Thursday, January 7, 2016

Cologne

On January 2 of last year, as protests took place across Germany against Muslim immigration or 'Islamization' of the West, the lights of Cologne Cathedral were shut off in protest of the protesters. One day short of a year later, Germany found itself shocked as numerous German women were assaulted on New Years' Eve by scores -- up to a thousand reportedly -- of drunken men of Middle Eastern or North African origin, in that very same city, right outside that very same cathedral. One eyewitness even reported that some of the men were shooting at the cathedral.




A police report described scenes in Cologne of "crying women fleeing sexual molestation from crowds of men, passersby trying to rescue young girls from being raped, women running through a gantlet crowds of heavily drunk men in order to escape, and groups of intoxicated men throwing bottles and fireworks at a police force no longer in control of the situation."

Monday, May 18, 2015

Disenchantment

From Chesterton's Orthodoxy:

When I had looked at the lights of Broadway by night, I made to my American friends an innocent remark that seemed for some reason to amuse them. I had looked, not without joy, at that long kaleidoscope of colored lights arranged in large letters in sprawling trademarks, advertising everything, from pork to pianos, through the agency of the two most vivid and most mystical of the gifts of God; color and fire. I said to them, in my simplicity, "What a glorious garden of wonders this would be, to anyone who was lucky enough to be unable to read."


Here it is but a text for a further suggestion. But let us suppose that there does walk down this flaming avenue a peasant, of the sort called scornfully an illiterate peasant... He would please himself by guessing what great proclamation or principle of the Republic hung in the sky like a constellation or rippled across the street like a comment. He would be shrewd enough to guess that the three festoons fringed with fiery words of somewhat similar patterns for "Government of the People, For the People, By the People"; for it must obviously be that, unless it were "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity." His shrewdness would perhaps be a little shaken if he knew that the triad stood for "Tang Tonic Today; Tang Tonic Tomorrow; Tang Tonic All the Time." He will soon identify a restless ribbon of red lettering, red-hot and rebellious, as the saying, "Give me liberty or give me death." He will fail to identify it as the equally famous saying, "Skyoline has Gout Beaten to a Frazzle." Therefore it was that I desired the peasant to walk down that grove of fiery trees, under all that golden foliage and fruits like monstrous jewels, as innocent as Adam before the fall. He would see sights almost as fine as the flaming sword or the purple and peacock plumage of the seraphim; so long as he did not go near the Tree of Knowledge.


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Grasping for the Truth

From Joseph Pieper, in his book Silence of Saint Thomas:
Man, in his history, whether it be individual or collective, does not advance through a continuous process of development like a plant, from the state of inferior to one of greater and more comprehensive understanding. Rather, the actual historical development of the human intellect appears as a progress in the form of assertion and counter-assertion. The assertion does not seize upon the totality of truth in one gradual, uninterrupted process, but, expressing one aspect of truth, necessarily conceals another. The second aspect is brought out in the counter-assertion, which interrupts the assertion until in its turn it is interrupted. And as one aspect of the varied and many sided truth becomes more evident, another aspect in turn recedes from view. And when this other aspect forces its way back from oblivion into consciousness, the earlier aspect tends to fade from the mind... The fact that every positive chance involves at the same time a danger shows the clearest possible manner that the human mind can enjoy no tota et simul possessio. Indeed no positive chance can be taken without accepting the risk inherent in it.
Truth is like a three-dimensional object, like a globe, which we apprehend from out in space. We can only see so much of it at one time. Any aspect of the truth which we embrace has the potential to obscure other aspects of truth from our minds, yet this is the path we must tread...
...everything is obviously timely and relevant which encourages and confirms an epoch in its special values, attitudes and problems, which positively and immediately corresponds with the line of its major effort. But here we should not forget that such an emphasis on the primarily discussed concerns of an epoch must intensify the blind spots of the epoch. This is just a further notion of "timeliness": timely is not only what an epoch wants, but also what an epoch needs; a corrective attitude to the present is timely, the refusal to accept it is timely, or, rather, the refusal of the dangers necessarily inherent in the chances.
Every age in human history has its particular truths which it clings to, and from time to time must be shaken out of its dogmatic slumber.
... the human mind, in spite of its strict historical boundaries, is not the prisoner of a specific period; rather, that it is truly spirit, capax universi, oriented toward the whole of truth, and therefore capable of detached consideration even of its own time-conditioned existence.
From the start, then, the notion of timeliness contains a note of optimism, of confidence. It is the confidence that each "contemporary" emphasis upon some special feature of truth need not imply a denial of the totality of truth (as every shade of rationalism tends arrogantly to assume); that, on the contrary, this emphasis might bring with it the chance for a new perception of truth. This chance, as we have seen, is by its nature linked with its inherent danger...

