The Magic Stone

There’s a picture book by Russel Hoban called Nothing to Do that illuminates the value of free time for children, and the importance of helping them learn how to deal with it. Hoban’s book opens with little Walter Possum, a member of an endearing family of humanoid possums, who bothers his parents because he has “nothing to do.” Father Possum tells Walter to “play with your toys.” But Walter doesn’t feel like it. The father assigns him a job—to rake the leaves. But Walter soon loses interest. The only activity that seems to relieve the tedium is quarreling with his sister Charlotte, a terrible pest.

When Mother Possum needs to clean the house, Father gives Walter a smooth brown stone and instructs him to run it when he has nothing to do. It is a magic stone, Father tells him. “You have to look around and think while you’re rubbing it, and then the stone gives you something to do.”

Naturally, belief in the magic of the stone leads Walter to discover all manner of things to do. He finds a long-lost ball, he visits a friend, he dreams up a buried treasure game. He even devises a clever way to keep his irksome little sister from interrupting his game by presenting her with a stick that is also invested with putative magic powers. Besides having fun, he stays out of his parents’ hair all afternoon.

Marie Winn, The Plug-in Drug

My biggest point taken away from reading The Plug-in Drug was that television (today one might add “and Facebook, video games, Facebook games...”) drops into the hand as incredibly low-hanging fruit. There are other, more enjoyable and more rewarding things to do with our time (who really feels good after an evening of trawling clickbait?), but they do not do the service of dropping into our hand. This has the result that if you are used to Facebook or TV giving you something to do, it’s hard not to sit and do nothing besides staring at the wall because you do not see anything to do.

This page is meant to help you find something to do.

This page, in imitation of a writing prompts page, is intended to remind the reader of other things to do. Many of them are not as easy as Twitter, and some of them involve learning real skill. However, I believe that a good pick from the options here could help us get back from “Nothing to do” besides YouTube.

  1. Read 101 Creative Dates: Ideas, Tips, and Personal Experiences from the Life of a Hopeless Romantic and look for ideas that might apply to you whether or not you have a significant other.
  2. Read What is Wrong with the World.
  3. Take up adult Legos.
  4. Start attending an Orthodox parish.
  5. Keep an aquarium.
  6. Read and follow up on Nourishing Traditions, and then The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet.
  7. Learn a musical instrument, perhaps a recorder.
  8. Learn to sew.
  9. Learn the art of memory as in Mega Memory even if it doesn't live up to the advertising hype.
  10. Read Amazing Providence.
  11. Learn how to take works from Project Gutenberg and read them in your Kindle or ebook reader. You might start with reading The Consolation of Philosophy.
  12. Take up coin collecting.
  13. Take a camping trip.
  14. Take up origami.
  15. Read "Social Antibodies" Needed: A Request of Orthodox Clergy.
  16. Take up knitting.
  17. Read How Can I Take my Life Back from my Phone?.
  18. Read 55 New Maxims for the Cyber-Quarantine.
  19. Join a class or activity with your park district.
  20. Read The Silicon Rule.
  21. Stargaze.
  22. Read The Best Things in Life are Free.
  23. Take up jewelry making.
  24. Read Ask for the Ancient Ways.
  25. Join a book discussion club.
  26. Read The Angelic Letters.
  27. Read Refutatio Omnium Haeresium.
  28. Volunteer, perhaps at a local food pantry.
  29. Learn to juggle.
  30. Explore local tourist attractions.
  31. Take up watercolor painting.
  32. Read Beyond the Unbearable Burden of Non-Being.
  33. Take up model building.
  34. Research and practice active listening.
  35. Read Will There Be a Place for Me?.
  36. Read What to Own for Happiness (and what not).
  37. Take up amateur acting.
  38. Read Game Review: Meatspace.
  39. Buy, and learn to use, a yo-yo. A butterfly yoyo may be easiest.
  40. Read Why I'm Glad I'm Living Now, at This Place, at This Time, in This World.
  41. Walk a mile on the sidewalk without stepping on any cracks.
  42. Cloudwatch.
  43. Go hiking.
  44. Read Yonder.
  45. Read Stephanos.
  46. Read Technology Is Part of Our Poverty.
  47. Spend an hour outside.
  48. Keep a journal.
  49. Read Plato: The Allegory of the... Flickering Screen?.
  50. Read Who is Rich? The Person Who Is Content.
  51. Visit Creative Writing Prompts on a laptop or desktop (it may not work on mobile, sadly) and write something.
  52. Start and keep a blog.
  53. Peoplewatch.
  54. Read Roger von Oech's Creative Whack Pack.
  55. Read Mindfulness and Manners.
  56. Take a class at your community college.
  57. Read books at Orthodox Church Fathers.
  58. Read "Religion and Science" is not Just Intelligent Design vs. Evolution.
  59. Keep a garden.
  60. Read Fire in the Hole.
  61. Do an act of gratuitous kindness for someone else.
  62. Color an adult coloring book.
  63. Write a paper letter to an older relative.
  64. Visit a local library and find something to start reading.
  65. Read Revelation and Our Singularity.
  66. Learn to be an illusionist for the children in your life.
  67. Take up wood burning.
  68. Read Happiness in an Age of Crisis.
  69. Read You Can Choose to be Happy in the Here and Now.
  70. Take up a team sport.
  71. Take up sudoku.
  72. Read True Woke is Repentance.
  73. Take up candle making.
  74. Read How to Find a Job: A Guide for Orthodox Christians.
  75. Take up woodworking.
  76. Read Singularity.
  77. View and follow up on Depression is a Disease of Civilization.
  78. Keep a pet or, if you cannot responsibly own a pet now, visit at a local pet shelter. You don't need to give the impression that you're looking to adopt; most shelters welcome people who will give the pets constructive attention, and if you ask and a pet shelter says they only want people looking to adopt, say "Thank you," and move on to another one.
  79. Read Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
  80. Dig into the puzzles at Python Challenge.
  81. Take up oil painting.
  82. Read The Luddite's Guide to Technology.
  83. Do some honest soul-searching, and try to do better.
  84. Take up jigsaw puzzles.
  85. Read Veni, Vidi, Vomui: A Look at "Do You Want to Date my Avatar?".
  86. Explore a museum.
  87. Read Orthodox Theology and Technology: A Profoundly Gifted Autobiography.
  88. Read "Physics".
  89. Get Lego Mindstorms and start hobbyist robotics.
  90. Read Branding is the New Root of All Evil.
  91. Go walking.
  92. Take up geocaching.
  93. Take up flower arranging.
  94. Take up letterboxing.
  95. Read The Consolation of Theology.
  96. Give someone a gift.
  97. Learn to cook.
  98. Volunteer in English as a Second Language instruction.
  99. Read Beware of Geeks Bearing Gifts.
  100. Learn to play chess.
  101. Take up archery.
  102. Start birding.
  103. Take up bug collecting.
  104. Take up sewing.
  105. Join Toastmasters.
  106. Take up climbing.
  107. Apologize to someone you have hurt.
  108. Read A Note to the Reader.
  109. Read Religion Within the Bounds of Amusement.
  110. Read The Arena.
  111. Take up stamp collecting.
  112. Ask to join a group of people playing sports or talking in the park.
  113. Take up crossword puzzles.
  114. Become a clown.
  115. Take up balloon sculpting and make balloons for the children you know.

Enjoy any one of these, or just a few.

The Post-Darwinian Post-Scientific Theory of Post-Evolution

A disturbance followed when it was noticed that [scientists] had left the whole of evolutionary theory outside in the unscientific badlands as well. But special arrangements were made to pull it in without compromising the principle.

-Mary Midgley, Science as Salvation

Anybody here from the English department? The English department is a special place. If you want to find a Marxist, don't go to the political science department. Nary a Marxist will you find there. Go to the English department. If you want to find a Freudian, don't go to the psychology department. Nary a Freudian will you find there. Go to the English department. If you want to find a Darwinist, don't go to the biology department. Nary a Darwinist will you find there. Go to the English department. The English department is a living graveyard of all the dead and discredited ideologies that have been cast off by other departments.

-Yours Truly, Firestorm 2034

It may raise eyebrows to say that Darwin's theory of evolution is no longer live in the academy, but I assert that the claim is straightforwardly true. Or to be precise, evolution may be believed by some people whose commitment to the theory greatly exceeds their scientific competency, but no biologist I can ever recall speaking with believes in evolution.

If we look at the term 'evolve' or 'evolution', as in "The idea slowly evolved in her head," Darwin's theory of evolution is a proper theory of evolution, saying that life forms are constantly morphing into something different, so one would expect a fossil record of slow changes that accumulate over time, somewhat like the size and shape of a human being evolves from a ball-like fertilized age to a person who has come into proper adulthood. And that is why Darwin's biggest opponents in his day were paleontologists, because paleontologists said that the fossil record as it was known then didn't show much recorded evolution. And Darwin said, "Give it some time until we know the fossil record better," and that might have been the right decision at the time. However, we've had over a century of additional research into the fossil record, and the "hostile record" as I called it has only become more hostile to being accounted for as a result of evolution.

