The Hawk, by W.B. Yeats

“CALL down the hawk from the air;
Let him be hooded or caged
Till the yellow eye has grown mild,
For larder and spit are bare,
The old cook enraged,
The scullion gone wild.”

“I will not be clapped in a hood,
Nor a cage, nor alight upon wrist,
Now I have learnt to be proud
Hovering over the wood
In the broken mist
Or tumbling cloud.”

“What tumbling cloud did you cleave,
Yellow-eyed hawk of the mind,
Last evening? that I, who had sat
Dumbfounded before a knave,
Should give to my friend
A pretence of wit.”

You have to notice that the quotation marks indicate a change of speakers in every stanza. In the first, there is an unspecified speaker expressing a wish: call down. Order, trap, domesticate the hawk. Why? Because game that would otherwise be available is being depleted.

What part of the description ‘old cook’ is more important? Usually the substantive is more important than the modifier. In this case, however, the substantive is bound by the circumstances of the poem, and the modifier seems to me to be more free. Because of that, it seems more indicative of the poet’s choice, what he wants to say. Why is the old cook enraged? He is accustomed to having game. Why old? Tradition? Custom? Or is it feebleness as opposed to the strength of the hawk? The hawk is messing with the kitchen, and it is becoming intolerable.

But then we get the hawk’s story. He will not go back, he says. He has learned to be proud. This is not talking about a wild hawk that has to be domesticated, but a domesticated hawk that has reverted. I think that helps us with the adjective ‘old’ above.

Notice how the hawk describes the circumstances of his freedom, again, the adjectives in the concluding lines of the stanza. What kind of mist? What sort of cloud? He rises in circumstances of ruin.

It seems to me that the speaker in the last stanza is the same as the first, but now he is more specified. It is someone who has made a mistake. What kind of a mistake is it? What kind of regret? Why a hawk? Why game?

No Abiding City

Nothing says to me that it is a deeply and universally acknowledged truth that the human race is a race of exiles like this mad and glorious desire to colonize the universe. We want to go to Mars, we want to live on Mars, and yet we know that Mars can only be a step on the way. So what are we searching for?

There is nothing more purposeless than the desire to go to space. We make up purposes, but we do not recognize the real purpose.

It is good for learning things, for example, because the truth is that if you pursue practical learning, your learning will be limited. Learning needs to be speculative, you need to get knowledge for the sake of knowledge because all true knowledge exists to tell us something. Our problem is we do not always know what the question is to which we are obtaining an answer. Practical pursuits only seek answers to questions we have, but what about questions that will arise?

You can see this in church history. Origen of Alexandria, that glorious and speculative theologian lay the foundations for the hermeneutics and metaphysics of the fourth century, when very, very pressing and unanticipated questions arose. The import of those questions was remote and recondite, but needed to be discerned from afar. Origen was like Plato’s stargazer. We often talk about how we advance in our theology thanks to the questions that heretics raise. And that is true because we are too little involved in speculative theology; instead of being responsible, we end up scrambling. In the providence of God, there was Origen in the third century.

The same goes for the desire to be a space-faring race. It yields, and continues to yield. We have superior breathing apparatuses for firefighters, enhanced surgery techniques, and many such other kinds of safety and medical improvements. What killed the Apollo missions? When they were viewed merely as a geological survey of the moon and information about its formation. Billions of dollars were spent, and they could not continue to justify them on that practical objective. But that was not its original impulse; that is how the nebulous desire to go was badly clarified and as a result dissolved.

We search for life elsewhere because we want to find kindred. It is part of our search for a home. What is a home, after all? We talk loosely of home ownership, as if there really could be such a thing. It is the devaluation of the currency of our words to do so. You can’t own a home, you can at best own a building. Buildings are such things as can be owned, but a home . . . a home! That’s something that we will cover light years searching to obtain! We desperately want one, and there is a deep and largely unacknowledged sense that this planet is not it. A home is something you obtain by grace. It is something to strive to enter and yet that which you cannot earn. There is something given in a home, it is a blessing, it is received because it is greater than anything we can give ourselves. We are searching for life in other places to try to find out if that is where something belongs, and what belonging would be like, and if perhaps it is the place to which we can ourselves at last belong. We know ourselves to be exiles so fundamentally.

Nothing says to me that we are pilgrims and that we deeply know ourselves to be pilgrims like these daily videos of the massive effort in south eastern Texas to achieve a lasting presence for the human race, a home, a dwelling-place that is certain and enduring. “We need to be an inter-planetary species if we are going to survive.” Survival! If it were about survival we would not be trying to exit a survivable planet.

