True "Woke" Is Repentance

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Am I woke?

I am trying to redefine and challenge what the waking up in "woke" means.

First of all, am I woke? What are some experiences from my own life? Let me mention a few:


  1. Terminations. I have never submitted an accommodation for disability without being terminated, always within a month, and always, always allegedly "for cause."

    I've been fired a dozen times, and gave up on talking to HR because they never get it. At one point, when my boss demonstrably lied to me in a meeting for the purpose of scaring me silly, I complained to HR and they thought I was complaining because as a consultant I didn't have job security, and HR simply couldn't wrap their heads around any other complaint. I was completely and utterly unable to get the point across that my boss was meeting with me to lie to intimidate me bigtime.

  2. Fr. Seraphim of Platina's devoted crowd. Fr. Seraphim of Platina is the only Orthodox "saint-figure" I have ever been urged to venerate on grounds of his giftedness. I unwisely enough answered, "If you are going to venerate Fr. Seraphim because he was gifted, you should venerate me more because I am more gifted [insert here a list of achievements], and [the point I was trying to make] if you're not going to venerate me more because I am more gifted, neither should you be telling me to venerate Fr. Seraphim because he is gifted.

    That was answered by the worst harassment in my life, and the only time I've actually thought my body was shutting down because the degree of hate expressed to me. I wrote a book, The Seraphinians: "Blessed Seraphim Rose" and His Axe-Wielding Western Converts. I do not want to ask you to read the book if you don't want to, but please read the one star reviews. They are more alarming than the positive reviews!

    Incidentally, I've noticed on Amazon that kind reviews to my work appear, and vanish without a trace. This is ongoing. I've been contacted by strangers with reviews that were censored ("An Intellectual Genius rooted in reality."). I have awfully few posted reviews for someone who has had so many Kindle book giveaways and giving away so many review copies. Very few of the reviews stay around.

  3. Square peg, round hole effects at Fordham. You can read a sanitized version of my official writeup after Fordham said I washed out. It's posted as Profoundly Gifted and Orthodox at Fordham. I have said bitterly enough that they suffer from delusions of adequacy, and were incompetent enough in their treatment of me that at a couple of points my life was in question.

    I might comment briefly that the internal-use term in the profoundly gifted community as I have engaged it is not normally "profoundly gifted," but "severely gifted." That has begun to appear in the psychological literature as well.

  4. C&D letters to try to end harassment. I have had to send several "CEASE AND DESIST" letters after an ongoing and repeated "NO!" was simply being trampled on.


Now let me raise a question:

Am I woke?

I've had enough things happen to me, but let me explain why I have severe reservations about the concept of being woke.

Emotional Intelligence

I was big into Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ for a time at least, and the text has some particularly interesting things to say about the psychology of bullies.

What it says is that bullies do not feel entitled and above everyone else, free to issue aggression. They by contrast see themselves as persecuted victims. They believe everything is deliberately hostile to them. Other kids don't bump into them because kids that age have their bodies changing and are sometimes clumsy. It is intentional aggression, and it is therefore, to a bully, self-defense in a hostile situation to try to strike back hard enough against yet another kid who bumps into them and nothing seems to work.

The "un-bullying" of bullies is essentially to explain that not everybody is out to get them, that kids are clumsy at a certain age, and what seem microaggressions are really just random and meaningless. There is nothing intelligent, coordinated, or hostile most of the time when kids just bump into kids.

What Goleman did not say was an interesting implication. Consciousness raising is the opposite project; it is a teaching that bumps in the hallway are part of a coordinated attack. They only seem to be random. And the way one would go about making a bully is consciousness raising, or today telling someone to wake up and become woke.

One book I have wanted to write for years but haven't had click is The History of my Misfortunes, named after Abelard's The History of my Misfortunes, an unwittingly transparent work of a medieval autism diagnosis candidate who was full of himself, offended all sorts of people in all sorts of ways, betrayed people who had put him in a position of trust, alienated his allies, and presents himself as the perfect innocent victim. The spin I was going to mention was to talk about various ways I have created trouble for myself, all the things that are not anybody else's fault but my own. And really the only reason I have not moved forward with this is that it could be TMI. It was in the same spirit that I wrote:

A Professional Courtesy to a Fellow Poet (View original poem)

Out of the pitch black of my sin and vice,
Chosen only of my own free will,
I thank the God beyond all knowing
For my yet still fighting soul.

In the cunning net of His Providence,
I have spurned kindnesses for my good,
Gifts I have fought as chance left me,
Bloodied, but more deeply bowed:

Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?
It hurteth thee to kick against the goads.

Beyond this life of pleasure and pain,
Lie the Gates of Heaven and Hell,
Battered I still make my choice,
Seeking neither to bolt nor bar,
From inside, the gates of Hell.

Narrow is the path and strait the gate:
The entrance to Glory beyond,
All trials and tests named in the scroll,
Thy Grace my wounds have bound with salve.

I thank the ranks of men made gods,
Who cheer me on to join their choir,
Thou blessest me beyond any fate,
That I could ever know to ask.

Thy Glory is to transfigure me,
To Live, Thou Thyself:
I am the Master of my Fate!Z
I am the Captain of my Soul!

(I also know what that means!)

A few details I could share: I was not happy with my circumstances because I wanted to be somewhere like Narnia and be a king instead of being right where I am. That is an extended unhappiness I have no one to thank but myself. Other things as well, that caused considerable unhappiness for a considerable time, boiled down to nothing but my own sin.

And now I've used a dirty word, one that isn't very popular today.

I would like to pause briefly and say that after extended practice jobhunting,* and talking with jobseekers of different demographics, have instilled in me a strong conviction that the hiring process is biased against applicants who have a pulse.

* Not only have I been fired over a dozen times, but it is very stressful when a boss, who think your request for accommodation reflects a poor work ethic, is a boss trying to fabricate a paper trail of failures to claim for-cause termination.

I would like to get on to adapt St. John Chrysostom said, The Treatise to Prove that No One Can Harm the Man Who Does Not Injure Himself. (I say "adapt" because the standard translation uses complex Victorian English and I want something easier to read. (It is also available as an audiobook.) Without further ado,

The Treatise to Prove That No One Can Harm the Person Who Does Not Damage Himself

I understand very well that to people who don't get it, this treatise will appear strange and full of paradox. But they are people who don't get it. They are greedy of things you can get now. They are nailed to this world. They are slaves to physical pleasure. They do not and perhaps cannot grasp spiritual ideas. And no wonder that they will laugh me to scorn. No wonder that they will condemn me for saying ludicrous things from the very outset of this work. Therefore, I will not stop the present work. I will instead proceed with a great deal of effort, to prove just what I am seeking to prove.

If those who care about the topic will be kind enough not to make clamor and a disturbance, but hear me to the end, I am positive they will take my side. They will condemn themselves, and realize they were wrong. They will take back, and apologize, and beg pardon for their mistaken opinion. They will express great gratitude to me, like patients do to doctors who have cured them.

So do not tell me of your current opinion, but hear me out, and then you will be able to make a fair judgment. Then you will not be stopped by your ignorance from recognizing the truth. Even judges in secular causes do not record their decision after the first lawyer spews a river of words, but even if the first lawyer is totally convincing, the judges reserve an unprejudiced consideration for the second. In fact the good thing about judges is they try as accurately as they can to understand what each side claims, and then announce their own judgment.

Now in place of a first lawyer we have a common human assumption. This assumption has taken deep root in people's minds, and says the following things about the world:

All things have been turned upside down. The human race is full of great confusion. There are many people who are wronged, insulted, victims of violence and loss. The weak are harmed by the strong, and the poor by the rich. As it is simply impossible to count the waves of the sea, it is simply impossible to count how very many people who are the victims of scheming, damage, and suffering. Neither the correction of law, nor fear of being sued, nor anything else can stop this maddening disorder. The evil increases everyday, and the groans, and complaints, and the crying of the people who suffer is universal. Furthermore, the judges who are appointed to straighten out such evils, make it worse themselves, and worsen the disorder. Many of the people who don't get it, who are despicable, blame the Providence of God when they see the peaceful people frequently seized, oppressed, and tortured. The audacious and violent nobodies get rich, and gain authority, and become a force to reckon with, and inflict countless troubles upon the more reasonable people. This goes on in town and country, and in the desert, on sea and land.

What we need to discuss has to come in direct opposition to what has been claimed, saying something which is new, and just as I said is contrary to popular opinion, but useful and true. It is profitable to those who will listen to it and be persuaded. What I am trying to do is to prove (please, no commotions) that no one who is wronged is wronged by someone else, but any real damage is self-inflicted.

But to make my point more clearly, let us all ask what injustice is. Also, we should ask what human goodness is, and what it is which ruins it. Even further, we should ask what it is to seems to ruin human goodness but really does not.

For instance (because I need to make my point by analogy) each thing is vulnerable to the one evil which ruins it. Iron is vulnerable to rust, wool is vulnerable to moths, and flocks of sheep are vulnerable to wolves. The goodness of wine is harmed when it ferments and turns sour. The goodness of honey is harmed when it loses its natural sweetness, and becomes some sort of bitter juice. Ears of grain are ruined by mildew and drought. Leaves, and branches of vines are ruined by the troublesome plague of grasshopperrs, other trees by the caterpillar, and mindless things by disease of various kinds. But to shorten the list and not go forever by going through all possible examples, our own flesh is subjected to fevers, and wounds, and a whole bunch of other bad things.

Therefore, since each one of these things is vulnerable to the thing that ruins its goodness, let us now consider what it is which damages the human race. Let us consider what it is that ruins the goodness of a person. Most people think that there are many things things which have this effect. So I need to expose wrong opinions on the subject, and after refuting them, go on to show what really does ruin our goodness. Even more, I want to demonstrate clearly that no one could inflict this injury or bring this ruin upon our goodness. Some say it is poverty, others diseases of the body, others loss of property, others slander, others death. They are perpetually dismayed and lament these things. When they are commiserating with the people who suffer and cry tears, they explain to one another, "What a terrible thing happened to such and such people! They have been deprived of all their fortune at one blow." Again, someone will say about another, "such and such person has been attacked by severe illness and the doctors don't think he will live." Some bewail and cry out about prisoners, some of whom have been expelled from their country and exiled to another land. Others bewail those who have been deprived of their freedom. Others cry over those who have been seized and taken captive by enemies. Others lament people who have been drowned, or burned to death, or buried by a collapsing house, but no one mourns those who are living in wickedness. On the contrary, what is worse than all these wailings, they often congratulate them, a practice which causes all kinds of problems. Come then (only, as I asked you, do not make a commotion), let me prove that none of the things which have been mentioned harm the man who lives in a sober manner, nor can ruin his goodness.

For tell me if a man has lost his all at the hands of slanderers or of robbers, or been stripped of his property by evil servants, what harm has the loss done to the person's goodness?

But if it makes sense let me instead point out in the first place what is the goodness of a human being. Let me start by dealing with a separate case to make it easier to understand and plain to most readers.

What then makes a horse good? Is it to have a bridle studded with gold and belts to match? Is it silk to fasten the saddle? Is it many-colored, gold-plated clothing? Is it to have reins and bit studded with jewels? Is it gold woven into its hair?

Or is it to have swift and strong legs? Is it to move evenly? Is it to have hooves that are suitable to a well-bred horse? Is it to have a fitting courage for long journeys and warfare? Is it to be calm in the battlefield? Is it to save its rider in the event of defeat? Is it not clear that these are the things that make up the goodness of the horse, not the others?

Again, what should you say makes donkeys and mules good? Is it not the power of carrying burdens contentedly? Is it not the power to easily make journeys? Is it not to have hooves like rock? Shall we say that expensive external adornments give anything to their very own goodness? By no means. And what kind of vine would we admire? One which has many beautiful leaves and branches, or some that has a lot of fruit? Or what do we say makes an olive tree good? Is it to have big branches, and luxurious leaves, or to exhibit a lot of its own fruit dispersed over all parts of the tree?

Well then, let us act in the same way in the case of people too: let us determine what makes a human being good, and let us pay attention to what alone is damage which destroys that goodness. What then makes a man good? Not wealth so that you should fear being poor. Not physical health so that you should fear sickness. Not people's opinion of you, so that you should be alarmed at a bad reputation. Not freedom that you should avoid serving others. Not even life for its own sake, so that you should find death terrible. Instead of any of these, what matters is that you should hold fast to the truth, and behave rightly in life. Not even the Devil himself will be able to rob a person of these if the person who possesses them will guard them with necessarily care: and that most malicious and ferocious demon knows this well.

In the Bible, the Slanderer was allowed to accuse Job of loving God only because God made him rich, and when he was given permission, to destroy all his wealth at once. When Job still clung to righteousness, the Slanderer changed his tune and said that Job loved God only because he was healthy, and was given permission to destroy his health. Job had no idea what is going on, but clung to what is good and made the Devil look like a sleeping fool.

This is why the Devil robbed Job of his wealth. It wasn't to make him poor, but force him to blaspheme in anger. The Devil tortured his body, not because he wanted to make Job sick, but to topple the goodness of his soul. But when he had done all of these things, and let me elaborate:

  • When the Slanderer turned Job from a rich man into a poor one, which we consider the worst calamity—
  • When he destroyed every single one of his children—
  • When he had ripped into his whole body more cruelly than executioners do in a public execution, because their nails do not tear into the sides of people who fall into their hands as badly as one who is being eaten alive by worms—
  • When he got a terrible reputation, for Job's "friends" who were present with him said "You haven't gotten the punishment your sins deserve",—
  • When he had not merely expelled from city and home to another city, but had actually made a pile of shit serve as his home and city—

After all this, the Devil not only did Job no damage but rendered him more glorious than the schemes he plotted against him. And he not only failed to rob him of any of his true possessions although he had robbed him of so many things, he even increased the wealth of his goodness. For after all these things he was more solidly placed because he had struggled in a more severe battle.

Now if he who went through such horrible sufferings, and not by the hand of human opponents but by the hand of the Devil who is more wicked than all men—if Job sustained no injury, which of these persons who say "Such and such a person harmed and damaged me," will have any defense to make in the future? For if the Devil,

  • Who has so much great malice, after having set all his plans on motion—
  • Who attacked him with all his weapons—
  • Who poured out all external evils that can happen to a human being—
  • Who to the greatest possible extent to the family and body of that righteous man—

...never did him any injury, but as I was saying put Job in a position of even greater spiritual profit.

How shall people be able to accuse such and such a person alleging that they have suffered damage at their hands, and not at their own hands?

What then? Someone will ask, "Didn't he inflict injury on Adam, and topple his goodness, and cast him out of Paradise?" No: the Devil did not make him do it, but the cause was the lazy apathy, and lack of balance and vigilance of the one who was injured. The Devil applied such a multitude of powerful plans and yet could not subdue Job. So how could he, by weaker methods, have conquered Adam, if Adam had not betrayed himself through his own lazy apathy?

What then? Hasn't the one been damaged who has been exposed to slander, and suffered confiscation of everything he owns, and has been deprived of everything else, and is thrown out of his heritage, and struggles with extreme poverty? No! He has not been damaged, but has even profited, if he be sober.

For, tell me, what harm did this do to the Apostles? Weren't they always struggling with hunger and thirst and lack of decent clothing? And this was the very reason why they were so famous, and distinguished, and earned for themselves much help from God.

Lazarus was a beggar at the gate of a rich man, and longed to have the crumbs that fell from the rich man's table, and did not get even that—until he died and was brought to Paradise. Again what harm was done to Lazarus by his sickness, and sores, and poverty, and lack of protectors? Weren't they the reasons why garlands of victory were more abundantly woven for him?

Or consider Joseph, who was the victim of attempted murder, who was sold into slavery, then after resisting many attempts at seduction was falsely accused of not only attempted seduction but attempted rape, out of complete butthurt after he spurned every single advance she made! And he was thrown in prison, and by God's providence he rose to authority and kept many people from starving to death? What harm was done to him by his being falsely accused? This happened both in his own land and in the land of strangers where he was falsely accused of rape. Or what harm did slavery or exile do to him? Is it not specifically because of these things that we regard him with admiration and astonishment? And why do I even mention exile to a foreign land, and poverty, and false accusation, and slavery? For what harm did death itself inflict on Abel, although it was a violent and premature death because his brother envied that Abel's sacrifices to God were accepted and the brother's sacrifices were not, a murder inflicted by his brother's hand? Is this not the reason why Abel's praises are sung around the world? Don't you see how the explanation has demonstrated even more than it promised? For not only has it pointed out that no one is injured by anybody, but also that those who handle the difficulties wisely themselves benefit all the more from such attacks.

