toward authority in government extends itself also to personal relations in the Family; to Husband and Wife, Parent and Child, but those are subjects for later posts.

Monday, May 18, 2009

TELL ALL THE TRUTH BUT TELL IT SLANT

This poem is a favorite of my Sister-in-law, the lovely and talented Brenda. I would say "kindhearted", too, but I don't wish to over-strain my long-disused complimentary faculties. (Look, Hyphens!).

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Tell all the Truth but tell it slant

Emily Dickinson

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant---
Success in Cirrcuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise
As Lightening to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind---


Send poems to ddcomfort@gmail.com


Thursday, May 7, 2009

LIGHT

Once again, this is something that probably should have appeared earlier in the series. I was reminded of it by something a priest said in a homily; I decided I had better deal with it before making the transition from more abstract to more mundane issues.

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God said, "Let there be Light!". What, exactly, is light? Wave, particle, electromagnetic resonance? A material token of the glory of the Invisible Light of God? In any case, with light we have the first element of physical Creation; energy and motion, heat and excited particles.

The light we know is gathered into and emanates from lamps hung in what we call Space, reflected occasionally from the mirrors of moons and planetary bodies; but light had priority in Creation over these bodies. I think it was St. Issac of Syria who said, essentially, that the Sun and Moon were created as timepieces to measure the fluctuation of the increments of time, which were already created; Day and Night are more ancient than Sun and Moon.

We always associate light with the Sun, because in our experience the movements of the Sun (in appearance) govern the appearance and disappearance of light. The Sun, obviously, is a component of the material creation, and consequently it has a life-span; there was a time when it was not, and there will come a time when it will "wear out". Consequently, when we think of the beginning of things, we think of darkness; that the Universe was a lightless abyss before the beginning of the World, no matter what kind of theory we have about this beginning. The horror of the emptiness of this abyss hangs over all of modern mankind, giving (or helping to give) a persistent nihilistic cast to our mentality. The imagery of human language always (so far as I know) before modern times associates light with goodness, and darkness with evil; persistent attempts have been made in Art and Literature in recent times to reverse these associations, but it is a failure. In the Nihilism of our civilization we may come to hate light, but we know what it means in the grammar of good and evil.

Nevertheless, as Christians, we know (or should know) that this is not so; "In the beginning, God". Before the Creation, God did not float alone in an abyss mightier than He; He is All in All, the ever-blessed Trinity, a shoreless Ocean of light and love, illimitable, without beginning. The Abyss is not beginningless, or it would be co-eternal with God; rather, the Abyss is the place carved out of His Being by the creating hand of God to give space for other being. The Light of God recedes to give place for lesser lights, the resulting vacuum is the womb of all Worlds. Though in the created Universe light seems such a fleeting interval, poised against the vastness of interstellar Dark, this is but a temporary condition; there was a time when darkness was not.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

MAN

According to the teaching of the Church, Man is a rather strange combination of contrary factors; made of the substance of Earth, breathed on with the breath of Heaven, He is neither one nor the other, but stands at the intersection of the worlds, and is Himself the reconciliation of these different orders. In His appointed role as steward of the Earth, He stands over it, administering the Grace of God to the entire world, and stands before God offering the praise and worship of all earthly things.

After the Fall, Earth is no longer subject to Man, but He must leave the Garden, and go out to wrest a living from the hostile world; still He carries in Him the seeds of His error, which is the wish to regard Himself the equal of God. Consequently, He is always striving to return to Paradise by His own efforts, of which the Tower of Babel is the first and characteristic example, and our own technological dystopia perhaps the mature fruit. Repeatedly, throughout History, Mankind is raising towers to Heaven, and either seeing the entire project fall apart in confusion through His sinful ignorance and error, or finds, (in a few of His lesser attempts) that His tower is, after all, only another ziggurat, and His attempt to manufacture the terrestrial Paradise just a common garden.

