Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Like I Roll: A Short Meditation on Temporal Happiness

It's been a while since I've last written a blog post, and now I return with a new post. In the meantime I've experienced many things, visited many places, met many people. I've done things I'm proud of, and some I'm not so proud of. And yet, through it all, in the end, I'm happy. You really don't appreciate life's experiences until, at the end of one of life's many marathons, you look back and reminisce. No small part of happiness, I think, is looking back on the obstacles and roadblocks and realizing just how far you've come. I feel like I've come so very far these past few months.

And yet, the realization hits that I am not truly happy. For some folks, this is a crushing revelation, but for me, it's an opportunity to pause and ponder why I'm not truly happy. The obvious answer, for me, is that I have not fully achieved what Aquinas calls the "Beatific Vision," that perfect union with the Almighty that transcends mortal reason and imperfect faith. Consolation comes when I smile and remember that such sublimity is not mine to have in this life, for it is something that only exists when my frail and fallen mortality is shed for the cloak of Eternity.

But, besides the determination to at least in a small way earn my Redemption (though such a race is futile on my own merits), what keeps me going, congenial and merry (mostly) in this insane world? What comes to mind to answer that query is a quote from Thomist philosopher Josef Pieper, and the other is a realization from just leisurely listening to a slice of life song by the Southern rock band Black Stone Cherry.

Pieper's quote runs thus: "Happiness,... even the smallest happiness, is like a step out of Time, and the greatest happiness is sharing in Eternity." Even the smallest happiness shakes us out of our reverie of life's monotony and opens us to the symphony of being, that even when the night seems at its darkest, all it takes is a small light to turn night into flickering shadows cowering before the Light.

As for Black Stone Cherry, their song Like I Roll gave me a small epiphany: that life is meant to be lived, not just for your's or my sake, but for its own sake. It's a gift, really the most precious of gifts, and as Seneca admonishes, it should not be wasted but rather fulfilled with noble pursuits that seek the True, the Good, and the Beautiful. Life's temporal happiness is found in cherishing the things
that matter beyond the here and now, and experiencing life is in and of itself a small happiness.

"I roll like the hills under the California sun
Burn through the desert like a devil on the run
I'll be flying high until the day that I die
No matter what they say
At the end of the day
I will roll like I roll"

Saturday, November 2, 2013

A Little Wonder

In this post, I'm going to try something new. Before I've described what comes into my mind, the visions I see, when I listen to music. I stop trying to hold back my imagination and let it go and follow where it takes me. Now, I'm asking you, dear reader, to do the same.

Find a quiet, darker spot. It could be later in the evening, looking up at the stars, or in your room, or by a fireplace. I leave it to your discretion.

Now, hit Play on the attached Youtube clip and close your eyes. Let your imagination take you where it will.

Experience a little wonder.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Art of Resignation

Sitting as I am here in Croatia, and being a contemplative sort, I couldn't help but let my mind wander to things that I have heard and things that I have learned.

Today, in my Political Theory class, we discussed two of the major "ideologies" of the modern world: Liberalism and Conservatism. Now, as most of you might guess, I am somewhat annoyed by some peoples' assertion that conservatism is an ideology for I believe, as Russell Kirk did, that conservatism is not an ideology at all, but rather the negation thereof, it being rather a collection of sentiments and an outlook on life rather than a body of abstract principles. One of the features of conservatism that the professor outlined is the idea of human imperfection. Indeed, as he explained it, I couldn't help but agree with him, as I did with Kirk, that we humans are fallen beings, corrupt, greedy, and often violent. Any look at history and the current state of world affairs will vindicate this belief. However, I couldn't help but feel that many, perhaps most, people would still like to think that through our own efforts, through the application of our reason and our good intentions, we might rise above this imperfection. Pondering this, and listening a trance/chillstep song, I could not help but be reminded of the opinion of a far wiser man than I on what I will call "the art of resignation."

Epictetus was one of the preeminent Stoic philosophers of antiquity, standing on equal footing with his fellow Stoics Zeno, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius as well as the proto-Stoic Cicero in his wisdom and prescience. It was Epictetus who, advising his students on how to find a source of happiness in this fallen world,

"There is only one road to happiness and that is to cease worrying about those things that are beyond the power of our will to control."

Now, this is a restating of elements of two of his quotes into one, but the meaning and the underlying principle are the same: if man is to find a semblance of happiness in this world, he must first gain an understanding of what aspects of his existence he can control through the application of his will and understand what aspects of life he cannot control, whether they be elements of himself or stark reality.

