Laughing.

There’s a quote from A Streetcar Named Desire that has stayed with me since I was a teenager seeing that old movie for the first time. Here’s the clip:

I, too, have depended on the kindness of strangers. I found great friendship on a conservative UK site; many of those folks have become family to me. I have found patient understanding right here on NEO. Not once – not once! – has anyone called me out or openly laughed in my face regarding this absurd problem I seem to have with proper names. Here’s a little list of proper names snafus for which I am apologizing: Pilot for Pilate; Shawn Hannity for Sean Hannity, President Barlet for President Bartlet. I’m certain the list is longer but my ego can only withstand just so many body blows.

I’m certain you’d be shocked to know that I ‘proofread’ (insert the sound of your laughter here) my essays at least four times before I submit them to NEO for approval. And when I get notification that an essay is going to post that particular day, I read it again – just to be ‘sure’. The only thing I’m ‘sure’ of anymore is that I need a sane person at my desk to gently guide me away from the idiotic mistake I’m going to commit in the next sentence.

Here’s something interesting to make you wonder at: our new priest was born and raised in Ghana, Africa. At some point in his life, he went to school in France – for how long, I don’t know. He’s a naturalized American citizen now. Each Sunday night or Monday morning, he sends me his sermon notes to edit (I heard that snigger, by the way!) and post to our various media. His writings are an odd combination of Gospel, stream of consciousness, a wide palette of colors (or colours as he will sometimes insist), and a wanton abuse of capital letters. I open the file he sends me and the first thing that comes to mind is, “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here”. Gosh! That’s not very charitable of me. Sorry – the truth hurts. I have, at times, become so mired in his ‘creativity’, that I’ve sent his sermons to our beloved Margaret – an endearing woman and inspiration; she writes for that UK site I mentioned earlier and had a career as an editor for newsprint companies in the UK. I get the most delightful replies from her! She thinks I’m mad to even TRY to edit his sermons and she can be downright hilarious in her ‘corrections’. She gives me hope and makes me feel better.

All that was to tell you that as bad – really bad! – as I am at proper names, I at least can get my point across in a fairly logical, chronological order. So; there’s that.

Listen friends – the next time you see a hopelessly mangled proper name, feel free to call me out on it. It could become a game, like ‘find the hidden object is this picture’. Be sure of one thing – I’ll be laughing.

 

I Wish I was Neo.

As you well know, I am neither politically savvy nor a student of history. Far from, on both counts. But I admire those talents greatly and wish I had paid more attention in school and then throughout my life. But I didn’t and so I spend time playing catchup with folks like Neo who I will never even be able to see as the carrot in front of me because he is so far ahead of me.

Aside from voting for President Trump, and knowing and understanding the Republican Platform, the two years I’ve been retired have been my high school civics/government class. It’s been an eye-opener. I watched, from start to finish, a Supreme Court nominee’s confirmation trial – er, hearing, watched how a wrongly inspired and badly presented impeachment process is done, have watched unemployment across the board and especially in the minorities crash to very low numbers, saw the Market skyrocket, and watched mainstream media drop all disguise of being fair and impartial. Then the ‘you know what’ and I’m not even going to look at that. I don’t want to and you can’t make me.

My other class of note has been West Wing. Let me just defend myself by saying I love the writing, the snappy smartass remarks that still make me laugh, even in my fifth binge. I like the characters and I like the human interest stories that seem to people most episodes. The three episodes of President Barlet being shot still gets me upset and teary (actually, the result of too many mandatory ‘active shooter’ videos at the last place I worked). There is really nothing I don’t like about West Wing. Except for Democrat policies. The writers understood the Democrat Platform (they could never produce this program today – socialism in its current form is far more frightening than the socialism of the period 1999-2006 during which the series was written and filmed. Today’s socialism is so crass, so over-the-top, so unhinged that today’s West Wing would have be shown after 11 o’clock at night.

