A few semi-noteworthy tweets from my surfing last night. The sad thing is, I found only three such semis in 20 minutes of scrolling through Twitter.
Learn something new every day: There’s a wild horse problem out west. I saw at Twitter, which was retweeted by a friend I trust on such matters. I’d handle it myself, channeling those Bustin’ Bronco spirits of mine, but I’m kind of busy right now and my back is bothering me.
Interesting tweet from Brad Birzer: “Just received my royalties from the Christopher Dawson bio, July-December, 2019: $12.73. Now, you all know how I make my living.”
At the end of The Myth of Sisyphus, Camus meditates on the “absurd hero” Sisyphus, a character from Greek mythology. Sisyphus was a crafty man who repeatedly betrayed and disobeyed the gods. As punishment, he was sentenced to an eviternity of rolling a huge rock to the top of a hill. Every time he got the rock near the top, it would roll back down. Sisyphus would then have to walk back down the hill and start pushing the rock up again.
Camus’ meditation centers on Sisyphus’ mindset at the times he walks down the hill to get the rock after it rolls down. During these relatively leisurely moments of reprieve from pushing the rock, he can reflect on his condition: “I see that man going back down with a heavy yet measured step toward the torment of which he will never know the end. That hour like a breathing-space which returns as surely as his suffering, that is the hour of consciousness.”
This, Camus muses, is when Sisyphus can think about his horrible state of existence. It’s in the reprieve that Sisyphus has the leisure to see the acuteness of his quintessentially absurd existence: The aspiration to get the rock to the top and its predestined frustration. The myth is tragic, Camus explains, but only because its hero, Sisyphus, is conscious of the absurdity of it all.
But Camus also says that Sisyphus is happy because he is aware of his tragic situation. He understands his fate and understands he can’t avoid it, so he ceases to expect that he’ll ever succeed in getting the rock over the top. In other words, he negates all hope. It’s frustrated hope that makes the punishment hard, Camus says, so if hope is negated, the torture ceases. And then Sisyphus can roll the rock up the hill, concentrating all his effort on it, resigned to the fate of it rolling back down, but happy because he stands above fate by recognizing it for what it is: absurd.
Today is the feast day of St. Macarius of Egypt. At least with the Eastern Orthodox. I don’t believe the RCC recognizes him as a saint. He is one of the men who followed St. Anthony into the desert that we talked about in the last episode, and he became one of the greatest men. He lived until he was 90, dying in 390, making him a younger contemporary of St. Anthony the Great.
It’s odd that the Eastern Orthodox Church really seems to celebrate the desert saints in January. The RCC calendar also appears to put a few desert saints in January. I mean, it’s not hot outside, like it is in the desert.
But is it odd? No, not at all. It’s in January that the northern hemispheres are most like the desert. If you can keep warm enough, there’s a wonder of silence out there that we all crave at some level.
And people know it, even if they don’t know they know it. I remember talking with an old childhood friend of mine who really got into ice fishing a few years ago. I was like, “What the frick. You go out there in that shanty, augur out a spot in the ice, drop a line and just sit there, hoping a fish bites? Sounds boring.” He was having none of it. “It’s quiet, man. It’s peaceful. I don’t care if a single fish bites. I just like being out there.”
Amen to that.
Amen to yet another instance of the supernatural manifesting itself in something as mundane as ice fishing.
Silence is always a good thing, btw. It’s one of the few things in the world that you can say that about. Of course, what you do in silence can be good or bad (cat burglar/pray), but dual-silence—both external and internal at the same time—is a situation we all ought to strive for as often as possible. It’s as hard to get too much silence as it is to eat too many vegetables or to stretch too much. I guess it is possible at some level, but man, I wouldn’t worry about it.
I should do whole podcast episodes on Russia. Man, it’s a fascinating hodgepodge.
Russia came late to the Christianity game. Around 1000, making it the last European nation to convert, except maybe Finland. But then again, Russia came late to everything, whether because retarded by the Viking culture that swamped it in the late dark ages, I don’t know. I mean, its three main cities and the cities around whom its cultural history revolves—Kiev, Moscow, St. Petersburg—were all founded late compared to other great cities (700s for Kiev, probably, Moscow 1100s, St. Petersburg 1700s).
BTW: Saints Cyril and Methodius. RCC and Christians in the west don’t fully appreciate what they did. Missionaries. They translated the Bible into Slavic and spread Christianity throughout the Balkans and from there it went to Russia. No C and M, no JPII. No Poland as the last great bulward against the European Union and the Islamization of Europe today. An exaggeration? Maybe, but “what if” history is an impossible task.