I am sure that many will take issue with this sentiment: in no uncertain terms, it means, for many, a kind of capitulation to whatever Fate throws at you. There is no escaping it entirely (whatever "it" might be). In my case and for the purposes of this post the case presented in class is that man cannot escape his imperfection, as it is something more than genetic and less than metaphysical. I would assert, however, that it is not really a "capitulation" to Fate, but rather a kind of resignation, a sentiment based on realism and necessary reflection on the state of the world we view.

To be resigned to something is, I believe, not something that is inherently negative. Often, when we find ourselves resigned to whatever situation we find ourselves in, we find a release, a burden lifted. The situation thus becomes what we make of it, granting us more freedom than we would have otherwise if we simple rejected the reality and turned our face from it. When we reject reality, it often becomes a consuming aspect in that we are forced to constantly run into it. But if we accept it for what it is, then we are "within," and thus have the ability to adapt and adjust. Taking a Christian perspective, when we acknowledge our fallen state and seek repentance, we resign ourselves to the truth that we are less than we like to think we are and that we are, by our very nature, less than we ought to be (and were at one point). When this happens, when we accept the reality of that which we cannot control (our sin and our need for redemption), we are, in effect, granted a measure of control over the remainder of our Self. This stems from the freedom found in Christ's mercy and the control over the state of our souls that He grants us. We thus have the freedom in Knowing: we are fallen, but have the freedom to choose redemption and a life truly Good. But all this hinges on the resignation to the Reality of our Self and, by extension, the Reality of the world we inhabit and have dominion over.

Going further, Kirk asserts in his "Ten Conservative Principles" that only when the inner order of the Soul is given harmony and structure will the outer order, the Commonwealth or the World, be ordered. This order will not be perfect, as that would require the perfect order found only in perfect humans. Seeing as humans are far from perfect, in fact fallen, we can only resign ourselves to making a tolerable order of the world and to making our inner Self, our Souls, as ordered as possible in our state. In this we are granted far more freedom than we realize, as our eyes are opened to the reality. Yes, much of what we see will make us shudder. But also we will see things with new clarity, and open our imaginations and self to the wonder and beautiful mystery of Creation, not to mention the myriad of ways that we can attempt to improve not only our own lot in this temporal existence but also be awakened to the needs and care of our fellow man. This is part of why I pity men who think they know everything and proclaim themselves to be "experts:" In doing so, they shut themselves off from this new world, unable and unwilling to see the greater picture of existence that is wider than they could have imagined. Again, to have new eyes is to first resign ourselves to the fact that we only see a small picture of the eternal tapestry of Creation. This is not to say that there are not aspects of life that we should not strive to change (Lord knows there is much of those in life) but these are granted fuller vision when we strive to accept what we can't change and discern them from those we can.

And thus, in the words of Blackmill's "Let It Be," I resign myself to the Reality of Existence, and that I will "Let it come and let it be," as I cannot change the sad facts, but I can control my destiny in the freedom I find in resignation to the need for salvation. I end with this thought that stems from the resignation:

"There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind." -C.S. Lewis

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Not All Fun in the Sun: Notes From a Troubled Mind

"Can you tell that I hurt? 
It's critical,
All I can smell is the burn
of chemicals..." -"Chemicals," Love and Death

The wail of sirens...

The blast of bombs...

The crack of rifles from above...

The cold grip of fear...

The choking fist of smoke and fire...

These are just some of the images I saw as I visited Dubrovnik's War Museum, a stunningly-picturesque memorial to sacrifice and fortitude in the face of overwhelming odds during the Balkan Wars of the 1990s. For ten months, the Pearl of the Adriatic was subjected to a kind of siege that its medieval walls were never built to stand against and offered the only defense for the city itself. As the walls and Old City weathered a terrifying barrage from Serbian/Montenegrin forces on the heights overlooking the town from the south, the city's small garrison fought desperately from the Napoleonic Imperial Fort overlooking the town directly above to keep the city from being encircled completely. I can't in my darkest nightmares imagine for a moment what that must have been like, for either the poor civilians in the town or the soldiers forced to fight for their lives...

The War Museum experience has only added to the increasing clouds of my mind. It began with my discovery of the song "Chemicals" by the band Love and Death, headed by former-Korn leadman and born-again Christian Brian "Head" Welch. The song is Welch's story of his years-long fight with substance abuse and the haunting undercurrents and disturbing imagery (both in the song and in the music video) leave me tossing and turning, wanting, nay, craving a strong drink to kill the empty, hollow feeling that creeps into my subconscious...

