Toxic or Tonic?


What happened to our Arcadia? We stopped listening to it. We stopped dancing, we moved away, we started listening to the chant of the Machine instead. It is debt we chase now, not the moon. We are individuals, not parts in a wider whole. In a broken time, it is taboo to remember what was lost, and that fact alone makes Arcadia a revolutionary document. Look, it says. This is how it was. This is what was broken. At night, when you lie awake with your phone flashing under your pillow – do you miss it?

Paul Kingsnorth via Alan Jacobs (italics added).

I thought that was lovely, so I’m exposed as a monster:

This is where landscape writing sheds its leafy cloak and lets you glimpse its colder face – sounding like Steve Bannon, quoting Steve Bannon, black notebooks in hand, gazing from its bench at the little woodland of little England and trying to decide if “benevolent green nationalism” sounds too much like “…well, a nice kind of Hitler.”

We see you for what you are.

Warren Ellis also via Alan Jacobs, who closes with a few questions for folks like Ellis:

For these critics of Kingsnorth, is there any legitimate way to praise, and to seek to conserve, old rituals and practices? Can you love harvest festivals or Morris dancing or Druidic rites or for that matter Ember Days without being a racist, a fascist, a Nazi? Or is urban cosmopolitanism the only ethically acceptable ideal of human life?

And if you can love and practice those old ways without being a racist — How? What would distinguish morally legitimate attitudes from the ones that Kingsnorth is being pilloried for?

This inquiring mind would really like to know.

“Broken times” indeed.

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You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

I highly recommend blot.im as a crazy-easy alternative to Twitter (if you’re just looking to get your stuff “out there” and not pick fights).

After the wake of a man-boy

More blogging on stuff I’ve been reminded of, again from something I wrote privately almost 5 years ago:

I attended a Wake Thursday, only we don’t call them that any more.

In the coffin was a 32-year-old man-boy. In line as one approached mother and step-father, were scrapbook pictures of his younger versions, beaming with delight at 4th of July sparklers and other such simple pleasures. He “enjoyed listening to music, watching movies, and sharing his contagious joy. He fought the good fight and is awaiting his crown of glory.”

In the coffin was a bearer of the image of God, knees pulled up, wrists permanently bent, teeth crooked, face oddly shaped. Oh, my! I’d forgotten in the years since I last saw him.

He was born on April Fools Day. His syndrome has a dozen sufferers, maybe, world-wide. I don’t know the name. I couldn’t look it up on Google if I did, probably. Who writes about a disease that afflicts only a dozen people or so in the world at a time?

If I want to know about it, we’d better take mom and step-dad to dinner; she’s the world expert. The life expectancy from birth is two years. Did I mention that the man-boy in the coffin was 32?

Step-dad married mom 20 years ago, eyes wide open. She’d have it no other way. Her first husband, her son’s father, headed for divorce court, then “for the hills,” about 31 years, 364 days ago. May God have mercy on him anyway.

Caring for her son was the dominant feature of their lives. Step-dad’s grieving with mom.

Mom’s a teacher. The Middle Schoolers from her school came and sang at the funeral. They returned to school shaken. Some of them had never been to a funeral. Many of them, probably, had never met teacher’s son. If the image of God, twisted and angular, shocked this jaded old curmudgeon, I reckon it was a real eye-opener for them.

Mom and step-dad can’t sleep. The house is too quiet. The life-supporting machinery is off. This respiratory infection, starting like all the others, ended quickly in death despite treatment.

God bless and comfort them. May they have, for their remaining lives and into eternity, all the blessings none of us deserve, but some of us don’t deserve a lot less than others.

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Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.

Meticulous truth-tellers

Alastair Roberts, a smart fellow, has a smart take on the viral video of BBC’s Kathy Newman beclowning herself in an interview with Jordan Peterson.

I’ll assume you’ve watched the video and thus will omit most of Roberts’ summaries of Jordan’s message:

Peterson’s message is that men need to grow up because the world needs powerful men, and because women need powerful men. Men’s power is something that they have to offer the world and also something in which they should find meaning and dignity. And men’s power is good for women too.

Just how counter-cultural this message is merits reflection, not least as an indication of part of what is wrong with our world. Within society today, men are increasingly taught that their power is toxic and problematic, that they need to step back to let women advance. The sort of male spaces in which men develop and play to their strengths are closed down and the sexes integrated. The suggestion that the male sex rather needs to step up and play to its strengths, and not just function as meek, compliant, and deferential allies to women, is one that instinctively appalls many. ‘Powerful man’ is seldom heard as anything but a pejorative expression.

