Saturday, 19 October 2019

Order of the Dragon

Holidays next week.  I'm off to Serbia again.  Whilst researching one of the places I will be visiting Deo Volente, I came across this video, if you have a spare 40 minutes or so, I suggest you watch it.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=AFzam0NbKRk
It is about the Serbian Despot Stefan Lazarevic, but is also something of a rallying call for Serbs to rediscover their Orthodox identity. There should be more of this sort of stuff.

I'm not asking you to watch it because I think you should have the same interest in Balkan history that I do.  This video in many ways has a far greater message to anyone interested in Europe and saving its Christian soul.  I can't see anything like it ever being made in an EU country.  Liberals would be squirming over its content and nationalism.

Stefan was a undoubtedly a good ruler much admired around Europe, both in the Byzantine East and the Latin West.  He was a member of the exclusive order of  aristocratic knights, the Order of the Dragon. This was Latin in its inception and was very much aligned to Rome.  However because the greatest existential threat to Christianity at the time came from the Ottomans in the East, many of its greatest knights were Orthodox.  It was not an issue. The code was strict and virtue was paramount and very much following the familiar traditional Catholic understanding of virtue.

And this is the point I wish to make here, that virtue is important.  It is vitally important for the survival of every individual and every society.  Virtue makes for pleasant and ordered society.  It is not exclusively Christian either.  I found it very much alive in Iran.  Shia society insists on the habitual practice of virtue and the country and its people are a delight in the the process. I can not see how a society that prizes virtue can exist without somewhat visibly draconian law enforcement, but I don't want to discuss that here.  Liberal cultures has its own means of suppression and they are more sinister and soul destroying. Virtue was important for the Ancient Greeks, the Achaemenid Persians, and most Christian and Islamic societies. It desperately need bringing into modern societies in a big way.

The question I have is, what does Christianity bring to virtue?  What value does it add?  What special quality is it in the Christian faith that raises virtue to the supernatural.

The answer is partly contained in the Serbian myth, the particularly potent view of Serbian history favoured by Serbs and so much vilified and misunderstood by others in Europe.  I can clearly remember when NATO was bombing Serbia 20 years ago and the dehumanising propaganda in the British media was openly saying things to the effect that Serbs weren't even real Christians,  they were weird, cultish and untrustworthy.

But there is truth in the Serbian myth, a truth that Christian Europe would do well to heed.  The truth is this: the Christian life is a life of virtue and virtue brings with it beauty and struggle, there is no winning, only struggle and apparent failure. You can't understand what the Battle of Kosovo means to Serbs without understanding this. And when you understand that, you will see what it ought to mean to every Christian in Europe. Christianity is about heroic failure: it is  Tolkein's Long Defeat. And only a heart truly united of God has the courage and joy to forge ahead under those circumstances.

Our existential threat is not Islam, it is far worse.  We desperately need more knights.  And just like in days of old there was unity of East and West under the Order of the Dragon, the ONLY unity that can exist between Orthodox and Latins now will be a unity of virtue under the banner the cross of our Redeemer.
Reconstructed Order of the Dragon Insignia


By CristianChirita - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=793478

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Seminal

Most of you I am sure felt a bit queasy over the events in the Vatican garden which started off the Amazon Synod the other week.

At the centre of the "event" was a naked wooden figure of a woman.  The Vatican press office, with customarily incompetent damage-limitation has claimed this figure represents life.

There seems to be a big move from within the church to feminise our understanding of world.  The prominence given to that photograph of a native woman suckling a small furry mammal drives this home further.

We are forgetting the sacredness of the world.  The world through which God Himself is revealed to us.  That sacredness means we need to reclaim the masculine and do it fast.

Life comes from the man.  Ultimately it comes from God Himself. This isn't some result of primitive, factless, scienceless understanding of our nature. It is a foundation of our faith. It explains why Onan's spilling of seed was dealt with so harshly by God and explains why Orthodox Jews to this day will not accept barrier methods of contraception (even if they accept hormonal contraception).  Seed is not to be spilt.  It has a home. Life is transmitted through the man and is nurtured by the woman. True creation needs male and female. This gives dignity to men and women, it makes masturbation abhorrent and teaches continence and masculine dignity through mastery of the body and its powerful urges.  If male culture these days seems to glory in man rutting perpetually and incontinently, then this is a direct consequence of feminising and the degradation of the male. He has become a bit part, a prick with legs; an inconsequential, ridiculous, one-trick-pony.

If you say that the figure of life is female, then it is a blasphemy.  Our life comes from God the Father and we are redeemed and given a new eternal life through God the Son.

This is not to denigrate women as being mobile petri dishes. The dignity of woman is in how she completes and dynamically compliments the man.  There is also a gender neutral dignity, but the true dignity of womanhood is only revealed through her union with man (and Christ). Man's dignity is in his fatherhood, his sacrificial defence of life and his steadfast love for his woman. Man's dignity is far more exposed through his public actions, a woman's is far more veiled. In part this is why there can not be more formal, visible roles for women in the Church.  It would be to degrade the supernatural dignity of women and of men.

So please, we must reclaim patriarchy.  It is a good thing. It is a holy thing. We desperately need strong men, real patriarchs.

We also need to reclaim our language.  I have been told that several universities in the UK do not allow the words seminar, seminal and disseminate to be used because that are too patriarchal and if the word seminary were on their radar that would be a banned to.

Stop the bus.







Sunday, 13 October 2019

Lead Kindly Light

Today Bl John Henry Newman will be declared a saint at St Peter's in Rome. Deo gratias.

Lead kindly light
Amidst the encircling gloom
Lead Thou me on

It is now nine years since I went with my husband to Littlemore, he was very unwell at the time but his devotion to Newman was intense and the bond between the pair of them was indescribable.  Newman's small room at Littlemore meant more to him than nearly any other place on earth. Newman walked the path of death with my husband, he was there for him at every turn, ever the caring priest, caring for the most bedraggled and wretched of his flock.  It is eight and a half years since he breathed his last in the ICU, he died as I recited these lines from psalm 145

The Lord lifteth up those that are cast down
The Lord loveth the just
The Lord keepeth the strangers
He will support the fatherless and the widow.

Minutes earlier I'd been singing Lead Kindly Light  for him and making the nurses cry.

Newman was there.

And what encircling gloom there is today!  It is a beautiful day here in Bucharest; bright and sunny. But there is an unseen darkness everywhere.  Darkness that is a direct attack on Christ as it inflicts His Bride, the Church.  This week in the sham pageant that is the Amazon Synod, scandalously there has been no direct confession of faith in the Blessed Trinity, One God, coming from the Heirarchy.  An Italian journalist and atheist claimed that the Pope had told him things which contradict our faith in the Blessed Trinity. Old Scalfari was doing God's work.  Peter was to proclaim Christ.  Peter did not.  Instead we got a diplomatic answer which neither proclaimed the faith or stated categorically that the Pope  never said such things.  How many more denials will we make?

Meanwhile, further East.  The Orthodox Bishops  of Greece have recognised Phanar's newly formed church in the Ukraine.  This is a mess.  Phanar created a supposedly autocephalous church in the Ukraine which now answers to Constantinople and is less autonomous that the existing church was to Moscow which is its Mother Church.  Phanar acted beyond his jurisdiction.  His creation is not canonical.  It is political and egged on by the USA as one in the eye for Russia.  The Greek Bishops are in freefall.  And now the rest of the Orthodox world has to respond to this train wreck, the results will not be pretty.

The behaviours of the successor of Peter and that of Phanar are actually very similar.  They both represent the worst of aspects of popery, East and West. This "popery" is acting in a political fashion and putting worldly concerns before Christ.  Such popery shouldn't exist at all in the East and the West ought to know better.