A big physical thing happened in 1453 that had big metaphysical consequences in Russia: The Fall of the Byzantine Empire . . . the real fall of the Roman Empire. The Ottoman Empire took it down, which is really bizarre. If you get a chance, read about the fortification that was Constantinople. I don’t remember all the details, but I remember one: a huge outer wall that was virtually insurmountable, and if you did get over it or under it or through it somehow, you were met by the “real” wall where you would die like a pig stuck in a pen as the defenders rained arrows, rocks, feces, and who knows what all on you.
The fact that the Ottoman Empire took it down speaks volumes about the greatness of the Ottoman Empire. What speaks even more volume? The fact that it’s probably the single-most responsible agent for the mess that is the modern world. Its decline that led to its demise after WWI was responsible for the mess that was the Balkans throughout the 20th century and the mess that is the Middle East today.
When Constantinople fell, it sent shockwaves through Europe, including Russia. Russia’s response? We are now the Third Rome. The timing was impeccable. Russia was entering its golden period, in the process of throwing off Mongol control of the past 200 years. They threw off the descendants of the Golden Horde. Great name. Not to be confused with the Golden Shower, for my postmodernist fans out there who want to invert the urine-soaked/not-urine-soaked binary.
The first Rome had fallen, according to the Russian Orthodox priest, because the RCC had lapsed into heresy. Then the second Rome, Constantinople, fell because of a compromise reached with the RCC at the Council of Florence in the 1430s (where, among other things, the Orthodox admitted that the Pope has certain prerogatives. And now Moscow and the Russian Orthodox Church would serve as Rome until the second coming of Christ.
The Russian emperor, or czar, was Caesar. Like the later Caesars and the Byzantine Emperors, he was protector of the Church, of Christendom. It was role they took seriously and inflated Russian pride. They would be the keepers of Christianity until the end of time. They are third in line. Everything comes in threes. Trinity.
This Russian self-proclaimed divine destiny had its secular counterpart. Manifest destiny. They actually thought it was their divine right/destiny to control all of Asia, from the north pole to the Indian Ocean.
As the Ottoman Empire declined, the Russian Empire eagerly swallowed up the gaps. Britain in the 19th and early 20th centuries saw it as one of their primary duties to stop the Russians and resist their expansion at every point it could. The Russians were into the Middle Eastern game way before the U.S. got there.
Yeah, a stupid gimmick. But they need one. They need several.
In 2018, alcohol consumption in the United States dropped for the third-straight year, according to IWSR Drinks Market Analysis. And beer is to blame: Sales of a case of beer declined 1.5%. For the past five years, beer volume in the US declined 2.4%, the firm said. The trend doesn’t appear to be reversing itself. Sales of domestic beer slipped 4.6% between October 2018 and October 2019, according to Nielsen. Microbrew and craft beers are also in a minor slump, down 0.4%. Link.
The article says spiked seltzer, canned wine, pre-made cocktails, and premium liquor are taking the biggest bite out of the beer industry. Within the premium liquors, tequila, whiskey, and vodka are increasing their sales the fastest. That really surprises me. I thought gin would’ve been in the top three (I thought the vodka craze peaked two years ago). Oh well. More for me.
For many years, the legend of the Old Forge echoed down the glens and out across the world. I heard stories of midsummer nights when the light never quite left the sky and the music never left the pub—the fiddles reeled, the beer flowed, walkers steeled their trail-weary limbs and danced on the tables and out into the streets in the gathering dawn. The hangovers lasted an eternity.
When the full truth and weight of the absurd hits a person, the result can be dramatic. A person might stand against the wall and wail, like H.G. Wells’ frustrated utopian expectations giving way to defeatist whimpers at the end of his life in Mind at the End of its Tether. Or a man might throw a tantrum and flail away at the silent oak tree universe, like I hear William Faulkner used to do—get drunk, stagger into his backyard, and shake his fist and curse at the heavens. Or a person might sit in a café someplace and snarl at everything and everyone, like existentialists in the 1950s who read Camus’ novels and adopted a despairing, estranged, nihilist attitude toward a meaningless world.
Whew. The new-year blitz is over. Three closings in 12 days. For the non-lawyers out there: Closings are when a business or piece of real estate changes hands. First, you sign a purchase agreement. Then the buyer does his due diligence and various other negotiations and issues are addressed. Then you close. Closings are the transactional attorney’s equivalent to a trial. Pretty much everything stops for a closing. On the days leading up to a closing, it’s not unusual to get over 100 emails from the various parties: the lender, the lender’s attorney, the other party’s attorney, the title company, the closing agent, the surveyor, etc. Such frenzied activity pretty much makes it impossible to deal with any other matters, so you have to work late to return other clients’ emails, plus you have your regular appointments, etc.
In short, closings are hard, so three of them over nine business days was brutal. Fortunately, all of them went well. Few things are worse than a closing that starts to blow up at the 11th hour: the tension, the arguing, the threats of taking it to the judge. It is, in short, awful, but none of that happened in my closings this year.
And now, I can focus on other things.
