Whew, whatta week. Nonstop obligations . . . all of the non-billable sort, which for a lawyer, is like giving money away. I get a reprieve today and tomorrow.
Great podcast at Econtalk: Jonah Goldberg on the Suicide of the West. Lots of interesting analysis of current events. One segment I really liked: Someone once observed that every culture is constantly invaded by barbarians: children. Families are the first line of defense from these barbarians. In light of the breakdown of the family that has occurred, where does that leave us? The prognosis isn’t very good. The interlocutors don’t see a way out of our culture’s downward spiral and, truth be told, neither do I, but I believe in the supernatural foundation of the Catholic Church. I hold a mystical (irrational) belief that It will lead us out of this mess, though I have no idea how.
As long as I listened to two Jews talk about modern culture, and since I invoked Russell Kirk’s ghost earlier this week, I pulled his Enemies of the Permanent Things off the shelf and re-read the pages on Max Picard (a Jew). I’ve read those dozen pages a dozen times. They might be my favorite Kirk writings, though the unusual prose of The Conservative Mind still captivates me today, thirty years after I first read it.
“A sense of humor can exist only in a world of faith. For in humor is a trace of the smile with which God observes the mistakes of man. That trace of God’s smile, in man, is our sense of humor.” Max Picard. In light of Richard Pryor, Sam Kinison, and 2.5 million other irreverent comedians, I don’t know if I agree with him, but like everything Picard writes, it’s worth pondering.
The increased wealth that started to accumulate after 1000 gave us the most famous saint after the apostles: St. Francis (b. 1182). Also: St. Dominic (b. 1170). Twelfth and Thirteenth centuries: other mendicant orders: Augustinians, Trinitarians, Servites, Carmelites.
Perhaps ironically, it also gave us the Crusades. With increase wealth, came the increase ability to go on the offensive. For centuries, Europe had been defending itself, but now it found itself reborn, youthful, strong, and vibrant.
The emergent Seljuk Turks gave them the impetus. These Muslim converts were kind of like today’s ISIS: militant and uncompromising. They took over large parts of modern day Turkey and couldn’t understand why infidels were allowed to make pilgrimages to the Holy Lands, so they started attacking these unarmed groups.
The Pope responded by sending armed guards, whetting an appetite for war.
There were also calls from Constantinople, today’s Istanbul, for help against the Turks.
Eventually leading to Pope Urban II’s call for a crusade.
The Crusades were temporarily successful, resulting in the establishment of crusading kingdoms that lasted nearly a hundred years, but they were eventually vanquished by Muslim arms and demographics . . . just as will happen with Europe.
I ran a quote by George Scott-Moncrieff. Who’s he? He was Russell Kirk’s friend, whom Kirk praised in his autobiography, The Sword of Imagination. “Scomo” was “the worst-dressed gentleman in all Scotland, indifferent to circumstance, endowed with the consolations of philosophy.” In other words, my kind of guy, though I have decent clothes, find myself too wrapped up by circumstance, and forget frequently to take consolation in what I’ve learned from philosophy. But otherwise, my kind of guy.
I’m not sure any of Scomo’s books are still in print, but you can find some pretty good deals at Amazon. I bought This Day a few years ago and have found it edifying. I also read his Burke Street but, truth be told, I remember very little about it.
Happy birthday to my Mom today. I don’t think she’s a Scomo fan, but she does frequent TDE. A woman of high-caliber tastes, she.
I always tell myself I need to go back and read more Kirk, but I never get around to it. I’m about a third of the way through Brad Birzer’s excellent biography and I think I’ll finish it some day. Right now, the before-after line is October 2025, assuming I’m graced to live that long.
“I woke up Sunday morning with no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt.” Johnny Cash, Sunday Morning Coming Down. It’s one of my favorite Johnny Cash songs, and I was living it yesterday after a fundraiser for Max’s Catholic Heart Work Camp trip this summer. Whew, it was pretty bad, but I was able to finish getting my home-based flower beds ready and plant nearly 50 more lettuce plugs yesterday (with Marie’s help).
My lettuce optimism last week may have been a little too high. After assessing the crop yesterday, I’m guessing I may have lost as many as half of the lettuce plugs to the winter storm last week. Quite a bummer.
Why, George Scott-Moncrieff asks, don’t more people surrender themselves to God? It’s because “we are fankled in our desires.” G. Scott-Moncrieff, This Day. “Fankled.” That was a new word to me, but I kinda like it. It means, from what I can figure, “tangled confusedly.” That would be the passions and their impact on the heart.
Marie told me yesterday morning that Pope Francis had apparently established a new holy day, possibly of obligation (she said the blurb she saw was confusing). In my hungover sour disposition, I snarked, “Earth Day?” But no, it’s Mary, Mother of the Church. I couldn’t, incidentally, find anything to indicate it’s a holy day of obligation.
I am blessedly ignorant of most things pop culture, but when things like this escape my notice (which it did), I begin to think I should pay a little bit more attention: “Hip-hop artist Kanye West was criticized by the left for his support of Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential race. But anyone who thought that would lead him to walk away from conservative ideas found out recently that he instead may be doubling down.” Link.