It must be recognized how much the teachings of Evolution distort the Patristic Universe, particularly when it comes to the doctrine of Man. In the Evolutionary cosmology, Man is integrally a part of the life-matrix of Earth, and that is essentially all He is, no matter what kind of spirit-nature God may have tacked onto our ape ancestor; He is the product of slime, being automatically pushed up the ladder of biological evolution, which is assumed to eventually become spiritual, and no act of His own can either advance or retard His progress. He is predestined for salvation, but must first work His way through the Purgatory of biology; clearly we have here entered a universe heavily influenced by a gnostic spirituality. How different is the place of Man in the Christian cosmos; set in a high place, fallen to a low place, created to have fellowship with the Angels, become "like unto the beasts" by His passions, unable to rise from this ignoble position until pulled up by the condescending hand of God Himself, He shall be judged in the end according to His deeds, because He is called to remake Himself after the form of the Perfect Man, and through Him to attain to the likeness of God. Christ, as the "New Adam" stands in the place of the Old as High Priest over all the Earth, and is the reconciliation in Himself of all things, the Spiritual and the Material, the Human and the Divine.

Monday, January 26, 2009

THE TOYS

This is a poem which has always touched my heart; let all us disobedient children hope to touch the Heart of the Father-God:

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The Toys

My little Son, who look'd from thoughtful eyes
And moved and spoke in quiet grown-up wise,
Having my law the seventh time disobey'd,
I struck him, and dismiss'd
With hard words and unkiss'd,
—His Mother, who was patient, being dead.
Then, fearing lest his grief should hinder sleep,
I visited his bed,
But found him slumbering deep,
With darken'd eyelids, and their lashes yet
From his late sobbing wet.
And I, with moan,
Kissing away his tears, left others of my own;
For, on a table drawn beside his head,
He had put, within his reach,
A box of counters and a red-vein'd stone,
A piece of glass abraded by the beach,
And six or seven shells,
A bottle with bluebells,
And two French copper coins, ranged there with careful art,
To comfort his sad heart.
So when that night I pray'd
To God, I wept, and said:
Ah, when at last we lie with tranc├Ęd breath,
Not vexing Thee in death,
And Thou rememberest of what toys
We made our joys,
How weakly understood
Thy great commanded good,
Then, fatherly not less
Than I whom Thou hast moulded from the clay,
Thou'lt leave Thy wrath, and say,
'I will be sorry for their childishness.'

-Coventry Patmore

send poems to ddcomfort@gmail.com

Sunday, November 23, 2008

THE WORLD

The World is a neutral substance; it is what you make of it. It can be either the threshold of Heaven or the Gate of Hell; Merrie Middle Earth, eaten into on both sides until there is but a filament's worth of neutrality in it, if that. He who would walk this razor wire must indeed keep his feet firmly planted on terra firma.
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What relation to the world should a Christian have? We are told that we are in the world, but not of the world; most seem to interpret that passage as saying, "even though we are not of the world, we must strive to be integrated into the affairs of the world". To me it seems obvious that the intent of the verse is that we are in the world whether we like it or not, but must take care that we do not become "of the world". Much scholarship is directed at the idea that what the Fathers meant by the world is not the world as such, but the sinful passions which afflict us. Of course, I agree that what the Fathers speak against is not God's creation, which is good, but the fallen world and fallen nature, the bonfire of the vanities, and in this sense it is very true that He who is a friend of the world is the enemy of God, but it is necessary for us to realize just how profoundly Man's rebellion against God affected the substance of the World, and not speak as if the World as it exists now is not groaning with us in the shadow of corruption cast by our Firstfather's ordinal misdeed. Some speak as if when Christ ressurected, destroying death, or when He was baptized, sanctifying the nature of Matter, that the effects of the Fall were reversed at that point, and the World reverted to its ordinal "good" condition. Those who say such things reveal, by the way, their low view of God's Creation (usually they are somewhat under the influence of Medieval Scholasticism), but also that they not only do not have the Patristic Mind, but are not even in accordance with Scripture; when St. Paul wrote of all Nature groaning in anticipation of it's deliverance from the bondage of Death, this was after the Earthly life of Christ, which the aforesaid pundits attribute as the deliverance from the effects of sin. It probably hasn't escaped anyone's notice, but Death exists, and death is the result of sin.
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Why this blindness in the face of the fact of sin? It is the love of the World (which is emnity to God); embracing the good of this world, and plummeting to perdition, finding in the end that the love of anything in this world for itself alone is the embracing of corruption. The beauties we see in the world point us toward life in God and the Eternal Kingdom; if we learn to love that life, we will always be in exile here, under the harsh tutelage of corruption, and must always long for the day when the world we know will be purged, and return to its ordinal condition. Till then, the Kingdom of Earth and the Kingdom of Heaven are in this world together like oil and water, two principles so completely contrary to one another that no compromise can ever exist between them, contending against each other until the last day.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