Like this blog.
I have a few aims for 2020, and one of them is to improve this blog and gradually shift the audience to The Weekly Eudemon blog site. In blog years, TDE is older than dirt, and it’s showing its age with lots of technical problems that can’t be fixed without a major overhaul and expense. I’m not sure how much longer I’m going to be willing to pay the $150 a year to keep it going and, honestly, I half-expect it to collapse altogether some day. So if that happens, and you try to come here and can’t get through, go to The Weekly Eudemon blog site. The content is nearly identical.
“There is only one really serious philosophical problem, that of suicide. To judge that life is or is not worth the trouble of being lived, this is to reply to the fundamental question of philosophy.” These words stand at the beginning of Albert Camus’ philosophy. The question of suicide (and later murder) were his touchstones. For Camus, both questions arose from a problem that he called “the absurd.”
The absurd, Camus said, is the state of existence that is every man’s lot because nothing corresponds to his highest yearnings. In order to understand what Camus is saying, consider how ridiculous it would be if there was no such thing as food, but we had an appetite for it. At some point someone would become aware of the odd juxtaposition of appetite and no food, and say, “What’s going on here? Why do we have an appetite if there is no such thing as food to satisfy it?” That’s the same thing Camus said about man’s desires and dreams. Every man hopes, but there is nothing to satisfy his hopes. Man naturally harbors desires, but there is nothing to respond to them. Man is like an abandoned baby crying to an oak tree for milk. That, Camus said, is absurd.
St. Anthony the Great Feast Day Coming Up. This Friday.
Keep in mind where you are in history. The Roman Empire converted to Christianity/Catholicism. Constantine ended persecution and himself converted. NOTE: He did not make Christianity the official religion. That happened about 75 years later under Theodosius, still in the 4th century, but Christianity definitely became the “in” thing under Constantine.
Dying for one’s faith was considered the supreme act. Almost a straight path to heaven, but without the twenty virgin whores at your disposal. Ah, and another key difference with Islam: you can never seek it out. It’s almost a mix of Islam and Hinduism. Islam: Seek it out; Hinduism: detachment to the point you let it happen . . . wading into the Ganges to be eaten by crocodiles if that’s what happens. The Christian martyr has the detachment, but without the morbidity: the martyr also loves life, as a gift of God. They would just assume continue to enjoy it, but he has the religious fervor, but without the militant assertion (and hatred) of the Muslim terrorist.
The Hindu seems to seek in The Existential Gap . . . and disappears. Denial of subject-object. Extreme. The Muslim is soaked in subject-object: God, object, and the twenty virgin whores for me, subject. Pinging back and forth fervently . . . crazed. The Christian martyr appreciates the importance of The Existential Gap, but appreciates it for what it is: a GAP. Between subject-object. It’s a cool place to be . . . but not the only place to be.
But with Constantine, martyrdom was no longer likely. Like I said, any dope, regardless of intellectual vigor or will, could be a Christian. And lots of dopes were becoming Christians, thereby making it fashionable.
There was no red martyrdom . . . getting killed. Or even rose martyrdom . . . being despised. In fact, you could argue that converting to Catholicism in the fourth century was a cowardly thing to do. And staying Catholic and enjoying the fruits of the state a dishonorable thing.
Enter St. Anthony. And white martyrdom.
His biography is simple, and his biography was the first biography: written by St. Athanasius. A saint on a saint. A rare find. It’s a beautiful, if often outlandish, book. It has continued to resonate with people. The great Gustave Flaubert (hardly a monkish ascetic: wrote Madame Bovary; liked to bang prostitutes) pondered the story for 20 years then rewrote it in his own terms.
Born in 251. Parents died. Sold all, provided for his sister, then went to the desert in 285. 20 years in hermitage, then came out. 305. Went back in. Came back out. Always lived by himself, but he came out to act as a spiritual father to those attracted to the way of life. He, combined with toleration for Christians, drove the 4th century rush for the desert. Hundreds of thousands. Hundreds of monasteries. Four remain today, btw.
Sayings of the Desert Fathers. I’ve seen/dipped into three. Sayings of the Desert Fathers by Benedicta Ward. Wisdom of the Desert by Thomas Merton. The Spiritual Meadow by John Moschos. Didn’t care for The Spiritual Meadow. Not sure why. Might have to try it again. Tastes change as we change.
Benedicta Ward’s is probably my favorite. Consider:
“Just as fish die if they stay too long out of water, so the monks who loiter outside their cells or pass their time with men of the world lose the intensity of inner peace.”
Great quote. And it shows how someone removed from us by nearly 2,000 years and half a world and ten cultures is relevant. Yes, we won’t have the inner peace of a desert monk living off bread, but who can doubt that affairs of the world torture the soul and leave it without peace? Our task is to find that blended life, so in a sense, our task is harder than the desert monk’s, though, in reality, his is the hardest of all, but for reasons entirely alien to our way of life.