John Henry Newman saw with clarity and his characteristic touch of melancholy what was befalling the world.  I don't think he is at all surprised by the state the Church finds itself in today.

It is time to remember that the great cloud of witnesses that are all the saints in heaven are there for us, there is so little separating them from us, they will support us on the way, and through the gloom, they are with us when we approach death or simply in the deathlyness and emptyness of the political landscape in which we find ourselves.

Glory to God for all things!

Littlemore- where John Henry Newman became a Catholic


Monday, 7 October 2019

Time to go Orthodox?

This Amazon Synod is bad, very bad, unbearably nauseatingly bad.  I loathe its agenda. I thought I was a fairly run-of-the-mill though slightly acerbic Catholic, nothing strange, nothing wacky, not traditionalist enough to be a target for Pope Francis, not "leftie" enough to be at home with the majority of Bishops, BUT I feel utterly marginalised.  It feels like the Church doesn't me want me, I feel like I've been spat out, I feel on the outside, looking in, I no longer feel part of it.

Not feeling remotely attached to the media Am-Trads (Taylor-Matt-Voris etc) isn't helping at this point, I can't understand their zeal, it feels Protestant to me.

And here I am in the most God-fearing country in Europe, surrounded by Orthodox and seeing a faith I recognise, a faith our Catholic forefathers would recognise: a Christ centred faith, a faith of Sacraments, mystery, veils, hiddenness, devotion, humility, ritual, ordinariness coexisting with the subliminal, of beauty, manliness and ancient pedigree.  What is not to love?

So why not go Orthodox?

What keeps me Catholic?  It isn't the Ordos, Vetus or Novus.  I have little attachment to the 1962 and even less to the 1969. It isn't the Catholic devotions; the rosary, Adoration, novenas, as powerful as they can be. It isn't Her history, which looks more and more ignominious with every passing day.  An Eastern European perspective on the political machinations of the Catholic Church is disquieting and eye-opening.  It isn't the Mariology. I find this sickly and saccharine next to Orthodox devotions to the Mother of God and further more I think that most of the apparitions (with the exceptions of Knock and Lourdes) are Satanic.  The Faith doesn't ask me to accept them, and I can't. Gosh I feel better for coming out with that, it has been bothering me for years.

So now you Catholics probably think it is time I jumped ship, I'm verging on apostasy, so good riddance, but hear me out. 

No, what keeps me Catholic is the Petrine Office.  I happen to believe in the supremacy of Peter, in his special, Christ-given role in the oeconomy of salvation.  So how do I square this with the somewhat dismal example if the current successor of Peter?  This is no problem to me.  Vatican I sought to limit papal power and define those limits, and I believe that it did so for the day when we'd have a wayward, arrogant, dolt of a pope, just like today. It shows his powerlessness, his inability to hurt the Body of Christ.  What is hurting the church is our growing inability to communicate with each other (and I am not talking dialogue,  loathe that word). It is our lack of fraternity that is destroying the Church, the inability to accept the wayward, the sinner and the pithy curmudgeon like myself as family. And we've forgotten how to communicate because we've forgotten how to praise God, we're losing our understanding that the praise of God is the most powerful, Satan-busting prayer, basically WE Catholics are losing our orthodoxy.

My nearest Orthodox church, but it is a close call, there are 6 others within a 5 minute walk from my flat.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Amazon - can't see the wood for the trees

One of the few pleasures in teaching Physics is seeing a pupil who suddenly "gets it";  someone who hitherto had been fumbling in the dark and struggling to make sense of anything, who had become despondent and then who suddenly smiles, the lights go on and they have mastered something that will probably never leave them. It does have its advantages teaching a subject rooted in logic and universal in its truths.  Physics is the same everywhere, and the understanding looks much the same everywhere in the world when it happens. The look is quite something, it is a common bond, we share a common knowledge, it isn't esoteric knowledge, it is simplicity itself and pupil and teacher share an odd sort of communion, knowing that the revelation is bigger than either of  us. And teachers ought to be humble enough to know that the success had very little to  do with their teaching!

So if this is true with natural knowledge (Physics), how much more should it be true with supernatural knowledge. There really ought to be the most amazing bond between the faithful, rooted in Communion  with Our Lord and Saviour.  We are all struggling in our battles with distorted or unnatural passions, we are all longing for the Truth, we should have moments where the lights go on between us and Christ is revealed to us in our common fight to cut through the crap and reach Him and learn from Him. I think it is called brotherly love.

Why is it so rare, however to find a fellow Catholic who "gets it"?

Perhaps it is me? It is quite possible my understanding of the faith is so distorted by my own stupidity and hubris that what I am expecting others to get, is simply my faith in myown petty world religion, which has very little to do with the Truth. If this is the case, I should be grateful that others have not been led astray by me.  I have no desire to be a leader of a cult.

The thing is, I am finding these extremely dark days to be a Catholic BUT not for the reasons expounded by the media savvy, traditionalist and politically right leaning Catholics that fill the interwebs.  They are fighting a so called false church of "leftist globalism" and fighting it with the "true" church of right leaning traditionalism. MY concern is that BOTH sides are wrong. The Catholic church is splintering and the righteous rightists are just a guilty of pulling on the fabric to tear it as the "leftist globalists".  Listen up, ya'all...... THAT IT POLITICS STUPID, NOT FAITH.

We Physicists have a common bond in natural knowledge of how stuff is and works.  We admit each other are complete jerks  and we acknowledge that our infinite capacity for being jerks is down to our personal hang ups, cultural background and all host of things that have nothing to do with the subject we love.  We are united in our love for Physics but accept that each of our understandings is limited, faulty and subjective. But that light goes on between us and all the rest can be forgotten.  We know we can't alter the irrational stupidity of our fellow Physicists who don't think like us, but we wish to grow in a common attraction to the truth without prejudice.

That too is how being a Catholic should work, but clearly it isn't.

A fellow Catholic who is erring falls into one of three categories according to the wonderful Epistle of St Jude at the back of the Bible (there errors are caused by denying the Sovereignty of Christ and succumbing to carnal desires), these are:
(1) the way of Cain - grave sin through jealousy of another's true piety
(2) the way of Balaam - deliberate scandalising of the people of God, motivated by personal gain and full of insincerity.
(3) the way of Core - opposition to the Law and true priesthood for "pastoral" reasons.

And whilst those who currently are pushing the agenda of the ghastly Amazon Synod seem to fit these categories better than our conservative trads, I believe it is safer to say that we are all capable of any or all of these.

But how should those who truly and sincerely acknowledged the Sovereignty of Christ over themselves and over the world, how should they respond to those who are departing from the way?

St Jude to the rescue again:
Grow strong in faith.
Keep in the love of God, (which automatically means the love of your fellow man).
Pray to the Holy Ghost who indwells through our partaking of the Sacraments for discernment so that we can
(1) Reprove those who we know have strayed (direct hard evidence)
(2) Directly intervene with others and pull them out of the fire.
(3) have mercy on stained, unshriven sinners, loathing their sin but desiring they come to repentance.

It is the work of individual on individual, not factions against factions..... it is heart to heart and definitely NOT the politics of right vs left. It is deeply personal and intimate, it can't be televised or blogged, it involves no manifestos, no conspiracy theories, no expounding of any "truth" apart from the Sovereignty of Christ.









Sunday, 29 September 2019

Out of Season

As a small child I had a wooden jigsaw where all the pieces were the countries of Europe.  Mum had to identify them for me, they were not written on.  Some fascinated (especially Albania, it was painted scarlet and looked like an angry jellybean), others had shapes ripe for a childish imagination: Finland looked like a woman hanging out her washing (Sweden) on Norway, Ireland looked like a koala bear, the British mainland like an old witch, Iceland like the Soupdragon and dear Romania like a fat little fish leaping out of the Black Sea on its way to the Atlantic.  The Iron Curtain was still firmly in place and though I assured my Mum it would be gone one day, that little fish was definitely caught behind it.
 Floundering Romania - will it even  make it to the Adriatic?