Now let me be clear: I'm not a drug-addict, nor will I ever be one. But I couldn't help but reflect about the concept of what Welch sings: the things we put into our bodies. In a way like Welch, I can't help but look deeper, beyond the superficial changes that affect us from what we take in and am left standing at a precipice above my inner dark. I look down and see a deranged, disfigured beast that otherwise lives in the corners of my soul. He stares up at me and lays my sin bare before me. It's terrifying: one look and I stare into Hell. And not the cliche of Hell that we all know, but that kind of Hell that only our minds can construct. Considering how wide-ranging my mind can be, this kind of Hell is a nightmare that haunts my subconscious and leaves me crippled in grief and near-depression when I glimpse it because it is the Hell that I construct. What I feed my soul affects it in a near-molecular level that, when positive, molds and gives form and order. But if it be negative, it twists, distorts, and otherwise renders ugly what God made in his Image.

Perhaps it is this that leaves me most despondent: as a Human Being, I am made in the Image of God, and yet all I do is corrupt this Image and continually feed the monster with the chemicals of this fallen world. When my Hell is laid bare before me I am forced to see what I would be were I not redeemed by Grace: burning in sin's chemicals, a freak, a monster driven mad by pain and rage. My visits to St. Blais' Church and Dubrovnik Cathedral only accentuated my dark cloud feelings. How can I walk into a House of Christ, twisted as I am? Who am I to beseech Mercy when I have done nothing to merit it, indeed reveling in the chemical cocktail of depravity, eschewing Virtue and Grace? I am no better than those who spat on Christ as He struggled to carry His cross, hearing but neither understanding nor caring for longer than was necessary...such a revelation, as I stare at my anti-soul, is crushing.

Forgive me for publishing such a dark post. I felt moved to post it as I needed an outlet for my feelings of late as I pore into theology, politics, philosophy, and ethics. I promise that this, too, shall pass. I will overcome it, as the One from Whom I draw strength and in Whom I find my help has "...Overcome the world."

Monday, September 16, 2013

A Thousand Year Story: From Ragusa to Byron's "Pearl"

It's been a hectic two days here in Dubrovnik.

For starters, I finally met my fellow Americans and my roommate. They're a great bunch to be around, and I really look forward to spending the next few months getting to know them and hanging out. On Saturday we were introduced to DIU properly. DIU is located in the historic Dominican Monastery, just inside the east (Ploce) Gate to the Old Town. It has a fantastic inner courtyard, or cloister, where the monks would go for a peaceful escape from their day to day tasks. Beautiful flowers, trees (including a grapefruit tree, complete with fruit) and white limestone walls with a well made it quite inviting. The monastery we're in right now is not the original-unfortunately that was destroyed in a 17th Century earthquake. Further, the Ploce Gate and the accompanying military fortress on that side was built to protect the new monastery from attack and to prevent attackers from using the monastery roof as a way onto the city walls. As a professor explained, the Dominicans housed a massive number of manuscripts and medieval books in their library, which is still famous for it's collections.

For now, that's all I have on the monastery, which is really only a small (but nonetheless important) part of the city. If you exit the monastery and walk south, eventually you'll pass under the original city gate and enter the main square of the Stradun, or essentially Main Street in Dubrovnik. Just off the square is the famous Sponza Palace, where an important merchant family held lived and conducted business, specializing in the sale of sponges (hence the name Sponza, a derivative of Italian). Within the Palace's walls is what I would call a "Hall of Heroes," a small museum of the 1991-1992 siege of Dubrovnik by Serbian/Montenegrin forces during the Balkan Wars. Adorning the walls are the names and photos of the over 200 locals who died defending their homes while a slideshow plays on the small TV in the corner showing the pictures of the fires and destruction of this beautiful city. It's sobering to think that this was less than twenty years ago, and the only reason that Dubrovnik was not turned to ash was its status as a UNESCO World-Heritage Site. The Ploce Gate fortress played host to the several thousand locals seeking refuge there, and the city suffered  withering fire from the mountains above the city. To think that in this day and age that women and children would have to endure siege is not only tragic but shows how little we humans have changed in over three thousand years of civilization.

On the other end of the square stands the beautiful Baroque Church of St. Blais, the patron saint of Dubrovnik. Designed by an Italian architect whose name escapes me at this time, the interior is beyond description. Though relatively quaint compared to the massive cathedrals of Russia that I visited last year, it nonetheless shares their majestic splendor and sense of holiness, that this is a space not meant for man, but for God. Beautiful Baroque paintings make up the altarpiece, while vibrant stained glass windows play a tapestry of color on the floor of the church. Unfortunately I did not stay long in the Church, as a Mass was going on and I did not want to disturb the worshipers. I will post the pictures I got at a later time.