We want a home, that’s what we want. And we do not realize that what a home is, is a place where we are accepted. Isn’t that why we search for “life”? A home is a place were we live in relationship, conscious relationship, accepted and accepting in a deep and lasting way. It is glory as C. S. Lewis explains in his Biblical theology of the term in “The Weight of Glory.” And we long for the deep things that we in the wisdom of the awe of our religion of technology know; we long for the deep of distant space to accept us. And we toil, and watch, and pray to the gods of that religion, fervent about the designs of our priestly engineers and that highest priest of all, the driven and homeless Elon Musk, eager for them to bring us to the glorious temple that surely the right vehicle will find.

I would love to be a chaplain on that mission and colony on Mars. Don’t you think it will be poignant once there, to stand up and tell them about Abraham and Isaac and Jacob?

Living in the Ocean

What accounts for the thinking of people? The strange thing about trying to account for the thinking of people is that it is not something going on just in their heads. It seems to me sometimes that the mind is like a fish in water, swimming in the medium of Mind, and the thing about the medium of Mind is that it is like an ocean, subject to tides and inner currents. The deeper you can go, one would think, the more stable you can be. But there are currents in the deep, invisible and unexpected. And in the end Mind is greater than any swimming mind. People learn to swim in it, to go with it, to be carried by the tides and currents. The thing is to be aware of these invisible motions, to chart something of where they go and what they reach. I do believe people not only swim but are also are carried, and it is often this which baffles us about the confluence of ideas we see in others.

When I go to a nursing home . . .

. . . then I remember that we are creatures and incapable of great strength. We have strength, but only for a little while. We think we possess it, but it is not something we keep for very long. One day we will possess lasting physical strength, that which Christ has gained for us and gives us. But that is not yet. I do my exercises, I do my pushups, I have more physical strength today perhaps than ever in my 145lb life. But only for a little while, only to enjoy in passing.

. . . why does it seem that something like this won’t happen to me? Would we even go with the full knowledge that this will be our place, that that will be our seat, that others who are young, who have no idea will see us as living in a kind of unreality? Would it take more resolve in that case? When things actually happen to us they are not as we expected such things to be. And so when I go I try to think about how it will be, how life will narrow down, and be limited, and without privacy, and completely dependent on strangers.

Deeper Implications

I’m enjoying Dominic Legge’s book on the Trinitarian Christology of Aquinas. It was promoted a while back by Craig Carter. He was trying to think of a better book on the subject of Christology by a protestant, but couldn’t come up with one. I don’t know why we need one though, unless we don’t think of Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) as our common heritage. I would rather we did, and would make the argument from history that we should. Not that I think Carter disagrees. He’s fighting the fight for abandoning the rash abandonment of the perennial theology of all the former ages of the church. He wants to recover the metaphysical certainties of natural theology that structure our careful and advanced theological formulation. He calls this philosophical theology the great tradition of Christian Platonism.

One of the funniest things (of many) that Roger Scruton said was when he observed that he considered the Enlightenment a kind of light pollution. We all live with physical light pollution if we live around other people, because we all agree that it is better to be able to see the ground nearby than to be able to look above and to the stars beyond. It is a practical thing, and shows one way in which our concern for safety and well-being is not focused on distant and cosmic determinations. Which practical considerations are probably fine for the kinds of considerations that go into having people live close to each other. The philosophical problem of the Englightenment, however, is another thing. The philsophical assumptions of modernity light up immediate rather than transcendent considerations, and it turns out that theology is improperly illuminated when that happens. This change in lighting is not always so apparent, but has been increasingly dawning on theologians. And the insights of gazing at the stars–the time invested, the skill to draw proper conclusions from so doing, the opprobrium of not being practical in this age–turn out to be pretty important for navigating the ship of theology. The Engligtenment, we could say, lit up the seas around the ship, but it turns out that being able to see the waves and billows is not as important as being able to recognize the guiding stars.

The reason Aquinas gets singled out–besides the fact that he is simply one of the greatest theologians God ever gave to the church–is that in continuity with Aquinas we are in continuity with the stargazers of all the ages of the church prior to him. He labored in times when not even the clouds of nominalism had arisen, and there’s much to be said for the philosophical clarity of that moment. We should also remember that the difficult doctrines of the Trinity and Christology were contributed to by Aquinas. Positive contributions to orthodox theology are nothing less than effects caused by the Holy Spirit, and should be remembered and valued as such.

We need the wisdom of those who gazed on the stars because, as we can tell by the present lighting, the nearer waters roll and the tempest still is high. We need their charts in the high seas we navigate. Read Legge’s book on the Christology of Aquinas. Read, for that matter, Aquinas.

The Way to Frame Things

I started reading One Click America. It does what many books seem to be doing these days, starts with a story that draws you in before it starts preaching at you. The introduction won me, and I want to keep going. But when it started preaching at me I noticed something. It uses inadequate categories.