I don't share Romania's genuine propensity for looking West and yesterday I headed as far East as I could and caught the train to Constanța to paddle in the Black Sea and catch some pleasant autumnal sunshine. To the North is the resort of Mamaia. At this time of year it is a lovely stretch of empty sand, communist era hotels, a lagoon, promenade and restaurants. In the height of the summer it is packed. It was surprisingly jolly and not half as run down as equivalent resorts in Blighty. I had a good lunch of fried bream and chips, the bream was from the Mediterranean, nothing from the Black Sea was on the menu and as far as I could tell there were no boats at all plying any sort of trade or leisure activity from the shore at Mamaia as far as Constanța. The waiter even took pride that the fish was fresh from Selgros (a Swiss owned cash & carry).  I remain frustrated by Romania's westward leaning habits. Next time I go I will try to explore the docks to the South of the city and find out what ships go where.

 Mamaia

Constanța's iconic ruined casino

Constanța itself is a nice and friendly city.  For me one of the delights is seeing so many locals with decidedly Tatar features.  I want to look East.

When I look West, I see the UK and it makes me sad. There is no end in sight for the Brexit stalemate and if we are staring at a Brexit that means the UK government becomes an obsequious satrap of the US, then it simply wasn't worth it.  If we get a Brexit and it means Scotland foolishly decides to go it alone, then it wasn't worth it. The two major political parties in the UK are completely broken, one deliberately and the other through hubris. But the more Brexit drags on the more it becomes blindingly obvious that the EU is also finished and hanging onto power in desperation.  I can only see financial disaster and political instability looming and the poorer members will suffer the most.....

I see Rome and it makes me even sadder.What should be the spiritual powerhouse of Europe has been castrated and feminised and is unrecognisable as force for moral, cultural and intellectual good.

But I don't want to be reflective.  And there is nothing rosy in looking East. But somehow the East seems more honest; honest in its corruption, honest in its brokenness, honest in its poverty. It was not the home of the Enlightenment, Protestantism and Revolution, they were spawned in the West, and it is they that depress me most.

CFR's finest to take us back to Bucharest.

One of the oddities of Romania is that people will be late for the opera and appointments but are always very early for trains, this one was nearly full 20 mins before it set off. A group of women had even turned one of the carriages into a prayer room, wrapped their cardigans over their jeans and headscarves over their heads and were all saying the Orthodox evening prayers with full floor-sweeping signs of the cross.  






Saturday, 21 September 2019

Winter is coming

The weather here in Bucharest has just turned pleasant. I am not sure how long it will last, but this morning I went to the market wearing a jacket for the first time in months. There was a definite spring in my step.  The summer heat is not for me.  Today the morning was fresh after a night where temperatures dropped into single figures.  Romania certainly gets a lot of weather of all varieties, there is something for everyone. I am secretly hoping for a really cold winter, but I may regret saying that.

Weekends are a joy.  I don't do much and I rarely socialise, but the life out here suits me and there is none of the Nazgul-like screaming in my head that I had in the UK; the sense of claustrophobia and emptiness that made me rush head-long into keeping busy looking after the (liturgical) needs of "my priests".  Those priests are surviving fine without me, other ladies do stuff and I have no regrets leaving them.

The simplest pleasure here is the trip to  the market on a Saturday.  I love seeing what is in season and I love the anticipation of  waiting for the best of the seasonal delicacies; the lovely heart shaped tomatoes in May, raspberries in the summer and now the wait is for the walnuts and must.  I think the walnuts will explode onto the scene next week.  I have yet to see any evidence of must (slightly fermented grape juice), the man who sells home-brews of various strengths from reused water bottles on a scrap of land near my flat does not have any and nor do the babas on the market.  It is also nice to shop and not be treated as a "dumb foreigner".  I used to get fleeced when I first started going.  I was charged  foreigner rates.  Now my shopping bag is full of decidedly Balkan produce, I am asking for stuff that is under the counter (local knowledge), and they see me as a regular and rather touchingly they take a certain pity on me and pop extra produce into my bag gratis. The must have under the counter products are the home made zacuscă (aubergine and pepper relish), the local horseradish condiment and borș.  Borș is a vital flavour enhancer for the wonderful Romanian sour soups.  It is made from slightly fermented grain and it looks really unpleasant but during long fasting periods it adds some zest to the vegan diet.

Right now I am chomping my way through some delicious pastries and covering the computer keys with icing sugar.  They are delicate and not at all sweet, and consist of Turkish Delight wrapped in a pastry cornet and dusted with the aforementioned icing sugar.  Washed down with some good coffee they will keep me going till lunch.

On Saturday evenings I have taken to going to the nearby Orthodox monastery for Vespers.  I can go and stay and don't feel like an interloper who shouldn't be there.  It is really beautiful and prayerful.  I am now more often than not attending the Roman Catholic church on Sundays, the Greek Catholic liturgy was making me so sad (when compared to the Orthodox) and I received unleavened bread for Communion once too often. Why do they do that? It feels like iconoclasm and brainwashing, as if the Liturgy is being deliberately Romanised....... and that to me is symptomatic of everything that is toxic about Rome. Perhaps I am overreacting .......

The cultural  event of the season, the George Enescu Festival is drawing to a close.  It is like a biennial Proms and attracts some quality orchestras.  I was a little underwhelmend by the schedule this year, far too much nineteenth century music for my taste, it is my least favourite epoch (over emotional and too many strings).  I kept myself entertained with the Sunday afternoon recitals of 21st Century Chamber music.  It really is pot luck  what you are going to get. A lot of new Classical music is surprisingly lyrical and beautiful.  Some of it is crap; it still thinks the avant garde is cool, is full of novelty and just comes across as immature.  One work I witnessed had a guy playing the strings of a grand piano rather than the keys, the overworked percussionist popping balloons, a cellist playing what looked to be a pencil sharpener and the string section in scripted and noisey page turning and silly noise making.  I think even Stockhausen would have face palmed.

********

I just wanted to write an inconsequential post about the little things in life that are such blessings. I think I may have written something similar this time last year.  That is as it should be.  Joy is not in novelty, it is an appreciation of routine and the seemingly boring. Day to day is a battle.  The spiritual battle and unremitting heartache of simply being Catholic.  The endless battle of trying to stay human in this fallen world. The complete annoyance with the prevailing political and cultural stupidity.  My loathing of the profession that I seem unable to escape from.

I thought it would be more wholesome than a rant bubbling inside me about that humourless secular Joan of Arc, Greta Thunberg and everything she stands for.  The New Puritans are on the ascendancy and I start wanting to light a coal fire (some really smokey, sulphurous lignite would satisfy) and eat lots of beef.....

Endangered Balkan infrastructure: Lignite power station in Bosnia. Enforced environmentalism will cripple the economies here and there could be serious repercussions for the stability of the region.

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Trans-formations

I seem to recall a shop on one of the roads North out of Manchester that catered specifically for mainly working class men who wished to spend a few hours dressed as women in the company of other men dressed as women.  There, they could find UK size 11 high heels and tights (pantyhose) which catered for the longer leg and larger foot.  There were wigs, manicures, plenty of make-up and many many outfits.  Some men go to snooker halls to relax, some went to that shop.  All part of life's rich tapestry. When I lived near there many years ago, the shop made no secret of its existence, nobody bothered, there was no moral outrage (though it was in a rather religiously conservative area) and no politicisation of identity on the part of the shop owners or its clients.  How I wish we could return to the sanity of those lost days.  Cross-dressing has always existed, sometimes it is seen in a very romantic light, sometimes it is a matter of life and death, sometimes it is recreational, sometimes there are genuine feelings of being in the wrong body and having the wrong life underlying it. Leave it be.

