That’s why it’s poetry

Sir, you can’t translate poetry into prose. That’s why it’s poetry.

Caitlin Johnstone quoted that in a column that greatly exceeded my expectations Seven Reasons Why I Make Art (And Why You Should,Too. I began pulling excerpts, then concluded that I’d be doing a particular disservice if anyone took my excerpts as adequate representations.

But she embedded a video that was evocative, and I found a transcript. Read it as poetry, free verse:

Catalysts to say what has never been said, to see what has never been seen. To draw, paint, sing, sculpt, dance and act what has never before been done. To push the envelope of creativity and language and what’s really important is, I call it, the felt presence of direct experience which is a fancy term which just simply means we have to stop consuming our culture. We have to create culture.

Don’t watch TV, don’t read magazines, don’t even listen to NPR. Create your own roadshow. The nexus of space and time, where you are now, is the most immediate sector of your universe and if you’re worrying about Michael Jackson or Bill Clinton or somebody else, you are disempowered. You are giving it all away to icons, icons which are maintained by an electronic media, so that you want to dress like X or have lips like Y or something. This is shit-brained, this kind of thinking.

That is all cultural diversion and what is real is you and your friends and your associations, your highs, your orgasms, your hopes, your plans, and your fears… and we are told no, we’re unimportant, we’re peripheral, “get a degree”, “get a job”, get a this, get a that, and then you’re a player. You don’t even want to play in that game. You want to reclaim your mind and get it out of the hands of the cultural engineers who want to turn you into a half-baked moron consuming all this trash that’s being manufactured out of the bones of a dying world. Where is that at?

Terence McKenna, Reclaim Your Mind (emphasis added).

“Beauty will save the world” is variously attributed, but I like the attribution to Dostoyevsky, who know who Beauty was.

Then why are so many Christians “half-baked morons”? I suspect it’s because their “art” is reliably propagandistic, and they’ve allowed Beauty to be twisted into ideology (a synonym or close cognate of Johnstone’s “narrative”). Johnstone’s “narrative matrix of the propagandists” certainly encompasses Evangelical megachurches and television evangelists (I’m thinking of you especially, Falwell fils and Robert Jefress, but Joel Osteen merits separate dishonorable mention).

My contribution to spreading beauty has been singing. I haven’t sung explicitly subversive songs for about 50 years, but because much of the western choral canon is sacred, I’ve been singing tacit subversion to this secularizing culture for most of 55 years now.

I may try my hand at poetry, if I can get over the hangup that the only poetic forms I halfway know are limerick and Haiku.

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You can read my more impromptu stuff at (mirrored at and, as of February 20, 2019, at Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

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Justin ♥ Hailey

He had what he calls “a legitimate problem with sex.” It was his remaining vice, an addiction that had long since ceased to provide him any pleasure. Not having sex, he decided, was a way for him to feel closer to God. “He doesn’t ask us not to have sex for him because he wants rules and stuff,” Justin explains. “He’s like, I’m trying to protect you from hurt and pain. I think sex can cause a lot of pain. Sometimes people have sex because they don’t feel good enough. Because they lack self-worth. Women do that, and guys do that. I wanted to rededicate myself to God in that way because I really felt it was better for the condition of my soul.”

This (H/T GetReligion) is not profound, but it’s better than I would have expected from Justin Bieber.

Except the next three damned sentences:

“And I believe that God blessed me with Hailey as a result. There are perks. You get rewarded for good behavior.”

The longer I live, the more I think my parents’ suspicions of Christians in the entertainment industry had a lot of truth in them. I’ve even got half-baked theories on why celebs so often crash and burn spiritually, but I’ll spare you.

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You can read my more impromptu stuff at (mirrored at and, as of February 20, 2019, at Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

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Cultural Marxism?

When I was a conservative Protestant 20+ years ago, I and others developed the bad rhetorical habit of labeling any liberalizing trend we disliked as “Secular Humanism” at work. That term was used every bit as imprecisely as the journalistic “fundamentalist” so often applied to us.