What is the purpose then, people will ask, of jail and punishments? What is the purpose of Hell? What is the purpose of such great threats, if no one either harms or causes others harms?

What is it that you are saying? Why do you confuse the argument. For I did not say that no one harms, but that no one is harmed. And how is it possible, you will say, for no one to be harmed when many are committing harm? In the way I indicated just now. For Joseph's brothers did indeed harm him, yet he himself was not harmed: and Cain laid a trap for Abel, yet Abel himself was not trapped. Joseph's brothers, and Cain, only harmed themselves.

This is the reason why there are penalties and punishments. For God does not abolish penalties because of the goodness of those who suffer; but he orders punishments because of the wicked. For they who are treated badly become more illustrious because of the plans schemed against them, this is not the intention of those who scheme the plans, but the courage of those who are their victims. Therefore for the victims the rewards of clinging to the Truth and righteous life are made ready and prepared, but for those who maltreat them, the penalties of wickedness.

Have you had your money taken away? Read the word, "I came naked out of my mother's womb, and I shall return naked. And add to this the Apostle's saying, "for we brought nothing into this world; it is certain we can carry nothing out." Do people speak evil about you, and have some loaded you with endless slander? Remember that passage where it is said "Woe unto you when all shall speak well of you" and "rejoice ye and leap for joy when they shall say evil about you." Have you been brought to the land of exile? Consider that you do not have a homeland here, but if you will be wise you are well advised to regard the whole world as a foreign country. Or have you come down with a dire illness? Quote the apostolic saying, "The more our outward person decays, so much the more is the inward person renewed every day." Has anyone suffered a violent death? Consider the death of John the Baptist, his head cut off in prison, carried in a plate, which the king paid as the reward of his whorish niece's dancing. Consider the reward which comes through these things: for all these sufferings when they are justly inflicted by anyone on another person, wipe away sins and work righteousness. So there is a great advantage for people who bear such things bravely.

When then neither loss of money, nor slander, nor being yelled at, nor diseases, nor tortures, nor anything that seems fundamentally beyond them all, namely death—when none of those things harm the people who suffer them, but instead profits them all the more, from where can you prove that anyone is harmed when nothing of these things can harm that one? For I will try to prove the reverse, demonstrating that the people who are most harmed and damaged, and suffer the worst evils, are the persons who do these things. For what could be more miserable than the condition of Cain, who murdered his own brother? What is more pitiable than Philip's wife who beheaded John the Baptist? Or Joseph's brothers who sold him into slavery and delivered him into exile? Or the Devil who tortured Job with such great calamities? For he will pay no small penalty for this assault as well as his other sins.

Don't you see how the argument has proven even more than was offered, showing that those who are insulted not only suffer no harm from the assaults, but that the whole mischief backfires on those who plan them? For since neither wealth nor freedom, nor life in our native land, nor the other things I have mentioned, but only good actions by the soul, constitute the goodness of a person, naturally when the harm is directed against these false goods, human goodness itself is not harmed in any way.

What then? Supposing someone does harm the moral condition of the soul? Even then if someone suffers damage, the damage does not come from anyone else but comes from inside, and to the person from himself. "How so," do you say? When anyone having been beaten by someone else, or deprived of his property, or gone through some other terrible attack, speaks blasphemously, he is certainly harmed by it, and very great harm, but it does not come from the person who inflicted the attack, but from his own pettiness of soul. For what I said before I will now repeat, no man if he be infinitely wicked could attack any one more wickedly or more bitterly than that revengeful demon who is implacably hostile to us, the Devil. But yet this cruel demon had no power to topple or overthrow those who lived before the Law, and before the time of grace. This is the power of nobility of soul. And what shall I say of Paul? Didn't he go through so many calamities that even listing them is no easy task? He was:

  • Put in prison—
  • Loaded with chains—
  • Dragged here and there—
  • Tortured by his countrymen—
  • Pelted with stones—
  • Wounded on the back not only with whips, but also with rods—
  • Immersed in the sea—
  • Attacked by robbers—
  • Met with strife by his own countrymen—
  • A victim of countless schemes and plots—
  • Struggling with hunger and lack of clothing—
  • Undergoing other frequent and lasting misfortunes and afflictions—

And why do I need to mention the majority of them? He was dying every day. Yet, though he was victim of so many of so terrible sufferings, not only did he not utter any blasphemous word, but rejoiced over these things and gloried in them. One place he says, "I rejoice in my sufferings," and even more "not only this, but we also glory in afflictions." If he rejoiced and gloried when suffering great troubles, what excuse will you have, and what defense will you make, if you blaspheme God when you do not undergo the smallest fraction of them?

"But I am harmed in other ways," you may say, "and even if I do not blaspheme, yet when I am robbed of my money I am prevented from giving to beggars." This is a mere pretext and pretentiousness. For if that upsets you, be sure that poverty is no bar to generosity. For even if you are infinitely poor, you are not poorer than the woman who possessed only a handful of grain, and the one who only had two cents. Each of these, having spent all their wealth on those who were in need, were a matter of such great admiration. Such great poverty was no hindrance to such great and loving kindness, but the gift spent from the two cents was so abundant and generous as to leave the rich completely in the dust, even though they strove zealously to give more money than all the others. Therefore even here you are not harmed but rather benefited. Your small contribution receives a more glorious reward than people who dropped large sums.

But since, if I were to keep on saying these things forever, pleasure-seekers who love to grovel in worldly wealth, and revel in what we have now, would not readily endure leaving the fading flowers (for such are the pleasant things of this life) or letting go of its shadows: but better people cling to both the one and the other, while the more pathetic and low cling more strongly to the first than the second. So let us strip off the pleasant and showy masks which hide the low and ugly face of these things, and let us show how deformed the whore is. For that is the nature of this kind of life which is devoted to luxury, wealth, and power. It is foul and ugly, and full of much abomination, disagreeable and burdensome, and charged with bitterness. For this is the particular feature in this life which deprives those who are captivated by it from every excuse, that though it is everything they hope for, it is filled with:

  • Much trouble and bitterness—
  • Too many evils to count—
  • Dangers—
  • Bloodshed—
  • Spiritual crags and precipices—
  • Murders—
  • Fears and tremblings—
  • Envy and badwill,
  • Hostile scheming,
  • Ongoing anxiety and worry.

It derives no profit, and produces no fruit, from these great evils—except for, perhaps, punishment and revenge, and unending torment.

But although this is its character it seems to most people an object of ambition, and eager contention, which is a sign of the folly of those who are captivated by it, not of the blessedness of the thing itself.

Little children are indeed eager and excited about toys, and cannot take notice of the things that are worthy of full-grown adults. There is an excuse for them because they are too young to expect maturity: but the others simply have no defense, because, although of full adult age, they are childish in behavior and more foolish than children in how they live.

Now tell me why is wealth an object of ambition? Here is extreme irony. For you need to start from this point, because to most people who have this terrible malady think it is more precious than health and life, and public fame and good opinion, and household, and friends, and relatives and everything else. More than this, the flame has ascended to the clouds themselves: and this fierce heat has taken possession of land and sea. Nor is there anyone to put out this fire: but all people are busy stirring it up, both those whom it has already caught, and those who have not been caught, so that they may be captured. And you may see everyone, husband and wife, household slave and freeman, rich and poor, each as far as they can carrying loads which supply much fuel to this fire, both during the day and also the night. They do not have loads of wood or sticks (for it is not that kind of fire), but loads of souls and bodies, of evils and sins. For such is the stuff that lights this kind of fire.

For people who have lots of money do not ever stop feeding this monstrous passion, even if they own the whole world. The poor, worse, try to even get ahead of them. A kind of incurable craze and unstoppable frenzy and unhealable disease possesses everyone's souls. And this desire has conquered every other desire and thrust it away, expelling it from the soul. Neither friends nor relatives are considered: and why do I speak of friends and relatives? Not even wife and children are regarded, and what can be more precious to a man than these?

But all things are dashed to the ground and trampled, when this savage and inhuman tyrant has laid hold of the souls of all those she keeps captive. For as an inhuman master, and harsh tyrant, and savage barbarian, and public and expensive whore she debases and exhausts and punishes those who have chosen to be her slaves with innumerable dangers and torments. Yet although she is terrible and harsh, and fierce and cruel, and has the face of a barbarian, or rather of a wild beast, fiercer than a wolf or a lion, she seems to those she has enslaved to be gentle and lovable, and sweeter than honey. And although she forges swords and weapons against them every day, and digs pits and leads them to precipices and crags and makes endless traps for them, yet she is supposed to make these things objects of ambition to those whom she has enslaved, and those who want to be enslaved. And just as a pig delights and revels in wallowing in the ditch and mire, and beetles love to always be crawling over shit, even so they who are captivated by the love of money are more miserable than these creatures.

For the abomination is greater in this case, and the mire more offensive: for they who are addicted to this passion imagine that much pleasure is derived from it. This does not arise from its nature, but the human understanding which is afflicted with such a foul and irrational taste. And this taste is worse in their case than in that of animals: for as with the mud and the shit the pleasure is not caused by them, but in the irrational nature of the creatures who plunge into it. So consider it to be in the case of us human beings.

And how might we cure those who want such a thing? It would be possible if they would open their ears to us, and unfold their heart, and receive our words. For it is impossible to turn irrational animals away from their unclean habit, for they do not have human intelligence. But this, the noblest of all tribes, honored with reason and speech, I mean human nature, might be quickly and easily be released from the mire and the stench, and the hill of shit and its abomination. If we chose to. For why, O person, do you think wealth is worth such diligent pursuit? Is it because of the pleasure which obviously comes from food? Or because of the honor and company of those who attend on you, because of your wealth? Is it because you can defend yourself from those who bother you, and have everyone be afraid of you? For you cannot name any other reasons, save pleasure and flattery, and fear, and the power of taking revenge; for wealth does not ordinarily make anyone wiser, or more self-controlled, or more gentle, or more intelligent, or kind, or benevolent, or superior to anger or gluttony or pleasure: it does not train anyone to be moderate, or teach him how to be humble, nor introduce any other element of goodness in the soul to become deep-rooted. Neither could you explain which of these things makes it deserving of such seeking and such desire. For wealth is not only ignorant of how to plant and cultivate any good thing, but even if it finds a bunch of them it messes them up. Some of them it even uproots and introduces their opposites: taking excessive liberties, ill-timed wrath, unrighteous anger, pride, arrogance, and foolishness.

But let me not speak of these; for they who have been seized by this malady simply will not listen to talk about what makes people good and what makes people bad. They are entirely abandoned to pleasure and therefore remain its slaves. So let us not consider these points any further, and let us bring forward the others which remain. Let's see whether wealth has any pleasure, or any honor: it looks to me like quite the opposite!

And first of all, please, let us consider the meals of rich and poor, and ask the guests which they are who enjoy the purest and most genuine pleasure. Is it they who:

  • Recline for a full day on couches—
  • Join breakfast and dinner together—
  • Distend their stomach—
  • Blunt their senses—
  • Sink the vessel by an excessive cargo of food—
  • Waterlog the ship—
  • Drench it as in some shipwreck of the body—
  • Devise fetters, and manacles, and gags—
  • Bind their whole body with the band of drunkenness and excess more grievous than an iron chain—
  • Enjoy no sound pure sleep undisturbed by frightful dreams—
  • Are more miserable than madmen and introduce a kind of self-imposed demon into the soul and display themselves as a laughing stock to the gaze of their servants—
  • Or rather to the kinder sort among them as a tragic spectacle worthy of tears—
  • Cannot recognize any of those who are present—
  • Are incapable of speaking or hearing but have to be carried away from their couches to their bed—

—Or—

Is it they who:

  • Are sober and vigilant—
  • Limit their eating to what they truly need—
  • Sail with a favorable breeze—
  • Find hunger and thirst the best relish in their food and drink?

For nothing so helps the enjoyment and health as to be hungry and thirsty when one comes to the table, and to think that simply necessary food is enough, nor imposing a load upon the body too great for its strength.

But if you disbelieve my statement, study the physical condition and the soul of each class. Aren't the vigorous bodies those who live moderately? (Please don't tell me of the rare case that some may be weak from some other circumstance, but get your bearings from what is constantly going on.) I ask, are they not vigorous, and their senses clear, easily working as they should? While the bodies of others are flaccid and softer than wax, and have a many terrible things happen to them? For they soon have:

  • Gout—
  • Untimely palsy—
  • Premature old age—
  • Headache—
  • Farting—
  • Weak digestion—
  • Loss of appetite—
  • Constant need for medical attention—
  • Perpetual dosing—
  • Daily worries—

Are these things pleasurable? Tell me! Who of those that know what pleasure really is would say so? For pleasure is produced when desire leads the way, and fulfillment follows: now if there is fulfillment, but desire is nowhere to be found, the conditions of pleasure fail and vanish. This is why invalids, although the most charming food is set before them, eat it with a feeling of disgust and a sense of oppression: because there is no desire which gives a keen relish to the enjoyment of even the most charming food.

For it is not the nature of the food, or of the drink, but the appetite of the eaters, which is capable of producing the desire, and capable of causing pleasure. That is also why a certain wise man who had an accurate knowledge of all that related to pleasure, and understood how to moralize about these things, said, "The foul soul mocks at honeycombs." This shows that the conditions of pleasure are not in the nature of the meal, but in the disposition of the people eating it. That is also why the prophet, in recounting the wonders in Egypt and in the desert, mention this in connection with the others, "God satisfied them with honey out of the rock." Yet it doesn't appear anywhere that honey actually sprang forth for them out of the rock. So what does the expression mean?

Because the people who were exhausted by enormous amounts of work and long travel, and who were extremely thirsty, rushed to the cool spring, their craving to drink something served as an incentive. The writer who wanted to describe the pleasure they received from those fountains called the water "honey," not meaning that the water was converted into honey, but that the pleasure received from the water rivaled the sweetness of honey, because those who drank it rushed to it in their eagerness to have something to quench their thirst.

Since these things are this way and no one, however stupid, can deny it: Is it not perfectly obvious that pure, undiluted, and lively pleasure is to be found at the tables of the poor? While at the tables of the rich there is discomfort, and disgust and defilement? As that wise man has said, "Even sweet things seem to be repulsive."

But riches, some will say, procure honor for those who possess them, and enable them to take vengeance on their enemies with ease. And is this a reason, please, why riches seem to you desirable and worth chasing after: that they nourish the most dangerous passion in our nature, leading anger into action, swelling the empty bubbles of ambition, and stimulating and urging people to be arrogant? Why, these are just the very reasons we out to resolutely turn our backs on riches, because they introduce certain fierce and dangerous wild beasts into our heart, depriving us of the real honor we might receive from all. Worse, they introduce deluded men something else which is the opposite of this, only painted over with a whore's colors, and persuading them to fancy it is the same, when by nature it is not so, but only seems like it to the eye. For as the beauty of whores, made up as it is of dyes and pigments, has no real beauty, but makes a foul and ugly face appear fair and beautiful to those who are deluded by it, when it is not so in reality. In the same way riches force flattery to look like honor.

For I beg you not to consider the praises which are openly bestowed through fear and fasting: for those are only makeup and paints; but let us unfold the conscience of each of those who flatter you in this fashion. Inside it you will see too many accusers to count speaking against you, and loathing and despising you worse than your bitterest adversaries and foes. And even if a change of circumstances should occur which would remove and expose this mask which fear has manufactured, just like the sun when it shines a hotter ray than usual discloses the real faces of those women I mentioned, then all will change. You will see clearly that all through the former time you were held in the greatest contempt by those who fawned on you, and you fancied you were enjoying honor from those who thoroughly hated you, and in their heart poured infinite abuse on you, and longed to see all sorts of terrible things happen to you. For there is nothing like goodness to produce honor: honor neither forced nor feigned, nor hidden under a mask of deceit, but real and genuine, and able to stand the test of hard times.

But do you want to take vengeance on those who bother you? This is, as I was saying just now, the very reason why we should specifically avoid wealth. For it prepares you to thrust the sword against yourself, and renders you answerable Ed to heavier charges at the Crack of Doom, and makes your punishment intolerable.

For revenge is so great an evil that it actually revokes the mercy of God, and cancels the forgiveness of countless sins which have already been bestowed. Christ told a story of a man who owed billions and billions of dollars, and his master forgave them, and then took another man and said "Pay back what you owe!" over a debt of a few thousands of dollars. For he who received forgiveness of the debt of billions of dollars, and after having received so great a benefit by merely for asking it, then made a demand of several thousand dollars from his fellow servant owed to himself. In his harshness to his fellow servant he etched his own condemnation in stone. For this reason and no other he was delivered over to the torturers, and tormented with a torture rack, and required to pay back the billions of dollars. The unmerciful servant was not allowed any excuse or defense to his benefit, but suffered the most extreme penalty, being commanded to repay the whole debt which the loving kindness of God had formerly let go.