In this post I just wish to have a mild rant about transgenderism and Christian responses to it.

First point: now that we are sure that the biological sex of the child is a result of the father's input, I believe that wishing to change gender is a direct assault on your father and against the Commandments that tell us to honour our mother and father.  Part of that honouring of parents is an acceptance of your own identity, your inherited weaknesses and all the dysfunctional baggage handed down through the generations which went into making you.  This is as true on the chromosomal level as it is on the cultural level.  It can be no coincidence that the rise in transgenderism has grown as has the assaults on fatherhood.

Second point: our culture is more highly sexualised than ever before. As everybody tries to make things less genderised and promote "equal opportunities", there is a glaring increase in the demands of society for us to define ourselves by our sexual function and by the sexual roles we wish to have and which give us entertainment. We are to seek affirmation sexually. Our loneliness can be lessened through our sexual relations.  Sex is love, so they would have us believe.  And the Church doesn't help here when they so idiotically say "sex is a gift from God".  The pressure to be sexual beings is intense, and coming from all quarters.  So not surprisingly, if you don't feel particularly impressed with the sexual function you have been given, you will crave alternatives and perhaps believe there is something wrong with you. If you are totally uncomfortable in the sexualised tribal groups of modern society that your biology says you should be in, then this disconnect will only get worse. Fir myself, I would not define myself as asexual because that is an identity on the sexual spectrum. But I feel utterly alienated in female company. My interests, humour and responses to situations are much more masculine and I am more content in male company.  But nor am I outwardly masculine, that too would be a lie. From my world view, it is the sexualisation of society that is the lie.  This was brought home to me in Iran. Here the company of other women was the norm, but nor did it feel uncomfortable. The society has clear gender boundaries, the population of both sexes is highly educated BUT not sexualised.  It was refreshing. Indeed, I felt I could be me, what makes me "masculine" in the West, was not un-feminine in that society.

Final point:  Take as an example a man in his late 40s or early 50s who wishes to live as a woman, and who sincerely identifies as a woman. He should wish to live as a woman in her late 40s early 50s otherwise there is some age dysphoria thing going on.  What does this entail?  In entails the uncomfortable world of the perimenopause.  Those wishing to help the soul adapt to this world should be developing hormone regimes that produce random excessive tiredness, sweating and brain fog, and a complete lack of control of how you feel from day to day, hour to hour.  I am certainly blessed to be going through this on my own. I can invest the necessary time to restore my equilibrium and feel human, though my work suffers, at least I don't have family to suffer me too.  I do think it is cruel to make women work at this age, we suffer from random incompetence. I can not begin to describe the hell of standing in front of a class and not being able to explain or understand what I am teaching, especially when it gave me absolutely no trouble the day before. It is accompanied by weakness, discomfort and a shortening of the temper. I defy anybody to desire this very real consequence of being a woman.

Final final point: for those who sincerely wish to live as women and are contemplating breast enhancement.  Remember, we biological women have no choice over our breast size and nor should you.  Yours should be determined either by a random number generator or by comparison to your female relatives.... and how many of you would elect to have asymmetric breasts or painful breasts?



 Not bad, just drawn that way.... the immortal celluloid Jessica Rabbit


Will any man write about the reality of being male?




Saturday, 7 September 2019

The Balkanisation of Britain

In order to preserve the status quo of  bloc politics by defeating the democratic will of the British people, Britain is being Balkanised. Balkanisation is the result, not the intention. There is a callous disrespect for democracy.  There is a massive disconnect between the people and those in control of the major political parties.  And all the time society is becoming more and more polarised; splintering geographically, socially and culturally and it is tragically unstoppable. Odious political figures like the war criminal Tony Blair are exerting obscene amounts of influence where they should have none and are partying like it is 1999.  The EU is being shown up for what it really is and its true nature is frightening.  These are dark days.

I will argue that Yugoslavia was destroyed partly to prevent the Non-Aligned Movement from maintaining a foothold in Europe. Tito's and Nehru's Non-Aligned Movement was and is a good idea therefore every effort will be exerted to ensure its weakness and insignificance because the independent sovereignty of nations is a threat to the global banking elite and the great military/industrial complexes who act as parasites across all nations, sucking the wealth out of the people and their lands.

Britain "foolishly" voted to go it alone. It would be a wonderful piece of irony if Britannia ever joined the avowedly anti-imperialist Non-Aligned Movement. but she has too strong a belief in the superiority and unity of the Anglophone world to even consider this organisation.  However, despite her history and her genuinely independent spirit, she too is being crushed by forces both within and without her borders.

I don't predict there will be bloodshed.  Indeed we should earnestly pray that it is averted.  But Britain will never be the same again. 

It has taken centuries but what we are witnessing is the death of the Reformation and the Enlightenment.  There was no Truth in them to start with, therefore they were doomed to failure and we have been doomed to a real and very dark Dark Age for following their false lights of progress and individualism.  We can thank the Enlightenment for better sanitation, clean drinking water and the washing machine, but not a lot else.

Things are going to get a whole lot worse before they get better.  But atleast everything is out in the open and for those willing to see, the fault lines are clearly visible.

Glory to God for all things.


Friday, 30 August 2019

Rabbit Hole Ahead!

Sorry folks, this is another "gay" post.

There has been something of a brouhaha recently in the Orthodox world about a conference in Oxford (and yes it would have to be Oxford) which enabled Orthodox scholars to get together to discuss issues of gender and sexuality.  There were some high profile names there, it was no fringe event.  I say it had to be Oxford, because if you don't know the city, you won't know its endemic, cultured, leisured homosexuality.  The conference itself seemed desperately Hegelian with the very anti-Church culturally Orthodox in dialogue with the caring Church (and with rabid traditionalists frothing and snarling at a distance). But we know where Hegel leads us, don't we? ........

Details of the conference can be found here, notice it was sponsored by the British Council. Does this make you proud to be British?
https://www.fordham.edu/info/28289/bridging_voices/11036/press_release_2019_oxford_conference

Not being Orthodox but having gone through all this stuff with the Roman Church, left me with that sinking feeling that everything really is unravelling.

I will repeat my take on this again, it bears repeating.

Sexuality, ALL sexuality is an invention. It is simply a label to describe preferences for pleasuring genitals.  It is of no significance whether you prefer man, woman or watermelon.  Sexuality is not a truth.  Truth leads to God because it is from God, because it is God.  Sexuality is not a lie either, it is simply a human classification for something that is extremely trivial. Love however is not trivial.  Love leads to God because God is Love.  We are called to be creatures of love.  The expression of that love either brings us closer to God or distances us from Him as we set the love up as an idol in the place of God. The only place for love that expresses itself sexually is within the sacrament of marriage which is open to procreation.  All other forms of sexual expression are masturbation.  Consensual homosexual sex is mutual masturbation, consensual heterosexual sex with contraception is mutual masturbation, sex with a watermelon is masturbation. Masturbation is a pleasure for the sake of the pleasure, it has no other end, like drinking purely for pleasure. It is also highly addictive. It can not get you closer to God. Nobody has ever self-stimulated their way into heaven.

Men fall in love with men, women fall in love with women and men and women fall in love outside the bonds of marriage, ALL are called on to be heroic and love in chastity and purity. True love is wanting the best for the other.  That best is nothing short of heaven, and heaven is not waiting at the end of some sweaty grunting and squelching.