Today, many conservatives, both religious and secular, have developed a verbal tic of calling everything they dislike “cultural Marxism.” I rise to my own defense to note that (a) “cultural Marxism” has no home in my mental framework and (b) at least secular humanism was something that actually existed (and still exists, as does religious humanism of which I’m an adherent), whereas I’m not sure that there exists anything corresponding to the epithet “Cultural Marxism.”

My skepticism was reinforced last evening as I listened to an Orthodox Christian giving a talk at a symposium held at a Russian Orthodox monastery recently. His overall thesis (don’t essentialize the sexual passions) was attractive, and probably could have been stated in just a few minutes. But he was allocated 20 minutes, so he recounted his version of how sexual passions came to be essentialized, and Cultural Marxism kept popping up.

At one point, he said this:

The idea of individual customized sexual identities and rights to the same paradoxically grew from western legalistic tendencies, originating in the emphasis on Original Sin in the west, and the desire to replace in the Church the laws of the fallen western empire.

The type of disembodiment we see in current secular sexual ideology, based on a twisted version of that earlier western sense of natural law, oddly reflects the materialism of both Cultural Marxism and capitalism. Their common ethos encourages us to be what we will, what we conceptualize, to break down boundaries of organic physical form and mortal limitation by technology.

In this lies a utopianism ….

Immediately, the coin dropped. There’s nothing “odd” about materialism producing similar idiocy in Marxist bogeymen and our beloved-but-straying capitalist bretheren and sisteren: Indeed, one could as well describe all the baneful developments attributed to a conspiratorial-sounding “cultural Marxism” to the late-stage eventuality of consumer capitalism — with neither so much as one tin hat nor one hypothesis about smoke-filled rooms (in the Frankfurt School, presumably).

I’m going to be reading and listening critically hereafter to see if my new hypothesis fits the facts, as I don’t think the Cultural Marxism trope has fully run its course yet.

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You can read my more impromptu stuff at (mirrored at and, as of February 20, 2019, at Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

Posted in Capitalism, Duly noted_stay tuned, Orthodoxy, Sexualia, Thrown down gauntlet | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Meritocracy or virtue?

I’ve noticed something odd about the (still relatively early but) angry commentary over the college admissions scandal, whereby celebrities, “ethical fund” managers, parenting book authors and others crossed legal lines to get their slacker children into elite colleges (or at least more elite than they could get into on true merit). The odd thing is the trope that these parents are arranging for their children to “get ahead” unfairly.

But what is this “getting ahead” in the first place? What virtue is there in it? So far as I can tell, there is none whatsoever.

“Getting ahead” means superficially looking like a meritocratic success. And America is all about superfice.

What is the reality for these slackers? So far as I can tell, it’s going to hell in a delusional cocoon — or whatever sad fate awaits those lacking virtue.

So it seems to me that the most fruitful discussions that can arise out of this chapter in the annals of American superficiality are, as has always been the case, what it means to be human, and more particularly what it means to be a person of virtue — a prize infinitely more valuable than glitz and glamor.

And if you happen to favor deontological or consequentialist ethics, as the commentariat appears to, what these parents did will still fail your ethical tests. It’s unethical all the way down.

But it’s all these parents know in their bones, whatever platitudes pass their lips or gets printed in a child-raising book or fund prospectus.

So why would any sane person want their child to join their ranks?

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You can read my more impromptu stuff at (mirrored at and, as of February 20, 2019, at Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

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Major Party Synopsis

In this freakish political atmosphere, where next year’s Presidential primaries are already populating themselves, my synopsis of the parties generally.

Both parties are deathworks, but the Democrats are careening toward insanity more giddily than the Republicans:

  • Same-sex marriage
  • Abortion
  • Hatred of observant Christians
  • Hostility toward observant Judaism
  • Intellectual fads like intersectionality
  • Foisting our sexual revolution on the rest of the world
  • Celebration of cultural decadence

I can’t even give Democrats an edge on dovishness. Hillary Clinton was more hawkish than Donald Trump (at least before hiring John Bolton away from Fox, soup-strainer and all); the median plausible Democrat is probably as apt to wag the dog as the median plausible Republican.