Here’s the most notable thing: the members of the Barlet Administration are highly principled, incredibly intelligent and educated, and willing to risk their professional lives to push for whatever stupid policy they believe to be important for ‘the people’. I have seriously given this thought. If I had to name one person to whom I could apply the above attributes within the Democrat Party, there is not one person who stands out. Not one. It seems this Democrat Party is the amalgamation of horrible people with no principles that do nothing but enhance themselves over their constituents. There is no love of country. There is no respect for American history. There is no regard for anyone or anything that is not them and their twisted, sick, dark view of the future they would create is so frightening, so scary, I can’t even pretend to look at it. Like Medusa, I’m afraid if I look at it, I’ll turn to stone or go insane.

Instead, I get my updates and hat straightened when I read Neo posts. When I read the wonderful comments by the historians who reside here at NEO. But truth to tell, I sometimes wish I was Neo.

An afterword from Neo.

I’m very flattered, Audre that you would think you would. But like us all, I’m a product of all my yesterday’s. And many of mine have been hard indeed, not excluding ridiculously long hours, poverty, job loss, a bit of homelessness, a lack of family, and much more.

Have I learned from all of it, the bad, the worse, and the better? Sure, but it has left me a cynical curmudgeon, who recognizes he got exactly what he deserved. I spent most of my life dealing with power that might kill you quick, but more often left the careless, sloppy, or even just unlucky worker screaming in pain in the burn ward for months before dying from it. I knew some of them, some were friends. Some of the people I worked with over the years would have joined them if I and others hadn’t watched out for them. It left me a hard-ass supervisor with a fetish for doing things right the first time. But that is not really career or life-enhancing these days, even if it does allow one to sleep at night.

My love for history, and its current interpretation in politics, is also a legacy, from my family and some really good teachers, again tempered by life experiences nobody should have. It too has left me cynical, detesting almost all politicians, and their sycophants in big business, big labor, and all the other ‘bigs’ only slightly less. My contempt for the utterly clueless who mostly teach these subjects these days is bottomless. There are of course exceptions, the historians and buffs who hang about here are amongst them. But teachers as a class have become amongst the most cowardly people in society while clinging to the status that real teachers won decades, even centuries, ago.

So, count your blessings, dear Audre, you are not me and that is a very good thing. Reminds me that Jess once said she had no desire to be equal to men, why would she demean her self so?

Waiting for the Barbarians

Edmund Burke wrote, in his Reflections on the Revolution in France:

But one of the first and most leading principles on which the commonwealth and the laws are consecrated, is lest the temporary possessors and life-renters in it, unmindful of what they have received from their ancestors, or of what is due to their posterity, should act as if they were the entire masters; that they should not think it amongst their rights to cut off the entail, or commit waste on the inheritance, by destroying at their pleasure the whole original fabric of their society; hazarding to leave to those who come after them, a ruin instead of an habitation – and teaching these successors as little to respect their contrivances, as they had themselves respected the institutions of their forefathers. By this unprincipled facility of changing the state as often, and as much, and in as many ways as there are floating fancies or fashions, the whole chain and continuity of the commonwealth would be broken. No one generation could link with the other. Men would become little better than the flies of summer.

Paul Krause writes in American Thinker about that very concept.

The West is a dying civilization. That much is evident.

But it mustn’t be. Who will defend the flame that once illuminated the skies and sang songs of ascents up on high? In the rush to destroy all things Western, few so-called conservatives—anywhere—risk themselves to defend our patrimony and our future. [..]

The riots are not about George Floyd, police reform and accountability, or justice. The riots are the systematic attempt to exterminate Western civilization and culture from the very lands in which its roots are planted. […]

Multiculturalism is not about multiculturalism. That is the greatest misnomer of all time. Multiculturalism is the veiled vehicle for dismantling and destroying Western civilization. This is not about political power as asinine conservatives often say. This is about civilizational desecration and destruction.