While Newman and others like her tend to perceive gender relations primarily in terms of the frame of competitive and largely zero-sum relations between individuals in a gender-neutralized economy, where male strength will almost unavoidably function as an obstacle and frustration to women and their advancement, Peterson asks the crucial question: ‘What sort of partner do you want?’

Just how threatening the development of powerful men is to our society and how invested our society has become in stifling men and discouraging their strength is illuminating, and the responses to Peterson are often telling here—both the instinctive resistance of many women to the prospect of more powerful men and the immense hunger of young men for a maturity they feel they lack.

A society that needs its men to be weak will ultimately prove to be frustrating for both sexes. Here the interpersonal dynamics of the interview are illuminating. Newman seems to be expecting to deal with another man-child who is acting out against the matriarchal forces in society, some puerile provocateur like Milo Yiannopoulos, perhaps. Encountering a manly adult male instead, she seems to be wrong-footed. By the end, she appears to be charmed by Peterson, despite herself.

(Emphasis added)

Elsewhere, Roberts and Rod Dreher noted Peterson’s commitment to truth-telling and his meticulous care with his words.

The first time I consciously noted that there are meticulous truth-tellers in the world, and that they stand out from the pack of logorrheic guys-at-the-bar, professional blatherskites, “puerile provocateurs” and televangelists, was when I read Dag Hammarskjöld‘s Markings (which, by the way, I highly recommend).

We need more meticulous truth-telling, and Peterson is getting some reward, in the coin of the age (celebrity) for modeling it.

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We develop heart and mind in parallel, that the mind will protect us from the wolfs, and the heart will keep us from becoming wolves ourselves. (Attributed to Serbian Patriarch Pavle)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.

Urban dreams

New Urbanism has had its share of critics. Some … have criticized New Urbanism because many new developments built along its principles occupy higher price points in the real estate market. They tend to be exclusive and unaffordable. The high prices, however, reflect the level of demand for such places. They are indeed attractive. And rare. The solution to that problem is to build more of them, not less.

My interest in walkable city neighborhoods is not merely theoretical. It’s also part of my experience. I have lived in such a neighborhood in Grand Rapids for the past 30 years. It goes by the name of Eastown. It’s an old streetcar suburb that was largely built out in the 1910s, before car ownership was widespread. People, primarily professionals in that day, would take the streetcar downtown to work, return, and walk home. Home may have been a single-family detached house. Or it may have been a duplex or apartment. Eastown contains a variety of residential options. The neighborhood had its own retail section that supplied residents with their daily and weekly needs within a comfortable walking distance.

Much has changed since then. A good number of buildings have been lost to parking lots. Some of the retail has moved out to big box stores on the edge of the city. But the community still has good bone structure, a fine network of connected streets. And many walkable destinations. Within a five-minute walk of my house lies a farmer’s market, a supermarket, three churches, two elementary schools, a civic theater, two coffee shops, a pizza parlor, a donut shop, three restaurants, two bakeries, a brewery, a park, a college, a creek, two used-book stores, a shoe store, a yoga studio, a massage therapist, two beauty salons, a gift shop, a gym, a butcher shop, a delicatessen, a post office, a bike shop, and a bus stop. My wife and I make do with one car, since I can ride my bike or moped to work in fair weather and take the bus in foul.

(Lee Hardy) I’d encourage you to click that link if only to note the two photos of what a human-scaled built environment looks like.

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“No man hath a velvet cross.” (Samuel Rutherford, 17th century Scotland)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.

Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen has died. WSJ. NYT (which is fascinating and calls him “the master of erotic despair”).

When he was young and fresh, I was too busy with other things, and as yet insufficiently attuned to poetry, to take note of his artistry. Maybe that’s why he was starving in 1971. I came to appreciate him within the last decade or so.

Catchy, upbeat and danceable he wasn’t. Neither am I. He was deep, somber, insightful.

Everyone praises “Hallelujah,” but my co-favorite (along with Suzanne, which Judy Collins made gorgeous) is Anthem, if only for the refrain:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

I care not a whit that the world is without Michael Jackson, David Bowie and Prince. But I’ll miss Leonard Cohen. I bought his latest album immediately upon learning of his death.

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“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.