After our introduction to DIU, we met up with our tour guide, Dijana, for a walking tour of the city. Let me just say that if the Dos Equis man is the Most Interesting Man in the World, then Dijana is most certainly the Most Interesting Woman. She endured the siege, joined up with the infant Croatian Army, smuggled weapons into the city to aid the defense, and ended up becoming a high-level subordinate of the Southern District Commander. Later, she worked on a Caribbean cruise ship as a dealer in the on-ship casino. She now gives tours in her home city and in the surrounding countries and areas. Yesterday, she took our group on a tour of neighboring Lokrum Island, a paradise if there ever was one. She nearly walked our legs off, marching us up a 45-degree incline to see a spot seen on the show Game of Thrones. She then took us down to see the rest of the Island, which has its own fascinating history involving Benedictine monks, a medieval curse, Habsburg emperors, and even Richard the Lionheart (more on that later). Lush botanical gardens and peacocks were common sights around the island, as are stunning cliffs fifty feet above crystalline blue seas, which (go figure) we spent a LOT of time in. Back to the city tour: she showed us various sites around the city, including one of the first (if not THE first) state-run orphanage in the world, one of the first public pharmacies in the West (which still functions as such today), and the Franciscan monastery. Then we climbed the walls.

The views from the walls are beyond description. The walls were specially designed by an Italian engineer to reflect cannonballs and feature various gate houses and formidable keeps at the corners. Simply put, as I discussed with an API coordinator, the city walls are nigh impregnable: they can't be assaulted from the mainland, as during the Middle Ages there were no modern roads lining the slopes, thus making moving troops almost impossible for all but the most determined attackers. Further, the local trees, save for the oaks, aren't suitable for making siege engines. The best bet for an attacker was, as the Venetians tried, to assault from the sea. But the various keeps and sea-side fortifications, not to mention the sheer cliffs that the city is built upon, made this a very risky endeavor, as did the well-armed and trained city militia. (Fun fact: never in its history did Dubrovnik or its Medieval incarnation, the Republic of Ragusa, have a standing army; instead, it relied on the citizen guards and local militias to come to man the walls in case of threat).

Some of you may be asking, so what? What makes Dubrovnik so important anyway? Why should we care? I can cite one reason: The Republic of Dubrovnik was the FIRST SOVEREIGN STATE to recognize the United States of America as an independent nation. Further, as mentioned before, Dubrovnik never had a standing army, nor did it need one. Amazing as it may seem, Dubrovnik was never conquered and remained independent from its birth in the 7th Century to the 1800s, when in 1812 Napoleon tricked the City Rectors into giving in to his army. Needless to say, they desecrated the Pearl of the Adriatic and when they left they took what they could and gave nothing back. Dubrovnik was independent for over a thousand years, relying not on military force but on its merchant wealth, its veritable army of spies all over Europe and the Middle East, and its diplomatic expertise. Ragusan merchants and envoys were known and respected all over the Old World, with its trade ships spanning the globe selling the city's beautiful coral, salt, and gold crafts, as well as their local wines, fruits, and timber. It is very much an important city in European history, and (I'm not joking very much when I say this) very much a city of "firsts." It's a very, very beautiful city, and a perfect place for those who prefer the "Laid-back" kind of life (note: THIS DOES NOT MEAN "LAZY"-Looking at you, Mom!) and leisure. It's not a fast-paced kind of place, and the locals frown on those who give too much attention to work and getting things done. It's this kind of tension between the new globalized emphasis on productivity and the old spirits of knowing the time and place for work and play-that is, traditional culture, where leisure and enjoyment of life's finer (or little) things (and giving thanks for them) are almost more important than productive work that is fascinating to me. Truly, Lord Byron was right when he described Dubrovnik as the "Pearl of the Adriatic."

For now, that's all I have. More to come. For now, I lay down my stylus. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Dobrodosli u Hrvatska And Random Thoughts

"The world is like a book, and those who do not travel only read the first page."
-St. Augustine

It is with great pleasure that I send you greetings from the BEAUTIFUL city of Dubrovnik, Croatia. I knew that it would be amazing when, as I step off the plane, what greets you is an amazing view of coastal mountains flecked with trees and small bushes towering over the valley where the airport is with a crystalline blue sky playing host. So far, everyone I've met on the same program as I is very nice and my roommate (the one I've met and have gotten to know a little bit) is a real cool guy. The taxi ride with my program director from the airport to my apartment was great. What made it great? THE VIEW. We drove up a coastal road with mountains and cliffs to our right and the Adriatic Sea to our left. Bathed in the muted gold of the setting sun, the water a shimmering blue, such a view was awe-inspiring. Large islands straddled the coast, covered in green, while sailboats bobbed lazily in the bays and inlets as we drove by.