When multiculturalists complain about European and American statues, they are only voicing their genuine attitude of resentful hatred. What hath the multiculturalist in common with Julius Caesar, George Washington, or Horatio Nelson? Nothing. And they never will. Even if they reside in Western nations. Multiculturalists hate all Western heroes precisely because they’re Western. Even white abolitionists are targets of their rage because they are “murderers” and “colonists.” Anything and everything Western, as Susan Sontag said, is “the cancer of humanity.”

That is the truth that no liberal or the pseudo-conservative of Conservative, Inc. want you to realize. They are all wreckers, and what they mean to wreck is western civilization, and they are succeeding. Paul thinks, as do I, that only America can preserve our heritage. Here’s why.

We are the Keepers of the Flame in the City on the Hill

What makes the American unique is that he is the product of all of Europe and European history converged onto this New World and New Continent. Without the Greek victory at Salamis there would be no America. Without Alexander the Great there would be no America. Without Julius Caesar or Augustus Caesar there would be no America. Without Charles Martel there would be no America. Without Christopher Columbus there would be no America. (And this is why the multiculturalist tears down statues of Columbus—they only defile Western heroes.) Without Sir Francis Drake there would be no America. Without James Wolfe there would be no America. Every great Western hero of the past is now on the chopping block of the multiculturalist terror campaign.

Americans have the richest history and heritage precisely because we are the children of pilgrims, adventurers, and lovers stretching across the millennia whose actions made safe the possibility for the European settlement of the New World. This would serve conservatives well if they understood this fact and embraced it. The Greek heroes at Thermopylae and Salamis died for us. The Franks who died stopping an Islamic invasion of Europe died for us. The Catholics who fought the Turks at Lepanto died for us. The brave and heroic sailors, settlers, and pioneers who died in the New World died for us. If we love them let us honor them and immortalize them. We once did. Now we must show our love for them again in defending them against the new barbarians from within.

We are, in a sense no other country shares, the west incarnate. From English roots we embraced all of European civilization, incorporating the best from each and discarding the worst. We are the culmination of western civilization, and the most powerful nation to ever spring from Pallas Athena’s brow. For those very reasons, it is our task, our duty, and our honor to defend all the rest. If not us, who?

Do read the article, the excerpts I’ve quoted only provide a taste.

Otherwise, we become the city in Cavafy’s poem.

Waiting for the Barbarians

What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum?
      The barbarians are due here today.
Why isn’t anything going on in the senate?
Why are the senators sitting there without legislating?
      Because the barbarians are coming today.
      What’s the point of senators making laws now?
      Once the barbarians are here, they’ll do the legislating.
Why did our emperor get up so early,
and why is he sitting enthroned at the city’s main gate,
in state, wearing the crown?
      Because the barbarians are coming today
      and the emperor’s waiting to receive their leader.
      He’s even got a scroll to give him,
      loaded with titles, with imposing names.
Why have our two consuls and praetors come out today
wearing their embroidered, their scarlet togas?
Why have they put on bracelets with so many amethysts,
rings sparkling with magnificent emeralds?
Why are they carrying elegant canes
beautifully worked in silver and gold?
      Because the barbarians are coming today
      and things like that dazzle the barbarians.
Why don’t our distinguished orators turn up as usual
to make their speeches, say what they have to say?
      Because the barbarians are coming today
      and they’re bored by rhetoric and public speaking.
Why this sudden bewilderment, this confusion?
(How serious people’s faces have become.)
Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly,
everyone going home lost in thought?
      Because night has fallen and the barbarians haven’t come.
      And some of our men just in from the border say
      there are no barbarians any longer.
Now what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?
Those people were a kind of solution.

It can be so delicate; so fragile.

I have a friend whose religious background is vaguely Anglican. When a child, she was brought – and sometimes not – to church for the special holidays of the church year. But there was no real commitment in her home growing up; nothing much in the way of Bible study or learning the Canons of the Church. No real catechesis, no Jesus stories for children. Her understanding, at now 60 plus years, is that of a small child. Maybe.