THE CHURCH

Christianity is not based on some body of esoteric knowledge, nor is it a ritual system for preserving an economy of propitiation. Christianity is centered on the Church, that is, on the body of those being saved by the sacrifice of Christ through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, being united with Christ and one another through partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, thereby constituting the Body of Christ. Consequently, it is true that it is not solely, or even primarily, a religious phenomena. There are those who will make of this truth a weapon with which to attack Her salvific institutions, but there is no validity in their efforts, for there is no real connection between the idea that the Church transcends religiosity and the idea that therefore Her religious accoutrements are of no real value. Even if true theological knowledge could be gained through study, it would be necessary for one whose theological opinions were orthodox in every respect to join himself to the Church in order to be of the Church. In my former protestant worldview, it would have seemed silly to think that one who believed all the right things wasn't Christian, because Christianity is all about belief, isn't it? This is why Protestantism, as anti-intellectual as it often is, is still firmly based on intellectual apprehension.

But Christianity isn't about believing the right things, though it is important to believe the right things, but about being united to Christ. This union takes place only in Christ's Church; the Bride of Christ, of one flesh and one body with He who is the Divine Man who divinizes Mankind.

Where does that leave those who faithfully believe in Christ as they understand him? My belief is that only those united to the True Church through the mystery of baptism, and who faithfully unite themselves to Christ by their righteous lives constitute the Bride of Christ; that is, those who dwell in holy splendor in closest intimacy and union with the Lord of Creation, but where there is a bride, may there not be bridesmaids? What of the Meek who will inherit the Earth? Surely a lesser blessing than that of beholding the face of God, but still no negligible benefit for those who have zeal without knowledge, as do most of my Evangelical relatives; perhaps those like me who have the benefit of an Orthodox baptism but are unworthy of it will be permitted to be their servants.

There is a place for all in the Church; those who cannot attain theological knowledge are not debarred from Her; Faith is the key to the Kingdom. I cannot tell you how incredibly grateful I am that my entrance into Heaven does not depend on my correctly understanding every theological nuance; I would probably fail the examination at many points. May He who receives little children accept me, blind and weak as I am.

Monday, October 13, 2008

TERENCE, THIS IS STUPID STUFF

All the poems that people sent me earlier were in an e-mail account which is now defunct; so, I am just canvassing people I know for their favorite poems. This one by Housman was supplied by my brother.

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Terence, This Is Stupid Stuff

'Terence, this is stupid stuff:
You eat your victuals fast enough;
There can't be much amiss, 'tis clear,
To see the rate you drink your beer.
But oh, good Lord, the verse you make,
It gives a chap the belly-ache.
The cow, the old cow, she is dead;
It sleeps well, the horned head:
We poor lads, 'tis our turn now
To hear such tunes as killed the cow.
Pretty friendship 'tis to rhyme
Your friends to death before their time
Moping melancholy mad:
Come, pipe a tune to dance to, lad.'

Why, if 'tis dancing you would be,
There's brisker pipes than poetry,
Say, for what were hop-yards meant,
Or why was Burton built on Trent?
Oh many a peer of England brews
Livelier liquor than the Muse.
And malt does more than Milton can
To justify God's ways to man.
Ale, man, ale's the stuff to drink
For fellows whom it hurts to think:
Look into the pewter pot
To see the world as the world's not.
And faith, 'tis pleasant till 'tis past:
The mischief is that 'twill not last.
Oh I have been to Ludlow fair
And left my necktie God knows where,
And carried half-way home, or near,
Pints and quarts of Ludlow beer:
Then the world seemed none so bad,
And I myself a sterling lad;
And down in lovely muck I've lain,
Happy till I woke again,
Then I saw the morning sky:
Heighho, the tale was all a lie;
The world, it was the old world yet,
I was I, my things were wet,
And nothing now remained to do
But begin the game anew.

Therefore,since the world has still
Much good, but much less good than ill,
And while the sun and moon endure
Luck's a chance, but trouble's sure,
I'd face it as a wise man would,
And train for ill and not for good.
'Tis true,the stuff I bring for sale
Is not so brisk a brew as ale:
Out of a stem that scored the hand
I wrung it in a weary land.
But take it: if the smack is sour,
The better for the embittered hour;
It should do good to heart and head
When your soul is in my soul's stead;
And I will friend you, if I may,
In the dark and cloudy day.