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Gaudi

"We own the image. Fantasy comes from the ghosts. Fantasy is what people in the North own. We are concrete. The image comes from the Mediterranean. Orestes knows his way, where Hamlet is torn apart by his doubts."

~Antoni Gaudi

Sagrada Familia 



Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Third Man

"EVERY man of us to-day is three men. There is in every modern European three powers so distinct as to be almost personal — the trinity of our earthly destiny. The three may be rudely summarized thus: First and nearest to us is the Christian, the man of the historic Church, of the creed that must have coloured our minds incurably whether we regard it as the crown and combination of the other two, or whether we regard it as an accidental superstition which has remained for two thousand years. First, then, comes the Christian; behind him comes the Roman — the citizen of that great cosmopolitan realm of reason and order, in the level and equality of which Christianity arose. He is the Stoic who is so much sterner than the Anchorites. He is the Republican who is so much prouder than kings. It is he that makes straight roads and clear laws, and for whom good sense is good enough. And the third man: he has no name, and all true tales of him are blotted out; yet he walks behind us in every forest path and wakes within us when the wind wakes at night. He is the origins — he is the man in the forest."
~G.K.Chesterton: from 'William Blake.'


"Their aspect is terrifying...They are very tall in stature, with rippling muscles under clear white skin. Their hair is blond, but not naturally so: they bleach it, to this day, artificially, washing it in lime and combing it back from their foreheads. They look like wood-demons, their hair thick and shaggy like a horse's mane."
~ Diodorus, quoted in The Celts by Gerhard Herm

Monday, July 22, 2013

Dover Beach

The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand;
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.




Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Aegean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought, 

Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.


~Matthew Arnold



Sunday, July 21, 2013

The War of Gods and Demons

From Chesterton's Everlasting Man, one of the greatest things Chesterton ever wrote and of which I've ever read, his account of the Punic Wars and the fall of Carthage, as distinguished from the boring, lifeless historical accounts in the school textbooks:


...As if to make the world's supreme test as terrible as possible, it was ordained that one of the great houses of Carthage should produce a man who came out of those gilded palaces with all the energy and originality of Napoleon coming from nowhere. At the worst crisis of the war Rome learned that Italy itself, by a military miracle, was invaded from the north. Hannibal, the Grace of Baal as his name ran in his own tongue, had dragged a ponderous chain of armaments over the starry solitudes of the Alps; and pointed southward to the city which he had been pledged by all his dreadful gods to destroy.

Hannibal marched down the road to Rome, and the Romans who rushed to war with him felt as if they were fighting with a magician. Two great armies sank to right and left of him into the swamps of the Trebia; more and more were sucked into the horrible whirlpool of Cannae; more and more went forth only to fall in ruin at his touch. The supreme sign of all disasters, which is treason, turned tribe after tribe against the falling cause of Rome, and still the unconquerable enemy rolled nearer and nearer to the city; and following their great leader the swelling cosmopolitan army of Carthage passed like a pageant of the whole world; the elephants shaking the earth like marching mountains and the gigantic Gauls with their barbaric panoply and the dark Spaniards girt in gold and the brown Numidians on their unbridled desert horses wheeling and darting like hawks, and whole mobs of deserters and mercenaries and miscellaneous peoples; and the grace of Baal went before them.