Biologists I have asked have said, "We've progressed," and what they mean by that is that they have recognized and acknowledged that what has happened is not evolution in any straightforward sense of the term, but that the fossil record reflects long periods of very little change worthy of the name, interrupted by brief periods of rapid change without preserved intermediate forms. The technical term for this is "punctuated equilibrium," informally abbreviated to "punk eek." As my biology teacher at IMSA said, "Evolution is like baseball. It has long periods of boredom interrupted by brief periods of intense excitement."

I do not deny that what biologists teach is much closer to the fossil record than Darwin, but the surviving reference to "neo-Darwinian evolution" is a retaining of terms whose meaning has been rejected. No biologist I have ever known has said that "evolution" has kept her maiden name, but "neo-Darwinian evolution" is not a theory of evolution in any sense of the term. It might, I admit for the sake of argument, be true, but what it is not is a theory of evolution. And that takes it further from Darwinian evolution than any of the other theories of evolution that competed with Darwinian evolution in Darwin’s day.

I might briefly state that "Darwinian" or "neo-Darwinian" as an adjective for a theory of punctuated equilibrium labelled as evolution comes from roots where there were multiple theories of evolution in some competition. As a child in school taught out of the prestigious BSCS Blue, one other theory of evolution given in the text's "history of science" treatment, included theories like Lamarckian evolution, which states that if an organism does a lot of something, it will get better at it, and that these changes are inherited by offsprint where the Darwinian claim is due to genetics and an environment that filters for what works over what doesn't work. And today's "neo-Darwinian" theory of "evolution" is closer on this score to Darwin's framing of evolution than any of its nineteenth-century competitors I am aware of. But "neo-Darwinian evolution" is not just post-Darwinian; I argue above that it is post-evolution.

Having fired that salvo, I would like to move on, not too much to look at how Darwinism came heavily mixed up with racism and racist eugenics (whose Margaret Sanger said, "Colored people are like human weeds" and spoke at KKK rallies--there is every consistency between Darwinism and an attitude of merciless hostility to other races), but to look at how scientific this post-scientific theory is. And here I am not interested in the special arragements that were made to include evolution in science without compromise of principle.

Philosopher of science Karl Popper said, in essence, that to be a scientific theory, you have to have some skin in the game. Various camps like Marxism could explain all sorts of things; Karl Popper articulated a criterion of "falsifiability" that said that a real scientific theory can't explain some experimental outcomes. The more striking and unexpected an experimental outcome a theory predicts, and turns out right where the incumbent is wrong, the better it augurs for the theory.

Karl Popper made a case study of Marxism, and said that it was originally a falsifiable scientific theory because it made certain predictions. When those predictions turned out very wrong, they modified the theory so nothing really could prove it wrong, and in Popper's estimation, they saved it by making it no longer a scientific theory.

(Have you read my Theory of Evolution Tries to be More Like Superstring Theory, Dismantles own falsifiability? It is noised in some quarters that Karl Popper picked on the academic powerhouse of Marxism because if he were to launch such an attack on "evolution" as science, he would have been called a Creationist and so picking on the powerhouse of Marxism was deemed the less encumbered approach.)

A mathematician's objection

Here I am not relying on my graduate education so much as my undergraduate degree in math with two overkill probability/statistics classes, and I am relying less on my bachelor's than the math contests I participated in, and often placed, and a little less on all those math contests than a lower level math class where the teacher told us that we should make a rough gauge idea of what a result should be in using a calculator, because it is easy enough to mistype and get a very wrong answer. So if I was going to divide seven by twelve, I should know that six is half of twelve and so the result should be a bit more than one half. If I accidentally hit "*" instead of "/" and get an answer of eighty-four, I should recognize a wildly inaccurate result when I see it, and try again, this time more carefully.

This was not welcome advice, but I see it’s wisdom today, and it informs my incredulity in conversations with people trying to convince me of "evolution."

The basic assertion I have so far been given, for why punk eek changes so little for long periods of time and then abruptly produced new life forms, is that when things are stable, things are working and there is little incentive to change, while when things are chaotic, the incentive is much greater. What is left completely unaddressed is the statistical ability of a breeding population to acquire and retain beneficial genetic changes so as to meet the higher incentive to change.

There was one discussion with fellow IMSA alumni in relation to evolution I asked, "Suppose that I claim the ability to guess lottery numbers, and I am right once. How odd. Suppose I succeed in a second or a third time. And on another note, suppose for the sake of argument that we can rule out fraud. If we suppose that I can only guess one lottery number per minute, that I can only guess lottery numbers for forty hours per week, and that I will die of old age at seventy if nothing else gets me first. Is there any number of successful guesses I could make before you would believe I can guess lottery numbers?" The answer I got was "...No more than a dozen!"

We were discussing the Cambrian explosion, when several new creatures appeared that were so different that they each belonged to their own phylum. I said a lot of weird things occurred over time, and I was willing for the sake of argument to admit optimally convenient mutagen exposure, so we would never really run out of mutations. Speaking conservatively, I posited that a random mutation would have a 90% chance of being harmful and a 10% chance of being beneficial (a microbiology grad student said he would place the chances of harm as much greater--and incidentally, he was the one partner in the discussion who answered with a non-commital "You seem well-read" instead of shockedly shutting me down altogether), and I would posit for one organism, again speaking conservatively, estimate a thousand beneficial mutations necessary to produce a viable organism of a new species (how a breeding pool could acquire and sustain such beneficial changes was left unaddressed). The figure would be inestimable higher to get a new phylum). On that count, we are talking the odds of one viable creature of a new species as being similar to the odds of winning a lottery over one hundred times in a row. The answer to that line of argument received an interlocutor's response of, "There are some things we may never know."

(Also, some people cried "Foul!" about fraud being ruled out. But in the analogy, fraud would correspond to an intelligence manipulating creatures that did not arise by intelligent design to appear to have arisen by intelligent design. This may not be the Christian God, but nobody in the discussion was entertaining a belief that an intelligence manipulated available evidence to give a false impression that evolution occurred.)

I was originally drawn in to the Intelligent Design movement by reading its texts (see The Evolution of a Perspective on Creation and Origins). Since then, I have accepted that those texts were from the Disco Toot concocting a neo-Creation “Science” that would attract academics... but, though this leaves me as a churchman without a church, evolutionists' efforts to draw me in have driven me away and brought loud warning bells to my horse sense about statistics. Tuskless elephants, like Darwin’s pepper moth example, are not about the generation of new species but a shift in the proportion of two already existing phenotypes. Worse, I have been told, as an example of why beneficial genetic change is easy, I have been told that Indian prostitutes have developed HIV resistance in a single generation.

Generating helpful new genetic change is not statistically easy. Generating helpful new genetic change is statistically hard. And since I read Intelligent Design founding texts, no attempt to convince me that helpful genetic change is easily acquired have done anything but sound like loud warning bells to my horse sense about how statistics work.

And this is a second objection to calling punk eek "science." The discipline of biology may be on the whole less mathematical than the other hard sciences of physics and chemistry. Pure math is what is called "data free," while physics for instance has various constants which are not negotiable in their theories (for instance, a gravitational constant of -9.8 meters per second squared). Biology is more data-rich than either of the other two: the sheer amount of anatomy of various organisms that a biology grad student is expected to know alone dwarfs the level of data in chemistry or physics, and this is without looking at other areas such as biochemical mechanisms that a biologist needs to be conversant in. I do not count it as a strike against biology that it is the furthest of the three from being data-free, but in physics or chemistry as hard sciences make sense mathematically and statistically, and it is a liability of "evolution" if accepting it includes swallowing a pill of statistical hogwash.

I would like to pause to give a couple of humanistic notes.

First, one grad school roommate from Czechoslovakia (not specifically a biologist) commented that Darwin’s singular place among English-speaking biologists may partly be a local loyalty to an English-speaking scientist. He, in the land of Gregor Mendel, said that he had been taught Mendelian genetics as the central biological theory. If I had read "Evolution is the one theory in biology without which nothing else makes sense," some form of genetics is also a theory without which nothing else makes sense. And for that matter, genetics is a theory without which "evolution" does not make sense, but "evolution" is not a theory without which genetics does not make sense. I’m not sure Gregor Mendel's signal contribution of dominant and recessive genes is that central, but genetics such as Mendel studied is the foundation variations of evolution are built on.

I would also be remiss not to mention C.S. Lewis's objection to evolution, an objection that it disturbed and alarmed him how difficult it was to make people see. On purely philosophical grounds, (naturalist) "evolution" could not possibly be true. It explains why we could have brains good enough to find food, procreate, and avoid being hunted to extinction. It does not, in any sense, explain why we could have brains good enough to posit a true theory of evolution. It is a straightforward implication of "evolution" that romantic love is a biochemical reaction that could not rise to the dignity of error; but by the same stroke all explanation (including "evolution") is a biochemical reaction that could not rise to the dignity of error. We need to have some sort of impressive "special flower" status to formulate a true theory of evolution that denies us "special flower" status.