There was a king reigned in the East:
There, when kings will sit to feast,
They get their fill before they think
With poisoned meat and poisoned drink.
He gathered all that springs to birth
From the many-venomed earth;
First a little, thence to more,
He sampled all her killing store;
And easy, smiling, seasoned sound,
Sate the king when healths went round.
They put arsenic in his meat
And stared aghast to watch him eat;
They poured strychnine in his cup
And shook to see him drink it up:
They shook, they stared as white's their shirt:
Them it was their poison hurt.
- I tell the tale that I heard told.
Mithridates, he died old.

-A. E. Housman


Send poems to ddcomfort@gmail.com.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

FALSE RELIGION

Posting is going to be sporadic from here on out; in case anyone still wants to send poems, they can now be sent to ddcomfort@gmail.com.

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True Religion is the worship of God; the fullness of this true worship is in the Orthodox Church. I do not mean to characterize all other religions as False; most contain some truth, are partly oriented in the direction of true worship, and have people in them who are true worshipers of God to the extent that they know Him.

I characterize as false religion which is oriented in the opposite direction of the worship of the True God. This religion is involved in the worship of Earth, or of human experience, emotional or intellectual. Humanism, Pantheism, Panentheism, Deism, and all of the various forms of Gnosticism involve the worship of false gods, not just the incomplete worship of the True God. This false worship today insinuates itself in all the forms of religious practice; this is the religion of the World, not the worship of the God beyond all worlds. Wherever God, even if He is believed in, is regarded as an object of utility toward a secondary purpose, here false religion rears its head.

Humanity is the image before which we today are most frequently required to burn incense; but what is Humanity for? If it seems to any that this is a question that doesn't need to be asked, they are then identified as adherents of false religion, no matter what religion they consciously espouse; only Deity may exist to no other end.

Friday, May 30, 2008

RELIGION

Those of us who are Orthodox know what is true religion; the Faith once delivered to the Apostles. It is also true that true religion transcends the bounds of religion; as long as those who say that Orthodoxy is not religion mean only that, they do not speak falsely, though there is a fatal tendency to confuse them with those who mean something different. Therefore, to my mind, it appears that it is not productive to emphasize the non-religious aspect of Orthodoxy at this time; this is rhetoric adopted from the Protestant Neo-Orthodox movement of the mid-20th century, and so confuses rather than clarifies the issue. What many mean by saying that Christianity is not religion is that they consider such things as church services, churches, candles, incense, priests, and altars to be meaningless accretions that might as well be cleared away as obstructions; these we must chide for having a Manichean Faith. They offer us bodiless worship; but we know that for us carnal humans, the bodiless soon becomes the insubstantial, and the insubstantial the non-existent. All the paraphernalia of religious practice is but the body of faith, and this body does not differ substantially from one religion to another; this is what human creatures do when they worship; it is true that, even as the human body should serve the needs of the spirit, the body of religion should serve the spirit it contains, not vice-versa, but the inseparability of this body and this spirit should also be emphasized.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

WHEN WE WALK WITH THE LORD

This came from Kelly Jolley, otherwise known as "Bosphorus".

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When we walk with the Lord

stumbling

along, words lightening my feet

pondering their path

rainy Chicago

airport tarmac baptized iridescent black

delayed from 1:43 to 2:08pm

stewardess gesticulates

her boredom

oxygen is flowing even if

the plastic bag does not fully inflate

Who knew my feet would take me here?

Who knew that following footsteps would lead

me here?

other men, smarter and more solidly educated

talk to me but I know my place

even if bootless ambition makes it pinch

I resolve to turn my back on old goals

even if my hankering after them makes me

crane 'round,

Lot's wife, to see my past destinations shrink

reversing their direction as I reorient myself

What a glory He sheds on our way

I have chosen the sheep's life by choosing the

Shepherd

but I have not chosen unreason

I choose to be a Logical sheep

a sheep of the Logos

plane stalled on the runway almost to take-off

yellow signs order drivers to yield to aircraft

wings matter now, having them, or not.



Kelly

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O.K., Kelly, now that I've put one of your poems that you previously published on your blog on mine, shouldn't you in fairness reciprocate and publish one of my poems that I put on this blog on yours? There are only two.......