Hour-long Podcasts Seem So Short

You have to think we are climbing our way out of the TV attention span with the lengths which the better podcasts are taking on. I don’t know what their actual impact is, but podcasting now seems a huge, substantial phenomenon. Is there a revolution going on in which the glitz and interruption of the old broadcast and commercials TV becomes to people more and more bizarre? If you don’t regularly watch TV, it is bizarre to see what they do on it from time to time. In the realm of podcasting and online video, UnHerd’s Freddy Sayers is doing something excellent very deliberately. Can’t imagine that being on TV. John Stossel and though I don’t listen to her, I expect Megyn Kelly are examples of people bringing their skills to a new format and thriving. And then there is the whole Joe Rogan apparatus.

I think you have to consider these things in terms of networks and figure out the network. They appear online because they’re networked already, and that is important. The better podcasts are elites networking with elites. I don’t know that much about Joe Rogan (he seems to be the next iteration of what Rush Limbaugh was doing), but he encourages other people to podcast. Jocko Willink is one, Michael Malice is another, and then there is Lex Friedman. All excel at at least one thing, and usually more. And then they all appear on each other’s podcast and you see the nodes of the network corresponding. Jordan Peterson of course bulks large, and he opens up networks for me. The podcasters on the whole seem to be spinning networks and further networks.

I just started on Lex Friedman. 5 or 6 hours of three of his podcasts so far. I took a day off to clean up my room and listened to him along with the self-described anarchist Michael Malice say a lot of interesting things. He did Elon Musk, which is where I started with him. Musk is central to a very interesting network in all this, and that is of course all part of the Joe Rogan network. There is something about discipline, about hyperproductivity, about independent thinking that defines that network. Pushing back on all the rot cheerfully. I am interested in Lex Friedman’s long interviews of elites. You learn about how these people eat, which is extremely peculiar, a kind of repudiation of traditional cuisine, and geared toward hyperproductivity. People have always had diet fads. Lex Friedman tells you in a video about his, which appears to be somewhat based on a robotic approach to shopping, trial and error, and the ideas of this all-conquering keto diet (Atkins 2.0?). Exercise is very central to it all. All these people prepared for action. Is it like the proliferation of Jeeps? A kind of prepper mania? And then you hear about their goals, aspirations, beliefs. What is also interesting is how they are fighting the moment. Mental and emotional toughness is important to them. The cold showers, the punishing routine, reading Solzhenitsyn and Dostoevsky and the concentration camp literature, thinking about it.

What I have most misgivings about is how therapeutic they sometimes sound. That is one of the things I wonder about with Jordan Peterson. We live in a therapeutic age; we want it perhaps like others in the past have not. But should we? We are focused on wellbeing so much. Should you care so much about your own productivity, your own contribution, your own wellbeing? Is this why they talk so much about depression and fighting their own demons and keeping happy? They visualize and have goals. It is not because they think they will have to give an account. But it is because they have something inside that tells them they ought to live as if they will.

I don’t want news as much as I want to understand what is happening. News is a part of it, a small part. There are facts, there is the bare statement of something going on. But without understanding why it is often trivial. In the case of an invasion, just knowing it is happening to your country is enough to go on. It becomes pressing to know why, and highly useful to know why, but just the bare knowledge that it is happening is something one would be grateful for, as opposed to not knowing.

And that is what I find interesting about these long-form podcasts. They are trying to understand a whole lot of things, and they are in a position to know. Now that they’re networking this way, they are also in a position to ask and to have conversations, and they’re just doing it. What an interesting development it is turning out to be.

Supernatural but Not Miraculous

I am enjoying Craig Carter’s latest book. I think his argument that our contemporaries are reverting to pagan metaphysics makes sense, and his suggestion that evolution is their mythology really explains a few things. Now I’m reading where he is arguing that the pagan gods were real spiritual beings and that there were real supernatural powers associated with pagan religions.

The other thing I was reading recently was the Doctor Angelicus on angels ( in De Potentia). And he was answering the question whether angels do miracles. It would seem that they do: they are greater beings than we are. But Aquinas answers the question in the negative: angels do not, in fact, do miracles. How does he get there?

He gets there by how he defines a miracle. A miracle is an effect the cause of which can only be from beyond the created order. By defining a miracle as an effect in creation that only its transcendent Creator can cause, he ingeniously covers a lot of theological ground. And he answers the question about angels, because however we define natural and supernatural, they are part of the created order. Nothing created does miracles of its own unaided agency: created things only do the things for which God made them and gave them the power to do.