Here is the thing. If the ways of understanding things in the past have been rejected, then you are going to understand things in new ways. The point of doing this would be the assumption that new ways of looking at things are more accurate. My problem is, I am increasingly sure they are not. Take the instance in this book. It is a book that bangs on about inequality. Inequality is how it classifies the problem, and so that will frame the conclusions and solutions. But when I read what is being described, I am not persuaded the problem is inequality. It is disorder. You can see where the categories align: when things have been ordered, then everybody will have the same. It is such a robotic approach to the problem, though. There is no depth to society when you view the fundamental problem not in terms of order but in terms of equality. As if society were spread out on a table, rather than occuplying the dimensions of the world.

Would greater familiarity with ancient and perennial wisdom not take more dimensions into consideration?

Seedtime in August

I went to the planting of a seed–a confessional Baptist regional association. It is germinating, and I hope it grows. The general observation I have about being at a synod of Reformed Baptists is that the main thing is to understand, isn’t it? To understand what you want to achieve. Once you understand you can act, but not before. It reminds me, however, of All of God’s Children in Blue Suede Shoes. Kenneth Myers was good on gathering facts and making a case, but not as good on then prescribing action. So should I say that the first thing is to understand the ends and the second thing is to know all possible means toward those ends. That would make the third thing the choice, the evaluation of the means; after that is when action can ensue.

I am thinking about it because I just read Michael Anton on David French. Nobody who has followed evangelical luminaries for a decade (any decade, they tend to be consistent) can be surprised that David French is French Davidian. There are many good things to be said for evangelicals and evangelicalism, but you don’t get a reliable wisdom in its salient leadership or major projects. Evangelicals want influence, which is a means, but they have no consensus regarding the end in view. They rally around the flag of achieving influence as if it were an end in itself.

The first thing is to understand, and then the second things is to evaluate, and it is in the realm of evaluation that evangelicalism shows its failure. That’s when the mistake flows backward, like a receeding tide, and their initial understanding gets reevaluated. Even adecuate understanding is degraded as a result. And the only question for the observer is, how do we avoid that? It makes you realize how wisdom is indispensiable, and how the categories of classical philosophy are too deep to be readjusted. It makes you listen to the marginal critics because that is where evangelical critics start and finish, whatever their moment of apogee.

Remember David Wells, No Place for Truth? This was part of starting the Alliance, and that has been a cause (among other causes) of an effect. Confessionalism is growing, full subscription with confessional boundaries is growing in new places even if only by trial and error. Confessional subscription is battered about, disputed, distorted, shearing off among disillusioned early adopters, misunderstood. But a strong thing is a strong thing, and full confessional subscription is a strong thing. There are those who are incapable of accepting things associated with the roots of what they are, since they would rather think of themselves as severed from such roots. But, as a general observation about church history, the only thing to grow in is the inherited soil, and you have to do it by the roots.

I was at a synod of pastors who have memories of ARBCA, speaking of soil. There are memories they do not want to repeat, and there is a wealth of experience harvested. Reformed Baptists (Confessional seems to be the ascendant adjective now) have a confession drawing them nevertheless together and forcing them to try to understand the degrees of regard in which it is and should be held. I observe that the process of living brings different strengths in different periods. It is the process of growth. It is the process of maturity and death, and planting new seeds that grow again, things with energy and excess that have no reproductive capacity, but which give way to something that does, which then grows feeble but stores a wealth of experience.

I am forced to drive through fields of corn regularly, having been planted in a new place. This is my third summer doing so. I would never chose it, but it has been chosen for me. The thing about watching something God does is that you can draw authoritative conclusions from it, can’t you? I say that about the land through which I drive, and I hope to say that about this germinating association.

McGilchrist

Iain McGilchrist these days is popping up on my personal notification network (Twitter). It is happening because he is releasing a two-volume magnum opus. Many people would want to know what he says just because of the interesting title of the book, let alone the subject, let alone the author. McGuilchrist has earned his reputation; he has already written a work widely considered at least very important if not crucial. (Magna opera?) If that earlier work turn out not to be a classic, it will take a while for the world to be disabused.

His name either is one of those that always sounds familiar or had come up in some connection previously. Do you know what I mean? It is either the kind of name that makes you feel you always knew it, or you have heard it so much in ways you no longer remember that it feels that way. When Jordan Peterson interviewed him, I was glad for some information on the person. They talked about the then-forthcoming book, and that was interesting enough that I got The Master and His Emissary.