It has been suggested in response or anticipation to such objection that natural selection may favor finding beliefs that are true, but the objection seems to me ill-considered. Over 99% of people who have ever lived have never seen a written word. Darwin's theory of evolution and its successors have not been available to anyone to believe except within the last two hundred years, and when it has been available it has been believed (or just available) to a minority of the whole world population. The subspecies of modern man, Homo sapiens sapiens has been around for hundreds of thousands of years, with our genus Homo around for maybe a few million. Timewise, evolution and successors have been available for less than one tenth of one percent of the time our subspecies has been around. Over 99% of people who have ever lived have believed that what we now call nature is spiritual in some wise. Post-Darwinian post-evolution is a mind-bogglingly parochial belief to our species as a whole. If natural selection selects for finding true beliefs, it has only hit its mark in a very parochial conditions; over 99.9% of people who have ever lived have had our naturally selected brains perform the way natural selection calls for.

One of the critiques lobbied by naturalists and evolutionists about some Christian theories is the "God of the gaps" objection. The objection asserts that unfalsifiable religious explanation is lodged in the gaps that modern science has not been able to cover yet. All things considered, present theories of "evolution" are now an "evolution of the gaps," where life forms evolve in the gaps of our knowledge of the fossil record, and if over a century of progressive increase in knowledge of the fossil record has smaller gaps between periods of equilibrium, unfalsifiable evolution is just asserted to have taken place in those much smaller and rarer gaps. This does not make evolution wrong on philosophical grounds per se; but like Marxism it has been defended on grounds that render it unfalsifiable, which amounts to abdicating from the throne of science. It is not grounds to deny that evolution might be true, but it is grounds to deny that evolution might remain a scientific theory.

Conclusion

Fr. Seraphim of Platina may have erred by importing Protestant doctrine on origins. He did not err in this: in today’s Western culture, the theory of "evolution" is not doing the work of science. It is doing the work of naturalist philosophy, and should be recognized as such.

I would suggest that at least for Orthodox, the discussion would be advanced just a little by stopping using the term "evolution" when in university biology departments all theories of evolution, and all serious openness to believe in evolution, have been dead so long they no longer even smell bad.

We’ve curated fruit flies for hundreds of thousands of generations and, while we can induce a mutation that causes antennae to grow from their eyes, but we have not yet bred a new species. The only species I know that is newer than Darwin’s theory is a radiotolerans or radiation-tolerant bacterium that evolved at Chernobyl after the meltdown. And, for reasons I won’t discuss here, that is the kind of exception that proves a general rule.

It might be productive to change vocabulary to more precise, and speak not of “evolution,” but of a post-scientific theory of post-Darwinian post-evolution.

I invite you to use the newer, up-to-date term. Enjoy!

Upcoming Review: "How Can I Take my Life Back from my Phone?"

Upcoming review for Donovan's Literary Services and the Midwest Book Review:


How Can I Take My Life Back From My Phone?

C.J.S. Hayward
C.J.S. Hayward Publications
979-8354818877
$19.99 Hardcover/$11.99 Paper/$2.99 Kindle
https://cjshayward.com/phone/

"We have created a situation where it is possible for ordinary people to casually and without malice kill innocent lives. If we return to the three ethical questions, namely how ships can avoid bumping into each other, how they can internally stay shipshape, and what destination they are meant to reach, we are seeing terrible collisions that sink ships because unrestrained and trusting use of cell phones has devastated what little was left of their being shipshape."

How Can I Take My Life Back From My Phone? A Guidebook for Orthodox and Others is about pursuing life outside of technology. It is highly recommended reading for any modern person who would link theological thinking to the dilemmas of managing modern devices that both distract and offer a form of engagement that's often the antithesis of spiritual reflection.

What do ethical and religious questions have to do with technological use? They translate more reasoned purpose into device usage, creating a dialogue that stems from Hayward's exploration of "What kind of guidance would someone like St. John Chrysostom offer in using technology, if our technology were around in his day?"

From philosophical and historical citation and reflection to guidelines for employing technology in a more positive, purposeful manner that doesn't put it in the driver's seat of decision-making, Hayward provides a thought-provoking discourse that will especially lend to book club and discussion group pursuit.

Chapters tackle everything from Internet porn to missed connections and the altered states of mind and soul created by addiction to all kinds of screens: "He asked me if I had ever observed that an hour after seeing a movie, I felt depressed. I had not made any connection of that sort, even if now it seems predictable from the pleasure-pain syndrome. Now I very rarely see movies, precisely because the special effects and other such tweaks are stronger than I am accustomed to seeing; they go like a stiff drink to the head of the teetotaler. The little pleasures of life are lost on someone used to a rising standard of special effects, and the little pleasures of life are more wholesome than special effects."

C.S.J. Hayward has produced many a thought-provoking work, but How Can I Take My Life Back From My Phone? may arguably be one of his best.

This is because he links a modern social, psychological, and spiritual issue to guidelines on how better to take charge of that technological lure that too often creates in its user an emotional and spiritual void.

These topics wind neatly into Biblical passages, analytical reflections on the Word of God, and notes and footnoted references to a wide range of religious thinking that contrasts nicely with the ethical and spiritual topics under consideration.

Hayward also adds autobiographical notes into the inspection. This personalizes his citations and the experiences of loosening technology's allure and distractions.

The result is both a how-to guide and a spiritual work of Christian Orthodoxy which holds the rare power to reach beyond Orthodox audiences alone and into the general public. This topic should hold widespread interest, and ideally will be debated and discussed among many circles.

Christian libraries, in particular, will find How Can I Take My Life Back From My Phone? a thought-provoking reflection and a "must have" addition.

That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis: A Lens for Our Day

In C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength, there is one computer of sorts that is envisioned, but Lewis does not anticipate a computer that belongs to just one individual, let alone mobile devices. For that matter, the computer, called the Analytical Notice-Board and a Pragmatometer, is envisioned as working on mechanical principles and with human operators, rather than anything electronic, even the relays of the first digital computer. Furthermore, it was posited in a conversation where the person who spoke of it ended up in ridicule.

Nonetheless, it is rather beside the point that N.I.C.E. workmen in all their rudeness do not use a smartphone to deliver a social snub, or even use smartphones to the point of being oblivious to their surroundings. C.S. Lewis is more than prescient, and the overall feel of the text leaves the uncomfortable feeling that Lewis has plagiarized events and trends that occur decades after his passing. The text is powerful in its portrayal of the banality of evil. Moreover, Lewis avoids a syndrome in Faust where the devil comes across as gentlemanly. The villains in the story are total jerks, and the figure Mark Studdock has been described as a character whose only real talent is to get into inner rings of power, and is debauched as he pulls from one inner ring to one that is deeper again and again... but it comes out in the end that the only reason the villains are wasting the time to debauch him is really only so that they can get at his wife and her prophetic dreaming power.

C.S. Lewis wrote That Hideous Strength as an explicit fictional counterpart to his nonfiction The Abolition of Man, and gives a human face to the principles he describes in the latter work in the former. The story is compelling, enough so that to me at least it almost needs pointing out how quaint the technologies of Dystopia were in Lewis's writing. The story is timeless.

But I would underscore "It almost needs pointing out." C.S. Lewis, before technology had made certain intrusions into everyday life, early declares himself "Oxford bred and very fond of Cambridge," and though this may not be intentional, has Mark Studdock debauched mostly one on one, in the image of Oxford's and Cambridge's tutorial system. Today debauchery occurs on a mass scale and includes such things as mobile devices and social media. Possibly we have gone worse than in that picture: but the timeless picture of evil, where "the shadow of that hideous strength, six miles long and more is its length," is poignantly relevant for today. As Lewis openly states, this fairy tale is meant as a setting in fiction the point he attempted to make in The Abolition of Man, and what is going on today is precisely an attempt at the abolition of man, worse today though it already existed in Lewis's day.

Let me digress to make a few comments and predictions regarding my own work, before returning to That Hideous Strength:

  • First, my own work about The Luddite's Guide to Technology will appear dated, at least as much as my second novel, Firestorm 2034 dates itself by my total failure to recognize mobile technologies and their significance to the landscape.

  • Second, we will have things advertised under cyberpunk fiction but we will not be in a Utopia. Think about how much it stinks today to learn to cast a fishing line off a smartphone's accelerometer when one has never had access to a real fishing rod or a body of water that admits fishing. Sensory simulated input from cybernetic implants will stink like bad technology already stinks.

  • Third, if I succeed in my work, it may be relevant as an input to informed decision making notwithstanding my blindness towards things that everybody will know. There will, if I am successful, be certain trajectories in my work that remain relevant despite my placing them in a context of technologies that have, then, gone the way of the horse and buggy.

  • Fourth, we do not live at the end of history, and so my work, geared to technologies and responsible use as of the time of its writing, is a trend in a historic period that will progress to other things. In the future I expect cybernetic implants and an Internet of [Human] Bodies to supersede the Internet of Things. However, I am not trying to future-proof my work except by acknowledging where it will be wrong or at very least incomplete and laying a foundation that will be relevant when future realities are here. I am not treating that the most recently prevalent technologies such as mobile phones are the final technologies in all of our historical processes. Possibly things will develop to a point that it is a quaint concept to watch porn on any kind of external screen.

  • Fifth, I believe that the moralist injunction regarding SecondLife, "Fornicate using your OWN genitals!" will be a precursor to moral injunctions relevant to future technologies.