Is this then the reason, pray, why you so earnestly pursue money, because it so easily you into this kind of son? No, truly, that is why you should abhor it as an enemy and an adversary teeming with countless murders. But poverty, some will say, disposes people to be uncontent and often also to utter profane words, and give themselves to despicable actions. It is not poverty which does this, but littleness of soul: for Lazarus was poor—very poor—and besides poverty he suffered from illness, a more bitter trial than any form of poverty, and one which makes poverty a harsher blow. And in addition to illness he had a total lack of protectors, and difficulty in finding anyone to supply his needs, which increased the bitterness of his poverty and illness. For both of these are painful in themselves, but when there is no one to minister to the sufferer's needs:

  • The suffering becomes greater—
  • The flame more painful—
  • The distress more bitter—
  • The tempest fiercer—
  • The billows stronger—
  • The furnace hotter—

And if you examine the case thoroughly there was yet a fourth trial besides there—the unconcern and luxury of the rich man who lived nearby. And if you would find a fifth thing, serving as fuel to the flame, you will see quite clearly that he was afflited by by it.

For not only was that man rich man living luxuriously, but two and three times, or really several times a day he saw the poor man. For he had been laid at the rich man's gate, being a grievous spectacle of pitiable distress, and the mere sight of him was enough to soften even a heart of stone. Yet even this did not draw that unmerciful man to help this case of poverty: but he had:

  • His luxurious table spread—
  • Goblets wreathed with flowers—
  • Pure wine plentifully poured forth—
  • Grand armies of cooks, and groupies, and flatterers from early dawn—
  • And troops of singers, cupbearers, and jesters—

And he spent all his time in devising every species of dissipation, and drunkenness, and overeating, and in reveling in fine clothing and feasting and many other things.

But although he saw that poor man every day distressed by grievous hunger and the worst illness, and the pain of his many thoughts, and by being destitute, and the ills which result from these things, he never even gave him a thought. Yet the groupies and the flatterers were pampered even beyond their needs. But the poor man, and he so very poor, and surrounded by so many miseries, was not even fed with the crumbs which fell from that table, although he wanted them very much. And yet none of these things injuharmedred him, he did not vent a single bitter word, nor did he utter a profane speech. But like a piece of gold which shines all the more brilliantly when it is purified by overpowering heat, even so Lazarus, although afflicted with all these sufferings, was superior to all of them, and to the agitation which they often produce.

For if generally speaking poor people, when they see rich people, are consumed with envy and racked by malicious ill-will, and deem life not worth living. This is true even when poorer people are well supplied with necessary food, and have persons to serve their needs; what would the condition of this poor man have been had he not been very wise and noble-hearted, as:

  • He was not only poorer than any other poor men—
  • Not only poor but also ill—
  • Without anyone to protect or cheer him—
  • Lay in the midst of the city as if it were a desolate, faroff desert—
  • Wasted away with bitter hunger—
  • Saw all good things being poured upon the rich man as out of a fountain—
  • Did not have the benefit of any human consolation, but—
  • Lay exposed as a perpetual meal for the tongues of verminous street dogs, for he was so weakened and broken down in body that he could not drive them away—

Don't you see that he who does not harm himself suffers no evil? For I will again take up the same argument.

For what harm was done to this hero by his bodily illness? Or the absence of protectors? Or by the coming of verminous dogs? Or the evil nearness of the rich man? Or by the great luxury, haughtiness and arrogance of the latter?

Did it sap him for the contest on behalf of goodness? Did it ruin his strong character? Nowhere was he harmed at all, but that multitude of sufferings, and the cruelty of the rich man, rather increased his strength. More than this, it became the pledge for him of infinite crowns of victory, a means of adding to his rewards, an increase of his repayment, and a promise of more good things in the world to come. For he was crowned not merely on account of his poverty, or his hunger or of his sores, or the verminous dogs licking them. But because, having such a neighbor as the rich man, and being seen by him every day, and was forever overlooked, Lazarus endured this trial bravely and with much inner strength, a trial which added no small flame but in fact a very strong one to the fire of poverty, and illness and lowliness.

And, tell me, what was the case of the blessed Paul? For there is nothing to stop me from mentioning him again. Didn't he experience innumerable storms of trial? And in what respect was he damaged by them? Wasn't he crowned with all the more victory as a result:

  • Because he suffered hunger—
  • Because he was consumed with cold and lack of clothing—
  • Because he was often tortured—
  • Because people threw stones at him—
  • Because he was cast into the sea—

But then some say he was Paul, and called by Christ. Yet Judas was also one of the twelve, and he too was called of Christ, but neither his being one of the twelve nor his call profited him, because he did not have a mind disposed to goodness. But Paul although struggling with hunger, and at a loss to get necessary food, and daily undergoing such great sufferings, pursued with great zeal the road which leads to Heaven. While Judas, although:

  • He had been called before him—
  • Enjoyed the same advantages as he did—
  • Was initiated into the highest form of Christian life—
  • Partook of the holy table and that most awesome of sacred feasts—
  • Received such grace as to be able to raise the dead, and cleanse the lepers, and cast out devils—
  • Often heard discussion concerning poverty—
  • Spent so long a time in the company of Christ Himself—
  • Was entrusted with money for the poor, so that his passion might be soothed by it (for he was a thief)—

Even then Judas did not become any better, although he had been favored with such great kindness. For since Christ knew he was greedy, and destined to eternally perish on account of his love of money, Christ not only did not demand punishment of him for this at that time. But with a view to softening Judas's passion he was entrusted with the money for the poor, that having some means of appeasing his greed he might be saved from falling into that appalling gulf of sin. The thought was to check a greater evil beforehand by a lesser one.

Thus in no case will any one be able to harm someone who does not harm himself: but if a person is not willing to be reasonable, and aid himself from his own resources, no one will ever be able to bring him profit. Therefore also that wonderful history of the Holy Scriptures has portrayed the lives of men of old time, extending the narrative from Adam to the coming of Christ, as if in some great, large, and broad picture. And it shows to you both those who are defeated, and who are crowned with victory in the contest, so that it may instruct you by means of examples that no one will be able to harm one who does not suffer any self-inflicted wound, even if all the world were to kindle a fierce war against him. For it is not:

  • Stressful circumstances—
  • Variations of seasons—
  • Attacks from men in power—
  • Schemes attacking you like snowstorms—
  • Nor a whole bunch of terrible calamities—
  • Nor an unbounded collection of all the ills to which mankind is subject—

—which can disturb even slightly the person who is brave, and temperate, and watchful. By contrast, the lazy and low person who are themselves their own betrayer cannot be made better, even with the aid of innumerable helps.

This at least was made manifest to us by the parable in the Sermon on the Mount of the two people, one of whom built a house on the rock, the other on sand. Not that we are to think of sand and rock, or of a building of stone, and a roof, or of rivers, and rain, and wild winds, beating against the buildings, but we are to extract goodness and evil as the meaning of these things, and to perceive from them that no one harms a person who does not suffer self-inflicted wounds.

Therefore neither the rain although driven furiously along, nor the streams vehemently dashing against the house, nor the wild winds beating against it with a mighty rush, shook the one house in any degree: but the house remained undisturbed and unmoved. By this understand that no trial can agitate the person who does not betray himself. But the house of the other person was easily swept away, not on account of the force of the trials (for in that case the other would have experienced the same fate), but because of his own foolishness. For it did not fall because the wind blew on it, but because it was built upon the sand, in other words on laziness and sin. For before the storm beat against it, it was weak and ready to fall. For buildings of that kind, even if no one puts any pressure on them, fall to pieces by themselves, and the foundation sinks and gives way in every direction. And just as cobwebs fall apart, although no real weight is placed on them, but hardened steel remains even when it is struck: likewise, those who do not harm themselves become stronger, even if they receive innumerable blows. But they who betray themselves, even if there is no one to disturb them, fall by themselves, and collapse and perish. For that is how even Judas perished, not only not having been attacked by any trial of this kind, but actually having enjoyed the benefit of quite a lot of help.

Would you like me to illustrate this argument in the case of whole nations? What great forethought was bestowed on the Jewish nation! Was not the whole visible Creation arranged with a view to their service? Was not a new and groundbreaking method of life introduced among them? For they did not have to send things down to a market, and so they had the benefit of things which are sold for money without paying any price for them. Neither did they:

  • Cut furroughs nor drag a plow—
  • Nor harrow the ground—
  • Nor cast in seed—
  • Nor did they have any need of rain, and wind, and annual seasons, nor sunshine, nor phases of the moon, nor climate, nor anything of that kind—
  • They prepared no threshing floor—
  • They threshed no grain—
  • They used no winnowing fan for separating the grain from the chaff,
  • They turned no millstone—
  • They built no oven—
  • They brought neither wood nor fire into the house—
  • They handled no spade—
  • They sharpened no sickle—
  • They required no other art, I mean of weaving or building or supplying shoes—

...but the Word of God was everything to them. And they had a table prepared off hand, free from all toil and labor. For this was the nature of the manna: it was new and fresh, nowhere costing them any trouble, nor straining them by labor.

And their clothes, and shoes, and even their physical frame forgot their natural weakness. The clothes and shoes did not wear out in the course of so many years, nor did their feet swell although they made such long marches.

Of doctors, and medicine, and all other concern about that kind of art, there was no mention at all among them. So completely banished was weakness of every kind: for it is said "He brought them out with silver and gold; and there was not one feeble person among their tribes." But like men who had left this world, and were conveyed to another and better one, even so they ate and drank, neither did the sun's ray hurt their heads when it grew hot; for the cloud parted them from the fiery beam, hovering all around them, and serving like a portable shelter for the whole population. Neither at night did they need a torch to disperse the darkness, but they had the pillar of fire, a source of unspeakable light, supplying two needs, one by its shining, the other by directing the course of their journey. For it was not only a bright light, but also guided that countless host along the wilderness with more certainty than any human guide. And they journeyed not only upon land but also upon sea as if it had been dry land. They made an audacious experiment upon the laws of nature by treading on that angry sea, marching through it as if it had been the hard and resisting surface of a rock. Indeed when they placed their feet upon it the element became like solid earth, and gently sloping plains and fields. But when it received their enemies it behaved like a sea, and to the Israelites indeed it served as a chariot, but to their enemies it became a deathtrap. It brought the Israelites across with ease, but drowned their pursuers with great violence. The chaotic flood of water displayed the good order and obedience which marks reasonable and highly intelligent people, fulfilling the part at one time of a guardian, at another an executioner, and exhibiting these opposites together on one day. What shall one say of the rocks which poured forth streams of waters? What of the clouds of birds which covered the whole face of the earth by the number of their carcasses? What of the wonders in Egypt? What of the marvels in the wilderness? What of the triumphs and bloodless victories? For they subdued those who opposed them like people keeping a holiday rather than making war. And they vanquished their own masters without the use of weapons. They overcame those who fought with them after they had left Egypt, with singing and music. What they did was a festival rather than a military campaign, a religious ceremony rather than a battle.

For all these wonders took place not only for the purpose of supplying their needs, but also so that the people might preserve more accurately the teaching which Moses taught about the knowledge of God. Voices proclaiming the presence of their master were uttered on all sides of them. For the sea loudly declared this, by becoming a road for them to march upon, and then turning into sea again. The waters of the Nile uttered this voice when they were converted into the nature of blood. The frogs, and the great army of locusts, and the caterpillar and blight declared the same thing to all the people. The miracles in the desert, the manna, the pillar of fire, the cloud, the quails, and all the other incidents served them as a book, and writing which could never be erased, echoing daily in their memory and resounding in their mind. Nonetheless:

  • After such great and remarkable Providence—
  • After all those unspeakable benefits—
  • After such mighty miracles—
  • After care indescribable—
  • After continual teaching—
  • After instruction by means of speech—
  • After admonition by means of deeds—
  • After glorious victories—
  • After extraordinary triumphs—
  • After abundant supply of food—
  • After the plentiful production of water—
  • After the ineffable glory with which they were clothed in the eyes of the human race—

Being ungrateful and senseless, they worshiped a calf, and paid reverence to the head of a bull, even when the memorials of God's benefits in Egypt were fresh in their minds, and they were still in actual enjoyment of many more.

But the Ninevites, although a barbarian and foreign people who had never participated in any of these benefits, small or great, saw neither words, nor wonders, nor works when they saw a man who had been saved from shipwreck, who had never associated with them before, but appeared then for the first time. He entered their city and said "Three more days and Nineveh will be overthrown," and the Ninevites were so converted and reformed by the mere sound of these words, and putting away their former wickedness, advanced in the direction of goodness by the path of repentance, that they caused the sentence of God to be revoked, and stopped the threatened disturbance of their city, and averted the Heaven-sent wrath, and were delivered from every kind of evil. "For," we read, "God saw that every man turned from his evil way, and was converted to the Lord." I ask how they were turned. Although their wickedness was great, their sins unspeakable, their moral sores difficult to heal, which the prophet plainly showed to say "their wickedness rose even unto the Heavens:" indicating by that distance just how wicked they were... nevertheless such great sin which was piled up to such a height as to reach even to the Heavens... they abolished, removed out of sight, and put away all of this in a brief moment of time through a few words what they heard from one man's mouth and he an unknown shipwrecked foreigner. And they had the happiness of hearing the declaration "God saw that every one turned from his evil way, and He repented of the evil which God said He would do to them." Do you see how he who is moderate and watchful not only suffers no harm from the hands of people, but even turns back wrath sent from Heaven? But despite this the person who betrays himself and harms himself by what he does, even if countless benefits were received, does not receive much of an advantage. So, at least, the Jews did not benefit from those great miracles, nor were the Ninevites harmed by having no share in them. However, seeing that they were inwardly well-disposed, having laid hold of a slender chance they became better, barbarians and foreigners as they may have been, ignorant of all divine revelation and dwelling some distance from Palestine.

Again, was the goodness of the "three children" corrupted by the troubles they faced? While they were still young, mere youths of really a child's age, did they not undergo the terrible affliction of captivity? Did they not have to make a long journey from home, and when they arrived in the foreign land were they not cut off from the Jewish homeland, from home and Temple, and alter and sacrifices, and offerings and drinking offerings, and even singing Psalms? For not only were they cut off from their home, but as a consequence they were furthermore cut off from much of the worship they knew. Had they not been given into the hands of men, wolves rather than humans? And, most painful disaster of all, when they had been banished to so distant and barbarous a country, and suffering captivity, weren't they without Jewish teachers, without prophets, without a ruler? "For," it is written, "there is no ruler, nor prophet, nor governor, nor place fore offering before Thee and finding mercy." Worse than this, they were thrown into the pagans' royal palace, as upon some cliff and mountaintop, and a sea full of rocks and reefs, being compelled to sail over that angry sea without a captain or signal or crew or sails. They were cooped up in the royal court as in a hostile prison. For so far as they knew spiritual wisdom, and were superior to worldly things, they counted their journey there as their trouble getting worse. For if they had been outside the court, and living in a private house they would have had more independence. However, having cast into that prison (for they deemed the external splendor of the palace no better than a prison, no safer than a place of slippery rocks) they were immediately subjected to something cruel, and worse than embarrassment. For the king commanded them to receive food from his own table, a decadent, idol-stained, defiled table, something which was absolutely forbidden to Jews, and seemed more terrible than death. They were lonely men hemmed in like lambs among so many wolves. And they were forced to choose between being consumed by famine, or rather led off to execution, and tasting defiled and unclean foods that were forbidden to Jews. What then did these youths do, forlorn as they were, captives, strangers, and slaves of those who commanded these things? They did not consider that this dilemma or the absolute power of the ruler to justify their giving in; but they tried every plan and method to enable them to avoid sin, although they were abandoned on every side. For they could not influence people by money. How should they, being captives? Nor by friendship and social influence: how should they, being strangers? Nor could they get the better of them than any exercise of power: how was it possible to slaves like them? Nor could they win by force of numbers: how could they, being only three strong? Therefore they approached the eunuch who possessed the necessary authority, and persuaded him by their arguments. For when they saw him fearful and trembling, and in agony and alarmed for his own safety, and the fear of death that agitated his soul was intolerable: "for I fear," said he, "my lord the king, lest he should see your faces sadder than the other children like you and so you shall endanger my head before the king" having released him from this fear the three children persuaded him to grant them the favor. And given that they brought to the work all the strength which they had, God also henceforth contributed His strength to it. For it was not God's doing alone that they achieved those things for the sake of which they were to receive a reward, but the beginning and starting point was from their own initiative. Having manifested that to be noble and brave, they won for themselves the help of God, and so accomplished their aim.