This book reminds me of two smaller books. Owen Barfield’s Saving the Appearances and D. E. Harding’s The Hierarchy of Heaven & Earth. Both of these are extraordinary. The first prepared me for the Copernican revolution that Platonism is against the Nominalist assumptions of modern perceptions. The second is another such Copernican revolution on the perspective of our sense of scale. Now what McGilchrist is doing in his book is bringing observations about the mind back around to neuroscience and trying to explain a Copernican revolution with regard to the brain. (I had no idea the brain is such a complicated organ. It is difficult to wade through the neuroscience, but now that I’m in the second half of the book, worth it.)

In his celebrated earlier tome, McGilchrist offers explanations, which are not intended to be exhaustive, but add another significant detail to the history of ideas. I offer you a tantalizing example:

“Our feelings are not ours, any more than, as Scheler said, our thoughts are ours. We locate them in our heads, in our selves, but they cross interpersonal boundaries as though such limits had no meaning for them: passing back and forth from one mind to another, across space and time, growing and breeding, but where we do not know [my emphasis]. What we feel arises out of what I feel for what you feel for what I feel about your feelings about me – and about many other things besides: it arises from the betweenness, and in this way feeling binds us together, and, more than that, actually unites us, since the feelings are shared.”

I’m at least looking forward to all the podcasts his new book will elicit.  

Farrowing

The intriguing Douglas Farrow is the author of the stupendous takedown published in First Things of David Hart’s treatise on universalism. What an interesting public venue for that engagement. I have not read Hart’s treatise, but I have enjoyed the annoyance it occasioned online. I also think Hart is intriguing; it is hard to think of a more interesting book than The Experience of God. He and Farrow seem to me to be real heavyweights of theological disputation. Of course they hit a lot harder than the featherweights! Don’t you think there is a grand magnificence to watching the heaviest blows being calculated and landed, regardless of the side you are on? Besides his ability to go to war, you will also notice in Farrow’s bio the puzzling statement that he is “sometime holder of the Kennedy Smith chair in Catholic Studies.” What speech act is going on with that?

I do not know at what point Farrow swum the Tiber, or indeed why. He also has a lament of the Pope’s latest legislation on First Things. First Things has been walking a tightrope all through the pontificate of a Pope named after a barbarian tribe, struggling to remain within the bounds of loyalty and deferent disagreement. That Farrow is accorded the response to the latest encroachment on that particular space tells you something. I gather he was at that point on the other side of the Thames. I just read his Ascension and Ecclesia, which takes Calvin’s view of the supper as the point of departure. I am not sure that it would have caused perplexity to be known for such a book and then swimming the Tiber, but that also is a bit intriguing.

Farrow is a penetrating thinker and a dense and acerbic writer. One of the benefits of reading Ascension and Ecclesia (which is cheap because it is now outdated) is that any subsequent book you read will be so much easier. The argument is difficult indeed, depends on making much of Irenaeus, disparaging Origen, and eventually . . . a takedown, yes, of the whole tendency of modern theology, including of course all of its major proponents. (That’s actually where I get bored; 20th century theology consistently fails to intrigue me at all.) It may be that Irenaeus is to be rated over Origen as a theologian, though I am somewhat dubious. Still, even if you don’t agree with Farrow, following his arguments—let alone going up against them—is a salutary and invigorating activity. He is definitely not among the Christian Platonists, but then, it is good to have intelligent opposition. Christian Platonists can be grateful for any intelligent opposition since at least the adjectival part if not the substantive is notably rare.

I obviously enjoy Douglas Farrow. I wrote to my sometime advisor asking him how he rated Farrow, and the reply was that Farrow was top notch, worth reading even when you disagree. It is good advice.

The argument of Ascension and Ecclesia is to highlight the importance of a right understanding of the doctrine of the ascension. This doctrine shapes ecclesiology. His argument is that getting the ascension wrong has warped the identity of the church and diluted its mission. A substandard interpretation of the ascension of Christ as been used to “dissolve Jesus’ humanity” and one of the knock-on effects of this is to render the Church irrelevant.

What did the ascension accomplish? Where is Jesus? How do his physical absence and mystical presence define the church? And once you answer the question of space, what about time? It is worth winding through all of Farrow’s argument in order to find out. He has published a more recent book for those whose research is more efficient than mine: Ascension Theology. I understand it is more accessible and no doubt more complete.

Upon Having Returned from Mexico

One of the great things about going to Monterrey, Mexico is that it is not a tourist destination. It is a growing city in the desert, with what looked to me like good infrastructure and sprouting towers and housing developments all over. One of the most exclusive neighborhoods in all of Latin America is named after the Apostle Peter and is found in Monterrey. The city has quite a few universities and is an industrial center, besides having a medical reputation. The airport, for all that, is not a rambling, bewildering beast. Business travel, private, and chartered flights is probably all. I noticed American businessmen, laborers in the back of the plane, and well-to-do Mexican families mostly, all compliant in masks.