The city itself, particularly the Stari Grad, or "Old City" which Dubrovnik is so famous for, is a wondrous view to behold. Modern apartments like mine are inter-spaced between age-old traditional homes of white sandstone (?) in the "new" city, while the medieval walls of the Old City center are impressive and still seem like they could hold out in a siege, the buildings either the same sandstone or marble with red terra-cotta roofs in an Italian-esque flair. My landlord is a very sweet woman and my apartment is better furnished than I could have possibly expected.

Don't think it was an easy journey here. And thus I begin my random thoughts.

1. A big thank you to the group that I tagged along with from Tulsa to Washington. Without they're help I'd probably still be stuck in line at Dulles.

2. Dulles. Oh, Dulles. A modernistic monstrosity that can't hold a finger to Reagan International and less than half of the departure/arrival boards of any other airport I've been to.

3.It's amazing how a few thunderstorms can effectively shut down air travel along half the eastern seaboard. The sheer size of the lines at the Dulles United Customer Service desk needing reroutes was mind-boggling. Due to the weather issues and some fuel adjustments we had to make in Tulsa, my flight to Vienna was taxiing for take-off when we were pulling into the gate at Dulles, so needless to say I missed my flight to Vienna. Instead, thanks to only what I can describe as Divine Providence, the United people in Tulsa gave me a reroute through Frankfurt, Germany and from there to Dubrovnik. What a God-send.

4. Germanophiles, cover your ears and stop reading for a bit: I HATED Frankfurt airport. Don't get me wrong, I've been there before. And I remember it being a lot nicer. But, for one, it is typically German in that it sacrifices aesthetics for functionality: conrete, concrete, concrete. It is not a welcoming airport, or at least it wasn't to me. Secondly, for whatever reason, (friends from Germany excluded, of course) I don't really like Germans. Even at their happiest they seem...angry. Perhaps its just the language, but interactions with Germans leave me feeling cold.

Well, that should cover everything right now. I'll definitely be posting more in the future. For now, good night.

Monday, April 29, 2013

"Infinite" Issues: A Response to a Thematic Analysis

Allow me to first say that this is not a normal occurrence for me: responding to video game reviews is not something that strikes me as normally productive or all that worthwhile, but in this instance I feel that something had to be said.
A little bit of background: yesterday I was browsing Facebook when I came across a friend's message to a mutual friend regarding a review of the recently-released video game Bioshock Infinite. (The analysis can be found here: http://peripsuche.blogspot.com/2013/03/bioshock-infinite-thematic-analysis.html) I found the review oft times fascinating but also aggravating, particularly in regards to the reading into the political themes of the game. Now for the caveats: 1) I have only ever watched the game played-I haven't played it myself but I watched over half the game and have read into the themes of it; 2) THERE ARE SPOILERS here.

My overarching problem with the analysis is that of the straw-man caricatures of "conservative" America as seemingly portrayed by the villain Comstock and the very existence of the city of Columbia (the setting of the game-a flying city created for the Chicago World's Fair to show the might of the new American Empire). The analysis shows that the reviewer, who I do not know personally, is easily misled by the propaganda of the modern media and the Left that caricatures the Right as, in his words, "Their religion is a cult of personality based around worshiping modern political leaders and in deifying the founding fathers as infallible. It borrows aesthetics from Christianity while ignoring the messages of tolerance and kindness found in the New Testament in return for Old Testament morality and the apocalyptic imagery of Revelations. They glorify war, xenophobia, isolationism, and American exceptionalism. They accept economic inequality as just, even explicitly deserved. They've even seceded from the actual political entity of the United States because of their “more American than thou” attitude."

This entire diatribe strikes me as unfair, exceedingly biased, and furthermore completely detached from the lessons of history. My response is that he has the entire thing ass-backwards (or perhaps back-asswards?): the game is not an indictment of conservatism per-se, but rather a poignant and vividly-detailed example of what happens when a civilized society is poisoned by ideology.