My friend discovered Anglican TV on YouTube and enjoyed the conversations when there were three panelists – one has since left the Anglican Church and has joined the Church of Rome. But that’s not important; what’s important is that she started to take an adult’s interest in her religious tradition. Always political, she grasped first at the things that had political overtones that were Anglican and sort of got comfortable with talking and light reading about Anglicanism. I was very careful to let her find her own way. If she had questions, I answered. If I didn’t know the answer, I knew where to look to get her answers.

I was tooling about YouTube one morning and something caught my eye. I always think of YouTube as this great, huge, domed place with rooms and corridors and dark places and sunlit windows – a treasure trove for wanderers; sometimes a black hole for those who prefer the dark over the light but by and large, a wonderful place to mine for previously unknown gems. What I had discovered was the books of the Bible, Old and New Testaments, read by Alexander Scourby. I listened to the Book of Mark and thoroughly enjoyed the actor’s subtle reading – acting without acting. Very much a big fan now, I had sent my friend the link to St. Mark. She had only read a little bit of the Bible in her life but something about the reading by Scourby touched her in a special way; she is reading the Bible now, while listening to the video version of whatever book she is reading. She says it helps her to process what she’s reading.

A sudden personal tragedy has just recently happened in her life and she was looking for verses that would be comforting. I took my 1928 Book of Common Prayer from the shelf, opened it to the Burial service and found one that I thought would be a salve for her. The Holy Spirit does wonderful things if you step aside and let Him. It did, indeed, bring her comfort and she was grateful. I never take credit for things like this; who could? But I told her how happy I was that it brought her some peace. Just for my own peace of mind, I contacted my priest and he thought what I had given her was a good choice so I was greatly relieved.

She loves to bake and found a recipe for Bible Cake. All the ingredients are from passages in the Bible. How clever is that? It’s in an air-tight tin under her bed right now. I know that sounds funny but my Mom used to do that with her Christmas fruit cake – kept in a cool place for a couple of weeks for all the ingredients to ‘marry’ and become one delicious flavor. Then she found a recipe for Bible Stew which she is looking forward to producing in the days ahead. She mentioned today that she likes to sit outside on a bench near a church close by and thought about having the priest bless her Bible Cake; I said she should take Sweetie, her beloved feline companion of twelve years, and have her blessed as well. Not knowing about the area in which she lives, I suggested she should do some research and see if there’s a church that does the ‘blessing of the animals’ and she did. It made her happy as she has a fear of losing Sweetie and what her life will be like without her.

I am so humbled, and blessed, by her sharing her faith journey with me. I am so aware that I’m being given the chance to watch a Christian grow, like a little green shoot. I pray for her continuing steps along the path. I am sensitive to her searching and reaching for the Lord. There’s no more fulfilling journey than the one she on – delicate and fragile. May all her steps be on level ground.

The Dead Cow Lecture

It’s my oldest friend’s birthday today, and my favorite lawyer, and children’s author as well. She’s also the only classmate I ever considered a real friend, and have since Kindergarten.

Happy Birthday, Shelli! 🎁🎆👍😀

First-year students at the Purdue Vet School were attending their first anatomy class with a real dead cow. They all gathered around the surgery table with the body covered with a white sheet.

The professor started the class by telling them, “In Veterinary medicine it is necessary to have two important qualities as a doctor. The first is that you not be disgusted by anything involving the animal’s body.” For an example, the professor pulled back the sheet, stuck his finger in the butt of the cow, withdrew it, and stuck his finger in his mouth.

“Go ahead and do the same thing,” he told his students.

The students freaked out, hesitated for several minutes, but eventually took turns sticking a finger in the butt of the dead cow and sucking on it.

When everyone finished, the Professor looked a them and said, “The second most important quality is observation. Note: I stuck in my middle finger and sucked on my index finger. Now learn to pay attention. Life’s tough but it’s even tougher if you’re stupid.”