It was a surprise to me how many people comply with the masks in the USA. It is irrational, and yet it is insisted upon. You have to be tested and demonstrate a negative result to get onto a plane coming back. So they test you, they verify, they know you are negative and in the announcement that tells you they still want you to wear the mask they tell you they still don’t care. You can hear them say they don’t care about your test and your vaccine. And they still require you wear the mask because they are required to require it. It is the most irrational thing of the whole irrational business: even if you test negative, even if you have the vaccine, wear a mask.

I realized on the flight out that enforcement still depends on a few certain types specifically, and generally on the public conventions of behavior. And so, the flight back was much more enjoyable and mask free. Most decent people don’t want to be singled out, but most decent people don’t want to enforce it. Which leads me to this conclusion, if you are mentally prepared for the few (in my case, one) who enforce it rudely (there will always be such people in the coming together of crowds), you are prepared to buck the propaganda.

Zooming out from just the face-barrier, it all makes sense. This is the society that can be oppressed by slogans, that is farcically reduced to negotiating with perverts about pronouns and designations, that reminds me of the early days of blogging when tone was all and argument not as highly disputed or valued. It is Hanlon’s razor (so much wiser that Ockham’s): there is no conspiracy, rather there is incompetence behind it: posers and opportunists are being empowered. Decency exists to make it difficult for such to get ahead. It exists to put more barriers and blocks in their way. But at the moment decency is not serving that purpose. It is a means without an end, and it has been coopted to other ends, it seems to me.

Could it be that it is airline travel that has reduced us? In Atlanta, Delta’s hub I understand, we had a close connection. We scrambled to our gate and were in the line to board upon arrival. Everybody was seated, everything was stowed, the security video played, and then the co-pilot told us it would be another while before we left because we were still waiting for our captain who was taking half an hour to traverse an airport we had gotten through in fifteen minutes. It ended up being an hour and a half before a pilot was located on a flight coming from Cancun, landed, got through customs, and boarded the plane where we were all still waiting for him. It is a complex thing to run an airline: so many people, so much luggage, so many airplanes, so much crew, not to mention the regulations under which they groan. No doubt from time to time it happens that a flight is scheduled without the one most crucial person for it all. Nobody complained; we sat meekly in our facemasks waiting, getting all the entertainment out of Delta’s limited, corporate options.

Thus occupied, we were given our customs form to fill out. The thing about the Mexican form we filled is that upon arrival many of us had to be sent to the side to finish filling them in. The Mexican customs form has a top part, and then it tells you the middle is for official use. What is not as obvious is that there is still another section you fill out at the bottom of the form. The layout is that way because the bottom part detaches, and you need to keep it to get back out of the country: it is your visa. (I wish that the officials managing the lines at customs would check on that instead of being there mostly to enforce the ban of cellphone usage; which made me wonder what eventuality has cell-phone usage in the past occasioned). While we were waiting for our designated pilot to straggle over to our fueled-up and packed-up plane, we were also given a health declaration. (When my neighbor asked the flight-attendant for a pen, it appeared that this also was not a service Delta provided.) This piece of paper was later seen waved at officials in Mexico by various passengers at several of the progressive stages of customs, immigration, and baggage claim. It appears the only planned destination this important formulary had was that which mine reached later in the day: the garbage. I think the affinities between the Mexican bureaucracy and the people running Delta are quite striking.

Life can be difficult in the desert, but it can also be pleasant if you can coordinate the necessary power and the water supply. Malls are thriving in Monterrey. They are enormous and growing, every locale filled, every escalator clogged as people are carried to the level of consumption to which they have attained. Because in Monterrey the full range of consumption is available—you can buy a handful of chilies on the street for a dollar or get that expensive pre-digested coffee you hear about all the time at an upscale grocery store. You can ride in a bus with no air-conditioning or in the comfort of a Tesla; from rattletrap to latest tech; Monterrey has gamut, we might say. It is a technological hub.

In the biggest mall a security guard did a double take when we walked by. Perhaps he was checking to see if I had a legitimate reason not to wear the mask: eating, drinking, the below-the-nose alternative, or just being an intimidating person. None of the above fit my description; I just had freedom. He didn’t say anything till we had passed him, so I didn’t have an exchange with him about science or freedom or coherence. But he called out afterward, faintly, so that for a while I complied. Perhaps he was just surprised. They take your temperature when you enter most places (the more informal, the fewer the protocols), they wrap the waiters up in facemasks and shields, and they make you sanitize the soles of your shoes as you go in. At one point in the past year’s coronavirus contortions, they stopped my parents from going to their usual grocery store because of their age. Too old and vulnerable. How are they supposed to get their groceries? They had to switch tactics. They have a place, no kidding, actually called S-Mart there (you would think that alone would be enough to make it a tourist destination but does anybody know that they have such a location?). And so S-Mart for a little while got their business, but not (alas!) their loyalty.