Conservatism, as explained by Russell Kirk, is "the negation of ideology." Contrary to what the reviewer would have many believe about us conservatives, we are not, at heart, glorifiers of war, xenophobia, isolationism or American exceptionalism. The only thing of that list that might even have half a grain of truth is the charge of exceptionalist sentiment: but is that not a characteristic of all nations and peoples: the feeling that your nation, your culture, your community is in someway special from all others? After looking at the history of America, it is hard not to think that maybe there is something about America that separates it from all other nations in history. Kirk chronicles the rise of America as the accumulation of human wisdom and experience from Jerusalem and Athens through Rome, the Germanic nations, the British Empire, and the colonial experience leading to what he calls the "Philadelphia experiment." We are the latest inheritors of a long line of wisdom and experience from the very beginning of human history, including all the great achievements and horrific mistakes. Conservatives (or, I should say, true conservatives) look upon these accumulated honors and curses as a benediction, not as a messianic crusade or charge, and far from trying to create a mythic American Utopia, we seek to rehabilitate the older, established, intrinsically-human institutions, traditions, and customs for what we know is a different time. Edmund Burke, that great conservative statesman of England, acknowledged that change is a law of nature and is the "means of our preservation." But he cautioned against radical change, the kind that demolishes all that stands in its way of creating a new world.

It is this that Infinite seeks to show and warn us of: the destruction of the old world that we knew (in a sense the devil we knew) and in its place the creation of a new, unpredictable world (the devil we don't know). It is a direct reflection of the sentiments that captivated the American psyche at the turn of the Twentieth Century, that of Progressive Nationalism. Columbia itself is a wonder of science, industry, and human achievement-ergo, Progress. It also shows the might of the American Empire, young, budding, and backed by industrial might that characterized the Progressive vision of the new America. This is neither restricted to the United States (this is the age of Nationalism and the idolization of Progress) nor is it in any way "conservative." In much the same vein as Rapture, Columbia is a testament to man's folly, the difference being that where Rapture showed the consequences of making man unto a god using "objective" reason and science, Columbia and Infinite show the dark side of the cult of personality, the attachment of utopian ideology with pagan mysticism, as well as, with the Vox Populi, the common threat of ideological populism best exemplified by socialism of the Marxist variety.

Now, people may wonder why conservatism of late has commonly assumed the incarnation of what the author described above. The answer is that they are NOT true conservatives. They are neo-conservatives, who are neither new nor conservative. One conservative thinker labeled neocons as "liberals mugged by reality," and are the modern reincarnation of the progressives of yesteryear, with the false god Progress replaced by the idol-worship of "Freedom." As for the so-called idolatry of political thinkers, let's be honest: we conservatives hold Ronald Reagan in high esteem because he embodied many things that true conservatives support. However, it would be foolish to accuse us of "worship": we recognize that no man is inherently a saint, nor do we think that all men are without blemish, a problem that the Left has that few want or deign to acknowledge. No man, no matter how great he may be, escapes Final Judgment before God. If one desires a true version of cult-worship of personality, one only need to hearken back to 2008 and the Cult of Obama. We do not think that the Founding Fathers were infallible, nor were they gods among men. They were men, imbued with what Kirk calls the "unbought grace of life" and were instructed and kept at heart the wisdom of those who came before, made great by their faith in a higher calling and their adherence to the moral principles and ethical lessons learned long before, with the uniquely American experience adding zest to already noble lives. But even a noble life is often one made so by experience, not all of which is happy and oft times stern. Experience, particularly that which is aided and consoled by example is, as Burke noted, the school of mankind, and they will learn at no other.

Apart from the political contentions, I largely agree with the author's notes on the religious themes present, with one major exception. The author likes to stress baptism and the need to acknowledge past sins as part of the process that America needs to go through to cleanse herself of her past. My objection is that of Leopold von Ranke: "History is not a criminal court." What is done is done, and though we deal with the consequences of those that came before, we also have the lessons gleaned from them. It is neither our place nor our duty to castigate our ancestors from over a hundred years ago, only to learn from their accomplishments and mistakes and use them to continue to breathe life into the immortal institutions and traditions, the "permanent things," so that they may be alive for future generations to enjoy. The part of the process that the author forgets is that one is not simply baptized and everything is "fine." The process of redemption is one that takes years, and one must not relapse. The problem with the infinite universes in Infinite is the possibility of relapse lest we forget the lessons of the past. With human nature a constant, it is not unrealistic to think that perhaps a majority of the multiverse planes follow the pattern of human nature: without the guiding light, and the constant attention to the path one treads, even after taking the narrow path at the fork of life, one may fall off into Despond.

In conclusion, I think the lesson of all the Bioshock games is the one that humanity needs to take itself less seriously. God did not create us to be serious and pessimistic: He created us to be happy, and to be joyful stewards of His Creation. As G.K. Chesterton noted, "The angels can fly because they take themselves lightly." And it is with that quote that I lay aside my proverbial pen.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Time is Right

I'll say it if nobody else will: we on the Right have no clue how to win a peace.

How do I mean? I mean that when it comes to political wars, mostly mid-term elections, we can talk a big talk and, seemingly, walk a big walk. We can win elections...and then do nothing with them (best case scenario). It is the same here in America as in Britain to our Tory brothers and sisters.