The Roman augurs and scribes who said in that hour that it brought forth unearthly prodigies, that a child was born with the head of an elephant or that stars fell down like hailstones, had a far more philosophical grasp of what had really happened than the modern historian who can see nothing in it but a success of strategy concluding a rivalry in commerce. Something far different was felt at the time and on the spot, as it is always felt by those who experience a foreign atmosphere entering their own like a fog or a foul savour. It was no mere military defeat, it was certainly no mere mercantile rivalry, that filled the Roman imagination with such hideous omens of nature herself becoming unnatural. It was Moloch upon the mountain of the Latins, looking with his appalling face across the plain; it was Baal who trampled the vineyards with his feet of stone; it was the voice of Tanit the invisible, behind her trailing veils, whispering of the love that is more horrible than hate. The burning of the Italian cornfields, the ruin of the Italian vines, were something more than actual; they were allegorical. They were the destruction of domestic and fruitful things, the withering of what was human before that inhumanity that is far beyond the human thing called cruelty. The household gods bowed low in darkness under their lowly roofs; and above them went the demons upon a wind from beyond all walls, blowing the trumpet of the Tramontane. The door of the Alps was broken down; and in no vulgar but a very solemn sense, it was Hell let loose. The war of the gods and demons seemed already to have ended; and the gods were dead. The eagles were lost, the legions were broken; and in Rome nothing remained but honour and the cold courage of despair.
Virgo Vestalis Maxima

In the whole world one thing still threatened Carthage, and that was Carthage. There still remained the inner working of an element strong in all successful commercial states, and the presence of a spirit that we know. There was still the solid sense and shrewdness of the men who manage big enterprises; there was still the advice of the best financial experts; there was still business government; there was still the broad and sane outlook of practical men of affairs, and in these things could the Romans hope. As the war trailed on to what seemed its tragic end, there grew gradually a faint and strange possibility that even now they might not hope in vain. The plain business men of Carthage, thinking as such men do in terms of living and dying races, saw clearly that Rome was not only dying but dead. The war was over; it was obviously hopeless for the Italian city to resist any longer, and inconceivable that anybody should resist when it was hopeless. Under these circumstances, another set of broad, sound business principles remained to be considered. Wars were waged with money, and consequently cost money; perhaps they felt in their hearts, as do so many of their kind, that after all war must be a little wicked because it costs money. The time had now come for peace; and still more for economy. The messages sent by Hannibal from time to time asking for reinforcements were a ridiculous anachronism; there were much more important things to attend to now. It might be true that some consul or other had made a last dash to the Metaurus, had killed Hannibal's brother and flung his head, with Latin fury, into Hannibal's camp; and mad actions of that sort showed how utterly hopeless the Latins felt about their cause. But even excitable Latins could not be so mad as to cling to a lost cause for ever. So argued the best financial experts; and tossed aside more and more letters, full of rather queer alarmist reports. So argued and acted the great Carthaginian Empire. That meaningless prejudice, the curse of commercial states, that stupidity is in some way practical and that genius is in some way futile, led them to starve and abandon that great artist in the school of arms, whom the gods had given them in vain.
Hannibal