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You can read my more impromptu stuff at (mirrored at and, as of February 20, 2019, at Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

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The Cyruses we need

The sexuality scholars of the time fancied themselves edgy characters exploding bourgeois norms. They took pleasure in deriding older scholars, the “dead wood” who devoted their careers to such square projects as the Standard Edition of John Dryden. They, by contrast, wrote books with such titles as Sexual Dissidence: Augustine to Wilde, Freud to Foucault; Sodometries: Renaissance Texts, Modern Sexualities; and Vested Interests: Cross-dressing and Cultural Anxiety. The key words of the day were “subversive” and “transgressive.”

Paglia showed them what subverting and transgressing really looked like, mocking the tenured radicals’ bogus cultural politics—bourgeois lives in leafy college towns and hip urban neighborhoods—and inept handling of bohemian, illicit material.…

… It was taken as a sign of profundity, not incoherence, that few people could untangle sentences such as this from Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1990):

Once the incest taboo is subjected to Foucault’s critique of the repressive hypothesis in The History of Sexuality, that prohibitive or juridical structure is shown both to instate compulsory heterosexuality within a masculinist sexual economy and to enable a critical challenge to that economy.

Rather than labor to translate such a sentence into English, Paglia mocked it. Why take these writers’ half-baked “readings” and low standards seriously, she asked. They come from dilettantes, not creative minds.

In 1991 Paglia spoke at Harvard, where she accused the university of hiring “trendy people in cultural studies centers who believe that the world was created by Foucault in 1969.”…

… Since those professors were too ensconced and comfortable to improve, or even to carry out the basic pedagogical duties, the students must take charge of their own education:

First, make the library your teacher. Rediscover the now neglected works of the great scholars of the last 150 years, who worked blessedly free of the mental pollutants of poststructuralism. Immerse yourself in the reference collection, and master chronology and etymology. Refuse to cooperate with the coercive ersatz humanitarianism that insultingly defines women and African-Americans as victims. Insist on free thought and free speech.

The critique struck home. Under Paglia’s raillery, the theorists of sex and politics looked like small ignorant figures in spite of their knowing demeanor. All they really understood was academic politics, which they played very well. Paglia demonstrated that they had erected a social network that operated on cronyism and prestige, which would collapse as soon as a few genuinely erudite and courageous critics challenged them.

In Provocations Paglia declares that the heart of the ’60s movements was “a new religious vision,” whose votaries cared about political reform, but “were also seeking the truth about life outside [existing] religious and social institutions.” The truth came before politics, sex, rebellion, or drugs. The truth Paglia identified long ago is that in all human beings there is an “emotional turmoil that is going on above and below politics, outside the scheme of social life.” Great art touches it, and so does religion. Individuals who respond to art and religion understand that when politics and social life presume to replace them as right expressions of that turmoil, they falsify it instead…and Paglia won’t countenance a lie. That puts her at odds with every institution liberals have managed to seize, from academia to the Democratic Party. But if you mentioned that to her, she would shrug and get on with the truth-telling. She has nature on her side.

Mark Bauerlein, Force of Nature, Claremont Review of Books.

A lot of Evangelicals reportedly believe that Donald Trump is kind of like King Cyrus in Jewish Scriptures/Old Testament (pick your preference), sent to rescue Real Christians® from liberal captivity.

I’m more inclined to think that Camille Paglia and Jordan Peterson, neither of them Real Christians® but with extraordinary crap detectors, are doing the Lord’s work, probably unwittingly, in demolishing parts of the deathworks. (They are two reasons I believe in common grace and natural law.)

It remains to us to walk out of the rubble.

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You can read my more impromptu stuff at (mirrored at and, as of February 20, 2019, at Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

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Good, profitable, dirty fun

On Fat Tuesday, 1988, I was in Boston for a Technology in the Practice of Law conference. (I was a very techy lawyer, relatively speaking: I traveled with my TRS-80 Model 100 for real-time notes and an NEC Multispeed HD 15-pound luggable for post-processing those notes, transferred by serial cable.)

I went out walking in the not-too-chilly coastal March evening, and was impressed by the number of pious college boys retching and relieving themselves in the alleys after doing their darndest to get into the True Spirit of Lent. I’m sure all of them got their ashes the next day and abstained from vice for the next 46 days.