I don’t know if it’s a testament to Salanova lettuce, a trait of lettuce in general, or a gardening miracle, but it looks like all, or almost all, of my 47 lettuce plugs survived last week’s high winds, freezing temperatures, snow, hail, and freezing rain. Only one looks like it’s going to whither to nothing, and I even give that one a 5% shot of survival. There are about 15 others that show signs of wear, but they should make it. The rest look pretty good.
Lots of compost hauling yesterday from the field to my yard, where I am preparing flower beds from scratch. When I paid the bulldozer to scrape my new field, he left the scrapings in piles around my field. Over the past 12 months, the piles have decomposed, leaving big mounds of very good–not great, but very good–compost. I’m guessing I have over 100,000 pounds of compost out there. Marie and I used my brother’s truck to haul about a ton of it back to my yard.
Unfortunately, the compost mounds are eroding fast. I was keeping the grass and weeds from growing on it (by tarping and burning) so they wouldn’t blow weed seeds on to the field, which no doubt contributed to the eroding. I’m going to let the back half “grow wild” this year, in hopes that it’ll slow the erosion.
I saw on the Weather Channel that the midwest east of the Mississippi is expected to have a cool May, an average June, and a cool July. I have a ton of tomato seedlings coming up. I’m hoping we can get them in the ground after danger of frost passes. I remember a few years ago, we were getting frost warnings Memorial Day weekend. If that happens, my first attempt at growing tomatoes commercially is going to fail miserably.
I found a trove of drinking news over here. A few of the better ones:
Good to know: “Professor Andrew Jarosz of Mississippi State University and colleagues served vodka-cranberry cocktails to 20 male subjects until their blood alcohol levels neared legal intoxication and then gave each a series of word association problems to solve. Not only did those who imbibed give more correct answers than a sober control group performing the same task, but they also arrived at solutions more quickly. The conclusion: drunk people are better at creative problem solving.” Link.
This gets me caught up on the world of alcohol packaging in 50 words: “Over the past decade, the once humble can has emerged as the hottest beer packaging on the market. Even the wine industry has taken notice, with canned wines getting trendy in their own right. But now, a new Colorado brewery is taking a cue from the wine industry with a plan to sell all of its to-go beer in boxes.” Link. I don’t see myself buying beer in a box, but I like to see folks innovating in these areas.
This sounds terrible, but I give them credit for the bad pun: “Beer made from milk? Cornell researcher finds a whey to brew it.” Link.
Every historian recognizes that, by 1000, commerce was increasing and with it, wealth. Technology was advancing. The Dark Ages were over, caput, finished. It was onward and upward pretty much non-stop from there, allowing Europe to, almost literally, conquer the world by the 19th century.
There was a monastic renewal. The three c’s: Cluny (910 or so), Cistercians (1098), and Carthusians (1084) who, among them, would eventually have well over 1,000 affiliated monasteries (Cluny: 800ish, Citeaux: 400 or more, Carthusians: 200 or more).
Renewal after land was scarce since it was the source of payment (one age: Vikings came to rid Europe of the curse of gold)
Monasticism is seldom talked about any more. But it’s kinda like the Vikings: everyone has heard of them, knows they were important, but very few appreciate what a force they were. Think of it: over 1,000 monasteries, just among those three.
Monasteries also offer a great illustration of how the secular and sacred intertwine, thereby warping the sacred and irritating the secular. Monasteries were usually started by earnest men (and convents by women). These men were austere and holy; they attracted notice, a following. Laymen would visit them to seek advice. These laymen would then give them money, often large bequests in their Wills. The result: the monasteries became wealthy, which then attracted not-so-earnest men. In fact, the wealthier the monastery, the more indolent and worldly men it attracted. Paradoxically, the holier the monastery, the more profane the monastery. And because there were thousands of monasteries, who just accumulated land and possessions, they aroused a great deal of righteous indignation . . . and a lot of flat-out petty jealousy. They would pay the price during the Reformation.
This increased wealth created some unease. Just as most good Christians in America feel a bit uncomfortable with our immense wealth, devout Europeans began to feel a bit uncomfortable. The Christian importance of poverty and simplicity were getting swept under the fancy rugs. A backlash of sorts brewed.
Wow, what brutal weather these past couple of days. I’m guessing my 50 lettuce plugs didn’t make it, but I won’t get a chance to check them out until tomorrow. If we lost the crop, it’ll probably be a $250 loss (retail value of what the plants would yield at market). Not the end of the world, but frustrating.
Last Theology on Tap session for 2017-2018 season. Next year is up in the air. We’ll discuss it tonight.
I just planted a small bed of arugula, which is apparently hands-down the most nitrate-rich vegetable out there (480 mg per 100 grams). Nitrates are apparently good for your heart. I’ll have to plant another bed of arugula soon.