It is not even about morals and what the Bible says is right and wrong.  This becomes a colossal rabbit hole.  Gay is a huge rabbit hole. We are all capable of falling in love and in lust with members of the same sex and members of the opposite sex. As Christians we should not let the labels gay, bi and straight define us.  They are NOT us in the eyes of God.  These terms should not be used in the Church by anyone ever, period.  They should not be welcome in the Church, ANY of them. Nothing annoys me more than Christians that define themselves as red-blooded heterosexuals; they are smug, not holy. We all come to the Church as sinners and that is enough.

So, my dear Orthodox friends, be warned! Whatever happened in Oxford should stay in Oxford, leave it be and get on with being a child of God.

The "trans" issue is slightly more nuanced and interesting and is probably for another post.



Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Idolatry

Having coffee with a chum in Belgrade last week, I asked him if you Orthodox are ever going to sort your calendar out? He replied probably not, we've turned the calendar into an idol.

At this time of year the Orthodox calendar confusion is not at all quaint and lovable.  We Romanians finish our Dormition Fast and celebrate the Feast of the Dormition, only for those Serbs to start their fast. It makes going out for a meal and a drink during August with friends separated only by the waters of the Danube somewhat difficult especially when you each have a great devotion to the Mother of God.


But it got me thinking.  My friend's comments about the calendar being an idol were just a little disturbing, even if they were said slightly flippantly.

When I got home, I searched through the Catechism (Trent) to see what it has to say about idolatry. Helpfully, it says there are two types of idolatry against the First Commandment. These are (1) the worshipping of images and idols as God and (2) the making of images of God.  I will quote what it says about the former here:

The first way is by worshipping idols and images as God, or believing that they possess any divinity or virtue entitling them to our worship by praying to, or reposing confidence in them...

Yes, it works.  There is a sort of idolatry involved with the Orthodox calendar.  A lot of confidence is placed in the old calendar because it is "traditional" and uses the calendar our ancestors used: a calendar from the Pagan Roman Empire no less. There is a confidence in its holiness and godliness, even if it flies in the face of physical reality.  That it is a solar calendar that does not reflect where the sun actually is in relation to the earth, is immaterial.  Tradition is everything.

But can Tradition itself be an idol?

Yes, tradition can be an idol, when it is the enemy of orthodoxy (right worship), and this is far more common that we think.

When we start getting tetchy about tradition and how necessary it is, we must be very careful we haven't turned tradition into a false god, one our ancestors never worshipped.

Never mind the Orthodox and their calendar, we Papists do quite a bit of this too, we put confidence in  some of these things in their own right:
  • the status of the Traditional Latin Mass amongst some Trads
  • Vatican II itself has become a tradition that is worshipped in certain circles, where near mystical belief in its perfection and necessity override evidence and reason.
  • conversely the anti-Vatican II brigade does something similar
  • obedience to the Roman Pontiff in adapting to his style and preferences (some bishops are chameleons and take on whatever the current pontiff is like, six years ago they were supporting the Latin Mass, now they are Imam hugging eco-warriors)
  • a belief in the holiness of the Roman Pontiff
I will also add that when we pray purely as petition, be it the Rosary, in Novenas or other devotions then is is possible that the latria due to God alone gets sidelined and we are on a slippery path to idolatry; placing too much confidence in the thing, over and above the love of our Creator.

Note, I say, it is possible, not that it is always the case.

None of us really pay enough attention to the First Commandment.

******
Still, on the Orthodox calendar front, it did mean I got a second shout at the Transfiguration and before catching my flight to Bucharest, I was able to sneak into St Marks in Belgrade and observe its celebration done with all the robust yet almost casual purposefulness that Serbs are so good at.






Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Mad dogs, mosquitoes and raspberries

Sorry for my absence from the interwebs, dear reader. I have been in Serbia again.  This trip involved using the bus network and seeing where I could get to. Grandiose, corrupt and unnecessary waterfront development in Belgrade have made train travel difficult from the capital as the station has disappeared. The buses are efficient and well used. Serbia has done something to me, I can't begin to describe how at home I feel there. There aren't many places in the world where  I don't mind being kept awake at night by mad dogs and mosquitoes. Indeed, if I were simply doing the tourist thing, I'd stay in Romania, there is so much to see here, she really is a gem.  For "warts n' all" exploring, Serbia and Romania are similar.  There is similar brokenness, corruption, lack of opportunities and plenty of raspberries.

Serbia is not by any stretch of the imagination the prettiest of the Balkans and nor will it ever be the wealthiest. For the most part the scenery is gentle rather than spectacular and for some reason I am reminded of Wales. But I drag my carcass off the morning flight from Bucharest to Belgrade, body and soul let me know how much they like it here.  I smile inside and nothing can take that smile away.

Serbian has also proved a lot easier to learn than Romanian. I am no natural linguist.  The Slavic words in Romanian have been an asset  and some of the phrase constructions are the same (треба/trebuie) so it may not have been so easy without some Romanian.  However it is the pronunciation where Serbian wins hands down. Serbian uses the teeth, the tip of the tongue and the lips to make most of its sounds and it doesn't have any of the difficult ye, ya, yo sounds of Russian.  Romanian, like French which it models itself on, is a vowel based language and involves all sorts of contortions of the middle of the tongue and the jaw, I seem to have the wrong anatomy for it. Every time I try to speak Romanian, my tongue feels like old shoe leather, nothing sounds right.  And to be totally honest, Serbian is simply more beautiful to my ears.  I have the Psalter in both languages and am learning as many psalms as I can.  The Serbian delights, the Romanian is hard work but more poetic than the English

Ps 22
Domnul mă paște și nimic nu-mi va lipsi.
La loc de pășune, acolo m-a să-lășluit
la apa odihnei m-a hrănit.

Господ је пастир мој, ништа ми неће хедостајати
На зеленој паши пасе ме
води ме на тиху воду.

The Serbian interior was devoid of tourists. If there were any, the density was tiny. Apart from a coach load of Romanian pilgrims at one of the monasteries, the only people about were Serbs. Great place, lovely, friendly and generous people and I am now more convinced than ever that one day it will be home.





Sunday, 11 August 2019

A sheep speaks

The following news article from Turkey and the pictures associated with it have stuck in my mind, they look like a metaphor for the state of the world.
http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/500-sheep-die-in-mass-suicide-jump-in-eastern-turkey-133225#photo-1

Apparently in June, 500 sheep jumped to their deaths prompted by one sheep that was leaping to get  across a gorge but failed.  It all seems a bit odd to me.  Why would 499 sheep follow one sheep that had met a terrible end?  Also, could the shepherd have done more to stop this from happening? Did the sheep know their actions would lead to their death or were they just doing what came naturally?

It got me thinking about what the role of a shepherd is.  Sheep are usually free to roam.  The shepherd is there to direct them to pasture, to check on their health and to stave off attacks from wolves, bears and poachers and to go after the sheep that strays from the safety of the flock.  The shepherd is there to protect the sheep from dangers that they can not foresee, yet he doesn't try to stop them from being sheep, he doesn't over protect them, he doesn't "man manage", molly-coddle, indulge or sentimentalise his flock.  Also he is not working for himself, traditionally he is not the owner of the sheep, yet nor is he simply a hired hand, he is a professional and his job is demanding.

I think you can see where I am going with this.  I am thinking about Bishops again, mainly as a result of reading Geoffrey Hull's Banished Heart: origins of heteropraxis in the Catholic Church (kindly recommended to me by a reader of this blog). It is a difficult read but not because it is difficult to read.  It is (for me) gripping, compelling and utterly believable.  It is difficult to read because I agree with nearly everything he writes.  This is not good territory to be in. It starts so many other trains of thought, and when one's latent anger at the state of the Church finds an outlet like this, there is always a danger it just feeds one's prejudices.