Do you not then see that if a person does not injure himself, no one else will be able to harm him? Consider the following: They were,

  • Scarcely older than children—
  • Captivity and destitution—
  • Exile into a foreign land—
  • Great fear of death attacking the eunuch's mind—
  • Poverty—
  • Being so few in numbers—
  • Living surrounded by barbarians—
  • Having enemies for masters—
  • Surrender into the hands of the king himself—
  • Seperated from all their relatives—
  • Removal from priests and prophets—
  • Removal from all others who cared for them—
  • Being completely cut off from drink offerings and sacrifices—
  • Loss of the Temple and Psalmody—

And yet none of things harmed them: but they had more public fame than when they had all these things in their native land.

And after they had accomplished this first and had placed the glorious crown of victory on their heads, and had kept the Jewish Law even in a foreign land, and trampled underfoot the tyrant's command, and overcame the fear of the avenger, and yet receiving no harm from anywhere, as if they had been quietly living at home and enjoying the benefit of all benefits of Jewish society which I mentioned... after they had so fearlessly accomplished their work, they were again summoned to other contests.

And again they were the same men; and they were subjected to a more severe trial than the earlier one, and a furnace was lit, and they were confronted by the barbarian army in company of the king. The whole Persian force was set in motion and everything was devised which would tend to deceive or confront them: different kinds of music, and various forms of punishment, and threats, and what they saw was alarming on every side, and the words they heard were more alarming than what they saw... nevertheless, as they did not betray themselves, but made the most of their own strength, they never sustained any kind of damage. They even won for themselves more glorious crowns of victory than before. For Nebuchednesor tied them up and threw them into the furnace, but he failed to burn them, but instead helped them, and made them more illustrious. And although they were:

  • Deprived of Temple (for I will repeat my former remarks)—
  • Deprived of altar—
  • Deprived of homeland—
  • Deprived of priests and prophets—
  • Although they were in a foreign and barbarous country—
  • In the very midst of the furnace—
  • Surrounded by all that mighty warhost—
  • With the king himself who had done all this looking at them—

They set up a glorious trophy. They won a notable victory. And they had sung that admirable and extraordinary hymn which from that day to today has been sung throughout the world and will continue to be sung for future generations:

"Blessed art Thou, O Lord, God of our fathers,
and to be praised and highly exalted for ever;
And blessed is Thy glorious, holy Name
and to be highly praised and highly exalted for ever;
Blessed art Thou in the Temple of Thy holy glory
and to be extolled and highly glorified for ever.
Blessed art Thou, Who sittest upon cherubim and lookest upon the deeps,
and to be praised and highly exalted for ever.
Blessed art Thou upon the Throne of Thy Kingdom
and to be extolled and highly exalted for ever.
Blessed art Thou in the firmament of Heaven
and to be sung and glorified for ever.

"Bless the Lord, all works of the Lord,
Sing praise to Him and highly exalt Him for ever.
Bless the Lord, you Heavens,
Sing praise to Him and highly exalt Him for ever.
Bless the Lord, you angels of the Lord,
Sing praise to Him and highly exalt Him for ever.
Bless the Lord, all waters above the heaven,
Sing praise to Him and highly exalt Him for ever.
Bless the Lord, all powers,
Sing praise to Him and highly exalt Him for ever.
Bless the Lord, sun and moon,
Sing praise to Him and highly exalt Him for ever.
Bless the Lord, stars of Heaven,
Sing praise to Him and highly exalt Him for ever.
Bless the Lord, all rain and dew,
Sing praise to Him and highly exalt Him for ever.
Bless the Lord, all winds,
Sing praise to Him and highly exalt Him for ever.
Bless the Lord, fire and heat,
Sing praise to Him and highly exalt Him for ever.
Bless the Lord, winter cold and summer heat,
Sing praise to Him and highly exalt Him for ever.
Bless the Lord, dews and snows,
Sing praise to Him and highly exalt Him for ever.
Bless the Lord, nights and days,
Sing praise to Him and highly exalt Him for ever.
Bless the Lord, light and darkness,
Sing praise to Him and highly exalt Him for ever.
Bless the Lord, ice and cold,
Sing praise to Him and highly exalt Him for ever.
Bless the Lord, frosts and snows,
Sing praise to Him and highly exalt Him for ever.
Bless the Lord, lightnings and clouds,
Sing praise to Him and highly exalt Him for ever.
Let the earth bless the Lord;
Let it sing praise to Him and highly exalt Him for ever.
Bless the Lord, mountains and hills,
Sing praise to Him and highly exalt Him for ever.
Bless the Lord, all things that grow on the earth,
Sing praise to Him and highly exalt Him for ever.
Bless the Lord, you springs,
Sing praise to Him and highly exalt Him for ever.
Bless the Lord, seas and rivers,
Sing praise to Him and highly exalt Him for ever.
Bless the Lord, you whales and all creatures that move in the waters,
Sing praise to Him and highly exalt Him for ever.
Bless the Lord, all birds of the air,
Sing praise to Him and highly exalt Him for ever.
Bless the Lord, all beasts and cattle,
Sing praise to Him and highly exalt Him for ever.
Bless the Lord, you sons of men,
Sing praise to Him and highly exalt Him for ever.
Bless the Lord, O Israel,
Sing praise to Him and highly exalt Him for ever.
Bless the Lord, you priests of the Lord,
Sing praise to Him and highly exalt Him for ever.
Bless the Lord, you servants of the Lord,
Sing praise to Him and highly exalt Him for ever.
Bless the Lord, spirits and souls of the righteous,
Sing praise to Him and highly exalt Him for ever.
Bless the Lord, you who are holy and humble in heart,
Sing praise to Him and highly exalt Him for ever.
Bless the Lord, Hanani′ah, Azari′ah, and Mish′ael,
Sing praise to Him and highly exalt Him for ever.
For He has rescued us from Hades and saved us from the hand of death,
And delivered us from the midst of the burning fiery furnace;
From the midst of the fire He has delivered us.
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good,
For His mercy endures for ever.
Bless Him, all who worship the Lord, the God of gods,
Sing praise to Him and give thanks to Him,
For His mercy endures for ever."

So when a person does not harm himself, he cannot possibly be hurt by another. I will not cease constantly harping on this saying. For if captivity, and slavery, and loneliness and loss of country and all kindred and death, and a great warhost and a savage tyrant could not do any damage to the innate goodness of the three children, even though they were captives, slaves, and aliens in a foreign land. To the contrary, the enemy's assault became to them instead the occasion of greater winning. What shall be able to harm the reasonable and moderate person? There is nothing, even if the whole world would be up in arms against him. "But," someone may say, "in their case God stood beside them, and plucked them out of the flame." Certainly He did: and if you will play your part to the best of your power, the help which God provides will definitely follow you.

Nevertheless the reason why I admire those youths and I call them blessed, and admirable, is not because they trampled on the flame and vanquished the power of the fire. It is because they were tied up with ropes and thrown into the furnace, and delivered to the fire for the sake of living the Truth. For this is what constituted the completeness of their triumph, and the wreath of victory was placed on their heads as soon as they were thrown into the furnace, and not a moment later. It was before the events occurred which were woven to them, when they spoke with much boldness and candid freedom of speech to the king when they were brought into his presence. "We have no need to answer thee concerning this thing. For our God in Heaven Whom we serve is able to rescue us out of the burning fiery furnace: and He will deliver us out of thy hands, O king. But even if He cannot, let it be known to you O King, that we will not serve thy gods nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up."

After they spoke these words I proclaimed them conquerors. After these words, having grasped the prize of victory, they went on to claim the glorious crown of martyrdom, by following up the confession they made in words with the confession they made through their deeds. But when they had been thrown into the furnace, the fire had respect for their bodies. The fire took off the ropes they were tied up in, and allowed them to go down into it without fear, and forgot its natural force, so that the furnace of fire became a fountain of cool water. This marvel was the effect of God's grace and the divine wonder-working power. Yet the heroes themselves even before these things took place, as soon as they set foot in the flames, had erected their trophy. They had won their victory. They had put on their crowns. They had been proclaimed conquerors both in Heaven and on earth. So far as they were concerned, there was nothing more to ask for their splendor.

What then would you have to say to these things? Have you been driven into exile, and expelled from your country? So were they. Have you suffered captivity, and become the slave of barbarian masters? Well! You will find that this also happened to these men. But you have no one present there to put order to your life nor advise and instruct you? Well! These men lacked such attention too. Or have you been tied up, burned, and killed? For you cannot tell me of anything more painful than these things. But look at this! These men who went through them all, were made more glorious by each one of them, yes, much more glorious. More than this, they increased the store of their treasures in Heaven.

And the Jews indeed who had:

  • Both Temple and altar—
  • Ark and cherubim—Mercy-seat—
  • Veil and an infinite multitude of priests—
  • Daily services—
  • Morning and evening sacrifices—
  • Continually heard the voices of the prophets, both living and dead, sounding in their ears—
  • Carried about with them the memory of the wonders which were done in Egypt, and in the wilderness, and all the rest—
  • Turning the story of these things over in their hands—
  • Had them inscribed on their doorposts and enjoyed the benefit of much supernatural power and every other kind of help—

—were yet in no way profited, but rather harmed:

  • Having set up idols in the Temple itself—
  • And having sacrificed their sons and daughters under trees—
  • In almost every part of the country in Palestine having offered these forbidden and condemned sacrifices—
  • perpetrated countless other deeds that were still more monstrous—

But these three men, although in the midst of a barbarous and hostile land, living in a tyrant's house deprived of all that care I have been talking about, led away to execution, and subjected to burning, not only suffered no harm there from anyone small or great, but became all the more famous.

Knowing then these things, and collecting other instances like this from the inspired divine Scriptures (for it is possible to find many such examples with various other persons) we declare that neither a difficulty arising from seasons or events, nor compulsion and force, nor the arbitrary authority of rulers provide enough of an excuse for us when we sin. I will now close my discourse by repeating what I said at the beginning, that if anyone be harmed and damaged he certainly suffers this as entirely self-inflicted damage, not at the hands of others even if there may be innumerably many people harming and attacking him. If you does not suffer this at your own hands, not even all the creations which inhabit the whole earth and sea if they combined to attack you would be able to hurt you if you are vigilant and sober in the Lord.

Let us then, I plead to you, be sober and vigilant at all times. Let us endure all painful things bravely so that we may obtain those everlasting and pure blessings in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory and power, now and ever throughout all ages.

Amen!

How does this relate to Fr. Seraphim's militant following?

How does this relate to Fr. Seraphim's militant following, such as I wrote about in The Seraphinians: "Blessed Seraphim Rose" and His Axe-Wielding Western Converts? I pity them, and pray, "Holy Father Seraphim, pray for your followers, that they may not suffer harm on my account," and I consider them to be benefactors.

(Perhaps unwilling and unwitting benefactors, but benefactors nonetheless.)

In Profoundly Gifted Survival Guide, I wrote:

I wrote in another blog post that I believed I had experienced what I would call "fame lite." Leonard Nimoy, in I Am Spock talks about how Hollywood has teachers for all kinds of skills they would need to portray that skill in movies: musical instruments, riding a horse, and so on and so forth. However, there was something that no teachers were to be found in Hollywood: dealing with fame. Nimoy learned, for instance, how to enter a restaurant through the kitchen because there would be a public commotion if Spock walked in through the front door. And on that count, I do not obviously suffer the consequences of real fame. I’ve been asked for my autograph, once. I’ve had someone call out publicly, before I entered Orthodoxy, “That’s Jonathan Hayward!”, once. I have repeatedly had pleasant meetings with people who know me through my website. And since then, the only new tarnish to my claim of undeserved “fame lite” is in recent years when a job opportunity was really a cloak for attempted seduction. If that was because of my website or reputation; I am not sure it was.

Fr. Seraphim's militant followers have kept an eagle eye to ensure that positive reviews don't stay up on Amazon too long, if they have any excuse to have it taken down. Consequently, if you look at my author page on Amazon, you will see what looks to me like the customer review title of an author who's written a lot of mediocrities. Editorial reviews help sales, but Amazon customers are used to buying things that have four and a half stars to five stars and usually hundreds, if not thousands, of customer reviews.

My magnum opus is The Luddite's Guide to Technology, and at the time of this writing, has two and a half stars and four customer ratings. There is no hint in this, to the Amazon customer, that the title merits study.

So why do I say that Seraphinians are my benefactors? C.S. Lewis wrote wonderful books and definitely did not just have "fame lite"; he had "full-blooded fame" and spent much of his later life in essentially pastoral correspondence with his readers. It would be quite wrong on my part to think myself entitled to write what may be good books but be too good to spend lots of time answering heartfelt correspondence from my readers. But I seem shielded from a benefit I would be immature to seek.

Furthermore, I am well-known with a good reputation, at least among conservative converts to Orthodoxy. I was informed a couple of years ago that in Facebook conversation, my name, listed as "Christos Jonathan Seth Hayward," had condensed to "CSH," in other words, "C.S. Hayward." That would also be bad enough for me to seek, but I have it. And I have just a pleasant degree of experience of meeting people and finding that they already know and like me, through my website.

People who are enough in the know, know that a pedestal can be a heavy cross to bear. Fr. Seraphim himself tried to avoid being put on a pedestal, but it happened to him anyway. At present I am on a pedestal but one that could be much larger and worse than it actually is, and part of my smaller and less burdensome pedestal is due to the hate of Fr. Seraphim's followers.

Furthermore, it is well-known in Orthodoxy that if you have a spiritual director and are obedient, part of what is done for you is that your spiritual director and not you will answer for your sins. What is less well-known is that if someone really maltreats you, they will answer for your sins like a spiritual director was. And this is something I wish were not so, and reason to pity Fr. Seraphim's followers, however hostile. When I die I want my sins to fall on Christ, and maybe my spiritual director. But they may fall on people who are already poor spiritually.

Being woke, as it is commonly understood, means being sensitized to notice subtle terms of political terms of disenfranchisement. In this and other cases I do not wish to explore, the term "subtle" simply does not apply. But I do not need to perhaps look cues for other even more subtle ways haters try to sabotage and oppress me. There is still plenty that is un-subtle!

...and true awakening

People today are big on being woke, of waking up and smelling the shit. And so it is in Orthodoxy too. But the real waking up smelling the shit is not the shit of political disenfranchisement, but the shit of our own sin. Pure and simple.

Furthermore, the Orthodox understanding of repentance is to wake up from your slumber, and arise from your sleep. Repentance is unconditional surrender, but it is also waking up from sleep par excellence.

I have spent much of my life unhappy, and been slow to wake up. For all my privilege, I was an escapist. I wanted to leave the world, wanted to have something from another world, such desires as power Within the Steel Orb. I found the here and now to almost always be desolate.

At one point a priest mentioned me that monks in the desert were always warned of the temptation to escape the world. And I repented, let go of having something sexy or enticing or otherwise an exception to this desolate world, and when I wrote a blank check to God and most bleakly accepted that my place was in this desolate world, my eyes were opened and I saw, as for the very first time, that the here and now I was in were not desolate, but beautiful. And that marked a beginning of being glad to be alive.
And in the wake of this, I wrote "Paradise:"

Paradise

O Lord,
Have I not seen,
How thou hast placed me in Paradise?

And how have I said,
That a first monastic command,
Is, "Go home and spend another year with your family?"
While I have spent a few?
The obedience is not limited,
By a count of years,
But by obedience,
This being a first obedience.

Gifts I have fought as chance left me,
Bloodied, but more deeply bowed:

Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?
It hurteth thee to kick against the goads.

I stand, or sit,
Not scholar, nor user experience professional,
Making use of a life of leisure,
Learning leisure well, to lord it over leisure,
Once I made a vow before a wonder-working icon in Brooklyn,
That I might receive a doctorate,
Earned or honorary,
And since then have prayed that my vow not be granted,
An honorary doctorate not to receive,
Because I do not want it enough to even travel,
To give the icon a kiss of veneration!

An Invitation to the Game is an icon,
Of children in a proletariat of excessive leisure,
Excessive leisure being a training ground,
Before a new life in a new world begins.

