Exhausted

This is a comment I offered on a website I frequent called “Front Porch Republic” which seeks to be a meeting place of like-minded folks who largely call themselves conservative or some more or less precise term.

So we have seen an exhausted thread here which represents the exhausted FPR, a mere symptom of the exhausted conservative movement (or at least I am exhausted and so all the light that passes through my eyes is colored so).

By exhausted, I do not mean without vibration; there is still momentum, movement, agitation, excitation, but there is no light from the heat, no illumination of a path forward, no cohesion. And this is as it should be, in fact, it must be.

For conservatism isn’t. It cannot be. You cannot have a coordinating movement of persons from different communities; especially those so fluid as to require a base democratization, a pandering to those who have free association available to them as a weapon, and a distortion of the social contract which can only come about by a man believing he has no debts if he is not paying usury.

It is the truth that Fusionism is a lie and a repulsive lie at that. It was fabricated out of what was believed to be a political necessity, and existential threat to both man and state that was represented by militant, totalitarian communism. But that is only the beginning, for other words used in FPR are also lies. Christianity is one of them.

As fond as I am of the Roman Church, there are those who could articulate with subtly I cannot (and possibly without offense) why my Orthodox brethren and that body remain divided. Certainly each Protestant in this forum has heard at least one sermon in their lifetime on such a topic, even in the most adoring forms of insipid Anglican Romantic cucumber circles.

Moreover, though some of you also work, as I do, in what is called “Higher Education” this too is a lie. My institution’s mission statement, while not presupposing the inferiority of your institution in any explicit way, necessarily stands in opposition to many of the institutions represented here.

I live in a marginally above standard community, economically and aesthetically, which has no center whatsoever. Not only can it not defend itself against the loss of its nature, it whores out what little germination of community can be found to those who would only sleep within the confines of its borders; preferring to work, Church, shop and perform other acts of life far out of its memory.

The only thing I can admit is that I see no hope of anything better except for each to share in correspondence, as was the tradition in a more civilized age, between one another the essential matters of necessary research into the essential and diverse natures of human community and foster it where and as we can as all men hope toward God’s salvation.

We are not, nor should we see ourselves as, prophets of a better age. Even as the golden headed Nebuchadnezzar himself was only a king, his state built by conquering blood, upon brutal slavery and maintained by the subjugation of God’s people.

We are rather poets, who having (I hope) fasted and prayed, scrawl out some meaning in words, some code that can be passed among the faithful whom we neither know nor know of. This will bear the fruit that all poetry does, reflecting the reader upon themselves, convicting the soul.

We are not right, nor righteous. We are fell creatures of this age. But that which we are, we are. This is why the conservative movement went wrong, because it is no movement at all, but a voice crying out, make straight the path! I do not know the way, though I have witnessed what seems to me to be the way in the lives of men and women I might dare call holy or good.

I don’t think to speak of myself, but of those who seem to see clearer than I do–here and elsewhere.

I have no interest in political machinations. In the success or failure of tyrants who would rule in my name as opposed to ruling in the name of my enemies. I would have no enemies, though I am sure this poem of a post will remind a few that they believe I am theirs.

For the totalitarian instinct is in the right, the left and all points between. And a man who refuses to join the glittering unholy army of self-ascribed righteousness is as much a foe as the ones they march to meet on the battlefield. In fact worse, for he appears to be an infection within the ranks themselves and a traitor to the cause.

Damnation to Brutus yes? Cassius still? And Judas yet in the maws of Hell’s coldest fiend. Would you but know the nature of such a condition you would not seek it for a single man, but open your heart to each man you chance upon to meet as we go about our plans to rule a world with rulers who cannot rule even themselves.

I am tempted even now to curse those who would seek to form an ideology, or movement, even within the ephemeral walls of this astral realm off bits and bytes; but rather, knowing their sin is also in my heart tenfold; I ask for God’s providence to guide us both and have mercy on our souls.

Radiance of the Father

By the light which shone upon mount Tabor
That those yet in darkness lost could be found
Of your own will but in obedience
–to the Father; you suffered, crucified

Show us that happy way, that graceful light
Brothers let us attract God without guile

Your glory still enlightens your disciples
–as far as we can bear that vision
We have learned to cast out our sinful eyes
And better blind in the kingdom, we see

For the greatest of the least little child
With a curse to them that keep him from you
That great weight as you bore voluntary
Should be a chain firm ’round their cruel necks

Show us the golden way now uncovered
It is easy for the lowly of heart

We will then become as children so that
We might sit in the midst of all the saints
Even in front of him who is the Christ
The very Radiance of the Father

The Poet and the Logician

To accept everything is an exercise, to understand everything a strain. The poet only desires exaltation and expansion, a world to stretch himself in. The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.