The author's arguments for the very early beginnings of heteropraxis are sound.  They temper the somewhat simplistic claims of infiltration of the Catholic Church by Masons and Commies. Whilst the claim of infiltration may have some truth to it, it is not the reason for the state of things today.  Indeed the state of things today is very much part of the nature of the Catholic Church as she has been from at least 1054.  The only difference today is that there has been a massive falling away of the faithful as a result of the "advances" of the last 50 years, though ironically, there have never been more Catholics in the world as a whole than there are today. [and it is a crying tragedy that they know of nothing else than the new Roman Rite, it is meagre fayre, though (read my lips) the Mass of Ages isn't the answer either].

But Faith is not a numbers game.  Something is very wrong, but something has always been wrong. It is nothing short of a miracle that the Catholic Church exists at all, she certainly isn't present in the world today by her own (human) efforts. She has always been screwing things up and endangering souls somewhere in the world.

For me, I'd say a lot has to do with the fact that Bishops are not good at being shepherds.  Defending the flock is not going to make a shepherd popular with his sheep who are keen to do their own thing. When Bishops want to do things for "pastoral" reasons, and all liturgical "developments" (good and bad) are instigated for supposedly pastoral reasons, I really don't think a single one of them has really been genuinely pastoral.  Sometimes they involve a shepherd desperate to do everything told him by a distant "top" shepherd, believing this to be pastoral because somehow the "top" shepherd will always know what is best for every flock.  Sometimes they involve a shepherd who believes the "top" shepherd isn't doing enough and that they must do more to help their sheep.  In both these cases, the sheep themselves aren't actually under any threat at the time, they have pasture and there are no immediate dangers from predators.  But these shepherds want to do something.  They want to make their own lives meaningful, they want to believe they are doing good work, rather than doing what they are there to do. And some of them want seek affirmation from the sheep, and some of them for some bizarre reason want to seek affirmation from to everything; pigs, flocks of birds and other such which are not part of their remit.What a Bishop is there for is 99% boring, routine; speaking the uncomfortable truth and seeing to the daily needs of the flock, and then there is 1% of the time where they must act decisively to the point of risking their own lives for their flock.  Most of them miss this 1%, it flies past like a missed bus when you are at the wrong bus stop.

They need our prayers, and not the sort of faux pious prayer that Catholics seem to indulge in where "I will pray for you" is said as a form of insult from a position of assumed moral superiority.

We sheep need our Bishops more than we could possibly imagine and no matter how crap we think they are. A wilful but unintentional leap to our deaths is never far away. If we don't need our local Bishops, then there is simply no point in the Church and we might as well all become Protestants.

A mixed flock of sheep and goats in Iran, seen recently by yours truly. Yes shepherds can look after goats as well as sheep.... but that is a whole other metaphor.



Wednesday, 7 August 2019

what the hell

Following on from my last post, I am going to have to wade into the mess surrounding the Trads vs Bishop Barron debacle.  I am referring to upset caused amongst the trads (those I called out in my last post) by Bishop Barron's remarks that we have a reasonable hope that all men are saved. I am not keen to defend either side.  The Trads have gone too far in their bombastic demolition job of the Bishop's extremely worthwhile media apostolate: they shout modernist like feminists shout patriarchy. I am bored of them, really bored.  On the other side, Bishop Barron has the intelligence to defend himself, should he so wish.

Therein lies the problem.  We have divisions, and nobody seems willing to do more than pick at the scar because it gives pleasant tingly feelings of self-righteousness rather do anything to help it heal over. My sympathies lie more with the Bishop than with the squawking laymen on the other side and that is with me loathing every ounce of the Nouvelle Theologie that inspires His Grace.

However, in this post, I wish to take a great leap sideways and look at the issue from a completely different angle.  My thought is the following: we really ought to be horrified at the thought that anyone is in Hell. Hell is the unimaginable torment of an eternity where you have deliberately separated yourself from the love of God, knowing full well that the Love of God is what you were created for... yes it will hurt like Hell.... imagine the worst torment any martyr ever had to face, imagine it lasting for eternity but faced alone, without the support of the Life Giving Trinity and you are not even close.  Do we really want anyone to face that?

This is how I think about it.

Firstly, if I think about anyone I have ever known, I can not say that I can wish one of them an eternity in Hell. I have known some complete sh**s, but it is far more satisfactory to think that somehow their stupidity and depravity will be less of a strong force on them than the pull of God's grace. God wills all men to be saved.  I am not going to argue with that.

Secondly, what about the sh**s who have hurt people I love and caused them to very nearly break, or indeed to breakdown completely or indeed have taken their lives from them. They did not trespass against me, there is nothing I can forgive meaningfully, but can I draw any satisfaction from them going to Hell?  I can't. It is far more delicious to think of them repenting, and to earnestly wish this to be the case.

Thirdly, what about those people who are considered universally evil?  Shouldn't we think of them as suffering eternal torments for their crimes?  I don't think so.  Even the anti-Christ will have a Guardian Angel [ref: Henri Boudon - Devotion to the Nine Choirs of Holy Angels (translated into English 1869)]... there is something about the Divine oeconomy that should prevent us from glorifying in the thought of even one soul in Hell.

Yet Hell exists and probably more than a few souls are in it and it will continue to fill, and we ought to weep that this is the case.

We ought not to be discussing the numbers who are there or the percentages of those saved and damned.  It is horrific that we should think like that.  At this stage such information is intimate between God and the deceased, we will know for sure at the Last Judgement and we have a lot of saving of our own souls to do before then.



****
An interesting counter stimulus to the Trads is the relevant section of Fr FW Faber's Creator and the Creature. You cannot accuse Fr Faber of even a whiff of Modernism, yet he argues in a very scholarly and compelling way as to the ease of salvation and to the very large numbers of the saved.  He also guards against any speculation as to what happens to unbelievers and  non-Catholic Christians, and this is wise.  He leaves that as a mystery that is God's alone.

Pray without ceasing for the living and the dead.

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Time for some Physics

My stats usually take a nosedive when I talk about Physics.  From past experience, my stats increase dramatically if I talk about either sex or the Liturgy. I pass no comment on my readers' preferences.

My reasons for talking about Physics have a lot to do with the sense of frustration I am feeling with the voice of Traditionalist Catholics: the voice that primarily comes from the USA.  I will name names: Michael Voris, Dr Taylor Marhsall, the Remnant and Return to Tradition. Now all these souls are good, well meaning Catholics.  I do not consider them nutters on the fringe of Catholicism.  I think they are doing a good job informing and supporting the faithful in these confusing times.  There is no such thing as a perfect witness, they are good men and their hearts are in the right place.

My frustration comes from the fact that they are all so parochial and they don't realise it.  The problem with them is that they are sounding more and more like Protestants and with this there is the danger that they will create their own faith.  They speak primarily as products of geography, history and politics (which could be a definition of Protestantism as is is founded by men).  They are somewhat blinded to the realities of the meaning of Catholic (Universal) as the way they view everything is coloured by them being Americans. As my brothers in Christ, I take exception to their exceptionalism and take this opportunity to explain why.

The Physics I am using is by way of analogy.

We see things via the light that reaches our eyes.  Solid objects have their particular colours and textures based on how the light is reflected or absorbed by the material before it can make its way to our eyes. Transparent materials also change the light that illuminates them.  A coloured transparent material will absorb certain wavelengths and transmit others so that we see a particular colour.  A red liquid looks red in white light, but looks horrid under blue light.  Transparent materials also do something else, they slow the light down. Most of the time this will cause it to change direction slightly.  It is the analogy to transparent materials that interests me here.