God the Spiritual Father looks after,
Each person he has made,
As a spiritual father looks after each disciple,
God looketh after each,
In the situations he placed each:

Life’s Tapestry

Behind those golden clouds up there
the Great One sews a priceless embroidery
and since down below we walk
we see, my child, the reverse view.
And consequently it is natural for the mind to see mistakes
there where one must give thanks and glorify.

Wait as a Christian for that day to come
where your soul a-wing will rip through the air
and you shall see the embroidery of God
from the good side
and then… everything will seem to you to be a system and order.

What have I to add,
To words such as these?
This time is a time of purification and training,
And as in times past,
In an instant, I may be taken to a monastery,
As I was taken to study theology,
Six months' work to obtain student loans,
Falling into place one business day before leaving.
Thou teachest me,
And I know thou art willing to save:
Whether or not my plans are the best.
Whether I ever reach monasticism,
Thou art potent to save.
I might need to seek monasticism:
God can save me with or without.

So I learn patience,
Fly through FluentU and learn Russian,
And here I sit,
In a place thou hast opened my eyes to see as Paradise,
And with lovely food pantries,
And visits to pets at a lovely cat shelter,
And thou ever ministerest to me.

Though thousands around me be addicted to television,
And ten thousands can't stop checking their cell phones,
Thou hast delivered me,
And taught me to lord it over technologies,
Perchance a prophet in the way,
To the technology user who still suffers,
To those who remain entangled in the Web.

Thou hast delivered me from mortal danger:
Perhaps thou givest me more time to repent.
Or perhaps thou givest merely,
More time to repent.
Glory to God for all things!

Thou givest me simple pleasures,
Who knew tidying up a besmudged keyboard could be fun?
Whither I go, thou art with me;
Thou preparest a table before family and friends.

"World" refers not to God's creation,
But to our collections of passions,
Seeing through a glass, darkly,
What bathes in the light of Heaven:
Hell is a state of mind,
But Heaven is reality itself.

I am perhaps not worthy of praise,
To say such things in middle-class comfort.
I seek monasticism, to be a novice,
Which is meant to be exile,
Yet an abbot's work,
Is to help me reach freedom from my passions,
And what true joy I have in luxury,
Only know further in monastic exile.
Years I have waited:
Now I am willing to wait years more.
Only if I may pursue repentance,
On such terms as it is offered me.
Glory to God who has allowed me such luxury!
Glory to God who has allowed me such honors!
Glory to God who has shown me that these avail nothing,
And seek the true fame,
Fame before God himself!

Be thou glorified, O God, in me,
Though I know nothing,
Though I am nothing,
Be none the less glorified in me.
The Infinite can do the Infinite in the finite:
Be thou therefore glorified and praised in me,
Though I am nothing before thee,
Yet thou grantest me breath and life,
Joy,
And ever offerest me salvation.

Glory be to God on high!
Glory be to God for Paradise!
Which Paradise is in all things!
Glory to God for all things!

Amen.

In The Paradise War, one of the characters says, "You aren't happy unless you're miserable!" And strange as it may sound, I am never so happy as when I discover a repentance.

The Philokalia says that people hold on to sin because they [wrongly] think it adorns them. And the pattern for repentance is often the same. There is some struggle, something I think I desparately need that conscience or authorities tell me I need to let go of, and when I let it go and let go of all it represents for me, bleakly certain that some shining part of me will be lost and gone forever, I repent, then realize I was holding on to a piece of Hell, and am blindsided by a reward I would not have thought to seek. Repentance is bliss, as is well powers a passage in C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce:

I saw coming towards us a Ghost who carried something on his shoulder. Like all the Ghosts, he was unsubstantial, but they differed from one another as smokes differ. Some had been whitish; this one was dark and oily. What sat on his shoulder was a little red lizard, and it was twitching its tail like a whip and whispering things in his ear. As we caught sight of him he turned his head to the reptile with a snarl of impatience. 'Shut up, I tell you!' he said. It wagged its tail and continued to whisper to him. He ceased snarling, and presently began to smile. Then he turned and started to limp westward, away from the mountains.

'Off so soon?' said a voice.

The speaker was more or less human in shape but larger than a man, and so bright that I could hardly look at him. His presence smote on my eyes and on my body too (for there was heat coming from him as well as light) like the morning sun at the beginning of a tyrannous summer day.

'Yes. I'm off,' said the Ghost. 'Thanks for all your hospitality. But it's no good, you see. I told this little chap' (here he indicated the Lizard) that he'd have to be quiet if he came—which he insisted on doing. Of course his stuff won't do here: I realise that. But he won't stop. I shall just have to go home.'

'Would you like me to make him quiet?' said the flaming Spirit—an angel, as I now understood.

'Of course I would,' said the Ghost.

'Then I will kill him,' said the Angel, taking a step forward.

'Oh—ah—look out! You're burning me. Keep away,' said the Ghost, retreating.

'Don't you want him killed?'

'You didn't say anything about killing at first. I hardly meant to bother you with anything so drastic as that.'

'It's the only way,' said the Angel, whose burning hands were now very close to the Lizard. 'Shall I kill it?'

'Well, that's a further question. I'm quite open to consider it, but it's a new point, isn't? I mean, for the moment I was only thinking about silencing it because up here—well, it's so damned embarrassing.'

'May I kill it?'

'Well, there's time to discuss that later.'

'There is no time. May I kill it?'

'Please, I never meant to be such a nuisance. Please—really—don't bother. Look! It's gone to sleep of its own accord. I'm sure it'll be all right now. Thanks ever so much.'

'May I kill it?'

'Honestly, I don't think there's the slightest necessity for that. I'm sure I shall be able to keep it in order now. I think the gradual process would be far better than killing it.'

'The gradual process is of no use at all.'

'Don't you think so? Well, I'll think over what you've said very carefully. I honestly will. In fact I'd let you kill it now, but as a matter of fact I'm not feeling frightfully well today. It would be most silly to do it now. I'd need to be in good health for the operation. Some other day, perhaps.'

'There is no other day. All days are present now.'

'Get back! You're burning me. How can I tell you to kill it? You'd kill me if you did.'

'It is not so.'

'Why, you're hurting me now.'

'I never said it wouldn't hurt you. I said it wouldn't kill you.'

'Oh, I know. You think I'm a coward. But isn't that. Really it isn't. I say! Let me run back by to-night's bus and get an opinion from my own doctor. I'll come again the first moment I can.'

'This moment contains all moments.'

'Why are you torturing me? You are jeering at me. How can I let you tear me in pieces? If you wanted to help me, why didn't you kill the damned thing without asking me—before I knew? It would be all over by now if you had.'

'I cannot kill it against your will. It is impossible. Have I your permission?'

The Angel's hands were almost closed on the Lizard, but not quite. Then the Lizard began chattering to the Ghost so loud that even I could hear what it was saying.

'Be careful,' it said. 'He can do what he says. He can kill me. One fatal word from you and he will! Then you'll be without me for ever and ever. How could you live? You'd be only a sort of ghost, not a real man as you are now. He doesn't understand. He's only a cold, bloodless abstract thing. It may be natural for him, but it isn't for us. Yes, yess. I know there are no real pleasures now, only dreams. But aren't they better than nothing? And I'll be so good. I admit I've sometimes gone too far in the past, but I promise I won't do it again. I'll give you nothing but really nice dreams—all sweet and fresh and almost innocent. You might say, quite innocent . . .'

'Have your permission?' said the Angel to the Ghost.

'I know it will kill me.'

'It won't. But supposing it did?'

'You're right. It would be better to be dead than to live with this creature.'

'Then I may?'

'Damn and blast you! Go on, can't you? Get it over. Do what you like,' bellowed the Ghost; but ended, whimpering, 'God help me. God help me.'

Next moment the Ghost gave a scream of agony such as I never heard on Earth. The Burning One closed crimson grip on the reptile: twisted it, while it bit and writhed, and then flung it, broken-backed, on the turf.

'Ow! That's done for me,' gasped the Ghost, reeling backwards.

For a moment I could make out nothing distinctly. Then I saw, between me and the nearest bush, unmistakably solid but growing every moment solider, the upper arm and the shoulder of a man. Then, brighter still, the legs and hands. The neck and golden head materialized while I watched, and if my attention had not wavered I should have seen the actual completing of a man—an immense man, naked, not much smaller than the Angel. What distracted me was the fact that the something seemed to be happening to the Lizard. At first I thought the operation had failed. So far from dying, the creature was still struggling and even growing bigger as it struggled. And as it grew it changed. Its hinder parts grew rounder. The tail, still flickering, became a tail of hair that flickered between huge and glossy buttocks. Suddenly I started back, rubbing my eyes. What stood before me was the greatest stallion I have ever seen, silvery white but with mane and tail of gold. It was smooth and shining, rippled with swells of flesh and muscle, whinneying and stamping with its hoofs. At each stamp the land shook and the trees dindled.

The new-made man turned and clapped the new horse's neck. It nosed his bright body. Horse and master breathed into each other's nostrils. The man turned from it, flung himself at the feet of the Burning One, and embraced them. When he rose I thought his face shone with tears, but may have only been the liquid love and brightness (one cannot distinguish them in that country) which flowed from him. I had not long to think about it. In joyous haste the young man leaped upon the horse's back. Turning in his seats he waved a farewell, then nudged the stallion with his heels. They were off before I knew well what was happening. There was riding if you like! I came out as quickly as I could from among the bushes to follow them with my eyes; but already they were only like a shooting star far off on the green plain, and soon among the foothills of the mountains. Then, still like a star, I saw them winding up, scaling what seemed impossible steeps, and quicker every moment, till near the dim brow of the landscape, so high that I must strain my neck to see them, they vanished, bright themselves, into the rose-brightness of that everlasting morning.

The Orthodox Church understands repentance to be a fundamental spiritual awakening, far more profound than getting bit by a political bug.

Repentance is not just True Awakening. It is also Heaven's best-kept secret.

Curiouser and curiouser

Furthermore, as far as awakening goes, it is the dogmatic theology of the Eastern Orthodox Church that it was always Plan A for our race to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It was initially forbidden, but the ban was only temporary, until Adam and Life could grow strong enough to eat such foods. The reason Adam and Eve fell after eating the fruit was not that they ate something that they were not meant to eat; it is because they went behind God's back and were like an infant trying to eat solid food when it needs breast milk.

Among the seasons of the Orthodox Church, Lent is the central season, a season of the repentance that brings Heaven here now, and builds up into the season of the Resurrection, a season of Heaven on earth, and then after a season where the Risen Christ helped his disciples on to more solid food, ascension where Christ rose to Heaven and brought the Church with him. Then comes Pentecost, which is my chief interest here, and not only because it marks the beginning of the Orthodox Church's road through time and history.

When Christ was teaching the disciples, he was always bringing them to higher things. With years of face-to-face discipling, they didn't get it. When Christ rose, they didn't get it. When he spent forty days trying to introduce more solid food, they didn't get it. When the Holy Spirit came on Pentecost, they got it.

Pentecost marks the season of awakening par excellence. It was at Pentecost that the disciples maturely ate and received of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and went from cowering behind locked doors to going fearlessly to proclaim good news throughout the known world. One of them was threatened by authorities with crucifixion; he answered, "If I feared the Cross, I would not be preaching it." Another who had denied his master three times before he "got it," when he was sentenced to death by crucifixion, said that he was not worthy to die like his Lord, and asked instead to be subjected to upside-down crucifixion—the one form of torture and execution worse than his Lord's. Almost all of them died martyrs; they had something fundamentally beyond anything the world knew. Such things as Basil's response to threats come to mind:

The emperor Valens, mercilessly sending into exile any bishop who displeased him, and having implanted Arianism into other Asia Minor provinces, suddenly appeared in Cappadocia for this same purpose. He sent the prefect Modestus to Saint Basil. He began to threaten the saint with the confiscation of his property, banishment, beatings, and even death.

Saint Basil said, “If you take away my possessions, you will not enrich yourself, nor will you make me a pauper. You have no need of my old worn-out clothing, nor of my few books, of which the entirety of my wealth is comprised. Exile means nothing to me, since I am bound to no particular place. This place in which I now dwell is not mine, and any place you send me shall be mine. Better to say: every place is God’s. Where would I be neither a stranger and sojourner? Who can torture me? I am so weak, that the very first blow would render me insensible. Death would be a kindness to me, for it will bring me all the sooner to God, for Whom I live and labor, and to Whom I hasten.”

The official was stunned by his answer. “No one has ever spoken so audaciously to me,” he said.

“Perhaps,” the saint remarked, “ that is because you’ve never spoken to a bishop before. In all else we are meek, the most humble of all. But when it concerns God, and people rise up against Him, then we, counting everything else as naught, look to Him alone. Then fire, sword, wild beasts and iron rods that rend the body, serve to fill us with joy, rather than fear.”

Reporting to Valens that Saint Basil was not to be intimidated, Modestus said, “Emperor, we stand defeated by a leader of the Church.”

And we, too, are to maturely eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

"Want to try some Snow Crash?"

Neal Stevenson in Snow Crash introduces a concept of Snow Crash that is not a narcotic, but is often laced with narcotics. Well into the book we learn that Snow Crash, the mysterious phenomenon, is a bigger, better, and geekier version of the Japanese animation technique that was banned when it caused mass epileptic seizures in its audience.

A political bug that is laced with a feeling of having made a spiritual breakthrough, that perhaps you are awake and the whole world is asleep, is false treasure. Such memes deprived of the breakthrough sensation, not laced with a narcotic, would not go very far. Laced with a sense of delightful spiritual awakening, political bugs bite people and get them to go places wisdom would not go.

It has been observed that gifted people are often very liberal, but profoundly gifted people are often very, very conservative, or at very least populist. Part of the taste that is exhilarating to most of the gifted population has a taste more like flat beer to the profoundly gifted.

If you would like to know if you’re having a real spiritual breakthrough, one question I would ask is, “What sin are you repenting of, recoiling from it in horror and tremendously glad to be clean?” If there is no clear answer to this question, the yellow metallic shine is fool’s gold.

Conclusion

Do you desire to be woke? Awaken!

You desire a good thing...

...but there is a lot of fool’s gold to be had...

...and the real gold takes some digging.

Some have cynically said, "Truth is a commodity that, however scarce, has always had a supply far in excess of the demand." I don’t know whether that is true, but I have outlined what "True Woke" really means.

It is well worth pursuing.

Would you seek it?

Orthodox Affirmations

Buy Happiness in an Age of Crisis on Amazon.

All Orthodox theology is positive theology.

Nothing can harm the man who does not injure himself.

I can do all things I am charged with through Christ who strengthens me.

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am first.

Only God and I exist.

God and the Son of God became Man and the Son of Man that men and the sons of men might become gods and the sons of God.

Trying to become god, Adam failed to become god; Christ became man, to make Adam god.

God did not only become man that I might become divine. He also became man that I might become man.

Make peace with yourself, and ten thousand around you will be saved.

Save yourself, and Heaven and earth will make peace with you.

Banish two thoughts and live two thoughts: banish "I am a saint" and "I will be damned," and live "I am a great sinner" and "God is greatly merciful."

All the world will be saved and I will be damned.

In humility consider others better than yourself. It is the key to truly enjoying them.

Keep your mind in Hell, and despair not.

The vilest of sins is a smouldering ember thrown into the ocean of God's love.

Our social program is the Trinity.

The Orthodox martial art is living the Sermon on the Mount.

My Life's Work

TL;DR

Own my complete collection in paperback! It is well worth it.

A Foxtrot cartoon featuring a tilted house and the words, "Peter, maybe you should take those Calvin and Hobbes books to the other side of the house.

OK, so I'm a dwarf standing on giants' shoulders, but...


A life's work between two covers...   er, almost a dozen pairs of covers with four to six hundred pages in between...   that could nicely adorn about two feet of space on your bookshelf...   a little smaller in size than the complete Calvin and Hobbes...

C.J.S. Hayward
Image by kind permission of the Wade Center.

"Must... fight... temptation.... to read... brilliant and interesting stuff from C.J.S. Hayward.... until.... after... work!"

—Kent Nebergall

If you don't know me, my name is Christos Jonathan Seth Hayward, which I usually abbreviate "C.J.S. Hayward."

But my name has to my surprise trilettered on Facebook to "CSH," for "C.S. Hayward". As in, the natural successor to C.S. Lewis. I take that as a big compliment.

I'm an Eastern Orthodox author, who grew up reading C.S. Lewis, and has read almost everything he wrote, including some of those reviewed in C.S. Lewis: The Neglected Works, but have written many different things in many styles. Readers have written things about parts of the the colllection like (J. Morovich):

A collection of joyful, challenging, insightful, intelligent, mirthful and jarring essays written by an Eastern Orthodox author who is much too wise for his years.

and (D. Donovan):

Each piece is a delight: partially because each 'speaks' using a different voice and partly because a diversity of topics and cross-connections between theology and everyday living makes the entire collection a delight to read, packed with unexpected twists, turns, and everyday challenges.