I don’t care to see how far N’Awlins outdoes Boston, and I sure don’t plan ever to contribute to Brazil’s $1.8 billion annual tourist trade by doing Carnival, especially as I might get some sprayover golden shower on me.

A few principled Brazilian politicians — pecksniffs if you’re Bloomberg’s South America correspondent — took some issue with the “cherished, if hedonistic and boozy, cultural institution” (New York Times), whose justification is the riches that pour into Brazil from tourists less repressed than I.

There is something of the deathworks in Carnival, it seems to me, but I’ll let that go.

There definitely is something of the deathworks in the Bloomberg correspondent’s take on the Mayor who expressed some disapproval in advance and pulled some public funds:

Brazil as usual was on fine-feathered display during this year’s Carnival, the rolling street party that captures this nation at its irreverent best

Rio’s Carnival is Brazil’s signature holiday, the premier attraction for international tourists, and a vitamin jolt for a city still staggered by three years of economic prostration.

Rio pulls in 30 percent of the 6.78 billion reais ($1.8 billion) in tourist revenue that Brazil is expected to generate this year, according to a study by the National Confederation of Goods, Services and Tourism. So skimping on Rio’s carnival is shortchanging Brazil. “Crivella doesn’t understand the difference between his private beliefs and his public role,” anthropologist and noted carnival scholar Roberto DaMatta told me. “As mayor he’s part of Carnival’s cast.”

(Emphasis added)

“Irreverence,” the mocking of holy things, is good business, you see, and the Mayor of Rio is derelict in his duty if he doesn’t bow to the new gods of debauchery once per year on the new high anti-holy day.

Surely I’m overreacting, you may say. Well, judge for yourself, from the New York Times description:

As millions of Brazilians enjoyed the last few hours of Carnival, Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s far-right president, denounced what he said was the debauchery of the festivities, and posted a video on Twitter that he presented as graphic proof.

“I don’t feel comfortable showing this, but we have to expose the truth so the people can be aware,” the president wrote alongside a video he posted that showed one man urinating on another in public. “This is what many street parties during Carnival have turned into.”

The video shows a man, wearing a black jockstrap, dancing on what appears to be a bus stop. At one point a second man urinates on the head of the man in the jockstrap. Mr. Bolsonaro urged his 3.4 million Twitter followers to draw their own conclusions and comment on the video.

… the post signals that Mr. Bolsonaro sees value in stoking societal debates over sexual orientation and morality that turbocharged his rise to power.

Note well that the saints in this story are the purported B&D boys taking golden showers, while the sinners are those who suggest that such ought not be taken in public — transvaluation of values and a deathwork in the combined names of mammon and iconic iconoclasm.

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You can read my more impromptu stuff at (mirrored at and, as of February 20, 2019, at Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

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A few weeks ago, our old male cat died. I’m not wired to need a pet, but my wife is, so after reading up on cat dander, dander supression and such (we have allergic family members), we adopted a Calico cat, 10 months old, a week ago.

I fear she had lived in cages continuously since weaning, but a week later, she seems to be overcoming her timidity about freedom quite well. Even I, pet-indifferent though I be, can anthropomorphize enough to be glad of that.

The adoption, oddly, got me thinking about death again: Even if I live well beyond my three score and ten (which I’ve already attained, and which longevity I’m striving for at the gym), this young cat is fairly likely to outlive me.

As a religious matter, I’m admonished that mindfulness of death is salutary, and I don’t think I’m being morose about it. One of my favorite homilists spots me by almost a decade, and fairly regularly quips that he “hasn’t got time” for this or that nonsense because his clock is running down (he cranks out new books regularly). I suspect that a similar sense has emboldened me to take on the deathworks in my own small way.

In addition to just reaching our individual “sell-by” dates, unknown to any but God, human beings make themselves deathly sick in various ways, seemingly voluntary but subjectively compulsive.

My personal favorite is gluttony, so once again, I’m using MyFitnessPal to count calories, aspiring to descend from morbid obesity to mere obesity (“try to lose 10%,” says my doctor whose own weight I’ve seen yo-yo over the decades). After that, we’ll see; BMI 30 is a dream of mine.