Why do I think we lost the last election? In a nutshell, we lost because we are adrift. We have fallen, so to speak, into a lie and a folly. That folly and lie is near-akin to the lie propagated by our adversaries for over fifty years that seemingly won't die. And it is this: that all human problems can be solved by either A) more "liberty," more "freedom," and more "stuff"; or B) that a new government program or initiative can bring about more happiness...by giving away more stuff and services.

This is the false dilemma that the GOP (and conservatives in general) are facing: become little more than liberals in all but name or go hard right and become a wholly "libertarian" party.

Here's the rub for my free-market friends and my big-government buddies: both capitalism and socialism are unhealthy in their unrestricted forms as we see them today. They both have the same ending: collectivization, either by the all-encompassing state or by a small number of ultra-massive corporations who set the prices and distribution of all goods and services. We on the Right lost the last election because we fell into the overriding folly of current political discourse: that all things in life must be discussed and addressed in material terms, that everything can be bought at a price, and that material wealth resolves all problems.

And this is just in regards to the economy. Don't get me started on the cultural and social problems.

Our plight, as it were, is that once in power, we continue on with the same old policies of our predecessors or enact policies even more damaging.

The issue is thus: the libertarians are so secular and so materially-minded that to elect them would only hasten the collapse of the GOP. And to become liberals in all but name...well, we know how that turns out.

What is being drowned out is, essentially, the conservative "Third Way": the so-called "Crunchy-Conservatives" that Rod Dreher speaks of in his book of the same name. And this could be their moment.
The GOP drifts without direction, arguing against itself on which direction to take, all the while the Left marches past closer and closer to the cliff at the "end of the world" (as in the flat-earth concept) with their social-democratic utopianism. And to many Americans, the choice between the ineffectual and divided GOP, the party of Big Business and Foreign Intervention and Legislative Morality on the one hand, and the Democrats, the party of Big Government, Judicial-Activist Fiat, and Obamacare is a turn-off. Conservatives who would vote for the GOP don't because they see it as becoming the bipolar clone of the Democratic Party. Its platform of Low Taxes and Small Government, while appealing, fail to address the mess of problems that America faces.

If there was ever a time for the Third-Way Conservatives to exert influence, NOW is the time. Their answers, while probably unpopular with many, will appeal to the majority of thinking persons in the country. It's time for the radical answers (which are actually more conservative than the current answers of the GOP) of conservatism to ascend. A humane economy, the restoration of true justice and natural law, a return to a real understanding on politics and its limits, a smart and less-strong arm foreign policy, the return of federal power to within its proper jurisdiction...I could go on and on. It's a shame that few if any conservatives are seeking out these kinds of answers.

The old answers don't cut it anymore. Time to think outside the box and return to first principles.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Despair Is An Unwelcome Companion: Staying Merry While the World Around You Burns

It is probably pretty sad, but the best conservative bumper sticker I've ever seen reads "Losing Slowly :)."

And while I smile and laugh and agree completely, I find it hard to, as a fellow conservative once advised, "stay merry" while the world around me goes to hell in a hand-basket. The sticker perfectly sums up the fact that to be of a conservative persuasion is to be fighting an eternal losing battle. And that can be pretty depressing, let me tell ya.

Especially in today's world. Everywhere I look I see the things I once took for granted being hammered at from the base or completely demolished in the face of the "general will" (see mob mentality) while good men and women watch on or walk past, oblivious. I see groups that once stood for what was good and true do an about-face and show the world their lack of spine or conviction. I see craven cowardice and unabashed greed. Appalling arrogance leads people to believe that they can achieve anything-only to show, in the end, how feeble and petty men really are when they fall. I see how men, seemingly benign, are actually selling their fellow man either down the river to oblivion or to a form of subservience little better (if at all) than enslavement, the only difference being servitude to the all-encompassing "State" apparatus as opposed to an individual, leading, instead of exploitation of labor a hollowing nihilism that kills the soul, leaving nothing but a husk of a man or woman incapable of independent thought or, for that matter, independence at all.

Our country's children are receiving the worst that human depravity has to show, our schools inundated with violence, drugs, sex, and amorality, with any attempt to rectify it being demonized on high. And it's only getting worse.

In the case of higher education, the situation is as bad as its ever been. If anyone ever bothered to see what passes for education in some of our educational institutions, they would return to reality with a piece of their humanity missing, whatever innocence was left gone forever, stolen by our "popular" culture and culture of death. The monstrous Nothing is pervasive in college. Instead of noblesse oblige, Ability, and "to each his own" (in the sense of classical distributive and commutative justice), our universities teach a crushing leveling that destroys not only aspiration but also imagination, reducing us to pawns and replaceable parts in the great machine, denying us our very humanity.