And all this for some of this collection.

These pieces are a joy to read, and a gateway to help you enter a larger world, and open up doors that you never dreamed were there to open. Want to really see how "There are more things in Heaven and earth than are dreamed of in your philosophy?" Read these.

This little library includes nearly everything I’ve written--roughly 365 works in 12 volumes. The works in each volume are quite varied and most are short.) I omit software projects and the occasional interactive webpage. What all is offered? Works in this series include: novellas, short stories, poems and prayers, articles, and humor.

The one single work I would recommend most by far, and has been strongly recommended by others, is The Consolation of Theology. It is based on a classic The Consolation of Philosophy, and it is meant to give consolation, joy, strength, insights and things that are beyond mere insight. In a pandemic, a collapsing economy, and times when grandmas are buying shotguns, and perhaps other things in the pipeline, happiness is possible, in our reach, and it is real.

My story includes Protestant origins and a progressive discovery of Orthodox Christianity. Because this is a collection of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, I have set the works I would particularly recommend in bold in the Table of Contents.

I've also dropped the specified price per volume from $29.99 to $19.99.

C.J.S. Hayward

Buy the C.J.S. Hayward: The Complete Works on Amazon now!

 
(Please note: In the past, a bug prevented an avid reader furious he couldn't read more than the first half of the Kindle edition. The Kindle edition has one review at one star, from someone who read the first half of the book and was infuriated he couldn't read further. I've since fixed that bug, but the review is live and probably deterring people from purchasing. I can and do write well-received titles.)

Why I'm Glad I'm Living Now, at This Place, at This Time, in This World

Four flags of a United States in distress.

Buy Happiness in an Age of Crisis on Amazon.

First Things, in a column by Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, muses,

The clock is ticking, and many in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee are counting the days, the hours, and even the minutes before Archbishop Rembert Weakland has to submit his resignation at twelve noon on his seventy-fifth birthday. I am told that the champagne bottles will be popped at 12:01 p.m. upon receiving the fax from Rome that the resignation is accepted. Truth to tell, I’ve always had something of a soft spot for the Archbishop. He’s liberally daffy but more amusingly candid than most of that persuasion. Of course he has a very high opinion of himself, but he’s never tried to hide it. I particularly liked his public statement that he would have made a great Bishop of Salzburg in the time of Mozart but ended up as Bishop of Milwaukee in the time of rock and roll. There’s something perversely refreshing about a bishop who doesn’t mind saying that he’s too good for the people he’s called to serve.

If I had been meant to live in Salzburg at Mozart's time, God would have done that. If I had been meant to live in the Middle Ages, in the desire that underpinned my second novel, God would have done that. And if I if I had been made to live in the age of many Church Fathers, God would have done that too. As it is, God's providence has placed me here and now... and God may make of me a Church Father anyway, without a time machine. To nostalgic Romans, it may be a sadness that the door to the Middle Ages is closed, but to Orthodox living at the corner of east and now, the door to being patristic remains ever open, and I may die (or be subtilized by the returning Christ) a Church Father anyway. As things are, God has given me a whole lot of being in the right place in the right time, and put me in the days of... myself! I got onto the web by accident (or rather by providence that I did not see as significant) and I have multiple major websites and a big bookshelf on Amazon.

As I write, incidentally, the majority of U.S. flags I've seen are black and white with a strip of color, the old "Don't tread on me" rattlesnake flag is seen not infrequently, and when I popped in to LinkedIn turned up a friend reflecting on a news item that grandmas are buying shotguns. I did not expect that, but I am not in the least surprised.

And one other thing: I can't meaningfully prep apart from measures I have taken that have been unfruitful. I am on maintenance medications, and if I stop taking them, I'll die within days. And as I write I seem to have COVID.

And in all this, I am grateful. St. John Chrysostom's final words were, "Glory be to God for all things!" and I echo them. I have food, shelter, clothing, medicine, and really quite a lot of things that I do not need and I am not entitled to. I only need to be faithful today with what I have today. God will bring tomorrow, and not knowing what tomorrow may bring i s much less important if you know Who will bring tomorrow.

And my death is, basically, non-negotiable. God, in his great mercy, does not let us know ahead of time when we die, because we would put off repentance and be incorrigible sinners in the hour of death. A few saints know ahead when they will die. They are so secure spiritually that they will not be less faithful for knowing. For the rest of us, it is mercy that we do not know. I could, possibly, die within days. I could for that matter die sooner: when I got my first COVID injection, a blood clot formed in my leg and dislodged to make trouble in my lungs, and the doctor said I was lucky I got to the hospital when I did, because it could have killed me. I think COVID injections are the greatest breakthrough in human health since DDT, but I digress. I could die an old man, like my grandfather who lived to be 95. I could live to see the returning Christ. And which of these, or other possibilities, hold, is not my concern. Each day has enough trouble of its own—and I have found solving a life's problems on a day's resources to be an entirely preventable ticket to despair.

Some people think that this life is only a preparatory life and is therefore unimportant St. Nikolai, in Prayers by the Lake, talked (I forget exactly where) about how birth and death are only an inch apart, and the ticker tape goes on forever.

This makes what we choose in this life incredibly important. We can only "save for retirement" between birth and death. We can only repent between birth and death. After death, improving the lot we have eternally chosen in this life will be impossible. I wish to live in repentance for the rest of my life, but I have not gotten to monasticism yet, but if death cuts short my attempts, that matters less than you might think. God treats an active intent as if the person had done what is intended; I do not see I can rightly stop seeking monastic repentance, but if I am faithful and fail, I am in the same position as martyrs said to be "baptized in their own blood" because they were martyred before they could even reach baptism.

And, to borrow from a childhood favorite, A Wind in the Door (my esteem is much less for it now), the heroine "felt as though fingers were gentle fingers pushing her down," I sought to stay when I visited Mount Athos and was told that the conditions for being made a saint are in America, and implicitly reminded that monastic "white martyrdom" is an artificial surrogate to the "red martyrdom" of the Church in a hostile world.

I would like to quote a unicorn in C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle, though I'm not sure it applies to our world:

He said that the Sons and Daughters of Adam and Eve were brought out of their own strange world only at times Narnia was upset, but she mustn't think that things were always like that. In between their visits there were hundreds and thousands of years when peaceful king followed peaceful king till you could hardly remember their names or count their numbers, and there was really hardly anything to put in the History Books.

As to the question of why God did not create Narnia and bring me to it, I reply that every excellence is incomparably excelled in what "eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor any heart imagined what God has prepared for those who love him." I can't get to a real Narnia, but I'm trying to get to a real "better than Narnia," a "better than Narnia that begins on earth, as I discuss in A Pilgrimage from Narnia:

A Pilgrimage from Narnia

Wardrobe of fur coats and fir trees:
Sword and armor, castle and throne,
Talking beast and Cair Paravel:
From there began a journey,
From thence began a trek,
Further up and further in!

The mystic kiss of the Holy Mysteries,
A many-hued spectrum of saints,
Where the holiness of the One God unfurls,

Holy icons and holy relics:
Tales of magic reach for such things and miss,
Sincerely erecting an altar, "To an unknown god,"
Enchantment but the shadow whilst these are realities:
Whilst to us is bidden enjoy Reality Himself.
Further up and further in!

A journey of the heart, barely begun,
Anointed with chrism, like as prophet, priest, king,
A slow road of pain and loss,
Giving up straw to receive gold:
Further up and further in!

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner,
Silence without, building silence within:
The prayer of the mind in the heart,
Prayer without mind's images and eye before holy icons,
A simple Way, a life's work of simplicity,
Further up and further in!

A camel may pass through the eye of a needle,
Only by shedding every possession and kneeling humbly,
Book-learning and technological power as well as possessions,
Prestige and things that are yours— Even all that goes without saying:
To grow in this world one becomes more and more;
To grow in the Way one becomes less and less:
Further up and further in!

God and the Son of God became Man and the Son of Man,
That men and the sons of men might become gods and the sons of God:
The chief end of mankind,
Is to glorify God and become him forever.
The mysticism in the ordinary,
Not some faroff exotic place,
But here and now,
Living where God has placed us,
Lifting where we are up into Heaven:
Paradise is wherever holy men are found.
Escape is not possible:
Yet escape is not needed,
But our active engagement with the here and now,
And in this here and now we move,
Further up and further in!

We are summoned to war against dragons,
Sins, passions, demons:
Unseen warfare beyond that of fantasy:
For the combat of knights and armor is but a shadow:
Even this world is a shadow,
Compared to the eternal spoils of the victor in warfare unseen,
Compared to the eternal spoils of the man whose heart is purified,
Compared to the eternal spoils of the one who rejects activism:
Fighting real dragons in right order,
Slaying the dragons in his own heart,
And not chasing (real or imagined) snakelets in the world around:
Starting to remove the log from his own eye,
And not starting by removing the speck from his brother's eye:

Further up and further in!

Spake a man who suffered sorely:
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time,
Are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us,
and:
Know ye not that we shall judge angels?
For the way of humility and tribulation we are beckoned to walk,
Is the path of greatest glory.
We do not live in the best of all possible worlds,
But we have the best of all possible Gods,
And live in a world ruled by the him,
And the most painful of his commands,
Are the very means to greatest glory,
Exercise to the utmost is a preparation,
To strengthen us for an Olympic gold medal,
An instant of earthly apprenticeship,
To a life of Heaven that already begins on earth:
He saved others, himself he cannot save,
Remains no longer a taunt filled with blasphemy:
But a definition of the Kingdom of God,
Turned to gold,
And God sees his sons as more precious than gold:
Beauty is forged in the eye of the Beholder:
Further up and further in!

When I became a man, I put away childish things:
Married or monastic, I must grow out of self-serving life:
For if I have self-serving life in me,
What room is there for the divine life?
If I hold straw with a death grip,
How will God give me living gold?
Further up and further in!

Verily, verily, I say to thee,
When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself,
And walkedst whither thou wouldest:
But when thou shalt be old,
Thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee,
And carry thee whither thou wouldest not.

This is victory:
Further up and further in!

And for our world, I would quote C.S. Lewis in saying that "humanity has always been on a precipice." Such study as I have had of Byzantine history leads me not to wonder that Constantinople fell, but that over a millennium after Constantine, after many times the Empire should have resolved, it took modern cannons to break through Constantinople's walls and subdue the great city. "Humanity has always been on a precipice"--and it seems to be increasingly more of a precipice.

It is believed by some Orthodox that Hinduism has room for the demonic and OrthoChristian.com describes Orthodox mission in India as “Perpetual Embers,” but do not speak ill to a Hindu of Krishna and the milk-maids. However, it is not provocative to call Kali demonic: a goddess of death who wears a necklace of skulls and bestows madness as her special blessing. Or at least I don’t see why it need offend a Hindu.

I have what I would call an "unintendedly kept loan" in that I was loaned a copy of the Bhagavad-Gita ("Song of God") by an Indian woman, and then lost all contact and don't see how to return it. Nor was the loan small; the Bhagavad-Gita was accompanied by commentary, as is Hindu tradition to unpack their greatest classic, in a beautiful two-volume boxed set. And the front matter talked about our being in the "Kali-yuga," or age of Kali. I don't know or understand what exactly a Hindu would mean by the Kali-yuga, but I can take a guess. And I have had some contact with the movement called "Traditionalists," which find certain underlying themes in many world religions that are threatened in the modern way of life and are sympathetic to Hindus who would see a Kali-yuga:

There is a singularity which has developed over past centuries, was present in decisive breaks made in the scientific revolution that paved the way to hard science as we know it, and has been unfolding and accelerating, and now crassly has vomited TV's and cellphones on Africa, the poorest continent. One obvious question is, "Do you mean the Book of Revelation?" and my answer is an emphatic "Yes... and No..." There are certain things which I believe we have been told will pass as Revelation is fulfilled. These include great tribulation, the coming of the Antichrist, and the return of Christ in glory to judge the living and the dead, and the glorious resurrection. But trying to pin down Biblical prophecy down in detail is essentially an attempt to get a crystal clear view into deep waters that are impregnably and unfathomably murky. Don't, at least not before the prophecies have been fulfilled.

However, while I have extreme suspicion for detailed point-for-point pinpointing the events in Revelation, I think it is a much more possible and profitable measure to study the singularity we are in as a singularity, a point I explore with some video in Revelation and Our Singularity.

A student of World War II may be able to pinpoint a linchpin in German manufacturing. There was a single point of failure in a ball bearing factory. If that factory had been taken out, it would all but destroyed Nazi Germany's capability to produce cars, trucks, tanks, and airplanes. Now let me ask: where is the linchpin in our technological society? Trick question! There are so many that no one knows how many there are. One of the most Luddite statements I've read is from a computer programmer: "If builders built buildings the way computer programmers write programs, the first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilization."

At Honey Rock, there was a delightful place called "the Web" that used World War II cargo netting to make a great amusement for kids. It, after several decades, fell beyond safe use, and the camp's people tried hard to find replacements. There were none to be found, came the conclusion from their research. Furthermore, it is now a respectable number of decades since technological museum curators have computer media that they believe to likely be intact but which they have no idea how to interpret. Cryptanalysis can break all sorts of very well-engineered codes. However, storage media produced with neither the desire nor attempt towards secrecy cannot straightforwardly read media that was intended to be straightforward to read.

To put things in miniature, like almost any at least half-serious website I have switched from sending unencrypted HTTP to confidential HTTPS. This was a right decision, I believe. However, to do that I need to get a stream of certificates, and if someone by any means shut down my ability to obtain certificates, my website would practically be dead in the water. Search engines would now be linking to security error pages; even bookmarks wouldn't work. I might be able to get the word out that my website was served via HTTP, if I wasn't blocked from social media by that time, but my use of the recommended practice of serving webpages confidentially via HTTPS introduces one more single point of failure. (That's why I'm revamping and roughly doubling my "Complete Works" collections in paperback. Amazon believes it has a total right to delete anything from a Kindle any time.) We are going from fragile to more and more and more fragile, to an effect like that in The Damned Backswing.

In a homily a few weeks back, my priest said,

Let us go to the Egyptian desert, and overhear a conversation taking place between a group of monks led by Abba Iscariot. This took place in the third century and the conversation went like this.

Abba Iscariot was asked, "What have we done in our life?"

The Abba replied, "We have done half of what our fathers did."

When asked, "What will the ones who come after us do?"

The Abba replied, "They are doing the half of what we are doing now."

And to the question, "What will the Christians of the last days do?"

He replied, "They will not be able to do any spiritual exploits, but those who keep the faith, they will be glorified more than our fathers who raised the dead.

We live in an exciting time.

My spiritual director said, "We think we are not on Plan A any more, not on Plan B, not on Plan C, and so on down the alphabet, but God is always on Plan A.

If you wonder how that could possibly be, I invite you to read God the Spiritual Father.

Holy Resistance

Own C.J.S. Hayward's complete works in paper!

Adapted from a mailing list discussion. The discussion helped me formulate and see things I wouldn't have otherwise seen.

I am profoundly grateful to "Bravo" in particular for her permission to include what she wrote; her willingness tremendously enriches the discussion.

Alpha: I'm not sure if I'm going to lose people by posting this, but I posted, A Conservative Soliloquy.

Bravo: I’m not sure there is a difference between a soliloquy and a rant. Needing to get something off one’s chest is not so much an exchange of information as a medicinal purge that provides relief. Maybe like the lancing of some festering boil.

However, let’s not hope that anybody anywhere ever changes their opinion of political figures because they have heard the rant, they may however change their opinion of the ranter.

Myself and other Trump supporters find ourselves in a dark place after the election but one thing we have learned is that talking about him with non supporters is futile as we automatically write each other off as lacking in intelligence and understanding.

The only question I ask myself is ”do I care if the person I engage with continues as a friend”

From the bible I have learned that a few words can start a forest fire that cannot be controlled.

So if a relationship is worth being preserved, do not engage, do not even send clues about your opinion. The temperature is too high. It could be costly in every sense of that word.

If a continued friendship is not important then a polite rant might may serve as a relief valve, for simply medicinal purpose of course.

In that vein there are several old friends that I have contentedly let go their own way and I’m sure they feel the same.

It’s all a great shame and sad when expressing your personal opinions is an act of war.

I will certainly not however, engage in church or anywhere important.