The good news is that however broadly you can enforce irrational conformity, and whatever its damaging results in the long run, you can only enforce it so much. There are natural limits to it all. Delta used to love to fly, it no longer shows. And if you want to see what it will look like if we continue on as we meekly do, you can probably get an idea by going to Monterrey. What I can’t guarantee is that we will have an S-Mart.

Coronavirus Conclusions and Beginnings

Well, Famous Hot Weiner is back to capacity and no masks. Every stool at the counter was occupied. The Hanover municipal building no longer has a mask sign and the doors appear to be open to all. There are signs for masks here and there and there are masks being worn still by some outside. But I think these are the people who have a thing about being exposed to other human beings at all. Something is ending for them, or something beginning.

Less interestingly, I’m doing the Jordan Peterson Self-Authoring course. I think it is well structured, that it asks good questions, and I have good hopes of what it will yield me. It takes quite a bit of time, so you have to look at it as a long-term project you are working on and peck away on your day off. Because I have the habit of writing, I enjoy it. I have written 6000 words characters on it today, and plan to do another 6000. And in that way creep toward finishing 10% of a fourth of the whole thing. I’m nowhere near beginning to finish.

I’m in a survey of the past where you first periodize your life, then you think of a set of experiences in each period, and then you analyze the experiences you described. It is surprisingly fruitful. I’ve thought about things, but this is methodical and structured. I begin to understand what they’re doing and how it works. If life in the coming days does not get volatile, it will be good to have a way to discipline all my interests and work toward coherence; and if life does get volatile, it will be good to be gathered and with greater inner clarity.

Realignment

I like Anton’s idea of counties and territories seceding. West Virginia seceded from Virginia, and apparently it is still open to being joined by other nearby counties in VA and MD. There is the whole greater Idaho thing too.

If that can be done, I think it would be interesting. Getting unsaddled from the big cities with their policies and political sway I think would widely appeal. There would be places where it would be done readily, and places where it would be fought. Would it lead to states wooing territories? And beyond that, what if you could, for example, join the state of your choice? Say you are a PA county that wanted to join Texas or Florida? The possibilities are endless.

I think it would leave some of the cities isolated. Perhaps NYC could become its own state. If that came about, it would solve the problem of D.C. statehood!

Starbase

The lockdown brought attention to Boca Chica, Texas into my life. When I was a kid my family was in the Rio Grande Valley twice a year. There I bought a lot of Legos at K-Mart and Walmart in Edinburgh and McAllen.

Boca Chica is on the Brownsville end of things, which is lined up with Matamoros rather than Reynosa, on the Mexico side. Now I watch daily video updates of the Spacex facility: what buildings they’re adding, what rings they are rolling, what prototypes fly.

I watch them for breakfast, and they bring me much joy. Nasa Spaceflight is the channel.

You can also watch Lab Padre’s livestream. They have several cameras trained on Starbase.

One of the best things rocket companies do these days is have their own youTube channel to livestream important events.

You can keep updated at an increasing number of channels, but the best ones I know of are:

Marcus House

What About It

Spacexcentric


They explain things so that you aren’t tossed around by all the floating rumors. I’ve learned that if you don’t keep a certain level of interest, the floating rumors can really toss you around. The thing is finding out what exactly to pay attention to, I guess.

And it makes me wonder what other similar channels about things worth paying attention to at regular intervals in small but cumulatively significant intervals there could be.

The Online World

I was a bit busy over the months of March and April. Coronavirus Chronicles failed. I think it will take an extraordinary event to revive it.

But there is the observation that this whole situation seems to have accelerated the gifts of the internet. YouTube is our encyclopedia now, isn’t it? The internet as library is growing. Growing pains now are things NOT available online, rather than all that is. During the lockdown WTS acquired access to JSTOR and just recently the ODNB. All kinds of ancient legal documents are being placed online.

The internet is multiplying in a fragmenting and reconnecting way. Alternative platforms are emerging, along with alternative publications. It is a bit of a puzzle for someone interested in many things because there are so many things.

Some of the highlights of the internet nowadays, places where one can be surprised for me are:

Tablet
Here is a very interesting leading article on a person endeavoring to succeed at the Heterodox Academy approach. In the middle of the article it tells the story of how he was about to give up, and then got the right advice and figured out a way forward.

The Critic
This meditation on the novel is worthwhile, though it has no solutions. I believe the solution would be better novels, and that is not an easy solution.

This article on Mario Draghi was something I could use more of. The Critic does give one all kinds of things.

The Spectator
I hardly ever look at the US edition of this venerable and excellent publication. I am in regular contact with the original. UK politics are so much more interesting than those of PA.