  • Sixth, I believe that movement towards e.g. increasing cybertechnology will be advertised as bringing Utopia but will turn out to be Dystopian.

    In a Spiritually Speaking Toastmasters meeting, I listened with astonishment when a moral prophet's role was ascribed to e.g. Steve Jobs's public speaking that portrayed a miserable now and a better future. The draw is to covet things ascribed to the future. We have enough now to experience technology as dystopic, with compulsively checking our phone screens a hundred times daily and a technology bad enough that all profitable use of it is necessarily countercultural. The everyday reality of cybernetic implants will make our cell phone use look like a quaint nostalgic yesteryear.

  • Seventh, I do not advise trying to fill out the details of the Book of Revelation, but do not be surprised if parts of Revelation fall into place. It is my understanding that we can get a kind of cybernetic implant... that already exists and is presently available as VIP privilege... that will work everywhere contactless payment is available... and that it will be in the right hand... just... like... the... Mark... of... the... Beast... in... the... Book... of... Revelation. Our world may last centuries or millennia longer, but however murky of a business interpreting prophecy like Revelation may be, and however much I tried to make the point of Revelation and Our Singularity, we are living in a singularity that could open the door to the Antichrist.

I might also briefly digress to say that I don't specifically endorse C.S. Lewis's Arthurian tie-in in That Hideous Strength, which is deeply enough integrated that the story would fall apart if it were subtracted. In my opinion Arthurian legends rank as questionable literature, literature set in a never-never land of long ago and far away when the ink on Arthurian classics was still wet on its pages, delivering escape from reality rather than engagement with it, and after having read thousands of pages of medieval sources I regard it as one of the most damning critiques of the medieval West that its greatest literary legacy is Arthurian legends. However, this is a second digression that I want to put aside, and having stated it clearly, refrain from repeated critiques at every time Arthurian elements appear.

If I may turn and point to a first interesting element of the text itself, I would refer the reader to the discussion of Merlin:

It was rather horrible. I mean even in Merlin’s time (he came at the extreme tail end of it), though you could still use that sort of life in the universe innocently, you couldn’t do it safely. The things weren’t bad in themselves, but they were already bad for us. They sort of withered the man who dealt with them. Not on purpose. They couldn’t help doing it. Merlinus is withered. He’s quite pious and humble and all that, but something has been taken out of him. That quietness of his is just a little deadly, like the quiet of a gutted building. It’s the result of having laid his mind open to something that broadens the environment just a bit too much. Like polygamy. It wasn’t wrong for Abraham, but one can’t help feeling that even he lost something by it.”

The dialogue is one in which more things were allowed in the past while the possibility of even apparent neutrality vanishing while good hardens into more good and evil hardens into more evil. It is furthermore poignant to speak of an extreme tail end of where you could still use certain technologies innocently, but you couldn't use them safely. The technologies we use wither us, and when we don't have our technological mother's breast, our deflated quiet is like that of a gutted building. We have moved from technological beer and wine to technological whisky and Everclear, and on to technologies that surpass weed.

But I think Lewis has things in reverse. Let me give a vignette that you have probably heard before, and if not, you should:

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 will do 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 to those who keep the faith, they will be glorified more than our fathers who raised the dead."

My advisor, who had been a plenary speaker for Christians for Biblical Equality, and disturbingly a scholar who had plenty of contact with texts from other ancient cultures, asked me if I made allowances for greater ignorance in the past, giving an example of how we have a scientific understanding of atmospheric conditions that could make the moon look red.

I replied, "I do not make allowances for greater ignorance in the past. Allowances for different ignorance in the past are more negotiable."

And I held my tongue from saying that I saw good reason to make allowances for greater ignorance in the present.

Feminism is one studied ignorance in the present. So are our American values we attach as strings to foreign aid in the form of abortion and gay rights. It has been called the spirit of Antichrist that is showing down with Orthodoxy.

The central reason why I am mentioning That Hideous Strength is that it captures something of the nature of good and the nature of evil. Evil is banal; good is interesting. As Lewis states in the preface, the context of a small college is posited because it offers certain conveniences for the sake of fiction. Good and evil are also portrayed in ways that create conveniences for fiction; a blow-by-blow account of one-on-one debauchery of one man is much simpler than a similarly detailed account of the debauchery of a whole society. However, the means of the Progressive Element in the first chapter, "Sale of College Property," shows a manipulation that is of a piece with what a real-life top-notch political speechwriter advocates in Simon Lancaster's Speechwriting: The Expert Guide. The evil "N.I.C.E." does vile biological experiments: and such also appeared in Word War II's Germany and Japan, the latter of which had a medical experimental unit that, for instance, vivisected men experimentally infected with diseases without even anaesthesia. And it is of a piece with the N.I.C.E. that majority usage checks our cellphones easily a hundred times per day. That Hideous Strength was copyright 1945, meaning most likely first drafted before the copyright date, and I'm not sure then that the full scale of Nazi concentration camps was known to Lewis; or the even larger scale of Marxist concentration camps such as continue in China today. Furthermore, even though Lewis never mentions manufacture of everyday property made under inhuman conditions, it is only more of the spirit of the N.I.C.E. to be comfortable by means of the products of Chinese sweatshops. Furthermore, it is difficult to read C.S. Lewis's condemnation of vivisection and knowingly find it innocent to have cheap meat by the raising animals under the inhuman conditions of factory farming. Ms. Hardcastle is a lesbian sadist who is a welcome member of the N.I.C.E. even if she does not think to champion gay rights. The only real aspect of the N.I.C.E. I can think of that is not rampant today is the desire to wipe all organic life off the earth, but there are points of contact at least with transhumanism, which does not regard it as satisfactory to have plain, old-fashioned human minds in plain, old-fashioned human bodies.

On the opposite side, good is presented rightly as interesting, and it is not only Merlin that one is drawn to at St. Anne's. The discussions and comradery among the company at St. Anne's have nothing on the family that is my monastery, and the works of Archimandrite Zacharias. One friend said that when she reads That Hideous Strength she reads the whole book, and then reads the bit about the company at St. Anne's a second time. I am in sympathy here. Not, exactly, that our monastery will save the world; sometime, whether or not you or I live to see it, the Antichrist will rise to power and will be put down by the return of Christ Himself. But there is something cosmic in every sin and every repentance and good, and our monastery is not too different from the celery trenches tended to by MacPhee. The power at an Orthodox monastery is captured in the two words, "Save yourself and ten thousand around you will be saved," and "Make peace with yourself, and Heaven and earth will make peace with you." And, in the meantime, tending to gardens is possibly more important than politicking.

I am not sure the reader will believe me thus far; it takes some believing, all the more because what we think is normal has our lives as a reference point and not the thousands of years civilization has had records or the hundreds of thousands of year we hunter-gatherers have lived as Homo sapiens sapiens. The singularity that is unfolded in the caricatured work Philip Sherrard's The Rape of Man and Nature may continue to unfold into the appearance of the Antichrist before the total victory of Christ. However, some readers may have another question besides "What's next?", and ask, "How should we live then?"

My answer then also looks at and with the lens of That Hideous Strength, and say that Lewis was wise as an author to keep MacPhee working on celery trenches and washing the bear when he could have gotten a lobby politicking by then if he had been allowed to do such. The classic Orthodox perspective, as valid in days of final apostasy as much as anything else, is, "Do what is before you." If you are raising children, raise them as you can. If you are working in a garden, work the garden. If you have have joined a family or started a family, serve that family. If you have not yet done either, do what is before you even if it does not help you be closer to obedience to the mandate to join a family and start a family. And repent. Where politics fails, when guns fail, when regimes fail, personal repentance is a cosmic good. Even, or especially, if what you do seems utterly insignificant in the face of the problems we face.

On to rereading Archimandrite Zacharias, Monasticism: The All-Embracing Gift of the Holy Spirit...

Grassroots Effort Redefines the Term “Vaccines” to Include Placebos

Anytown, USA (DP). Placebos have a long and well-documented history of bringing hope and healing, enough so that drug companies making serious medical trials work hard to neutralize the effects that would otherwise contaminate their research findings, possibly by a fair margin.

A passionate homemaker explains.

In Lewis Caroll’s children’s books, we find a clearly articulated principle that words can do more work as long as they’re adequately compensated. ‘Vaccine’ has been cleverly redefined so that it now includes not only inoculation from a weakened or dead bacterial culture, but also an experimental genetic therapy whose long term effects are not only unknown but scarcely even guessed at. And a placebo is the kind of thing that will work almost for free.

A philosopher of science comments further.

When DDT came out, it stopped an epidemic in its tracks, and equally stopped the lingering menace of malaria that was killing more US soldiers in Vietnam than anything else. After these coups, a pesticide that is highly effective at killing insects and is still not known to cause any serious or direct harm to humans was unimpeachable as something which you could not seriously criticize in any public setting.

Peter Kreeft commented that the prophet sees through a glass, darkly, but the archivist sees through a microscope, sharply. In retrospect there was some serious “philosophical noise,” a faint societal and philosophical static, that we should have heeded but didn’t. Just a few lone naturalists noticed that the frogs in the creeks weren’t singing, and then they noticed fish kill, too, but great DDT was not the sort of thing one could fault for a problem. You could not speak ill of DDT!