From G. K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy

Beware Modernity

Wade the shore of Phlegethon, soul cold beyond fear
Starved gaunt of self-knowledge by dream’s malnutrition
Reality’s freedom exchanged for hunger’s fantasy

Narcissus detects no regret reflected in empty eyes
A will so enfeebled that it cannot pierce its heart
He’ll depart this life alone without friend or foe

Depleted storehouses stand as echos of Esau’s folly
The land falls into ruin with the gardener’s death
His dry bones feed no soil but poison the stream

A vital capital pumped through his empty carcass
Drawn by harlot organs absent of soul’s restraint
The wealth of nature exhausted by the logic of profit

Had he escaped this blue pearl the stars would dim
All the sky would flicker and in time’s measure fade
An effort that heaven’s golden horde cannot satisfy

Woe prisoners of Dis with eyes that chew young sisters
Betrayers of a noble virtue the wretched inhospitable
Death has come already to the host that eats his guests

Death, for him, becomes life because he has no other
His will to live deserts him and his passions flow
An addiction worse than death bites as he consumes himself

Obedience

Make no mistake, the way out of this mess is obedience.

Everything else is the gyrations of a collective cultural epileptic fit. These manic outbursts have nothing to do with being human, or in fact much of anything. It is anti-culture and nothing or no one has ever had to deal with such a beast before.

I hear the words of some who say (with that “nothing is new under the son” tone of voice) that the Roman empire as a first cosmopolitan sociological laboratory was similar, but it wasn’t. Nothing like what we are going through right now has ever happened, nothing remotely like it.

We no longer live in communities, we no longer live together at all. For the first time in human history, more adults will go to bed alone tonight than go with a spouse. More children are raised in fractured (and soon even single) homes than stable ones, forget having extended “clan” relations around.

We have begun to play with the fundamental categories of human nature, not by some accident of the fall, but by intent. We are in a feedback loop of distorted self caused by the nascent ascendancy of man over his own nature.

We’re wrestling about talking about whether or not Church life fits into this mess, but that’s the rhetorical equivalent of putting the cart before the horse. What does life look like at all, when life can look like anything? I didn’t come to Orthodoxy for protection from post-modernism. (I’d rather have post-modernism than modernism any day of the week as at least the post-modernist knows he’s ill, he’s just in despair about it–which is exactly half the delusion the modernist suffers from.)

Back to the beginning. Obedience. This is what it looks like. How can we obey (or understand what healthy obedience looks like) when we don’t even demand our children respect adults by calling them Mr. and Mrs. How do I genuinely use the term “Master” or “His Grace”, if I call my own mother “Sheila”?

But obedience is it. It is the answer. The only way to recover this is to do what Christ did. Empty ourselves of our demigodhood, and do not count ourselves as equals. Obey, not as slaves, but perhaps at least as well as we listen to our new clergy in the medical profession (faith follows function). Obey as our parents obeyed their grandparents. Obey as they obey us. This isn’t subservience, this is, this must flower in mutual love.

This is a mutual obedience, formed by real bonds that really suffers for one another and really ruins a whole family when one member throws the common life into a fit.

It does not matter whether the tones are Byz or SATB in the key of F. Our priests wear what they wear at the altar because if they didn’t they’d be naked, and they might as well wear just about what the guy they remember doing it wore.

Is Orthodoxy in America troubled beyond Owen-ian repair? Of course not. There is no way up, but through. Admit the EOC and a dozen like them, the chips will fall as they may. In 200 years all of this will be summed in a few pages on some history book. It will say, “there was a time when…” and later, “but then there was this and that development…” and then finally, “so now we are past that but have to deal with these new problems.”

And life will go on, as will the Church until the Eschaton.

Again I say, if we are cursed with a freer will (or as I understand it, a never more dangerously enslaved will) let us use that freedom to lay down our slavery and bury our dead bodies in obedience to one another.

Even if it hurts. Especially when others do not return the “enlightened” gesture. Evermore until in the flesh we die.

New Boots

There is much that is wrong in the world that I cannot fix and much that needs perfecting in me that will take a lifetime, but today I have new boots. It has been twenty years since my last set of boots (purchased just before heading off to study abroad in London back in 1991).

And yes, I’ve got a silver belt buckle as well; my wife insisted.

Three Lamps Full

Who’s lights burn bright into the night, but those with oil?
Linger still the wait of blows, three lamps full endured.

Fruit of blooded ground born of Wonder-working George.
Now in four day procession loft his banner high.

Christopher suffered of torments;
Theonas gloried Christ as God;
Anthony with his brothers burned;
Still three lamps full light up the night.

Now brothers let us prepare for the Bridegroom comes!

Untainted Glory

Patriarch of Constantinople

Of the great city, that center of spheres
You were born and raised its eminent son.
Noted as judge of men in high repute
Then given to advise the empire’s head.
Led first astray embracing heresy
Then recanting took the heavy schema.
From the lowly repentance monastic
You were recalled to sit upon the throne.

They thought you a servant of thrones of men
But your heart had long belonged to your God.
Holy Tarasius restored union
And the icons of Constantinople.
Hailed high from Rome to Alexandria
Your zeal sealed the end of iconoclasm.
Held the council against the threatening mob
Yet gracefully reproved your enemies.

You endured these controversies and lies
Judgments too wise for the narrow to see.
Scandalizing pious busybodies
Though you offered them their pound of your flesh.
Loyal you did receive disloyalty
Friendly you received only animus.
In thoughtful wisdom you tempted the fools
And in forgiving brought judgment on your self.

What a struggle for peace and unity,
What a strong heart for your brother fellows,
What a hope of that sainthood foretasted,
May our mistakes be as blessed as yours!

And may we know that untainted glory.