And then there’s smoking, the all-purpose menace. I got that monkey off my back for good about 35 years or so ago, but I co-suffered with a treasured friend as her chain-smoking husband underwent open-heart surgery and cardio rehab only to be felled by after-discovered metastatic lung cancer, all in the space of 12 months.

If something gives our pleasure centers a buzz, the fear of death seems pretty powerless to stop us repeating it.

Syphilis and gonnorhea used to be the biggies in the sexual realm, yet they continued flourishing until antibiotics knocked them down for at least a while (don’t discount antibiotic resistance).

Still, when oral contraceptives and antibiotics seemed to make random fornication safe, fornication increased, so fear seems anecdotally to play some role, just as it plays a role in getting me away from the table and to the gym.

(Somehow, a whole new array of exotic STDs emerged, as if Someone were telling us “multiple sexual partners is not what you’re designed for.” The Important People drew a different lesson, and admonished us that random fornication wasn’t safe, after all, without good, old-fashioned rubbers. Oh well!)

Those of us who’ve avoided or ceased a particular vice can become unduly censorious about it. C.S. Lewis, drawing an analogy that I only vaguely recall, reminded his readers that the sinfulness of gluttony had never led Christendom to ban the sale of liver pills. Today’s gluttons enjoy the modern version of those liver pills: statins, blood-pressure medications, insulin and milder meds for control of the stuff that raises A1C levels — for each of which I personally am grateful.

So how can I begrudge anyone the emerging miracle of HIV eradication by stem-cell treatments, of which there appear to be two cases so far? Even I, “cisgendered” and hetero though I be, can empathize enough to be glad of that.

But do put them in context:

Scientists are struggling to find a cure for HIV, a virus notorious for hiding in the body and evading attempts to flush it out. Nearly 37 million people have been infected world-wide over the past four decades. While more than 21 million take drugs that keep them alive and reduce the spread, an estimated 1.8 million people were newly infected in 2017.

(Wall Street Journal) Two cures in 37 million cases isn’t  “WOOHOO!!!” just yet.

But it’s a small lifework, though less consequential so far than antiretroviral drugs that merely keep HIV at bay.

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You can read my more impromptu stuff at (mirrored at and, as of February 20, 2019, at Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

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A belated anniversary notice

My blog title change, and acknowledgement of the blog’s evolved focus, wasn’t timed this way, but this is, coincidentally, 9 years and 1 day after I began blogging here.

Some things remain the same: I’m still a big fan of Fr. Stephen Freeman.

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You can read my more impromptu stuff at (mirrored at and, as of February 20, 2019, at Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

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Men thrashing women – a deathwork

“Letting men compete as women simply if they change their name and take hormones is unfair — no matter how those athletes may throw their weight around,” the 62-year-old Navratilova wrote. “[T]he rules on trans athletes reward cheats and punish the innocent.” She added: “It’s insane and it’s cheating. I am happy to address a transgender woman in whatever form she prefers, but I would not be happy to compete against her.

Athlete Ally’s response was swift and certain:

Martina Navratilova’s recent comments on trans athletes are transphobic, based on a false understanding of science and data, and perpetuate dangerous myths that lead to the ongoing targeting of trans people through discriminatory laws, hateful stereotypes and disproportionate violence.

“First of all, trans women are women, period,” the organization’s statement continued. “They did not decide their gender identity any more than someone decides to be gay, or to have blue eyes. There is no evidence at all that the average trans woman is any bigger, stronger, or faster than the average cisgender woman,

[T]he very existence of women’s sports is predicated, as Martina Navratilova recognized, on the now-highly politically incorrect observation that the two sexes are radically different physically … When biological males and biological females compete with each other on the playing fields, the biological females almost always lose.

For decades feminists have castigated heterosexual men for trying to “erase” women—from history, from society, from political life. But the real erasure of women these days is coming from their fellow progressives. They are being denied their distinctive female sports, their distinctive female bodies, and, ultimately, their distinctive female identities.

Charlotte Allen (emphasis added)

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