Here and now we have philosophical noise at the scale of an out-of-control rock concert. It is, as chivalric literature would say, “passing strange” that FEMA so much wants to cook the books that they’re actually offering a $9,000 bribe if a death certificate says a COVID death. It is also passing illiberal that Americans who need a heart transplant are taken off the wait list entirely if they refuse to be fully injected. Or that diabetics who decline injections once presented as optional are being deprived of treatment that will prevent purely preventable amputation of their feet. Or employers mandatory vaccine requirement for remote employees who never have and never intend to set foot on an employer’s campus. Or…

COVID injections: The greatest breakthrough in human health since DDT!

A passerby interjected.

Vaccines are safe, or at least that’s what it said on one propaganda sheet meant to quell public hysteria. But why then, not long after being even partially vaccinated, did I have blood clotting that would be fatal if untreated, and why did I have to be put on “the Cadillac of blood thinners” which meant that a bad cut could cause me to bleed to death and left the ER asking of my bleeding what had happened when a four by four inch gauze pad was soaked in less than an hour, with my blood dripping on the floor?

“So,” said a grassroots community organizer,

We’re beyond rock concert levels of noise. It’s a “WTF?” in 15 foot high blinking neon. But there’s something else at play. If a word can be redefined after it was taking traction that experimental and untested COVID gene therapy injections simply were not meaningfully vaccines, they decided to redefine “vaccine” to include experimental gene therapy and make “vaccine” and “vax” the word of the year.

The precedent has been set, and now we are redefining “vaccine” at a grass level to the time-tested remedy of a saline placebo: an injection along with the doctor saying “Here is an injection based on a time-tested and powerful principle. Congratulations! You are now fully vaccinated!”

An armchair historian mused:

2022, also callable as 2020 Part Deux, looks like quite a year. We’ve come a long way since The Medieval Experience: Foundations of Western Cultural Singularity developed cubism, for instance, within a generation. Now we seem to be in a Kali-yuga, and things which would have been astonishing in a generation are happening within a year, on top of a financial crisis that escapes by the year. We’ve left the comparably merry “decade from Hell” in the dust… Islamic ascendency, BLM, new installments of demographics that have to be in a politically correct picture, gay marriage, transgender in the limelight, friends forbidden physical affection such as hugs to try and fight COVID, injections, needing booster shots and being told “not to have a false sense of security” just because you’re fully vaccinated—we’ve left cubism in the dust. And in six months to a year, maybe less, people may be able to date my words closely by key new features of the future landscape cannot now even hint at. (Is the Antichrist out yet? Or are we just working on a Matrixy realization that we are “already in the Metaverse?”)

Today is kind of like you’re a little kid and you’ve been engaged in playing outside in the snow and your parents make you come in, and it stings and you don’t want to come in however much you want. You don’t realize how frozen and numb you are until you are shocked by the pain.

And all this without a discussion of whether Romans 1 applies today.

A skeptic in the crowd asked, “Do you think a simple change in words will help?” And a monastic aspirant answered:

The people in power certainly expect as much, and it bothered them that they were losing a debate about whether COVID injections really were in fact vaccines at all. But come, let us dig deeper.

Make peace with yourself, and ten thousand around will be saved.
Save yourself and Heaven and Earth will make peace with you.

Someone I know wrote The Consolation of Theology does include A Hymn to Arrogance, and it is well worth reading.

And perhaps there are greater concerns than who assigns the definition of “vaccine.”

"Why?" (A Look at Matthieu Pageau, "The Language of Creation: Cosmic Symbolism in Genesis")

Great Expectations

“I am a star at rest, my daughter,” answered Ramandu. “When I set for the last time, decrepit and old beyond all that you can reckon, I was carried to this island. I am not so old now as I was then. Every morning a bird brings me a fire-berry from the valleys in the Sun, and each fire-berry takes away a little of my age. And when I have become as young as the child that was born yesterday, then I shall take my rising again (for we are at earth’s eastern rim) and once more tread the great dance.”

“In our world,” said Eustace, “a star is a huge ball of flaming gas.”

“Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is but only what it is made of.

C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, as quoted in "Physics"

The reader is now thinking about evolution. He is wondering whether Genesis 1 is right, and evolution is simply wrong, or whether evolution is right, and Genesis 1 is a myth that may be inspiring enough but does not actually tell how the world was created.

All of this is because of a culture phenomenally influenced by scientism and science. The theory of evolution is an attempt to map out, in terms appropriate to scientific dialogue, just what organisms occurred, when, and what mechanism led there to be new kinds of organisms that did not exist before. Therefore, nearly all Evangelicals assumed, Genesis 1 must be the Christian substitute for evolution. Its purpose must also be to map out what occurred when, to provide the same sort of mechanism. In short, if Genesis 1 is true, then it must be trying to answer the same question as evolution, only answering it differently.

Darwinian evolution is not a true answer to the question, “Why is there life as we know it?” Evolution is on philosophical grounds not a true answer to that question, because it is not an answer to that question at all. Even if it is true, evolution is only an answer to the question, “How is there life as we know it?” If someone asks, “Why is there this life that we see?” and someone answers, “Evolution,” it is like someone saying, “Why is the kitchen light on?” and someone else answering, “Because the switch is in the on position, thereby closing the electrical circuit and allowing current to flow through the bulb, which grows hot and produces light.”

Where the reader only sees one question, an ancient reader saw at least two other questions that are invisible to the present reader. As well as the question of “How?” that evolution addresses, there is the question of “Why?” and “What function does it serve?” These two questions are very important, and are not even considered when people are only trying to work out the antagonism between creationism and evolutionism.

The Commentary, on Genesis 1

I was enthusiastically introduced to Matthieu Pageau, The Language of Creation: Cosmic Symbolism in Genesis, and enthusiastically looking forward to posting a review saying, "I speak of answering the question, "Why?" as is neglected in science, but in occasional hints and riddles. This is a full and direct treatment of the matter."

The snake in the ointment

I viewed a podcast with the author, and on rational grounds this looks interesting. The best books to me are ones that challenge me enough to cause culture shock, and this did cause culture shock, and was as different and concerned with the question, "Why?" as I respected.

About two thirds of the way through the book, though, I put my finger on something I'd been ignoring to be able to see other things: reading the book was not prayerful. When my abbot loaned me a manuscript he asked feedback for, the most vital feedback I could give him was that when I began it reading was deliberative information processing, but well before the end reading was prayer, and good theology leads you into the presence of God. As a relatively minor symptom, the comments on divination were all secular in character, and though forbidding divination was mentioned at least once, it was never discussed as an evil sin and a shameful error that opens a gateway to demonic possession. The concepts of 'space' and 'time', put in quotes in the text itself to indicate a usage very different from any mainstream usage, brought the kind of interesting culture shock produced by good science fiction and fantasy, a bit like The Dark Tower that C.S. Lewis wisely refrained from publishing. Also somewhat unusual for an author presented as Orthodox is a claim to "carves Eastern Orthodox and other traditional images." And the book freely refers to later parts of the Old Testament, but never the New Testament or the Church as realities shadowed in the Old Law.

A more serious problem is that the book tastes to me too much like Jung, and was recommended to me by a good friend in the process of leaving Jung behind. Carl Jung has been called the greatest threat to the Church since Julian the Apostate, and some people have said that at the beginning of every failed clerical career known to the speaker came finding insights in Jung. I do not object to a portrait of archetypes as such; I trade in archetypes myself and would never want to leave them behind. But whether this is a fruitful engagement... it is a hint and a riddle to point out that the book briefly mentions alchemy as something you'd never guess by studying today's chemistry. It doesn't mention alchemy as offering a shortcut by technique for inner transformation that all of the major world religions are inclined to answer, "Sorry, kid. You need elbow grease." Even if conservative Protestants may be very eager to clarify that they believe you are sanctified by faith alone and not by elbow grease, they are also usually quite clear in a belief that if you have a living and a healthy faith and relevant opportunity, you had better be producing elbow grease. (Possibly Taoism is an exception? The Buddha left an interlocking eightfold path of ways to produce elbow grease.) But Pageau's book never talks about alchemy as a cheap shortcut, and if you are going to declare that alchemy is different from anything you'd guess from looking at chemistry, you would do awfully well to say its techniques for producing spiritual transformation are shallow and flat next to any proper religious tradition.

There was one conversation I had with a famous egalitarian when I mentioned enthusiastically about John Eldredge's Wild at Heart, and he pointed out how the book was Jungian. And that was the hook when I swallowed a bait of quasi-traditional teaching about men and women at a time when live proponents of the position were few and far between.

I don't want to repeat that error here, and I speak no words of ill-will if my friends fell for something I fell for hook, line, and sinker. But the book pulls off a reconceptualization big enough to provoke culture shock, and a many-layered understanding of symbol, but for all that it I found very little, if anything, that constituted a specifically patristic way of opening up the Old Testament to unhide the New, and while the book mentions details like alchemy and Tarot, I searched and failed to find mention of "Jesus," "Christ," "Church," and so on.

I deem this book a failure, but I would really like to read another book that would succeed where it had failed.