And so the pagan gods which could do things, can be called supernatural. They are part of the invisible realm, if Craig Carter is right then they are angelic beings, higher than man who is lower than the angels, with powers exceeding what we can do. But not with anything that exceeds the power with which God made them and ordered to the purposes for which they were created. That power is God’s alone, and it is the power of the only Agent capable of signs which are wonders: miracles.

And if you want a text that is working on that distinction, try the account of the shepherds in Luke chapter 2.

Calvin’s Prayer, concluding his lectures on Malachi

Grant, Almighty God, that as nothing is omitted by thee to help us onward in the course of our faith, and as our sloth is such that we hardly advance one step though stimulated by thee, — O grant, that we may strive to profit more by the various helps which thou hast provided for us, so that the Law, the Prophets, the voice of John the Baptist, and especially the doctrine of thine only-begotten Son, may more fully awaken us, that we may not only hasten to him, but also proceed constantly in our course, and persevere in it until we shall at length obtain the victory and the crown of our calling, as thou hast promised an eternal inherence in heaven to all who faint not but wait for the coming of the great Redeemer. — Amen.

Craig Carter and the NatCons

I was glad to see Craig Carter criticizing the NatCon panel. Not because I agree with him, but because I think criticism will make any undertaking robust. I like a lot of what I see the NatCons doing. Personally, I’d rather have Trump back, but you can’t have it all. I thought it was a bit silly of Carter to complain that the panel included no evangelical Protestants. There could be several reasons for doing so. Perhaps they only wanted minorities like Jews, Integralist Catholics, and gays represented. Or it could be that they could not think of any evangelical Protestants who would have actually contributed. I can’t think of any evangelical Protestant who commands my attention more that Murray, Hazony, and Ahmari regularly do.

I do think the point about homosexuals that Carter made is an interesting one. It is no wonder they didn’t invite him to the panel! Apparently there are those who believe a homosexual cannot be a conservative. I am on the fence. Doesn’t it depend on what it is you want to conserve? Obviously thy are not conservative of marriage or the family, but they might conserve art, literature, the constitution, great buildings, other such ephemera. It seems obvious to me that if such an alliance prevailed, then it could fall apart afterward, the circumstances being entirely different.

It is interesting because Yoram Hazony was taking shots at the new U of Austin. I think he was basically accusing it of what Carter is accusing him, of lacking a core. I’m glad he does, even though I don’t agree with him. They of the U of A are being entreprenurial, Hazony was being entreprenurial on the panel. Entrepreneurs try all kinds of things to see if they’ll stick. There is something to be said for being empirical rather than endeavoring to noodle it all out, isn’t there? In an age of ideology, isn’t the resistance going to be otherwise?

Which is why I’m glad for the back and forth. I think it bodes well. There are times when the noodles win and times when the entrepreneurs score. Douglas Murray was very skeptical of the whole thing too. I was glad he was on the panel and enjoyed his expression.

Paul Kingsnorth and Premonitions of Doom

I was very glad last year to discover Paul Kingsnorth’s remarkable novel, The Wake. I was actually disappointed that he didn’t write all his novels in the same adapted old English. That was a triumph, and the book was a triumph in many ways, though as a story it is somewhat lacking in a sense of completeness. Nevertheless, the literary powers are clearly there. All honor to him for that achievement as well as the rest of the trilogy.

Paul Kingsnorth was clearly thinking his way toward something in it all, and last year it emerged that he was making his way toward Christianity, having started as an environmental activist. And it is with the environmental activism that I get my first pause when it comes to Kingsnorth. He is still pretty alarmist about the environment though he has given up on the activism. And it is his alarm which sucitates misgivings in me because I think Michael Shellenberger and Bjorn Longberg are more factual environmentalists who believe the alarm is not only misinformed, but damaging. So I wonder if Kingsnorth has correct information, and why he seems to persist.

Kingsnorth has just come out with a substack which is full of a different kind of alarm. I subscribe. I read it. I enjoy Kingsnorth and what he does–with my annoying misgiving. He has some very interesting observations about vaccination and Africa and Australia. I can understand that part of the alarm has to do with where you live. In the more rural portions of the USA most of us are and have been back to normal for a long time. If we don’t fly, if we don’t go to cities, if we are not in the nursing profession, if we stay where we are, then we read about all the crazy stuff they’re doing in the unfortunate parts of the world that are not America, and we think, that’s life in the rest of the world. But if you live in the considerable portions of the habitable parts of this planet not considered the USA then you may have more cause for alarm. It is like the environmental question: not a big one in spacious green places such as many in the rurs rather than in the urbs inhabit. I think what Kingsnorth is seeing is alarming, and the symbols he puts together make sense. But is he drawn to doom because it stimulates the creative process? One hopes there is more, but would not blame him if that is all. Just . . . misgivings.