Suppose you are looking at something of crystal clear purity. You know it is pure and "true".  You can sense that, and everyone else senses that too.  You can appreciate its beauty.  What you don't know at this stage is the "nature" of the light which is shining on it..  You may know its direction and its wavelength but you will not know, without further tests its other property, it is called polarisation and is basically the "orientation" of the light wave.  The change of speed of the wave can be affected by all three properties: wavelength, direction and polarisation.   The first two are easy to assess and measure, the third is more subtle, indeed often you need access to other "orientations" in order to know if the speed of the light is changed or not.  Some materials have the same speed of light irrespective of the polarisation of the light BUT that doesn't make them any more transparent than those that do.

So what the American trads are doing is saying: look this is how the crystal is, this is everything there is to know about it, we illuminate it in this way and this is the result we get.  They ought not say that their view is absolute because they are using light that is coloured and polarised in a single particular sense. However, they are saying things are absolutely as they see them, because they are blind to any other light sources.

Let's look for a minute at the light that they illuminate the Catholic faith with. Their light is heavily coloured by the Scottish Enlightenment.  It is republican and can not understand monarchy or emperors or feudal, hierarchic societies. It is heavily individualistic and puts human freedom over and above community. The majority of the world does not live like this, and indeed cannot live like this.  Men are not islands, but community seems to equate to "socialism" for our trads, and they explode like a set of firecrackers. It is a light that is also heavily coloured by wealth, ease and moral certitude.  Indeed moral certitude is seen as the byword for religion, it is not.  There is a Natural Law, there is an absolute morality, BUT this is not the same as their moral certitude which is political in nature and not supernatural in origin. It also has a limited understanding of grace and sacraments because it has a limited understanding of mystery because it is an Enlightenment mindset which is necessarily sceptical of mystery. There is no enchantment in their light. Everything is causal to them in a horridly linear fashion. They can not see enchantment.  Their light is all about work, industry and reward for the good worker, punishment for the bad.  To me this all gives a very dull, monochromatic view of the Faith, of God, of salvation, of miracles, of the great cloud of witnesses and of LOVE.

We are looking at the same crystal, but seeing two very different things and from my perspective, they are missing so much, it makes me weep.

A thin section of rock  (gabbro), with the light being used (two filters that polarise the light in different directions), it should look black but the crystals change the direction and speed at which the light passes through, producing lovely colours and patterns.

View this protractor under normal light and it is a boring protractor, view it through crossed polarised filters which should make it invisible and the effects mentioned show as stress lines in the plastic.


 Have I made myself clear?





Thursday, 1 August 2019

Masterful Inactivity

In Yes Prime Minister, the extremely well written and acted British sit-com of the 1980s, civil servant Sir Humphrey Appleby tells the PM, Jim Hacker that the secret of being a great PM is Masterly Inactivity.  It is a wonderful phrase though not a wise one.  However, change a few letters and something much more interesting is suggested: Masterful Inactivity.

We do spend an awful lot of time thinking we should be doing something or worse, setting out and doing something simply because we think we ought to be doing something.  Our motivation being guilt at inactivity; a sense of shame at not doing anything constructive with our time, a feeling we ought to be doing something.  This is a poor motivation and usually leads to a poor outcome.

What is wrong with inactivity?

Inactivity is not the same as inertia.  It is not the same as being a dead weight and doing nothing, being a complete slob. Being a complete slob means wilfully not doing things that constitute a routine in which necessary things do get done. Inactivity is the cessation of the appearance of being busy more than it is the cessation of activity itself.  Inactivity allows a certain stillness to creep into one's being.  It allows one to cut out the noise and truly face the reality of life.  A slob in contrast adds noise onto noise to drown out the competing voices in his head clamouring for him to do something.  An inactive person does not shirk from his responsibilities. An inactive person simply chooses to approach them indirectly and slowly and to do only that which is necessary.  An inactive person, who masters inactivity is highly efficient.

I personally try to cultivate as much inactivity as possible in my life, it feels like the only hot-line to sanity.  It can involve a certain battle of wills.  Several things can be screaming at you that need doing; some you don't do out of fear, some you don't do because they are tedious, some you don't because you are bloody-minded and actually take a perverse pleasure in not doing them, and the thing you want to do that needs doing, you become paralysed from doing.  Cut from the lot of them. Step back from them all, master inactivity and they get done or they simply cease needing to be done, they get overtaken by events and become an irrelevance rather than a sin of omission.

Well it works for me, when I can do it.

Sadly it requires a lot of painful self-awareness, a realisation of our own smallness, ineptitude and stupidity.  We all want to run away from ourselves and live some fantasy where we are a projection of only the best of our self, or simply a fictional character (clever, handsome, able, witty, charming and devastatingly effective). Our fantasy self, the brilliant one from the dressing-up box, is a hard creature to tame.  She is often our battle dress and we wear her to protect us from the world.  But she is cumbersome and proper combat cannot take place if we carry her into battle, indeed she won't even protects us from the foe who is far more mobile, cruel and competent than anything we can conjure up about ourselves.

And there is definitely a spiritual dimension to all of this.  To be masterfully inactive needs the peace the world cannot give and indeed this peace is the reward for the inactivity well done.  It really is a gift of God.  You can't find God's peace by creating a to-do list of good works and setting out to do them.  If you do this you will only have self-satisfaction as a reward even if it is the slightly perverse self-satisfaction of suffering setbacks and not achieving your goals.  These sufferings can make you feel very holy.  Or worse, you can convince yourself that they are making you holy.  It is all delusional.

And we all want to do something about the state of the Church, it is certainly not a pretty sight at the moment.  We all have that nagging feeling that when "good men do nothing", it will all get worse.  We all have ideas about what needs doing.  We become factional.  We have figures who we criticise  and vilify because they are not doing what we want them to do.  We clearly see the faults in others, rather than the faults in ourselves.  We all become rather noisy, self-righteous and filled with faux piety especially when we feel we have the answers to the crisis, pre-defining the crisis so that our answer is the most palatable solution to us. There seems to be so little love in us for our fellow sinner, only condemnation.

All the time, Our Lord is apparently asleep in the bottom of the boat, the Divine author of Masterful Inactivity; listen to Him.

Sunday, 28 July 2019

Faintly ridiculous

I grew up believing men were faintly ridiculous.  I went to a private and well known school for girls in the North of England.  My teachers were mostly spinsters.  The few male teachers there were a spineless bunch and never lasted long. The women exhibited a certain strength and resilience, especially the most senior; they had a powerful presence, were highly educated, just (something very important in a school) and witty.  It was the spinsters who ran the show, the married women on the staff seemed less strong, less admirable, more compromised and less well educated. My education was entirely secular.

Yet I was unable to swallow this belief in the inferiority of men wholesale. For starters, I was deeply self-conscious and unhappy amongst my peers. I found teenage girls to be utterly incomprehensible. I could not understand their highly complex unwritten codes and norms of behaviour and dress.  I disliked the cliques.  I found their obsession with boys maddening in its shallowness and objectivity.  I really felt like I didn't belong amongst girls, I was not one of them.

I was happiest out of school with nerdy boys. If they ever felt anything romantic for me it never manifested itself. If we went to the cinema together we'd sit with an empty seat between us. It was friendship of sorts. I had no interest in Dungeons and Dragons, but I'd paint their figurines for them.  We'd go ogling the valve amplifiers in the posh hifi shops together. We'd go hunting rare vinyl together. It was OK to collect rocks and fossils.  It was OK to dance really badly.  It was OK to still play with LEGO. It was OK that every day was a bad hair day. It was OK to prefer talking about Physics to talking about Duran Duran. One of these boys did become a boyfriend of sorts, but it was mainly to appear conventional.  My own dear mother, on hearing I had a boyfriend said, "oh, I thought you were going the other way". I have no idea where she got that from.  We all had crushes on other girls, that was normal, but it didn't mean we were going the other way. Indeed that was the only thing I had in common with my peers. Besides my crush was on a Plymouth Brethren girl of such purity and beauty that I could barely look on her, it was definitely a case of worship from afar.