Avoiding Needless Liabilities: "Crank Magnetism" for Orthodox

The militant Rational Wiki's article on crank magnetism isn't pretty. It shows a singular lack of sympathy for fellow human beings and one gets the impression that camps the authors don't agree with are classified as cranks. For instance, its preppers link sounds like people making preparations for a political meltdown are complete crackpots for doing so. The more our present singularity unfold, the less plausible it seems to me that survivalists or preppers are complete kooks. The more things unfold, the more it looks like preppers were right the whole time.

Nonetheless, while I believe some beliefs tarred and featured in that article are right, including intelligent design (thus qualifying myself as an IDiot), and suspicion regarding how much vaccines and post-vaccine genetic therapy really help us, I was dismayed at seeing Young Earth Creationism 2.0 at an otherwise wonderful monastery where Fr. Seraphim of Plantina is held in high esteem, but entirely without the emotional toxicity I tried to document in The Seraphinians: "Blessed Seraphim Rose" and His Axe-Wielding Western Converts. These people, some of which are converts, are none the less emphatically not "Axe-Wielding," and have a profound respect for other human beings. None the less, I was sad when I realized that people living in Fr. Seraphim's wake are embracing flat-earth theory as a method of virtue signalling. (Thus, perhaps, qualifying myself as a stopped clock, allowed to be right twice a day, but the term is still extremely pejorative.)

I do not say that one should necessarily disqualify a perspective or political or religious opinion on the grounds that it is tarred as "crank." However, I regard crank theories as a liability, and the sort of thing one should prefer to avoid, and not try to seek out. Enough truth is labelled as crank that we need not scrape the barrel of theories that are labelled as "crank" that are just ridiculous. As far as flat earth theory goes, please, no. As far as the moon hoax theory goes, please, no. I do not trust the government and I can readily believe the U.S. government could and would have hoaxed a moon landing if a bona fide genuine man on the moon was not in reach or for some reason less politically expedient than going to all the trouble to make a real moon landing. I don't trust the U.S. government, but in this case I trust the U.S.S.R. government to have every technical competency and obvious vested interest to expose a hoax. It would have been a coup for them to catch the U.S. with its pants down. As things stand, no matter how mainstream belief in a moon landing hoax may presently be in Russia, the U.S.S.R.'s silence about any unmasked hoax in the U.S. praising itself for landing a man on the moon is really quite deafening.

As far as intelligent design issues go, I'm unhappy with the new Protestant Creationism, but as someone with an M.S. in math, evolutionists approaching me apologetically to try to convince me of the truth of "evolution" repel me. I use the term "evolution" in scare quotes because Darwin's theory of evolution, of a slow and gradual change over time, has not been live in the academy for ages; you're not in the conversation now unless you believe, as my University Biology teacher at IMSA said, "Evolution is like baseball. There are long periods of boredom interrupted by brief periods of intense excitement." Meaning that "evolution" is not an evolution in any older or non-biological use of the term, and "evolutionists" believe, along with old-school and new-school Protestant Creationists, that major new kinds of organisms appear abruptly and without preserved intermediate forms among the fossil record. The assertion of such evolutionists as I have encountered entails that it is statistically easy for a breeding pool to acquire and sustain a large number of beneficial mutations in a geological eyeblink, and I have met as an argument for this a claim that Indian prostitutes have evolved HIV resistance in a single generation. This is unlabelled crank theory in fifteen feet high blinking letters, but no one on the "standard model" raises a whimper about it.

And C.S. Lewis was over the time aghast about people failing to see how the assertion of evolution was self-referentially incoherent [though C.S. Lewis might not have put in these terms, it gets failing marks from the Retortion Principle. Romantic love is explained away as a biochemical state produced by evolution, but this explanation does not only neuter romantic love; the explanation explains away all explanation, including evolution. Evolution can explain why we should have good enough brains to find food, avoid being food, procreate, and other things animals with brains seem to be able to do. It does not in any sense explain, however, why we should have brains good enough to formulate a true theory of evolution. It has been suggested that there is survival value in brains that could find truths, but if that is true, very, very few people have the kind of brains that evolution selects for. (Less than 1% of people who have ever lived have ever seen a printed word, and far less than that have even had even the chance to believe Darwinian evolution. Most of them have believed that life is spiritual in some form, rather than a by-product of mindless forces that did not have any life form in mind in any sense.)

There is also the other intelligent design argument, an argument not addressing biology but physics. I've met evolutionary apologetics who denied that any information needed to be, so to speak, "injected" for the formation of new life forms. I have never met a physicist to deny the physics intelligent design claim that the physical constants have been unimaginably tightly fine-tuned just to allow our life forms to be possible. The more time has passed, the more we recognize the fine-tuning, and we have long passed the time when we realized that the fine-tuning is much more closely tailored just to allow us to exist than, for instance, shooting a particle of light from somewhere around one end of the universe and having it hit the dead center of an atom somewhere around the other side of the universe. The only other way I can state in non-technical terms how low the odds that randomly generated physical constants would let us live are to winning a fair multi-million dollar lottery prize by buying just one ticket at a time many, many times in a row. (It's almost as bad as evolving a new life form by having a breeding population acquire and sustain enough beneficial mutations to make a new life form.)

I will not shy away from truth just because it is tarred as crank. However, I would say that each crank theory you embrace, and there are some I believe you should, is a liability in dealing with people on the "standard model" and you should believe them despite the fact that they are labelled out as crank.

Virtue signalling by seeking out additional crank theories represents serious philosophical and theological confusion. Defining oneself as different by seeking out crank theories represents serious philosophical and theological confusion. Counterculture for the sake of just rebelling against the common culture represents confusion. And both crank beliefs and counterculture represent a liability: one that should not be eliminated, but perhaps treated with some economy and recognizing that you are coming across as crank if you embrace crank beliefs.

And crank beliefs that are genuinely true should be treated with mystagogy: they should not be pushed on people not dislodged from the "standard model." "I will not speak of Thy mystery to Thine enemies:" if you know a truth, and you know that another person will reject that truth if you say it, you do not say it. This is standard Orthodox mystagogy. Come Judgment Day, it will be better for that person not to be judged for hearing the truth and rejecting it: and it will be better for you, too, because you did not set that brother human being up for a greater degree of condemnation.

An adaptation of scientism's much-loved "Ockham's razor" may be helpful. Ockham's razor, "Do not needlessly multiply [explanations]," is however sharp a tool intended to create better explanations by virtue of having fewer explanations. The same might apply to using crank theories to truth and edification.

Think about it. And maybe scale back on crank theories that are inessential.

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.)

A Public Act of Repentance

Cover for The Luddite's Guide to Technology

COVID Injections: The Greatest Breakthrough in Human Health Since DDT!

I, C.J.S. Hayward, publicly repent of having taken a first dose of a COVID vaccine.

I have in general been suspicious about the genuine helpfulness of vaccines; I wrote Eight-Year-Old Boy Diagnosed with Machiavellian Syndrome by Proxy (MSBP) and it was well-received among those who are skeptical about whether vaccines are overall helpful.

Then I was hit from all sides, from family at home and slapped down at church, including being informed my heirarch Archbishop PETER had spoken with many Orthodox doctors and chose to be publicly vaccinated. I wrote and then took down, in the interest of not becoming heretical, one post critical of Archbishop PETER when my spiritual father helped me to see that if I was not in formal dissent, getting awfully close. And as I was reminded in Lenten reading, it is not helpful to criticize one's spiritual authorities: not a monastic priest, not a spiritual father, and all the more not the bishop I answer to in the end. I asked, and received, a blessing to receive vaccination from my spiritual father.

As the time approached, I was aware of unending doubt about my rightness to receive a vaccine, and Rom 14.23). I do not want to give the debate in that passage in cultural context, but after having seen my Archbishop to whom I answer set an example of receiving the vaccine, and receiving a blessing and assurances from my spiritual father to receive the vaccine personally, I still had constant, nagging doubts about whether I should receive the vaccine, and that Biblical discussion was at the forefront of my mind, along with a thought about stopping COVID being justification to make an exception. I claim no confused ideas about the Biblical principle, nor any sense of mixed messages from my conscience, nor anything else of that sort. And I furthermore would point out that my spiritual father is big on listening to that inner voice; he has never to my knowledge put me in a position previously of choosing between obeying that still, small voice and obeying him—and while Orthodox spiritual direction usually requires obedience, he has been clear, when I asked a blessing to have my confessions heard by cathedral clergy, that this is not full monastic spiritual direction and that I do not owe him monastic-style obedience. He allowed me to choose freely whether I wanted to receive the vaccine, so I cannot blame him for how I exercised my freedom. (I see very little mitigating factors once I recognized consciously that something was wrong.)

I sinned by taking the first dose of a vaccine, when my conscience was not in a state where I could legitimately take the vaccine. I do not here make any evaluation of the vaccines in general or specific people; I mentally asked, "What could go wrong?"

I don't know all of what could have gone wrong. What I did realize after paying the price for drinking a sugary drink two weeks later was that when I received the vaccine, I was told at the top of an information sheet that if certain vaguely COVID-like symptoms if they lasted for longer than 72 hours, and it was two weeks later and I was ignoring significant and ongoing COVID-like symptoms, including muscle pains, headache, nausea, and by the way the swelling at the injection site is still visible. And (as of two and a half weeks later) they weren't going away. I received, in the language of Romans 1, received in my person a due penalty for my error.