I also think that Kingsnorth is an artist and expresses himself in stories, and I wonder if it is not so much discursive thought as it is another story that he is wrestling with in his present writing. Just as a musician expresses things in music, or a painter who doesn’t write about things because he expresses himself through the visual medium and can’t explain the painting because the painting is what he is saying, so a writer like William Golding or, perhaps, Paul Kingsnorth. I am skeptical of Kingsnorth when it comes to logical analysis and argumentation and marshalling facts correctly. He tells stories, he knows he tells stories, he has a good reason to be confident in that ability (though I think the story of his trilogy isn’t finished, but then, it took J.K.Rowling 7 books; I certainly hope Kingsnorth continues with the fiction).

So I wonder if perhaps Kingnorth’s alarm is something caused by the place in which he his and by his gravitation toward alarm. I don’t say he’s not on to something. Perhaps he is more of a prophet than I judge him. I have misgivings. I also remember that George Orwell did not live 1984, what he did was to get a good book out of his misgivings that has been more valuable than much of his other writing.

Theological Interpretation

I find the translation of Luke 17:19’s last words in most translations simply astonishing. The point  of the story of the ten lepers is that all of them believed in Jesus as a miracle worker, but only one had the gratitude to return, praising God and falling on his face before Jesus. That he falls on his face argues worship. That Jesus told him that his faith had healed/saved him rather than his gratitude demonstrates the cause for which gratitude is an effect. Any encounter between Jesus and another human being in Scripture is at least a historical moment in which two human beings meet. But it is always more than that: it is always the encounter of the Creator veiled in flesh with one of his creatures. And those who see through the veil of flesh and know the Lord are believers. They have faith. They see who he is. It is theologically a saving encounter.

What am I missing? Why is it only a minority of translations that get it right? They all make it sound like Jesus is saying something minor (almost defeatist), when in fact the point is that the man has had more than a meeting with Jesus resulting in temporal benefits, he has had a real, spiritual encounter with eternal benefits.

καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ· ἀναστὰς πορεύου· ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε.

And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole. King James Version

And he said unto him, Arise, and go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole. American Standard Version

And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” The Revised Standard Version

And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” English Standard Version

And He said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.” New American Standard Bible

And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.” New Living Translation

Then he said to the man, “Get up and go your way. Your faith has made you well.” NET Bible

Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.” New Revised Standard Version

Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” New International Version

It’s as if only two out of twenty versions I could have listed have returned to praise God!

And he said to him, “Get up and go your way. Your faith has saved you.” The Lexham English Bible

and he said to him, ‘Having risen, be going on, thy faith hath saved thee.’ Young’s Literal Translation

In the News

The challenge is always finding someone who knows that he is talking about. Who does?

You have to know about what is being discussed in order to evaluate the people discussing it. And you have to know what it is to know. Do you think you know because you agree with the opinions floating around, or do you actually know something? That’s where the salutary confrontation of Socrates helps. Before you can know, you have to realize that it is difficult and you have to see that if you aren’t asking the right questions, you don’t know. That can lead you on to the right questions. From there you can do two things. You can evaluate the people asking questions on the basis of the questions they ask. The second thing is that when you learn to ask good questions, you start getting good answers. That opens the possibility of evaluating things and people on the basis of knowledge.

The shock of real learning is one Plato constantly dramatized. When it is demonstrated that you do not know, what do you do? Do you turn against Socrates or do you follow him and learn from his questions? Those who turn on Socrates will never be free because they refuse to admit they are slaves. They claim to see, but are blind, and won’t find a solution for their blindness because they refuse to admit there is a problem. They have degrees, they publish, but they are just surfing blindly on a sea of opinions. It is not a matter of succeeding in reality, but of succeeding in the denial of reality. That success is the strange success at which so many are successful in our times.

And there are those who really do succeed. There is a growing fellowship of them that podcasting and substacking and other such things has banded together. At this moment, there is actually a growing abundance of it, strangely. I find this one of the best things about this present moment.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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

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.

Rocketing to Mars

by Joel Zartman, assisted slightly by the poet Yeats

I

This is no planet for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees,
—Those dying generations—at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

II

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
An automated suit, unless
bots wring their hands and ping, and louder ping
For every circuit of this high-tech dress,
Nor is there coding school but studying
Monuments of our own magnificence;
And therefore I have climbed aboard and come
To Mars’ main city at Olympus Mons.

III

O sages standing in the rocket’s fire
As in the heat shield of a wall,
Come from the rocket plume, perne in a gyre,
And be the coding-masters of my soul.
Consume my flesh away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of telemetry.