So that was my growing up in the 1980s in the North of England.

Here are a few things that were missing.
  1. a cohesive community. We lived in a big semi-detached in a suburb, and mum made sure we were on a main road so that we would not fraternise with the local children, we were even forbidden from watching commercial TV so that we would not have much to talk about if we did exchange a few words..
  2. a sense of belonging.  There was no tribal identity,  no common set of customs, no extended family, no family at all, no births,  no deaths, no graves.  We were not English, we were not of that soil.  The people I felt most at ease with were from the British Indian, British Pakistani and Jewish communities or from Eastern Europe: outsiders.
  3. No religious identity, no traditional rites of passage, no calendar with special days and special traditions (apart from Christmas which I neither understood or enjoyed).
  4. Romance.  What I saw of romance made me feel nauseous. It was men on the pull, flattering to deceive.  Real romance is something very different, and requires real manliness and real femininity..... chasing unicorns.
Into this atmosphere, it is impossible to lever marriage as anything noble, worthwhile or important.  It was impossible to see the value of womanhood, motherhood, modesty and chastity, because primarily marriage is not about individuals who "love" each other.  Marriage has universal significance, it is a public thing, it needs a community. But the world I was living in was about me finding my own destiny, making a world for myself, making something of myself, becoming self-sufficient. What a lie!

Fast forward to 2019.  The world I inhabited in the 1980s has been regularised and normalised.  It is Individualism writ large; find your own way through the sexual and industrial maze, live where you want, find your own happiness from within.  Those in the West who still hold with marriage are on the margins of a society which barely exists.  Families are nuclear, even large ones. There is no real community.  You may get a group of like minded married people down at your local place of worship but real community it is not; the quest for qualifications, university education, good jobs, debt repayment and mortgages all stop real community, everyboody is always moving on somewhere.

Underlying this nightmare for humanity (and it will surely turn into a nightmare) is the lie that has become the great non-true truth of our time: that men are faintly ridiculous.

Timeless nerd heaven: a valve amplifier

Friday, 26 July 2019

Iran (3) - Culture and Media

Let's leave gayness behind for awhile and return to Iran, because there is more I want to tell you.  I have been thinking that if I had children and wished to raise them good Christians, where would I prefer to do so, Iran or the UK? The answer is Iran. This was brought home to me yesterday when under the cover of my VPN I was desperately trying to get onto Test Match Special for the Cricket from Lords. I was wading through the BBC's content and the sheer level of politically correct, gender-neurotic, ethnically and historically ignorant pish is intolerable. Of course you don't have to watch the BBC but it is a good barometer for what is and isn't considered acceptable in British society.  Having a brain seems to be about the most despicable thing you can do in the UK right now.

Have a country where homosexual acts are considered abhorrent, where pornography is banned, where alcohol is not available (though it seems a blind eye is turned towards non-Muslims in the quiet of their own homes... and the grapes of Shiraz are the grapes of Shiraz), where lewdness is frowned upon and where men and women are expected to dress modestly, and surprise surprise people are very civil, friendly, fun loving and family orientated. Irrespective of the imposed morality of the state, the people are extremely well educated and encouraged to think.  Incidentally, I did try Iranian TV.  Nobody seems to watch it much.  I've never been to a country where less TV seems to be watched in cafes and homes.  It seems to consist of a lot of panel discussions about various topics, programs about engineering and technology, quirky dramas with a slightly supernatural edge where the protagonists are often teenage boys muddling through life, news shows, home made commercial breaks and religious breaks (the Shia equivalent of the Angelus in Ireland, as was).

Your average Iranian is much more likely to be reading a book. Bookshops are everywhere and well used; books on current affairs, religion, history, story books and poetry are most popular.  Ahhh the poetry!  Persian literature has inspired many and continues to inspire.  The tombs of the poets are national monuments and filled with Iranian visitors.  There is a deep respect for their work.  Young men can sing their poems.  A young man spontaneously started singing one of Rumi's love poems in a public garden in Yazd.  Nothing out of the ordinary to the locals but heartbreakingly beautiful to a culture hungry Westerner like me.

From the walls of the tomb of Baba Tahir in Hamedan
the poem reads:
Drunk though with red wine our faith is in You,
Weak and helpless though, we believe in You,
Whether Zoroastrian, Christian or Muslim
Whatever our faith, we worship only You.

But if young men aren't singing poetry, you may well find them jamming in a park,  I even heard a violin and classical guitar go head to head with some Paganini and they weren't showing off.

In Isfahan in the evenings the locals go down to the river to cool off.  It is currently quite shallow but fast flowing and it is possible to get from one side to the other through the water by foot. It is a bit slippy, I tried.  There is no safety culture there, there may have been a sign saying it was dangerous, but it was ignored.  Hard-core girls in full length black chadors blithely walked across as if it were a city street.  Young men struggled more as jeans acted like blotting paper and probably became uncomfortable as the journey progressed. Under the Royal Bridge as sun sets, the men come to sing.  They sing traditional folk songs and they may even dance.  It is brilliant.  Women ululate and clap, everybody smiles.  Then off they go on their scooters, via the ice cream stalls (Iranian ice cream is fab). 
Isfahan
The internet is quite heavily censored.  Twitter accounts just seem to be for the rulers of the Republic, but nobody seems the worse off for it.  Before I left Romania,  I paid for a VPN guaranteed to work in Iran.  It didn't work via any of the hotel WiFi systems I tried.  I can't say I was bothered.  It was quite entertaining seeing what I was allowed to see.  I had no problems for news with either RT or PressTV.  Nothing could bring me to even try the BBC.  There was no access to Blogger or YouTube and my Yahoo mail was only available occasionally.  I have a gmail account that was fine for e-mail as was my yandex e-mail but it was impossible to put an attachment onto any of my e-mails. A surprise was that I got access to Craig Murray's excellent blog, and quite right too, not sure what platform he uses but he is obviously deemed "OK". Also Christian Orthodox religious sites that do not use a blogging platform were fine.  I had more difficulty with Catholic ones, I had more difficulty thinking of interesting ones to try, if I am honest.  Young Iranians all have smartphones and share photos and videos with each other.  They download podcasts of their very palatable popular music and will walk around with giant headphones listening to whatever. Life goes on.

The heat means that people come alive in the evenings.  The parks are full.  Signs have to go up to stop  people camping.  Any green space will do.  Middle aged couples having an evening out sat on a busy but well manicured roundabout were not an unusual sight. Old men congregate round the public chess boards (as in Belgrade) or on the benches with their prayer beads (and there are crosses to be seen dangling from some of those prayer beads). Picnics are a big thing for the whole family.  This being the home of the Persian rug, they do have a better class of picnic blanket. They bring cards and backgammon boards with them.  They will cook from scratch. A picnic must have a mini barbecue and a samovar.  Yes, as a tea drinker, this was heaven.  Iran grows its own tea, they understand tea and it is brewed properly. Young courting couples are more likely to be seen discreetly sat upright with a good 18 inches between them under a tree is some obscure park smoking shisha, that is about as risque as it gets .......

Indeed samovars are everywhere.  The roadside shops  along the main roads from town to town will all have a samovar outside.  They are there for you to fill up as you please and give a small donation to the shopkeeper.  So civilised. 

The only uncivilised thing was crossing the road.  Unless you "tailgate" an Iranian you will wind up dead. There is no safe time or place to cross a road.  You simply step out and then have to mind-read each driver to see if they will slow down and stop or not.

Great place.  Visit.  Pray for them. Pray that the angels of God will defend them from the encircling wolves.  It is becoming reality that the bottom line in deciding "goodies" and "baddies" in this world from a Western perspective (hypocritically ignoring oil rich Arab kingdoms), is whether you will bow to the rainbow flag or not.... Iran never will.