At about two weeks, my conscience was overwhelmingly strong that I should cancel my second dose. It was getting stronger and stronger, and then by chance I read a friend's comment in a paper and while he is not a religious authority I answer to, unexpected words brought my struggle against my conscience to the forefront of my attention. I canceled it and haven't had any social consequences yet. But my doctor's office gave what I regard as at best excusable advice that I go ahead with the second dose as originally planned. The people giving the vaccines warn people not to have a vaccine within 14 days of receiving any other vaccine or any COVID. My primary told me to go right ahead and receive the vaccine in a few days even when I had significant and ongoing COVID symptoms that prompted her office to ask me to take a COVID test before coming in to the office.

I've been in a mind fog. I don't know if the COVID symptoms are permanent; they do seem to be lasting just a little long even by the standards of a real, honest, legitimate COVID infection, let alone reasonable aftereffects for a vaccine. And tomorrow's concerns are not my concern today; tomorrow's concerns will be my concerns when tomorrow comes.

The adverse reactions are only part of the picture of why I am repenting; I ignored something very clear and mentally asked, "What could go wrong?" and I believe both that God is just to allow me to experience COVID symptoms now, and that ignoring conscience or clear thinking and asking, "What could go wrong?" (in other words, asking in my heart "But what could possibly go wrong?" has historically been a dangerous position for me to be in spiritually.

However, while I absolutely cannot judge Archbishop PETER for his research, actions, or conclusions, repentance of my own actions is in my heart.

I, Christos Hayward, publicly repent of receiving the first dose of a vaccination.

Epilogue, July 9 2021

I am, by the grace of and generosity of God, my archbishop and his school, a seminary student.

The seminary has assigned some texts to read, and the hardest had been about, for instance, Old Believer and Old Calendarist schisms. The canonical Orthodox authority who in large measure pushed Old Believers into schism was being an incredible jerk towards people who were trying to mind their own business. The canonical Orthodox authority who led people to become Old Calendarists was a Freemason, among other disqualifications, and was something like the Messianic fantasy of a PC-USA radical in the office of an Orthodox bishop. In these and I believe other meetings, I was left with a terrible sense that I would have really liked to sit down for a meal with the non-canonicals (one high-ranking non-canonical bishop radiated the Uncreated Light from his prison cell), while the canonical figures, not so much. (Or to be less diplomatic about it, they mostly left me wanting to puke.)

The USA's Assembly of (Orthodox) Bishops, I have been told, has come out presenting the somewhat bloodstained COVID vaccines as desirable, definitely permitted and encouraged by example even if there has not been a strict requirement made. And... I am willing to see a decision like the OCA decision described in Contraception, Orthodoxy, and Spin Doctoring where a jurisdiction advocated and allowed a practice St. John Chrysostom bluntly called "worse than murder" and tried to explain his horror about it. I have been asked if I had a heirarch's blessing to write that. I'm willing to hold a position, if it comes to that, that I do not share with my bishop and perhaps not anyone in the Assembly.

I have told my spiritual director that if it comes to a choice between not receiving any further vaccination and being admitted to housing, I am willing to go homeless. However, I am not willing to go non-canonical. Never mind if I believe COVID injections are the greatest breakthrough in human health since DDT. If I have to choose between remaining not fully vaccinated and remaining canonical, I will take as many injections as are demanded of me rather than forfeit my status as a canonical Orthodox Christian.

(Also, as far as vaccine complications, I had a blood clot from my leg migrate to my lung. The ER doctor said I was lucky to get to the hospital before it killed me.)

Read more of The Luddite's Guide to Technology on Amazon!

Revelation and Our Singularity

Cover for The Luddite's Guide to Technology

My seminary has Holy Trinity Monastery's (of what jurisdiction I do not know) Commentary on the Holy Scriptures of the New Testament, five-star-reviewed on Amazon (a lone dissenter gave only four stars), and I decided in prayer to read the commentary on the Book of Revelation, which was translated by Fr. Seraphim and published by his St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood.

It helped, in part, to help me see why Fr. Seraphim is so respected in some quarters, and it does not strike me, as do other translations from the St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, as being laced with an occult dimension or TMI that monks should normally flee from exposing to laity. It was, overall, a good and lucid translation of a classic commentary, but... I'm a little bit "not surprised" that the translation of Vladyka's commentary on Revelation was the one translation that appears to be Fr. Seraphim's doing. It has certain fingerprints. And at risk of irony as someone who dipped into the beginning of the commentary and then honed in on Revelation, it might gently be pointed out that Revelation is the one book of the New Testament that is intentionally not read in Orthodox services.

Among the positive points that may be mentioned, in a text that Fr. Seraphim chose to translate and that bears the Brotherhood's imprint, are that Revelation needs to be interpreted with extreme caution, and that responsible interpretation is layered. For instance, without any pretension of a single, exhaustive exegesis, he notes,

9:7-10 And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle; and their faces were as the faces of men. And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions. And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months.

This description of the monstrous locusts causes some commentators to think that these locusts are nothing else than an allegorical description of human passions. Each of such passions, when it reaches a certain limit, has all the signs of these monstrous locusts. In describing the coming day of the Lord, the holy prophet Joel describes also the appearance before it of destroyers who in part remind one of these locusts.

I suppose that by these locusts one should likely understand the evil demons who have prepared themselves for battle with us, and as signs of victory, wear crowns when we submit to them as having received an evil victory through pleasure. The hair of women [in cultures where women covered their hairs, out of modesty—CJSH] testifies of the demons' love of pleasure and arousal to fornication; the teeth of lions indicate their hardheartedness; their tails, which are likened to those of scorpions indicate the consequences of sins, which produce the death of the soul, for sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death (Jas 1:15). (St. Andrew, Chapter 26)

But then he goes on:

Contemporary commentators, not without a certain reasonableness, find a kinship of these locusts with airplanes and their bombing attack.

This notes a similarity with admitted caution; Fr. Seraphim's translation earlier quotes the reference to hail, and earlier says, without such restraint, "Does this not refer to an aerial bombardment with its destructive and incendiary bombs," and follows with "Some people see also in this frightful mounted army tanks which spurt forth fire."

What is at issue here? It has been said, "Nothing is as dated as the future." And the text, should future scholars wish to date it, could date this text fairly closely by what technology it sees and what it has no hint of.

There is a counterbalance to "Nothing is as dated as the future." Things fade in. Prophecy collapses time without sharply distinguishing similar events that occur at different period, and when oca.org/saints, before the prophecies of St. Nilus, the party that posted St. Nilus's story wrote:

Saint Nilus has left a remarkably accurate prophecy concerning the state of the Church in the mid-twentieth century, and a description of the people of that time. Among the inventions he predicted are the telephone, airplane, and submarine. He also warned that people’s minds would be clouded by carnal passions, “and dishonor and lawlessness will grow stronger.” Men would not be distinguishable from women because of their “shamelessness of dress and style of hair.” Saint Nilus lamented that Christian pastors, bishops and priests, would become vain men, and that the morals and traditions of the Church would change. Few pious and God-fearing pastors would remain, and many people would stray from the right path because no one would instruct them.

The person who assessed the text as referring to the mid-twentieth century was in fact not quoting a timeline given by St. Nilus but giving a gloss by the presumably mid-twentieth century author of his life, and St. Nilus did not in fact give any timeline or date that my historical sensitivities could recognize. I have read his prophecies, the real ones that tell what the wording of the Mark of the Beast will be, a point I have never seen on the urban legend channel. But things are fading in. The original life posted referred to the "radio," not the "telephone." As far as men being indistinguishable from women, we have far eclipsed the summary of the prophecy above, which has no concept of widespread sex-change attempts. As far as passions go, we now have a sewer's worth of Internet porn. The prophecy could apply as much to scuba diving even better than submarines, but the oca.org/saints wording has not been changed. The prophecies stated that wisdom would be found that would let men speak in one place and be heard across the world, a prediction which has faded in in the radio, then also the telephone, then also the Zoom chat. What next? Who knows if haptics might make a "remote touch" that offers some ghastly and obscene parody of a mother touching her baby, remotely and from a phone? As far as the morals and tradition of the Church, contraception has transformed into being broadly seen as a legitimate option to Orthodox. Examples could easily be multiplied, but I think it would be better to recognize the singularity we live in, a singularity that is unfolding on many dimensions (the gender rainbow, the river of blood from black-on-black murders ever since "Black Lives Matter" took to the forefront (could we please reverse course and go for "All Black Lives Matter?"), a singularity following a century that with artists like Picasso radically transforming artistic conventions that a historian should regard as being like an eyeblink. Now changes are continuing to roll out, at an accelerating pace in a singularity. In a matter of weeks, models who were not half-starved began to be rolled out. Politically correct pictures of people usually did not show white people alone; they included a person of color. Now a further installment has been made: some pictures have a woman wearing Muslim hajibs, and increasingly common are wheelchairs to include people with disabilities (please note that most disabilities, including mine, do not have people using a wheelchair). And dominoes are falling: not only BLM, which seems to always and only be in reference to blacks needlessly killed by white police and by white police alone, but Islam's surge (with atheislam in which the West accepts under an iron yoke what it spurned under a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light), the cyber-quarantine, vaccines that will be socially mandated, transgender being in truth a prominent and well-integrated addition to what was once really just mostly "LBG", with schoolchildren being told "There's no right or wrong age to fall in love" (one archpriest called a spade a spade and said, "Putting the P in LGBTQP+"), and so on.