  Why do men entertain this queer idea that what is sordid must always overthrow what is magnanimous; that there is some dim connection between brains and brutality, or that it does not matter if a man is dull so long as he is also mean? Why do they vaguely think of all chivalry as sentiment and all sentiment as weakness? They do it because they are, like all men, primarily inspired by religion. For them, as for all men, the first fact is their notion of the nature of things; their idea about what world they are living in. And it is their faith that the only ultimate thing is fear and therefore that the very heart of the world is evil. They believe that death is stronger than life, and therefore dead things must be stronger than living things; whether those dead things are gold and iron and machinery or rocks and rivers and forces of nature. It may sound fanciful to say that men we meet at tea-tables or talk to at garden-parties are secretly worshippers of Baal or Moloch. But this sort of commercial mind has its own cosmic vision and it is the vision of Carthage. It has in it the brutal blunder that was the ruin of Carthage. The Punic power fell because there is in this materialism a mad indifference to real thought. By disbelieving in the soul, it comes to disbelieving in the mind. Being too practical to be moral, it denies what every practical soldier calls the morale of an army. It fancies that money will fight when men will no longer fight. So it was with the Punic merchant princes. Their religion was a religion of despair, even when their practical fortunes were hopeful. How could they understand that the Romans could hope even when their fortunes were hopeless? Their religion was a religion of force and fear; how could they understand that men can still despise fear even when they submit to force? Their philosophy of the world had weariness in its very heart; above all they were weary of warfare; how should they understand those who still wage war even when they are weary of it? In a word, how should they understand the mind of Man, who had so long bowed down before mindless things, money and brute force and gods who had the hearts of beasts? They awoke suddenly to the news that the embers they had disdained too much even to tread out were again breaking everywhere into flames; that Hasdrubal was defeated, that Hannibal was outnumbered, that Scipio had carried the war into Spain; that he had carried it into Africa. Before the very gates of the golden city Hannibal fought his last fight for it and lost; and Carthage fell as nothing has fallen since Satan. The name of the New City remains only as a name. There is no stone of it left upon the sand. Another war was indeed waged before the final destruction: but the destruction was final. Only men digging in its deep foundation centuries after found a heap of hundreds of little skeletons, the holy relics of that religion. For Carthage fell because she was faithful to her own philosophy and had followed out to its logical conclusion her own vision of the universe. Moloch had eaten his children.

   The gods had risen again, and the demons had been defeated after all. But they had been defeated by the defeated, and almost defeated by the dead. Nobody understands the romance of Rome, and why she rose afterwards to a representative leadership that seemed almost fated and fundamentally natural. Who does not keep in mind the agony of horror and humiliation through which she had continued to testify to the sanity that is the soul of Europe? She came to stand alone in the midst of an empire because she had once stood alone in the midst of a ruin and a waste. After that all men knew in their hearts that she had been representative of mankind, even when she was rejected of men. And there fell on her the shadow from a shining and as yet invisible light and the burden of things to be. It is not for us to guess in what manner or moment the mercy of God might in any case have rescued the world; but it is certain that the struggle which established Christendom would have been very different if there had been an empire of Carthage instead of an empire of Rome. We have to thank the patience of the Punic wars if, in after ages, divine things descended at least upon human things and not inhuman. Europe evolved into its own vices and its own impotence, as will be suggested on another page; but the worst into which it evolved was not like what it had escaped. Can any man in his senses compare the great wooden doll, whom the children expected to eat a little bit of the dinner, with the great idol who would have been expected to eat the children? That is the measure of how far the world went astray, compared with how far it might have gone astray. If the Romans were ruthless, it was in a true sense to an enemy, and certainly not merely a rival. They remembered not trade routes and regulations, but the faces of sneering men; and hated the hateful soul of Carthage. And we owe them something if we never needed to cut down the groves of Venus exactly as men cut down the groves of Baal. We owe it partly to their harshness that our thoughts of our human past are not wholly harsh. If the passage from heathenry to Christianity was a bridge as well as a breach, we owe it to those who kept that heathenry human. If, after all these ages, we are in some sense at peace with paganism, and can think more kindly of our fathers, it is well to remember the things that were and the things that might have been. For this reason alone we can take lightly the load of antiquity and need not shudder at a nymph on a fountain or a cupid on a valentine. Laughter and sadness link us with things long past away and remembered without dishonour; and we can see not altogether without tenderness the twilight sinking around the Sabine farm and hear the household gods rejoice when Catullus comes home to Sirmio. Deleta est Carthago.