I’m not even an American but I can see that what might be considered as the greatest and most influential nation on earth is divided so dangerously with the fault lines running through all aspects of society including the family structure.

Alpha: Thank you for information about how my post will be received.

I do not think it is a rant that G.K. Chesterton said in his "A Defense of Patriotism,"

‘My country, right or wrong,’ is a thing that no patriot would think of saying. It is like saying, ‘My mother, drunk or sober.'

The question of whether Donald Trump would knowingly incite violence to reverse an election against him is a question of this magnitude. It has been said that violence is in the U.S. political constitution (https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2021/01/americas-history-of-political-violence). I retweeted a tweet saying "This is the worst thing that happened in U.S. history unless you've read a book on U.S. political history." Nonetheless, I see a difference between "Donald Trump, assuming he follows American political tradition of recognizing an election went against him," and "Donald Trump, with or without civil war."

However, I would see Confucius's "It is useless to take counsel with those who follow a different Tao" as applying not only to "Against Donald Trump by any means necessary," but people who will not accept that a Trump supporter says he has gone too far.

It is consonant with the verdict of history to say that the United States lost the nineteenth century civil war.

I expect that the verdict of history will be that the world lost this civil war...

It is a matter of historical fact that General Lee ceased hostilities first, and today all the states that seceded are legally part of the United States.

But talking about who won that war is a bit like talking about who won the earthquake in Lisbon that shook the Enlightenment.

Bravo: Hi again Alpha,

In calling your comments a rant I in no way meant to imply that what you said was without a thoughtful basis. However , in this day and age the stakes are much higher and with social media, opinions burn much brighter and are more widespread.

Being retired and largely independent of external pressures I am free to express whatever ideas I have. They can’t take my job away.

There is however something that needs to be addressed .The thought that corruption is alive and well at the highest levels of American society is no longer confined to some isolated extremists hiding in the mountains of Montana.

I realize that violence is an historical building block of the American experience but, the only reason that the country overcomes this violence is the belief that the democratic process is solid and largely without corruption.

Approximately half the country however, now has doubts that the democratic exercise is healthy and at the same time the judicial process is viewed with similar suspicion.

The overly technical, clumsy and drawn out voting procedures leave so many thinking, if we don’t have fair elections, what do we have? The answer is obvious.

I know that for constitutional reasons the USA population is armed to the teeth but it also may reveal that the population has always had a general distrust of it’s own institutions.

As a Canadian we have much to be concerned about in our own political process but the suggestion of widespread fraud never comes up.

But we are though so dependant on the USA for many things , democracy being number one and if you stumble and there is widespread distrust of your institutions all democracies are at risk.

The social media is of course a catalyst for all manner of social change. Some good some very scary.

Of course many of us outside your country love you and wish you well not just for your sakes but most importantly for ours.

God Speed

Alpha: I agree with most of this, and am concerned about a downward spiral. Republicans and Democrats alike are contributing in large amounts.

Charlie: Good morning.

We conservatives have been struggling with an imperfect vessel of our faith, to say the least, in Trump. One common meme was that he used the same playbook they wrote to take down American culture against them. (Rules for Radicals, dedicated to Lucifer by the author Saul Alinsky, who was also a mentor of Hillary Clinton). This comes down to the game theory of the Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma. The way to get someone who has been hitting you for five decades to stop hitting you is to hit them back in the same way, every time, until hitting you no longer benefits them. It was cathartic to see the weapons they forged against us turned back on them. It had a certain scriptural precedent in that Hammon in the book of Ester is hung on the gallows he prepares for the Jews. Or Gideon blowing trumpets outside an enemy camp and all the armies within the camp killing each other in confusion.

They certainly have insanely low expectations of their own morality, and embody Borderline Personality Disorder. Add to that the origins of these policies in people wanting to bring down the country and destroy it (Frankfort School, etc), coupled with globalist feudal concepts like the so-called "Great Reset", and you can see our concerns. We've seen this play before where some Germanic deadbeat rants some grand plan for humanity (Karl Marx, Adolph Hitler, or now Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum) and next thing you know, we are being marched off to death camps for disagreeing. Or getting our communications channels shut down, or possibly getting our online assets frozen. In each case, we are called conspiracy theorists for reading the books where they lay out their plans in their own words.

But that's all politics. What about faith?

I keep coming back to this verse....
"Do not repay evil with evil, but overcome evil with good."

I suspect if we ever see another conservative leader in this nation, it will have to be someone who isolates the ideologies rather than the individuals, as Trump did following the Alinsky rules. It may also be the only way we survive this whole purge or open any communications whatsoever outside this wall. If communicating with relatives, don't attack the relatives. Attack the ideas if you must, but present better ones in full light and let them either come to the light or run from it. They will tend to internalize and regard as "in group" people like Pelosi, who endorsed the Jim Jones cult prior to the mass suicide back when they were still in California. Jones seems to be the role model of big tech, in terms of isolating their membership and only feeding them one story, constantly, at high volume. Any attempt to question the leader or exit the compound is met with harsh threats and condemnation, just as it was with Jonestown. This won't end well. It may involve a Pygmalian Effect of separating the person and your expectations of them from their actions and opinions, in hope of drawing them to their better angels, in a positive feedback loop. One of my best friends is a leftist atheist, who was hardcore Michael Moore and Bush Derangement Syndrome two decades ago, who now is a Trump supporter who loves Jordan Peterson. Baby steps, I guess, but certainly unexpected. I've always loved her dearly, accepted her confessions of past crazy things, and treated her soul like a treasure. And shockingly, she's felt the same towards me. That should be what America is all about. It once was. For us, it still is.

Scripture makes it clear we are to present the light and let them either come or go when they see it. We should of course pray first, during, and after for the seeds to fall on good soil. But the sower isn't responsible for improving the soil. Only scattering the seed. We shouldn't do things, either in culture or in our own hearts and souls, that make our own soil more stony. We can cancel out of institutions that hate us. The converse of "don't bite the hand that feeds you" is "don't feed the mouths that bite you". Some seeds may take time to grow, so we maintain kindness in those situations. We overcome evil with good, as we were told.

So... how?
I'm feeling deeply called to re-read the New Testament to see how the church did last time a tiny group of eleven people got cut off by a global government who wanted them all dead. A big part of that was that the disciples were the only light in a world that had gotten very, very, very dark. In such a world, not everyone is blind, but all eyes are equally useless until someone comes into the caves with a lantern lifted up to get their attention and held low to show the path. That may involve shaking the dust from our clothes as we exit Facebook groups or what not. It's been bitterly disappointing seeing people I once regarded as mentors or at least role models go full Herodian.

Tomorrow can be as dark as it dang well please, because we don't live there yet. Each day has enough trouble of its own, as Jesus said. As a pastor once said, there is as much darkness a foot ahead of God as there is a mile behind. Prepare for what may come, but focus on the wisdom God gives you in what to do each day. The days ahead will separate wheat from chaff, so grow your wheat and starve your chaff while you still have roots to draw from and sunlight to grow in. Night is coming, when no man can work.

I also come back to a few other verses.
Matthew 10:16
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves."
Do not neglect feeding your innocence, the starving of your guilt, nor observing with wisdom the things around you.

2 Chronicles 7:14
"if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."

Alpha: Thank you. I disagree with you on many points, but I appreciate your taking the time and effort to seriously address the question.

One thing I might mention is a sort of "ethnocentric compliment" to the GOP. I haven't pressed points against the left as much as the right, and it's not because I think the left is better than the right (I am expecting disaster to unfold further with where Trump has placed the left, and we're due to have a president Assume Emergency Powers), but because post-Truth Republican politics represent a greater failure to live up to conservative principles than post-Truth liberals politics fail to live up to liberal principles (unless you want to go along the same lines as Chesterton did in saying, "As much as I ever did, more than I ever did, I believe in Liberalism. But there was a rosy time of innocence when I believed in Liberals." or Fr. [Richard John] Neuhaus in saying that insofar as extending the franchise is bedrock to liberalism, the pro-life position is "in fact the liberal one").

I'm also reading the New Testament and trying to focus my gaze on the Christ who is Truth.


One other thought: Kallistos Ware, in The Orthodox Church (the standard English-language introduction to the Orthodox Church) comments briefly that the position of Christians today as being perhaps more like the Early Church than anything else. (The book is a must-read for certain audiences, but I am not offering it as directly how one ought to handle the things we have been discussing.)

Orthodoxy is not really involved in reconstructing the Early Church, but you might take a cue from oca.org/saints, with different saints' lives each day of the year and Early Christian martyrs as one type of regularly recurring figure.

Our role might not be to bring out a situation where we would be citizens of the Christian, Byzantine Empire where the society was Christian, but to be sacrifices who, like the Early Church, shone the light of one candle rather than curse the darkness (and, eventually, triumphed over the Empire that wanted them dead).

When the Roman persecutions ended, one saint complained that easy living robs the Church of her saints.

Monasticism, called "white martyrdom" where what you would ordinarily call martyrdom is called "red martyrdom," is essentially a surrogate for in peaceful times how you can obtain the spiritual profit known in the Early Church, persecuted in the Roman Empire.

Delta: Hi all

I have been following the correspondence with interest, although not being in North America some of the allusions pass me by!

What worries me is not so much the politics as the situation. Whatever their views, when large social media companies can disenfranchise bits of the population, life is getting dangerous. When some of those disenfranchised then set up their own platform, only to have it closed by a large retailer (Amazon), then I am really worried! At that point government has become irrelevant and it doesn't matter much who is "in power", because they are not.

Bravo: Yes Delta,

We are entering uncharted territory. It is no joke when power is vested in totally unelected corporate entities and the government sees them as allies rather than the “robber barons“ of yesteryear.

On social media we should be very wary . How many people could be losing jobs, or more, because of incorrect positions on Facebook?

We are rapidly approaching the same system already in effect in China and elsewhere , where citizens obtain scores based on evaluation through social networks.

This system of public exposure and correction is already playing a part in a small local network used in our municipality.

We cannot even be sure that this forum will always be free and available.

Social media has put the excesses of the Middle Ages on steroids.

A bit scary?

Alpha: As the world bares its teeth, God the Spiritual Father becomes more relevant.

An old hymn runs,

Keep your eyes on Jesus,
Look full in his wonderful face,
And the things of this world will grow strangely dim,
In the light of his glory and grace.


It's been some time that Twitter has had people seeing that at least some strains of conservative tweets (regarding LGBTQ+) were artificially censored from showing up from trending on Twitter.

Do We Have Rights? applies here. It may be helpful to see that what we have been deprived of has never been our right to begin with.

Meanwhile, in what truly counts, all of us have God's ear, and his Providence.


To go to literal ancient history, I would like to look at economic policy under two emperors who persecuted Christians.

Decius created short-term convenience by devaluing the currency; in the ancient world, the value of (coin) currency was precious metal content, and he took in coins that were a third silver and paid out coins that were just dipped in silver.

Diocletian faced spiralling inflation, and (the one point where I remember the text expressing astonishment that an emperor thought something would work) assumed that inflation was just due to merchant greed, and placed signs by marketplaces announcing maximum prices and forbidding merchants on pain of death from charging more. Unfortunately for everyone, these prices were below cost for merchants, and legal merchants stopped selling things... which ended up driving prices even higher.

Now to more recent history in Wheaton, one move that was taken to curb Wheaton going liberal was to require professors to sign a Statement of Faith that said, among other things, that Adam and Eve were created from earth and not from hominids. I remember speaking with one psychology professor who interviewed with Wheaton and said she didn't really believe that Adam and Eve were not made from hominids. She met with an answer of, "None of us really believe that," and she responded with an astonished, "Then don't sign it!"

The intent in the move was to curb liberalizing movements by selecting for people such as Wheaton attracts who believe in literal creation of humans not from any other life form but straight from earth. Unfortunately, such people exist but they are few and far between. The actual effect was to select for people such as Wheaton attracts who would perhaps openly cross their fingers in signing a major commitment to belief, which may have accelerated feminism's becoming dominant at Wheaton.

I think, rightly or wrongly, that some of Donald Trump's actions may accelerate things which have a nasty backswing. And that maybe going tit-for-tat won't solve the problem.


I'm not sure my last email was constructive.

I would like to give a link to the Sermon on the Mount, which is if anything the Constitution of the Kingdom of Heaven:

https://powerbible.info/?passage=Matthew+5-7

I'm returning to the Gospel after an overdose in current events.


I was winding down for sleep when I had something come to mind. I am usually wary when I meet surprising cultural finds that alter the plain sense of a Biblical text significantly, but I post from Blessed Are the Peacemakers, the oldest work on my site:

Jesus said “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matt. 5:39) This is not a command to act as if you have no rights and passively let yourself be regarded as subhuman, but rather an insistence on the fact that you do have rights. In the society of that time, a slap on the cheek was not intended as a physical injury but rather as an insult, putting an inferior back in his or her place. The strength of that insult depended greatly upon which hand dealt it: as the left hand was seen as unclean, a slap with the left hand was the insult far greater than one dealt with the right hand. This was reflected in the legal penalties for an inappropriate slap: the penalty for slapping a peer with your left hand was a fine one hundred times the penalty for slapping a peer with your right hand; the penalty for slapping a better with your right hand was a fine while the penalty for slapping a better with your left hand was death. The people Jesus was speaking to most directly were, by and large, slaves and the downtrodden. A slap on the right cheek was dealt with the left hand. To turn the other cheek would leave the master with two options. The first would be to slap the slave again, but this time with the right hand (therefore declaring the slave a peer). The second would be not to slap the slave again (therefore effectively rescinding the first slap). Now, such impudence and sauciness would often tend to bring punishment, but it none the less says “Hey, I’m a human. I have rights. You can’t treat me like this.” It is not an action without suffering for oneself, nor does it inflict suffering on the “enemy”: but it does say and do something in a powerful way.

"Go the extra mile" was commanded in reference to compulsion to carry a soldier' pack (same term in some language as would be used for military conscription), on Rome's decisively good roads, with mile markers (in more or less the same sense as some countries have mile markers today).

A Roman soldier could conscript civilians to carry his pack for one mile but not more, and he faced stiff punishment if he required someone to carry his pack for more than a mile. The expected civilian behavior would be to carry an onerous pack until the next mile and then get away from it as quickly as possible. An entirely unexpected behavior would be to carry the soldier's pack for one mile, and then keep on walking to try to carry it to two miles.

As Orthodox now, I have accepted communion with warrior-saints like St. George and St. Mercurius, and people who did not raise a finger in self-defense, like St. Boris and St. Gleb. Meaning that I do not get to pick and choose who is pleasing to God. I also have dropped my assumption that we have rights.

I'm wondering, though, if there might be some pearls in the sand in Blessed Are the Peacemakers. Christ was, at least on the account I mentioned (which I heard in a pacifist church), giving an effective and unexpected outline of resistance to be used by the poor and downtrodden. Some people have said they liked the article, and one veteran I asked for feedback on it said that there are precious few articulations of a pacifist position (and I did specifically engage soldiers for feedback). It's fairly easy to find an articulation of just war; explaining how pacifism could make sense is not so easily found.

FWIW.


St. Basil the Great's life story includes the following:

The emperor Valens, mercilessly sending into exile any bishop who displeased him, and having implanted Arianism into other Asia Minor provinces, suddenly appeared in Cappadocia for this same purpose. He sent the prefect Modestus to Saint Basil. He began to threaten the saint with the confiscation of his property, banishment, beatings, and even death.

Saint Basil said, “If you take away my possessions, you will not enrich yourself, nor will you make me a pauper. You have no need of my old worn-out clothing, nor of my few books, of which the entirety of my wealth is comprised. Exile means nothing to me, since I am bound to no particular place. This place in which I now dwell is not mine, and any place you send me shall be mine. Better to say: every place is God’s. Where would I be neither a stranger and sojourner (Ps. 38/39:13)? Who can torture me? I am so weak, that the very first blow would render me insensible. Death would be a kindness to me, for it will bring me all the sooner to God, for Whom I live and labor, and to Whom I hasten.”

The official was stunned by his answer. “No one has ever spoken so audaciously to me,” he said.

“Perhaps,” the saint remarked, “that is because you’ve never spoken to a bishop before. In all else we are meek, the most humble of all. But when it concerns God, and people rise up against Him, then we, counting everything else as naught, look to Him alone. Then fire, sword, wild beasts and iron rods that rend the body, serve to fill us with joy, rather than fear.”

Reporting to Valens that Saint Basil was not to be intimidated, Modestus said, “Emperor, we stand defeated by a leader of the Church.” Basil the Great again showed firmness before the emperor and his retinue and made such a strong impression on Valens that the emperor dared not give in to the Arians demanding Basil’s exile.