Quillete
Niall Ferguson is a historian worth understanding. Here is a review of his latest book that is unusual and appreciated by the book’s author.

UnHerd
I have enjoyed a lot of UnHerd’s lockdown TV episodes. And I have found their articles have insight.

The Article
Some of these sites I list are new. This one seems to me the newest. I don’t actually go looking on their site very much. I follow them on Twitter and jump into an article from time to time, and have been impressed.

There are other places to collect obviously, but these are among my top favorites.

Coronavirus Chronicles – April 3, 2021

I went to Philadelphia and was astonished to see all that humans are doing with masks. They walk outdoors in masks, they go inside and behind Plexiglass shields wear masks, they drive with masks. They run with masks! I even saw people outside hurrying along wearing two distinguishable masks. I have to conclude these work for the government.

I suppose in a city is a common thing for people now, but it is strange to see most people outside masked, at least to me. It is also interesting to see who isn’t wearing a mask.

  • The bums. Most of them had one for the neck, but I did not see a single one with the mask for the face. They sit on their corners, with their signs, amid their stuff, and breathe the free air freely.
  • The smokers. And we are not just talking about people standing in designated areas, but those who go along the sidewalks. It is a convention, as everybody else wearing a mask is a convention, now, that smokers don’t need one while they smoke.
  • Coffee drinkers. Any drinkers or eaters, actually, are permitted to go around with their mask not on. That is another convention.
  • Animated phone talkers. No comment.
  • The free. There are those who do not have one and do not show any other compelling reason not to have one. Large black guys are very well represented in this category, and burly workmen of all types. I myself was able to go into the Reading Terminal Market without a mask. They required one to purchase something, but it was not otherwise enforced (I was a coffee drinker most of the time there). At Wawa they told me they would serve me without one but would try to give me one. At the parking place I walked into a building and was asked by a masked security person where I was going. I told him. I asked him why. He just said they wanted to know; nothing else. No request to put on a mask in the building. You know what people are being about it all? Very polite, which is good.

How about the vaccinated or those who have had the virus? No indications.

I think Lord Sumption is right; this only goes away as there is civil disobedience, and it is time for civil disobedience. No shouting, no protesting, nothing untoward; just making them actively require and insist on the mask is my thing now.

Conservatism Today

As badly as the left is faring these days, it seems that the right is also fragmented and thrashing around. And it makes me wonder. Conservatism has to think about what it conserves, and how, and why. That is important. It is not at all clear to me that all the people calling themselves conservative agree on what it is they want to keep.

It also has to think about what it fights, and how, and why. That is as important. There is war, it seems to me, between the more entrepreneurial and the less entrepreneurial in the shapeless mass of conservatism. I think it would be interesting to get some kind of topographical map locating all the conservative nodes (and liberal too). I would like to understand where the alignments and disagreements are forming and shifting.

Here is the conclusion from an essay from the Claremonster end of the spectrum (and the editor of Modern Age), which I prefer these days, about another conservative position.

What Andrew Bacevich’s book lacks most are not women, people of color, neoconservatives, or conservatives who actually agree with Bacevich’s principles. Rather, American Conservatism’s most serious deficiency is its lack of conservatives who accept modern complexity and do not counsel retreat. Conservatism cannot be confined to front porches and poetry, as lovely as those things are. It must be of the world to defeat the wolves who are within as well as outside every community’s walls.

Daniel McCarthy

Writing History

Writing history is not as easy as people sometimes think. Many assume it’s simply a matter of assembling a jumble of facts in chronological order, lacing the narrative with insights borrowed from academics and other authorities, throwing in one or two truly sensational details, and then rounding it all out with comparisons to contemporary events to make it relevant to readers. In fact, though, the real labor of history has little to do with writing down the brute facts of the past. It’s about understanding why people back then acted or spoke as they did, which means understanding the context in which events arose and unfolded. Explaining this context to readers is hard work and doesn’t come easily as praising or blaming historical figures for what they did or didn’t do.

Arthur Herman, Claremont Review of Books (Winter 2020/21), 57.

Coronavirus Chronicles – March 16

I remember it is one year on from when the pandemic panic set in. March 15th 2020 was a Sunday, and I was surprised to hear that churches had been cancelled. On Monday morning we went to Denny’s and the place was grim, the clustered waitresses glum. It had been announced that the state liquor stores would be closed in just two days, and the place had long lines. Starbucks was takeout only, and all the conforming corporations followed. Came the lockdown, which we thought would only last for two weeks and which continued on through April, till people were flogged to upheaval and unrest. Also, many of us stopped paying attention to the authorities.

It was an inflexion point. A moment of opportunity for many, a moment of clarity. It is interesting to me the way things are realigning.

