Irish Saints are special
My favorite story about [St. Colman Mac duaghis, who lived in a cave as a hermit for seven years] concerns his wild companions. The saint, the legends tell us, somehow befriended a cockerel, a mouse, and a fly, and trained them to help him out. The cockerel’s job was to crow when he needed to get up in the morning to pray. The mouse’s role was to step in if Colman didn’t feel like getting out of bed: It would nibble his ear until he roused himself. As for the fly, Colman trained it to walk along the lines of his Bible in the dim light, so he could follow it as he read. A new stained glass church window in the nearby town of Gort portrays the saint with his three animal companions rather sweetly.
Nothing lasts, of course, especially the life of a fly. It wasn’t long before Colman’s companions died. He confided his sadness in a letter to another Irish saint of the time, Columba. His friend’s brief reply distilled the unworldly essence of desert spirituality: “You were too rich when you had them. That is why you are sad now. Trouble like that only comes where there are riches. Be rich no more.”
Paul Kingsnorth, A Wild Christianity
A new Terry Mattingly article for the Acton Institute, The Evolving Religion of Journalism reminds me to share some wise words from Alan Jacobs:
Wondering how to decide what to read? Here’s a simple but effective heuristic to cut down the choices significantly. Ask yourself one question: Does this writer make bank when we hate one another? And if the answer is yes, don’t read that writer.” Americans have these wildly distorted views of people whom they perceive to be their political enemies because so many journalists and talking heads enrich themselves through stoking hatred. Those people should be utterly shunned.
Avoiding them will do wonders for your blood pressure. More importantly, it’s a pre-condition for healing your soul.
Sometimes the application of the heuristic is awkward: I read Rod Dreher’s “diary” on Substack but stopped reading the bile he’s paid to produce for the American Conservative.
And I pray for him to unite his divided mind.
Clive the Convivial
Clarke and Lewis eventually met, perhaps around 1960, as Francis Spufford has narrated: “Clarke contacted Lewis and they arranged to meet in the Eastgate Tavern, Oxford. Clarke brought Val Cleaver as his second; Lewis brought along J. R. R. Tolkien. They saw the world so differently that even argument was scarcely possible. As Orwell said about something completely different, their beliefs were as impossible to compare as a sausage and a rose. Clarke and Cleaver could not see any darkness in technology, while Lewis and Tolkien could not see the ways in which a new tool genuinely transforms the possibilities of human awareness. For them, machines at very best were a purely instrumental source of pipe tobacco and transport to the Bodleian. So what could they do? They all got pissed. ‘I’m sure you are very wicked people,’ said Lewis cheerfully as he staggered away, ‘but how dull it would be if everyone was good.’ ”
Alan Jacobs, The Year of Our Lord 1943
Dystopians: Orwell < Huxley < Lewis
On the flight over from Budapest, I almost finished Lewis’s novel That Hideous Strength, which is really terrific. I would have done, but the plane landed with two chapters to go. I’ve been saying for a while that the totalitarian dystopia we are living towards is much more like Huxley’s Brave New World than Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, but it’s really and truly like Lewis’s That Hideous Strength. I kept thinking, as I read along, how eerily on the nose Lewis was in 1945, when he published it, about how things are today in our creepy technocratic anti-human society. The technocratic conspiracy that runs the Britain of the novel manages to manipulate the media to manufacture consent and approval by the population, in ways that bring to mind the way the US Government manipulated social media outlets to control the Covid message. On the hopeful side, the brave little band of Christian warriors in That Hideous Strength are humble and frail, but heroic. One wants to be like them, when the time comes. One also wants a kindly bear called Mr. Bultitude.
So I did finish it, in London, and the conclusion was deeply moving, but not just at the emotional level. I felt like I had glimpsed a deeper truth — the kind of truth that moves the world. I won’t spoil it for you, don’t worry. I can say, though, that at the end, the “Director” — a sort of Gandalf figure directing the resistance to nation-destroying evil — explains to his seemingly feeble band of conspirators why despite appearances, the plain work they did vanquished great evil in an apocalyptic spiritual battle.
I agree with Rod: Orwell < Huxley < Lewis
What is it that craves? It is your ego—your created sense of a permanent ‘self’—and it craves because it believes that if it can have what it craves it will stop suffering. This is the story of our civilization, and we are discovering the hard way that it doesn’t work.
Paul Kingsnorth, Savage Gods. This was written while Kingsnorth was a Pagan or a Buddhist or something — not yet Orthodox Christian — but he wasn’t wrong.
Our barbarism and superstition
Sometimes it is difficult to exaggerate how strange, barbaric, and superstitious an age ours really is.
David Bentley Hart, Therapeutic Superstition.
I don’t much care for Hart these days, but I much enjoyed the essay he concludes thus.
Don’t think about this
Tradition is a bulwark against the power of commerce and the dissolving acid of money, and by removing these, all revolutions in the modern period have ended up accelerating the commercial and technological shift towards the Machine.
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