The Dead Cow Lecture.

That’s lesson number one from the Neo school of management: Pay attention to the professor. 🙂

Men (and Women) Without Chests

There was an excellent article by Jack Kerwick yesterday on FrontPage Magazine describing how academia is producing men (and women) without chests. You may well know that the phrase is from C.S. Lewis and is entirely apt.

Jonathan Haidt, a liberal and professor at New York University, pulls no punches: “Because of a lack of viewpoint diversity, policies are implemented to promote ends that are sometimes antithetical to free inquiry and the Socratic spirit.”  Haidt knows all too well that of which he speaks.  Continuing, he remarks that his own university has instituted “‘a bias response line’” that “encourages” students to “anonymously report anyone who says anything that offends them.”  Thus, “as a professor, I no longer take risks; I must teach to the most easily offended student in the class. I therefore avoid saying or doing anything provocative.”

Consequently: “My classes are less fun and engaging.”

And as such worth neither the time nor money to attend, which I suspect Professor Haidt would agree with.

Charles Murray, a scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, is to the point:

The telos of the university is truth.  It cannot have a second telos. There is no such thing as a university that fully supports the search for truth and also pursues a social-justice agenda, for example….

Spot on, there is quite a little more, and you should read it all. It’s been quite a while since I read Lewis’ The Abolition of Man which is where the phrase comes from, and so so quick research was indicated. The very best analysis I found was from The Art of Manliness, which surprised me not at all. It didn’t because The Art of Manliness is one of the best sites for men to learn how to be men, and not the whimpering whingers we see all around us. It’s worth some of your time, if not daily, regularly. Brett and Kate write:

Nearly all religions and philosophical schools, whether Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Aristotelianism, Stoicism, or Platonism, Lewis observes, posit that there is an underlying natural order to the world, and Truth is that which most clearly reflects and explains this reality. To uphold this “doctrine of objective value” is to believe that “certain attitudes are really true, and others really false, to the kind of thing the universe is and the kind of things we are.”

Lewis feels this perspective is best described by the Chinese concept of Tao:

“It is the reality beyond all predicates . . .  It is Nature, it is the Way, the Road. It is the Way in which the universe goes on, the Way in which things everlastingly emerge, stilly and tranquilly, into space and time. It is also the Way which every man should tread in imitation of that cosmic and supercosmic progression, conforming all activities to that great exemplar.”

Within the objective reality of Nature, exist people, places, and things which possess an objective value, and are thus deserving of varying levels of esteem and respect:

“until modern times all teachers and even all men believed the universe to be such that certain emotional reactions on our part could be either congruous or incongruous to it — believed, in fact, that objects did not merely receive, but could merit our approval or disapproval, our reverence or our contempt.”

Given that the value of things is objective, then they should elicit certain responses from us. The night sky should elicit a feeling of humility; the story of a courageous warrior should elicit a feeling of veneration; little children should elicit a feeling of delight; a friend’s father’s death should elicit a feeling of empathy; a kind act should elicit a feeling of gratitude.

While the nature of emotional responses is partly visceral and automatic, a man’s sentiments also have to be intentionally educated in order to be congruent — to be more in harmony with Nature. Such training teaches a man to evaluate things as more or less just, true, beautiful, and good, and to proportion his affections as merited. As Lewis notes, this training was considered central to one’s development throughout antiquity:

“St Augustine defines virtue as ordo amoris, the ordinate condition of the affections in which every object is accorded that kind of degree of love which is appropriate to it. Aristotle says that the aim of education is to make the pupil like and dislike what he ought. . . . Plato before him had said the same. The little human animal will not at first have the right responses. It must be trained to feel pleasure, liking, disgust, and hatred at those things which really are pleasant, likeable, disgusting and hateful.”

Read all of that too, and if we begin to act accordingly, we will begin to heal our society.

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