Truly, Pride is the source of all sin. In our arrogance to believe we can create an earthly Utopia, we have instead built the engines of Hell itself. And have willingly chained ourselves to them, selling our souls for trinkets and prizes that will not follow us in Death.

As you can tell, it can be very hard to stay "merry" with Despair and Melancholy greeting you as you rise every morning. So then, how do we go on? How are we not pulled down by our chains and torn from our souls?

Because we realize that the sting of Death is gone. That every Night must, inevitably, give way to Morning. And that even in a world as broken as ours, as fallen as ours, as unlivable as ours, we Are, we Live, and we CAN Rise above it. And that is why, in spite of the host arrayed against us, we continue to be merry and find comfort in the fact that we CAN, indeed, reclaim the age; that we can, in the end, "Redeem the Time."

Friday, January 25, 2013


It is truly amazing to me what comes to mind when my imagination meets great music. Not long ago I found myself becoming quite enamored with "chillstep" and other "chill" music. Now, this is not the kind of "chill" that you play when you're out with your "homies" smoking joints. Far from it. There's a melody and a harmony and an order that I find in this music that speaks to my soul, in the same way that Javert and Valjean make me weep when I watch Les Miserables.

Fine, go ahead and call me a Romantic at heart.

This music brings such visions to my mind, a peace that I can only find...well, really nowhere, 'cept maybe a church. If someone ever commented that Music is a path to finding God, they were right. Give that man/woman a raise!

Just a few minutes ago, I was listening to a section of a mash-up of "chill piano" with orchestral mixes. There was woodwinds (saxophones?) playing, and all I could imagine was walking along the beach, watching the sun set and the waves of the Mediterranean wash ashore. I think I imagined France, since I do remember quite a bit of my stay there.

Here's some "urbane" piano: I imagine strolling in a long coat (navy peacoat, mind) in NYC circa 1950. The notes are the rain that falls.

A few minutes ago, the tune playing at the time had me envisioning that I was walking with God, transcendent, in a time out of space and a space out of time, with the stars as my step-stones.

Now we're getting a bit darker. A lonely soldier, slouching homeward, head down and shoulders heavy with weariness, beaten in body and mind, though his spirit propels him back to his family and hearth, the silent stars his map, his guide. He hears the voice of the universe, sharing his grief and pain, and all seems like it can't go on. But he can, and he does. He quickens his step, and all he can imagine in his darkened countenance is the warm embrace of his beloved. The night draws near, and he must find shelter. And a beacon shines: a Cross, atop a high steeple, reflecting the light of both Sun and Son. He stumbles forward, his vision clouding as he nears the Eternal Embrace. He weeps at the doors of the church, thinking of his failings, his wife and children and all the things he never achieved. But a warm note emanates from the inside: an organ plays a homily, and a gentle priest answers the knock. He carries the soldier inside, and the soldier begs for mercy and confession, his eyes moist with the tears he never shed before, for himself, for his fellow men, broken by war, for his lord and king, for the children who bear his blood in their veins. But the priest smiles, and comforts him. The soldier asks that the music go on. The organ, playing softly now, continues. And a new music meets his ears: unearthly, a beauty he's never known before. He confesses to the priest, his spirit light and whole as a feeling like the warm sun as it rises on the world embracing him. He leaves his body, flying as if held by eagles, soaring. He lands at his door, and his wife greets him with loving eyes, and his children's delight, and he knows: He is home.

Now I hear a kind of Oriental quality, and imagine a garden. A Feng-Sui garden, all order and harmony, but the peace...delicate, temporal, fleeting.

Now, the death of a star. Exploding with brilliant rays, such destruction. But is it really death? Can Hell's bell really have the final say? For even as the nova signals death, it heralds something new and beautiful: the rays of destruction dance in all the shades of color of the universe, like a dream from God.

Now a sentinel, sure in his duty and stout in his heart, stares out from his keep. He cannot know the darkness that awaits but is sure of his place and of his faith, the knowledge that light shines in even the blackest of nights. He imagines trumpets sounding, and he smiles, eager to manifest his destiny.

Now I see Earth, in all her ephemeral glory, as viewed from above. Such peace, such tranquility, from so high up. No war, no death, no chaos...and yet I see the movement of the clouds, the rotation of the planet, the great system working in its capacity. Order even in chaos.

Please do not be alarmed. These are my musings, the visions I see, the dreams I dream.

Almighty God, thank you for your gifts. Thank you for music. Thank you for dreams. Thank you for making them one and the same. Amen.