Today, though there are still restrictions, I was in an unrestricted diner. No limits, just masks required to enter. Table after table, like old times. There are those who want to go on just the way it was, and I’m not against them.

I heard Bret Weinstein saying that the hypothesis that the virus was a research attempt at a coronavirus vaccine that escaped is looking less implausible. Now that the thing is out forever, is the net outcome that they inadvertently accelerated their own botched research?

He also said that youTube is replacing the book. I think that is not a wrong way of looking at it. The printing press ushered in a revolution. The rhythm of scholarship accelerated. Instead of the leisure of circulated manuscripts you had scholarly editions, the writing of letters back and forth as scholars looked each at his own copy, and beyond the old disputations which gradually subsided as time passed, the thunder and excitement of quicker distribution and resulting pamphlet wars. Now the medium is the internet.

Weinstein had an interesting theory about the whole identity thing: that it comes from people whose reality is shaped far more by being online that we who have known life otherwise really appreciate. His idea is that they are more governed by the proprieties that rule in cyberspace than those of the world of personal interaction. It is in one of the Peterson podcasts, most of whose books are bestsellers and who has more than one viral video, kind of like Luther of old.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O55mvoZbz4Y

Coronavirus Chronicles – March 4

We have almost gone full circle with this. I think restrictions are relaxing in PA, but since I don’t keep up anymore . . . I do hear more and more voices against the full-on submission to it all. I remember the hopes of last March and April that kept being dashed—the hope it would soon be over and we’d return to normal. I remember the weird alarms of those who said it could draw out longer. From the charts and graphs I’ve glimpsed, it looks like the worst of the virus was December and January. It didn’t entirely register that way here. It didn’t seem anything like last March when suddenly everything went silent. They tried to replicate it as much as possible from Thanksgiving to New Year hear in PA, but it was like they had been crying wolf.

Our governor is called Wolf, you know. He doesn’t look like one. He’s a slender, bald, managerial looking guy with a professorial beard. He looks neat and harmless. Apparently in success against the virus PA is only second to FL. Our governor has lost his right hand . . . transgender person to the feds. Is that a reward?

Last year at this time, if you had asked me how many Americans would put on a facemask if required I would have laughed. There are still many standing who will only wear one under extreme circumstances, but I doubt these are a majority anymore.

The local bike store is looking restocked nowadays. It ran out of bikes early on and couldn’t seem to resupply. I wonder how RV sales will do this summer, and kayaks and such. The barbershops and hair salons are doing good business.

The Banner is having its conference in Elizabethtown. So it seems things are scheduling to resume.

On the Present Digital Situation

On the way to obtaining Europe you have to pass through Cluny. The structure of Cluny, which was deconstructed in the Enlightenment, was one of the largest of Medieval Europe. It grew up as a reform movement in the always-reforming Benedictine system.

Some read the Benedictine system as one always in need of reform. Others read it as a system always exciting reform and reformers. Whatever you chose, the isolated Benedictine monasteries that emerged to dot the landscape after the high tide of empire withdrew, eventually created a situation in need of reform. The Cluniac way was to network the monasteries, doing so along the highways of pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Cluny grew in prestige, in power, and in wealth as it dominated the new network. It had a monopoly.

But then there was a revolt against the excess and luxury of Cluny. Was this Benedictine poverty? So the long proliferation of reform movements gathered momentum. The Cistercians were the earliest successfully attempt to provide alternatives to the monopoly. There was a new entrepreneurial spirit to them: they sought to cut down on expenses by moving to cheaper locations, they axed the frills and promoted institutional austerity, and they patented a monastic serfdom too (read about this echo in R.W. Southern’s Western Society and the Church in the Middle Ages). It was one of a growing stream of proliferating options, the fragmentation of network monasticism into monastic networks which gave us the low-burning and late-blooming Carthusians, the mendicant orders who staffed the greatest of Medieval inventions—the University, as well as their renewal, the curiosity that was the military orders, the Augustinian hybrid, the Brethren of the Common Life and Canons Regular (its all off the top of my head, so take it with a grain of salt). Eventually the orders and the studious scholastic monks fragmented Christendom and gave us the Reformation.

Great Cluny, the monopoly of the tenth and eleventh centuries dwindled until France, sometime the heart of Christendom on earth, cannibalized it to build other things. It had betrayed its ideals, and it had withered on the vine.

I have said all this before, however. But it struck me again as I look at links for Gab, Parler, Thinkspot, Locals (I just saw that Dave Rubin is looking to make Twitter irrelevant), the rise of Substack, Medium and other such. Now Clubhouse. James Poulos says that the digital age recapitulates the Medieval. I think he’s right. One wonders: when it has all fragmented from the concentrating giants, will some analog to the university arise to coordinate the network fragments of our dawning digital age.