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A Rambling Column Resulting from a Bushwhacked Week

Photo by Jaime Spaniol / Unsplash

Ah, the life bushwhack.

When I wore a younger man’s clothes, I thought the bushwhacks would go away. I’d get my seven kids out of constant-crisis mode (making sure they didn’t wander away, fall down the steps, or get eaten by a dog), then I could return to sustained and regular studies and writings.

It didn’t work out that way. Somehow, I keep getting pulled into a circus of activities, almost like it’s programmed into my DNA. Maybe it is, or at least my mental landscape, almost like I always think I can fit more into the landscape than is possible. It's no doubt a self-torturing kind of arrogance on my part (but then again, all arrogance is self-torturing).

Anyway, I committed myself in 2021 to publish a good essay every Monday. It has gone well. I don’t think I’ve missed a week since late 2021. Readership is growing and my recordings of the weekly essays appear to be doing very well. When vacations come up, I’ve planned accordingly and have had an extra essay ready to go.

But then comes the bushwhack: a confluence of events that unexpectedly swirl to foil your best intentions.

I won’t bore you with the details of my bushwhack, but suffice it to say, I normally have the weekly essay written by, say, the preceding Thursday and then edit it a few times, before loading/recording it on Sunday.

This past week, one function after another came up, until I was looking at a blank screen on Saturday, slightly hungover and badly in need of sleep.

So I printed an essay about Eric Voegelin that I’d written months ago and started editing it Sunday morning. Voegelin is crucial to understanding the modern world, so I figured it was time to give readers a good introduction.

Unfortunately, that essay had a serious problem: It was a piece of shit.

I started to hack it up, determined to keep on my weekly schedule, then stopped. I remembered an old saying from one of my older colleagues who refuses, even in response to frantic and demanding clients, to rush his legal work: “Rushes,” he would tell me, “make f’ ups.”

He’s absolutely right, and Voegelin is too important to f’ up.

So I put it aside and decided to write this more personal column.

So what’s going on at TDE?

Lots. If you hadn’t noticed, I started an Instagram account. Here’s the link.

I’ve long resisted Instagram because it’s puerile: a bunch of pictures. But then I learned that you could put quotes and stuff on the pictures, then even add information in the caption. Instagram, I learned, is the perfect medium for something I’d been trying to do for 30 years: give readers short, accessible passages.

My first self-launched publication (before the Internet) was called “Notes, Quotes, and Aphorisms,” which I changed to “Wisdom & Order.” I can’t even remember how I found subscribers, but I had about 100 who paid to receive the publication by mail. I did that for a few years, then abandoned it.

When I started TDE, the goal was to offer “edifying yet entertaining” snippets. That evolved (devolved, depending on who you ask) over the years, but the goal to provide humorous or helpful shorts never left me, hence I have kept the scrolling blog approach, where I can post a snippet here or there, but the scrolling blog approach doesn’t quite “get it.”

Instagram, however, gets it.

It’s exactly what I’ve always wanted in an easy medium. I just have to use pictures, which isn’t terribly hard.

Anyway, check it out and follow me. The project is brand new so you’ll be getting in on the ground floor.

The TDE Twitter account is also more active these days.

I’ve learned about “Tweet Threads.” These are things that allow you post entire articles in a series of Tweets that are “thread together.” Here’s a sample from last Saturday, about GKC’s 100th anniversary of his entry into the Catholic Church.

What’s next at TDE?

Well, I think next Monday’s column will be “Jack Kerouac: The Tao on Steroids.” I’ve long been fascinated by Kerouac, a man no one seems to be able to figure out, but I have my theory: Kerouac’s was a  harsh revolt against modernity. Modernity is the rejection of the Tao. Therefore, Kerouac’s was a quest to reclaim the Tao, which includes rejecting Modernity.

I’m also mulling over a new project, which is a course about how to raise intellectually-sound children. It was triggered by my son telling me that one of his friend's parents switched from conservative Christian to agnostic liberals because their high school daughter convinced them it was the right thing to do.

My first response was harsh, “What the frick? Are they daft?” No, in fact, both parents obtained challenging degrees in the STEM arena and are gainfully employed. But that doesn’t mean nothing is wrong. A person can have a decent IQ and be daft at the same time.

These parents, it appears, not only neglected their obligation to help their children form a coherent worldview, but they let a teenage girl completely change theirs . . . probably because they didn’t have one to begin with and, if they did, couldn't articulate or defend it. It was a complete abrogation of responsibility.

I then thought about the number one type of caller in the days of Mother Angelica Live: parents calling about their children who had fallen away from the Church (which prompted Mother to start The Journey Home, in hopes of offering hope to such parents). I then thought about the kids who think they’re queer or transgender or whatever. I thought about a very close friend who raised two flaming leftists, one of whom has made a wreck of his life in obedience to his self-rationalized “principles,” even though my friend is a very conservative Christian. He has no idea how it happened. I watched it up close and am pretty sure I know exactly what happened.

I then remembered a passage I wrote recently:

To be a serious Christian, you need to be a saint, a scholar, or a simple peasant woman in the pews with a rosary. You need to be (i) infused with love of Christ (saint); or (ii) intelligent and willing to undertake the serious study necessary to plumb the history, philosophy, and theology of Christian thought (scholar); or (iii) content merely to rely on faith and authority (peasant woman). Or maybe a blend of two or all of the foregoing.

My five oldest children are practicing Catholics with a firm grasp on their faith. The last two look like they’re going to be fine (but of course, I ain't getting cocky and never stop praying for all of them).

So, I’m thinking I have “the cred” to teach a course about how to form your children intellectually. I’m going to explore it some more. If I start the course, details will be posted here.