It was also in my heart to post a link to Tong Fior Blackbelt and also Two Victories in Tong Fior: Following the Lord of the Dance.


(to Bravo:) I really appreciate how you have spoken about the U.S.

I know that Canadians can get weary of being regarded like the fifty-first state, and one Canadian roommate compared the relationship between our countries as "a mouse in bed with an elephant: the elephant does not know if the mouse is there, but if it rolls over, the mouse is squashed."

If I had lived in the days of Whigs and Tories among the colonies, I might have fled to Canada.

Bravo: Growing up in war torn England and walking the graveyards of dead Americans gave me an appreciation for the “Yanks”. Also living within walking distance of the border and having spent considerable amount of time in the States gave me a genuine affinity for Americans and their zest for life and freedom.

Canada is also a great but somewhat different country, however to use another analogy of our relationship.

”Living in Canada is like living above an apartment one where they are having a rowdy but fun party.” Maybe you could turn it down a touch.

Thanks for being you.

Bravo

Alpha: You are very welcome!

The Emperor's New Fantasy

Cover for The Best of Jonathan's Corner

A Wind in the Door, by Madeleine l'Engle. Swirls of kything, Charles Wallace, and Blajeny. The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis. Swirls of Narnia and visits to that land. Arthurian legends. Swirls of knighthood, Merlin, and the Holy Grail. Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein. Swirls of grokking, Michael Valentine Smith, and Martian wisdom.

These are some of the "realer world" things I have found captivating over the years, and all of them, in different forms, offer a glimpse of transcendence—and heartache.

There is a scene, central to the plot, in The Silver Chair where a Witch has been weaving an enchantment to seduce the Narnian Marsh-Wiggle Puddleglum and the earthborn children into believing that there is no world outside the underground caverns, no sun, no Aslan and so on and so forth, and when the Witch has practically won, Puddleglum mostly stamps out the spice-laden, narcotic fire with his bare feet, and greatly weakens the enchantment, and tells the Witch,

"One word, Ma'am," he said, coming back from the fire; limping because of the pain. "One word. All you've been saying is quite right, I shouldn't wonder. I'm a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won't deny any of what you said. But there's one more thing to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things—trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is this, that in that case the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that's a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We're just babies making up a game, if you're right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That's why I'm going to stand by the play-world. I'm on Aslan's side even if there isn't any Aslan to lead it. I'm going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn't any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we're leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that's a small loss if the world's as dull a place as you say."

This heroic stance is, in a word, the marketing proposition offered by fantasy.

(Particularly if it is taken out of its context of defending the book's real world, Narnia.)

People who find the world dismal can seek salvation in escape, where there is no true salvation to be found. But there is another option.

Realize that the greater world is not by escape, but by recognizing that the real world is not the dreary, mundane cave that it looks like when you are making Puddleglum's stance.

The Orthodox Church is very much embracing the here and now, and insists that no, there is no other place than the here and now God has given us that we can be saved. Or that we can be happy. But something funny happens along the way.

If we give up Grail questing whether in Arthurian form or its pukeworthy successors, the world seems hollow when recognizing that we cannot ever find or reach the Holy Grail. But when we repent and turn our backs on escape, we discover that repentance is not something to fear but Heaven's best-kept secret, and God the Spiritual Father has placed us in Paradise.

We may discover that after we have given up the hope of any illusion of the Holy Grail that the only game in town is to become the Holy Grail, to receive Christ's body and blood in the Holy Mysteries ourselves, as the Blessed Augustine said, "Behold what you believe! Become what you behold!" and the purpose of being human is to become by grace what Christ is by nature.

If we give up reading fantasy and hoping we could live in that realer world, we may read the Saints' lives, different each day, and find God the Spiritual Father call you to the true realer world.

There are lessons along the way. One is that happiness is not for sometime down the road when we get some new possession, but for here now. Possessions, no matter how badly we want them, do not mediate our really living human life. Another lesson is that the greatest treasures, all of them, we are invited to pursue. The God Who Transcends His Own Transcendence bids us grow in humility, love, and divinity. These eclipse Nobel Prizes, royal honors, and indeed all the honor in the world.

And really, it is an adventure, but it all hinges on repentance and virtue.

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A Canticle to Holy, Blessed Solipsism

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O Lord, help me reach poverty, that I may own treasures avarice could never fathom or imagine,
Obedience that I may know utter freedom, first of all of the shackles of my sin and vice,
Chastity, that I may be virile beyond reckoning,
A solipsist that I may embrace Heaven and Earth,
(For Earth can never fail to merit a capital E,
Not since our Saviour walked it.)
Let me be alone with You, through the bridge of a second holy Moses,
Let me love You with my whole being
(A holy Being, grant it might be),
That I may reach you through six billion prisms,
The royal race of men,
And made in Your Divine Image.
And may this love bubble over,
Cascading on animals because I love men,
Cascading onto plants that are also alive,
Cascading onto rocks that exist in some measure,
Cascading on nothingness, You Who have been called Everything and Nothing,
For even nothingness is in some way Your Image,
You Who are beyond existence and nonexistence alike.

Today is a day of interest in genes,
In mortals who want to know their roots,
And I am indeed among them,
Though I dig for a Deeper Root.
A kit and refined science,
Can tell me what lands my ancestors came from,
And had I the wealth, I could go on pilgrimage,
To visit the places,
That gave me my greying red beard.
But my Root is Simple:
God Himself,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
The Triune Pattern after which each man is made,
And I reverence each man as God after God:
To do less is to fail to grasp the One God, Who transcends His Own Transcendence,
Immanent beyond all imagination,
Immanent beyond all measure,
Closer to you than you are to yourself;
The very breath you breathe is God’s Own.

My Motherland is Heaven,
And so I go and seek pilgrimage,
To the God who is everywhere and everywhere,
In Holy Russia,
In Holy Russia now though I be on American soil.
Holy Russia has come to me,
And God please, let me come to Holy Russia,
A monk to the end of my days as mortal man.

Who am I to worship You,
Whom Heaven and Earth cannot contain?
Who am I even to give You thanks?
I am unworthy to even give You thanks,
And I thank you anyway.
It is my burden: it is my joy.

"Only God and I exist,"
Or so the saying goes,
For there is only One Will to please:
All else follows suit,
All ducklings in a row.
Christians today do not know that they are pagans:
And not in the sense that Orthodoxy is pagan and neo-paganism isn’t.

Do you not understand the radical breach,
Of One God Almighty of sacred Israel?
One thing only could offend God,
A God Who stands besides all possibility of offense,
Except in the person of another:
Sin.
The pagans all around worshipped among the cacophonous din of a treacherous junior high:
There was no reckoning of sin,
Only appeasement of arbitrary, bickering gods,
Who were not much more than overclocked men,
And truth be told, sometimes far less.
And what appeased one god,
Might well offend anger another.
Are you a Christian?
Then why do you appease so many bickering gods,
And why do you worry with it?
Be thou a solipsist, please!

And the voyage to meet first my Root,
Is the simple repentance offered here and now.
"Awaken!" beckon God and the saints,
And rank upon rank of angel hosts!
Repent: for the Kingdom of God is nigh:
Indeed, it is already here.
Your room will teach you everything you need to know,
And the longest journey we will ever take,
Is rightly called the journey from our head to our heart.
Repent!

And lastly become truly a solipsist,
No longer know that you are you and God is God:
For the wall between created nature and Uncreated God only exists that we may rise above it;
The Son of God became a man that men might become the Sons of God!
God and the Son of God became Man and the Son of Man that men and the sons of men,
Might become gods and the sons of God!
Adam, trying to be God, failed to be god;
Christ became Man that he might make Adam god:
The whole purpose of human life is to become by Grace What Christ is by nature:
Be nothing before God and take down the curtain separating "You" and "me."

Amen! Amen! Amen!

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Paradise

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O Lord,
Have I not seen,
How thou hast placed me in Paradise?

And how have I said,
That a first monastic command,
Is, "Go home and spend another year with your family?"
While I have spent a few?
The obedience is not limited,
By a count of years,
But by obedience,
This being a first obedience.

Gifts I have fought as chance left me,
Bloodied, but more deeply bowed:

Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?
It hurteth thee to kick against the goads.

I stand, or sit,
Not scholar, nor user experience professional,
Making use of a life of leisure,
Learning leisure well, to lord it over leisure,
Once I made a vow before a wonder-working icon in Brooklyn,
That I might receive a doctorate,
Earned or honorary,
And since then have prayed that my vow not be granted,
An honorary doctorate not to receive,
Because I do not want it enough to even travel,
To give the icon a kiss of veneration!

An Invitation to the Game is an icon,
Of children in a proletariat of excessive leisure,
Excessive leisure being a training ground,
Before a new life in a new world begins.

God the Spiritual Father looks after,
Each person he has made,
As a spiritual father looks after each disciple,
God looketh after each,
In the situations he placed each:

"Life’s Tapestry"

Behind those golden clouds up there
the Great One sews a priceless embroidery
and since down below we walk
we see, my child, the reverse view.
And consequently it is natural for the mind to see mistakes
there where one must give thanks and glorify.

Wait as a Christian for that day to come
where your soul a-wing will rip through the air
and you shall see the embroidery of God
from the good side
and then… everything will seem to you to be a system and order.

What have I to add,
To words such as these?
This time is a time of purification and training,
And as in times past,
In an instant, I may be taken to a monastery,
As I was taken to study theology,
Six months' work to obtain student loans,
Falling into place one business day before leaving.
Thou teachest me,
And I know thou art willing to save:
Whether or not my plans are the best.
Whether I ever reach monasticism,
Thou art potent to save.
I might need to seek monasticism:
God can save me with or without.

So I learn patience,
Fly through FluentU and learn Russian,
And here I sit,
In a place thou hast opened my eyes to see as Paradise,
And with lovely food pantries,
And visits to pets at a lovely cat shelter,
And thou ever ministerest to me.

Though thousands around me be addicted to television,
And ten thousands can't stop checking their cell phones,
Thou hast delivered me,
And taught me to lord it over technologies,
Perchance a prophet in the way,
To the technology user who still suffers,
To those who remain entangled in the Web.

Thou hast delivered me from mortal danger:
Perhaps thou givest me more time to repent.
Or perhaps thou givest merely,
More time to repent.
Glory to God for all things!

Thou givest me simple pleasures,
Who knew tidying up a besmudged keyboard could be fun?
Whither I go, thou art with me;
Thou preparest a table before family and friends.

"World" refers not to God's creation,
But to our collections of passions,
Seeing through a glass, darkly,
What bathes in the light of Heaven:
Hell is a state of mind,
But Heaven is reality itself.

I am perhaps not worthy of praise,
To say such things in middle-class comfort.
I seek monasticism, to be a novice,
Which is meant to be exile,
Yet an abbot's work,
Is to help me reach freedom from my passions,
And what true joy I have in luxury,
Only know further in monastic exile.
Years I have waited:
Now I am willing to wait years more.
Only if I may pursue repentance,
On such terms as it is offered me.
Glory to God who has allowed me such luxury!
Glory to God who has allowed me such honors!
Glory to God who has shown me that these avail nothing,
And seek the true fame,
Fame before God himself!

Be thou glorified, O God, in me,
Though I know nothing,
Though I am nothing,
Be none the less glorified in me.
The Infinite can do the Infinite in the finite:
Be thou therefore glorified and praised in me,
Though I am nothing before thee,
Yet thou grantest me breath and life,
Joy,
And ever offerest me salvation.

Glory be to God on high!
Glory be to God for Paradise!
Which Paradise is in all things!
Glory to God for all things!

Amen.

Review for "St. Clive:" An Eastern Orthodox Author Looks Back at C.S. Lewis

"St. Clive:" An Eastern Orthodox Author Looks Back at C.S. Lewis

TL;DR

In this book, an Eastern Orthodox apologist looks back at C.S. Lewis as a formative influence, then up into Holy Orthodoxy.

C.S. Lewis fans will love "St. Clive:" An Eastern Orthodox Author Looks Back at C.S. Lewis (Kindle, paperback).

A Very Scripted Dialogue

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  • "St. Clive:" An Eastern Orthodox Author Looks Back at C.S. Lewis (Kindle, paperback)

    What People Are Saying

    The Midwest Book Review

    "St. Clive:" An Eastern Orthodox Author Looks Back at C.S. Lewis

    C.J.S. Hayward

    C.J.S. Hayward Publications

    9781794669956 $9.99 Kindle / $49.99 paperback

    Website/Ordering Links:
    cjshayward.com/st-clive (homepage)
    cjshayward.com/st-clive-kindle (Kindle)
    cjshayward.com/st-clive-paperback (paperback)

    "St. Clive:" An Eastern Orthodox Author Looks Back at C.S. Lewis adopts an unusual perspective because most examinations of the spirituality of C.S. Lewis come from Western spiritual perspectives, and few adopt the approach of C.J.S. Hayward, who opens his book with a Lewis-type series of letters to a guardian angel, The Angelic Letters, a Heavenly analogue to The Screwtape Letters. The book is even more distinctive in reflecting back on Lewis from a perspective meant to be thoroughly Orthodox.

    Readers might anticipate a dry analytical style typical of too many Lewis analysis and assessments, but Hayward includes a wry sense of observational humor, evident in the first lines of his survey where a reflection on scholarly footnote traditions ventures into comedic cultural inspection: As it is now solidly established practice to add an a footnote skittishly defending one’s own choices regarding "gendered pronouns," I would like to quote a couple of tweets. In response to a fellow user tweeting, "Nobody is safe in today’s society, man. It’s like walking on eggshells constantly. Someone will be offended, will be out to get you. It’s exhausting… and, I think somewhat that social media is to blame," Titania McGrath coolly answered, "The phrase ‘walking on eggshells’ is a microaggression against vegans. Reported and blocked. [Emoji depicting a white woman tending to her nails.]"

    This said, Lewis was a huge influence on Hayward's Evangelical upbringing and religious perspectives and the starting point to his "pilgrimage from Narnia" (as one of his poems is titled) into Orthodoxy. St. Clive is not to be considered another scholarly inspection rehashing familiar spiritual pathways, but a unique compilation of Lewis-like reflections steeped in Orthodox beliefs and inspections for everyday readers. It produces a compilation of pieces that attempt to sound like Lewis himself, but which are original works meant to directly address these reflections and beliefs. This book is exciting, almost as if a hitherto unknown book of original works by C.S. Lewis had suddenly come to light.

    The writings are presented in four sections that hold distinctly different tones and objectives. The first "...quotes him, builds on him, and challenges him to draw conclusions he may not have liked." The second focuses more on Hayward's writings and style, but with a nod to Lewis' influence. The third section addresses Lewis' affection for the book The Consolation of Philosophy and offers perspectives from Hayward on how its ideas and Lewis's expand different aspects of spiritual reflection; while the fourth section offers bibliographic keys to further pieces in the Lewis/Hayward tradition for newcomers who may be piqued by this collection's lively inspections, and who want more insights from other sources.

    As far as the contentions themselves, "St. Clive" is a journeyman's venture into the traditions of the Orthodox Church and its relationship to mysticism. It provides a lively set of discourses considering such varied topics as the failure of Christianity to superimpose itself on the pagan custom of Halloween and the notion that science is just one of the "winnowing forks" available for denoting pathways beneficial to mankind (natural selection being yet another; especially as it applies to diet choices).

    By now it should be evident that a series of dichotomies exist surrounding this effort, which is 'neither fish nor fowl' but a delightful compendium of reflections that represent something new. It's not a scholarly work per se, but its language will appeal to many in the scholarly community (particularly since any discussions of Lewis usually embrace this community more or less exclusively). It's also not an attempt to channel Lewis' approach and tone, though these reflective pieces are certainly reminiscent of C.S. Lewis. And it's not a singular examination of spiritual perspectives, but offers a wider-ranging series of discussions that defy pat categorization.

    Indeed, this is one of the unique aspects of "St. Clive." What other treatise holds the ability to reach lay and scholarly audiences alike, creates a wider-ranging series of connections between his works and similar writings, and expands upon many concepts with an astute hand to spiritual, philosophical, and social reflection?

    None: and this not only sets "St. Clive:" An Eastern Orthodox Author Looks Back at C.S. Lewis apart from any other considerations, but makes it accessible to a lay audience that might have only a minimal familiarity with Lewis or the Orthodox Way.

    Go on and buy "St. Clive:" An Eastern Orthodox Author Looks Back at C.S. Lewis (Kindle, paperback)!