IV

Once out of orbit I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as engineering makes
Of exoskeleton and print enamelling
To keep the complex circuitry awake;
Beyond the hydroponic bough to sing
In blue lit passages beneath Olympus Mons
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

Coronavirus Chronicles – February 2

It is a mask on/mask off kind of moment, isn’t it? Masks are still required and enforced, while the lizard elites grow more and more bold.

The official policy of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is still that consistent wearing of a facemask reduces the transmission of coronavirus. I am astonished how much this practice works as a point of etiquette as well.

I know one person that I’ve talked to who is interested in getting vaccinated—a person who studiously keeps to the guidelines. I know three nurses who are not interested in getting it—all of whom have been kept to the guidelines until life becomes one continuous blur of exhaustion.

I went to the dentist, where of course they have to follow the guidelines rigorously. I had to fill out a coronavirus form. I did not give it to my hygienist, and she did not ask for it, so I brought it home. I did wear a mask into the place, waited with it on, and then took it off for the purposes for which I came. This was my second coronavirus dental visit.

What else? The Crimea is running out of water and the protests in Russia spread. Did anything ever happen in Belarus? I haven’t heard. Protests in Holland and Denmark I hear. In Italy, the police joined the protesters!

In Washington D.C. there are still guards and fences, militarized ever since common people were last seen encroaching on the hallowed seat of undefiled government. I feel like going down and walking up as close as the military will allow, and then doing the Hunger Games thing with three fingers.

It is a time of proliferating network alternatives too. All kinds of new platforms seem to be rising, while the old titans still remain titanic. All kinds of spiders working on all kinds of webs. Even finance is having to look limber for the encroachments of a digital onslaughts. Events keep happening.

Coronavirus Chronicles – July 24

Now the thing is the tightening restrictions because cases are spiking, at least in the news. I think people in general want to just push forward, but there are those who are alarmed and want to rein things in. When in doubt, we do what everybody else is doing. It is hard to resist that with any confidence.

At bars in PA, unless a person is ordering food, drinks are not available. The idea is to discourage people congregating unnecessarily. In NY, apparently, where there is a similar order, just getting a snack is not enough. I gather a lot of hot dogs are being sold as a new menu item.

WTS is reopening the library. That will be welcome after all this time. Research has been driven online, but it cannot always be that way. Not unless the way to keep librarians employed during the lockdown is to have them work full time on digitizing all the holdings. Wouldn’t that be an interesting outcome?

I listened to Niall Ferguson predict that the coronavirus would fade away from memory, so that in 2022 people will no longer remember these extraordinary moments. He thinks the big dam in China could burst and be the news event of the year. I saw some video on Twitter of the flooding in China. Perhaps it will rock the party and drain the coffers. We now know that the pull of Chinese money talks in ways that can displease the great American buying machine. What if they don’t have money though?

I hope whatever happens, that the Moon and Mars missions keep on track. We seem to have entered a new age for that, and I’d hate for it to peter out. My Chinese science fiction book suggested that navies are more suited and air forces to being the ones extending operations into space. But that’s when interplanetary space battles are fought on space going destroyers and frigates. Right now, it is a question of setting up operations very high in the atmosphere: hence Space Force derives from the Air Force.

Coronavirus Chronicles – July 18

Edward Feser just diagnosed our whole situation using The Republic. It is a lesson in reading an ancient text properly, understanding, not overstating, and drawing careful conclusions.

What is going on in PA right now is that the governor is trying to raise the restrictions as cases rise. 50% capacity is being reduced to 25% capacity for restaurants and such. Gatherings of over 25 people are banned. I’m not sure how that will be enforced. I’m pretty sure it is not going to phase most churches that came back as soon as they could in May or early June. There is a lot of pushback about what that will do to businesses in the lower reaches of government. Calls for resignation and suggestions of impeachment.

We are in a drought and heat wave right now. Floods in China, but not here.

We were in Arlington, VA, which is across the Potomac from Washington DC. What surprised me about that was seeing people wearing masks to walk around in the street, to drive, even to do exercise outside. People are really into social distancing there. Most white people will maintain a 10ft distance from anybody else, and they cross the road, walk on the lawns, do anything it takes to be far from others. Restaurants were thriving on a Monday night with expanded outdoor possibilities. In Georgetown itself, they have signs requiring masks out of doors. Arlington, VA is a big city nowadays. High rise apartments everywhere, with courtyards and shops along the bottom. A good urban setup. Interesting walking. Everybody in the DC area is out running, staying in shape. The streets are not crowded with cars; pedestrian traffic was good where I was. Lots of interesting walking to be done down there.

Outside of the metropolitan areas the virus concern is not quite as dominant. Even in restaurants staff aren’t always scrupulous about having the mask all on. I don’t blame them. At barbershops, with temperatures climbing into the 90s, people wait outside for their turn to get a haircut.