Another great quote from Anthony: “A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, ‘You are mad, you are not like us.’” Welcome to being Non-Woke.
And then there are the puzzling ones that, probably because I’m not a desert monk, I have a real time even beginning to appreciate:
“He who wishes to live in solitude in the desert is delivered from three conflicts: hearing, speech, and sight; there is only one conflict for him and that is with fornication.”
I think I’d like to see the original script for that one. Fornication? With whom? Not masturbation? Not sodomy? Fornication? Succubi?
Third Segment: Lightning Segments
Go back to Episode 55. There I talked about how reason/logic can’t explain how I got to the CVS. I talked about how the brilliant and learned Samuel Johnson refuted Bishop Berkeley’s idealism by kicking a rock . . . which is no refutation at all, but Johnson intuited that no rationale refutation was possible: The stone, according to reason, didn’t exist, and that was that . . . until he kicked it.
The point is, experience overrides reason. Experience shows us there’s something besides reason/logic. More than reason/logic. But we’re using reason/logic to override reason/logic. Well, yeah, and I can’t reason/logic my way out of that one either, so we’re back to the limits of reason/logic. It’s mind numbing, no? It probably ought to induce silence.
But the point is: There is more than reason/logic. We know it, we experience it.
This is where you’ll see philosophy is relevant. Philosophy isn’t stoner talk. Philosophy gives you a hint of how to live. Here, the hint is: Get into the Existential Gap.
But of course, alcohol runs as freely as water. It’ll continue to pump joy through our veins. There’s always something new in the drinking universe. Heck, just last night, I read for the first time about Facebook’s vigorous black market in bourbon. It’s definitely the most interesting drinking piece of the young decade:
“Facebook made bourbon,” says Gene Nassif, an extremely online whiskey fan from Iowa. He rightly notes that bourbon had been pretty dead since the 1960s, when clear spirits like vodka started rising to the forefront. Then, in 2006, Mark Zuckerberg’s privacy-invading wet dream opened to everybody and soon thereafter began allowing members to start and join private groups. Coincidentally, a bourbon renaissance was in its nascent stages in America, propelled by the craft cocktail boom, the rise of foodie culture, and, some people even say, the Old-Fashioned-slugging louts on Mad Men, which premiered in 2007.
Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge to “resist” the democratic results isn’t a mere semantic problem. It points to the problem with socialists in general: They aren’t interested in democracy. They are interested in power. Central power.
One resists a dictatorship; one opposes a legitimate government. Corbyn is thus like Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who once said that democracy is like a train: you get off it once you have reached your destination. It is a means to an end—in Corbyn’s case, socialist social justice; that is to say, a good rather than a bad dictatorship. For once social justice is reached, what need would there be of any politics at all, except perhaps a little light leadership?
I was reading David Mikics biography of Jacque Derrida. He points out that the first large urban civilizations—like Babylon and Egypt—“used writing as an elite mechanism for social control. The secrets of the realm remained in the hands of the few who had knowledge of script.”
Did universal literacy eliminate this? Maybe in part. But it’s still there.
Have you ever considered proper grammar? All those rules? I’m something of a grammar-phobe, albeit an imperfect one. I’m the kind of bastard that corrects my kids when they say “He is taking Fred and I to the store.” Is that a way of setting oneself apart?
Perhaps, but there’s no social control associated with it. Just debased snobbery.
What about wokeness? Woke language? Michael Malice points out in his new book at the SJWs are constantly changing the lingo and everyone goes along because, by using it, you’re signaling that you’re on the correct side of society.
But is it a matter of social control? Is the “correct side” the higher social order?
I’m afraid so.
The Left controls the institutional social controls: Education and Media. Now, when I say “institutional,” mean the “big.” Left is big. Sure, it doesn’t control talk radio. It doesn’t control every website. It sure as heck doesn’t control the podcast universe.
But big institutions?
Big is Left.
Why else would ESPN get political like it was during the teens, at a time when the country was particularly politically polarized? Fundamental common sense would tell you that, if you take a side in the political debates, you would alienate half of your viewership . . . AND YOU’RE A SPORTS NETWORK. But they did and started alienating viewers, so much so they basically apologized last May and said they’d stop.
But why did they start?
Because ESPN is part of Disney. It’s a syllogism that you should never forget: Disney is big ($100 billion in assets; 200,000 employees). Big is left. Therefore, Disney is left.
By using the woke language, you’re signaling that you’re part of the Left . . . which is the same thing as saying you’re part of the elite. It’s important. It’s cowardice, too, but it’s also important for your career, your prospects, your income, your family.
If you’re in ancient Babylon and you want to get your family that nice house on the Euphrates, you’d learn how to write. In America 2020, you keep current with the newest SJW jargon.
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