The most recent “Week That Perished” at TakiMag is even better than usual, and that’s saying something. Opening line: “It is not paranoid to suggest that the current “refugee crisis” that was engineered by global finance and enabled by endlessly unnecessary US military meddling in the Middle East and Northern Africa is the most serious demographic threat to Western Civilization in world history. And even if it is paranoid, we would rather be alive and paranoid than murdered by our own gullibility.”
One significant inconvenience has dogged me this gardening season: a new car. My old van died on me last November. I bought a 2017 Kia Sorento, which I really, really like. I like it so much, I don’t like to get it dirty by transporting my implements to and from the field. I talked with a used-car dealer client of mine about getting an old pickup truck, but he said pickup trucks are now status symbols (WTH?) so I couldn’t touch a rust-bucket truck for less than $3,000. He recommended I try an old cargo van, which he said he could get for less than $2,000, but the insurance on it would’ve ran me $1,200 a year. He then suggested I simply buy a small trailer to hook to the back of my Kia. That was a good idea, but I didn’t want to install a hitch on my Kia, spend over $500 on a trailer, and then hassle with backing it up, unhooking it every night, etc. And then it hit me: a bike trailer. The field is a half mile from my house; I have a pretty decent Schwinn bike. Marie and I looked at various options, and finally settled on the Burley Flat Bed, with a cargo net. It was the largest we could find, and it had quite a few recommendations. It’s supposed to arrive later today. I’ll let you know how well it works.
Meg, my teenager daughter, is both amusinged and horrified that I’ll be riding my bike to the field with this thing hitched to the back. I think I’ll take away her car and get her one of these instead.
GMO Battle Round Two: Inside the Coming Battle Over Gene-Edited Food. Interesting piece. Gene editing is the science of deleting DNA, whereas gene modification is the science of adding DNA. Big ag is arguing strongly that they’re not the same thing. I have no idea, but why is big ag trying so hard to distance its new product from GMO?
This was a tough post to write. I had to dedicate yesterday to prepping for my Theology on Tap lecture on epistemology, which led me pull old books off the shelves and review my underlinings (or pull old books into my Kindle and look at highlightings) on topics ranging from David Hume and Karl Popper to the Scientific Revolution and gender theory. It wasn’t a bad way to spend an otherwise miserable Sunday, but such studies tend to zap my interest in anything else.
One conclusion I resurrected during my preparation. David Hume demolished the antecedents. Consider knowledge as an accumulation from 1 to 10, one thing building upon another, each number representing a different conclusion that will lead to another conclusion (Conclusion 4 leads to Conclusion 5, Conclusion 5 to 6, and so on). The first stages of knowledge are the low numbers; the later stages of knowledge are the high numbers. David Hume destroyed any chance of going earlier than, say, Conclusion 3. “[N]o satisfactory answer had been found to Hume’s argument that reasoning from the particular to the general, or in any other way from past to future experience, cannot be justified by any means that do not beg the question.” A.J. Ayer, Philosophy in the Twentieth Century (1984), p. 133. The problem is, Hume pointed out, any faith in a law or cause is just that: faith. Your “law” is simply a belief that things will behave like they behaved in the past, but it’s not logical: it’s psychological, you telling yourself it’ll be that way. “Cause” itself is just a word that can’t be picked up and analyzed. Your belief in such things is fine, but don’t pretend it’s any different than, say, belief in the Bible. Popper set out to answer Hume’s “problem of induction,” but he didn’t. The philosophical problems presented by Hume are with us to this day.
My wanderings yesterday pushed me back into Nassim Taleb’s Antifragility, with brief glances through his collection of aphorisms and The Black Swan. There’s a lot of good stuff in those books. I’ll have to start running passages from them more often.
“[Y]ou never have a generalized restaurant crisis—unlike, say, the banking business. Why? Because it is composed of a lot of independent and competing small units that do not individually threaten the system and make it jump from one state to another.” Nassim Taleb
Working Saturday. I’m blessed to have a job with flexible hours that enable me to take advantage of nice days like we had this week, but it is a job that requires me to put in the hours, so when the rain comes out, I go in.
I am, however, starting my first flower plugs this morning before I go in. I’ll have to look at my planting notes, but I think my first trays of sunflowers and zinnias are on the schedule today. It might be a little bit early, but I’ll be succession planting trays (a few trays every weekend through early May).
My primary project today: working on a 501(c)(3) application. A few years ago, the IRS greatly streamlined the application for small nonprofits. I was genuinely impressed and surprised. “It’s not often,” I thought to myself, “that a government agency takes a step toward increasing the country’s general efficiency.” But then last December, they re-issued the application for larger nonprofits and took back there what they gave earlier. The new full-blown application is far harder than the old one. Fortunately, very few of my nonprofit clients need to use the full-blown one.
My last Theology on Tap lecture of the season is this Wednesday. I still don’t have a topic, but I’m leaning toward epistemology: how do we know anything? I’d probably start with the Scientific Revolution and Bacon’s break with deductive reasoning from premises, discuss its shortfalls, and the mess it has left us today (where we can trust virtually nothing, not even medical studies), and contrast it with natural law knowledge.
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