("Singularity" is intended by analogy to what the term means in physics. Gravity in physics has been compared to weighted balls moving on a level, stretched-out rubber sheet. Heavier balls stretch the fabric more than light balls, and they tend to draw each other in. They stretch the fabric, but don't break it. A black hole is when something stretches the fabric so singularly that the fabric of space folds in on itself, and you get potential wormholes etc. The difference between regular gravity and a singularity is loosely the difference between stretching the sheet by your weight on the one hand, and on the other hand ripping a hole in it.)

Furthermore, if I may offer what may seem an overly fine distinction, I think that matching up current events to details of Revelation is best avoided, but understanding that we are in a singularity and understanding that similarity may have value.

I had conversations with an adviser who really should have known better, who asked me, in asking if I was meeting basic duty, "Do you make allowances for greater ignorance in the past?" I answered:

I don’t make allowances for greater ignorance in the past. Allowances for different ignorance in the past are more negotiable. And I would quote General Omar Bradley: “We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount.”

I don't want to give an uncritical endorsement of the "Nature Connection" movement, as it seemed as I went through the eight shields thinking always, "This is overall good but I'm holding my nose at the spot we are in now," and eventually "I don't need Coyote as a totem."

However, any serious attempt to hear out nature connection, even as literature one does not give more than a willing suspension of disbelief, is that we have lost things that were known to past generations, and that surviving hunter-gatherers have an incredible richness in sensitivity to their surroundings and layers of patterns suburbanites can miss. And the advisor, in my opinion, had read too many ancient texts, and in the original, to have legitimate innocence in seeing the difference in knowledge as ancient Aramaic texts fail to reflect the victories of the Scientific Revolution.

I might briefly comment on the singularity we are in:

Recorded history does not really date past ten thousand years. The non-Neanderthal subspecies all living humans belong to dates back to perhaps forty times that length, and our genus dates back to two or four hundred times that length. Less than one percent of all humans who have ever lived have ever seen a written/printed word, let alone mass produced technology even on par with a pencil or knife.

I might comment briefly, if perhaps only to Jerry Root and other C.S. Lewis fans, that C.S. Lewis raised an objection to standard evolution that was a form of what is called self-referential incoherence. If evolution is true, then it explains why we have good enough brains to find food, avoid being eaten, and produce offspring... but not why we would have good enough brains to put together a true theory of evolution. Knowledge of evolution is no more than a biochemical reaction as romantic love is no more than a biochemical reaction, and it reflects philosophical confusion of a major order to say it is even theoretically possible that our theory of evolution could be true. This has been answered in part with a suggestion that evolution would select for brains that could find things that were true, but if that is the case, assuming evolution is true, it is an extremely parochial elite, less than 2% of the age of civilization and less than .0001% of the time people have been around that evolution has given anyone the kind of brains that evolution selects for. In my opinion that response to an objection shows serious philosophical muddle. And, incidentally, I believe that Fr. Seraphim was right, at least as regards popular culture, that evolution is not doing the job of a scientific theory, but the job of philosophy that allows atheism to account for what over 99% of humans have ever lived have seen as the work of some form of spirit.

Now before getting back to Fr. Seraphim, let me get back to my advisor. Elsewhere in our discussion, he hypothetically mentioned ancient prophecies of "mushroom clouds" that would "flatten cities," and benighted ancients failing to understand a reference to nuclear warfare that is neither particularly like toadstools in a forest, nor something that would make a smooth, level surface out of a city. I think I thought of, but did not mention, a suggestion that "mushroom clouds" are not the only way an ancient prophecy could describe global thermonuclear war; "And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places" (Rev 6:14) could be read as a surprisingly straightforward ancient prophetic description of conditions of nuclear war.

And there are other comparisons that could be drawn. I intentionally don't want to belabor where tempting comparisons could be made, but the Internet and the whole locus of electronic technology could be described as fire from Heaven in "great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men," (Rev 13:13), and "With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication." (Rev. 17:5), where a basic utility, a socially mandated technology, includes an endless sewer of porn if you want it, and really at least soft porn if you try to research innocent topics on YouTube. There is more I could belabor: SecondLife fascinates the public and has been called SecondWife, with stern moralists saying, "Fornicate using your OWN genitals!" And about Babylon being thrown into the sea, I believe that it will be at some point as easy to take down any technological Babylon as start a nuclear war, and that inadvertently. Read The Damned Backswing as written in fifteen feet high blinking neon about our stack of technologies.

(Fr. Seraphim quotes, "If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add to him the plagues which are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of this prophecy, God shall take away his share in the tree of life," and the commentary underscores that Revelation ends with "a strict warning not to distort the words of the prophecy under threat of the application of the plagues that are written in this book." I might suggest that it may be, if not exactly clear-cut wrong, at least in a gray area to add exact historical correspondences where fire and hail simply refer to aerial bombardment—or fire from Heaven (some people believe Elijah's "fire from Heaven" as being lightning), simply as neither more nor less than the lightning-like electricity that powers electronic gadgets. There are some points of contact, but it is not clear to me that it is right to make such a simple and complete identification of one historic detail with one text in Revelation.)

However, I present these to illustrate a temptation. Nothing is as dated as the future. An archaeologist of the future, if the Lord tarries (a point on which I am unclear and perhaps must be unclear), who found this article as somehow surviving the Digital Dark Ages and/or World War III, could closely date this article based on the major technologies I call out and the major technologies I don't show a hint of imagining. I wrote, Recognize that it will be easier to get the people out of the cyber-quarantine than to get the cyber-quarantine, our new home, out of the people. We have already with our Zoom chats laid practical foundations for George Orwell's 1984.

(And I might briefly state that I believe the examples I gave, if there is far future history to assess this article, will be much more dated than Einstein's simple prediction: "I know not what weapons World War III will be fought with, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." That kind of statement tells scarcely less but is far less dated.)

And I would like to state now a cardinal point:

I would be very careful about recognizing prophecies fulfilled in Revelation, but I would be much faster to observe ways in which we live within a singularity, and that is a singularity on par with what is called a singularity in modern physics when a black hole is formed.

There was a classic set of AT&T ads, dated to 1993, with the classic AT&T Death Star logo, looking like a dark vintage science fiction movie:

And on a humor newsgroup someone followed up with:

Have you ever received an automated sales pitch,
while you were still in your pajamas?

Have you ever had thousands of calls all over
the world charged to your stolen account number?

Have you ever had your paycheck deleted
by faceless intruders from across the globe?

Have you ever had an employer know more about your
whereabouts and activities than your spouse?

Have you ever been snuffed to dust by a
satellite laser while lying on the beach?

________
| |
| |
| YOU |
| |
| WILL |
| |
|______|

And the company that will bring this to you

is AT&T

There was one thing that AT&T wasn't straightforward about: No technology is permanently exotic.

The AT&T commercial portrays a world of wonder. However, "YOU WILL" is not especially wondrous to those of us living in that dark science fiction reality. We do not wonder at electronic toll collection; we do not wonder at being able to access webpages on another continent. No technology is permanently exotic, and we can obtain momentary relief by upgrading to the newest and hottest gadget, but then, alcoholics can obtain momentary relief of the living Hell of alcoholism by getting really drunk. The short-term fix does not work in the long run, and is in fact counterproductive. As far as (anti-)social media go, we have delivered the equivalent of a tofu virtual chicken in every pot. And tofu does not just feel and taste gross; it is nutritionally an absolutely terrible surrogate for real, honest animal protein. And even the parody left out one point in retrospect: "Have you ever been drained at compulsively checking your phone at least a hundred times a day? YOU WILL, and the companies that will bring it to you include AT&✁✆✇.*T."

A Bookshelf for Our Day

Let me give a few titles that I would strongly recommend reading, preferably in paper (kids, go ask your great-grandparents):

Francis Oakley, The Medieval Experience: Foundations of Western Cultural Singularity

I'm going to open this list with a dud. I am, or at least have been, a medievalist at heart; one of my books is a take on Arthurian legend, The Sign of the Grail, although I have since done something that is overdue. I have backed away from Arthurian legend as however enchanting it may seem if you don't know it, not being particularly edifying or profitable to explore.

It has been said that the singularity we live in now is the fruit of what developed in the Middle Ages. However, The Medieval Experience left me completely underwhelmed, and furthermore the more background knowledge I had of an area, the more hollow a failure to walk in another person's shoes the text appeared to be.

In the last real chapter, about precursors to feminism, the author quotes a non-medievalist Ibsen in words I wish to repeat in gory detail:

HELMER: To forsake your home, your husband, and your children! And you don't consider what the world will say.

NORA: I can pay no heed to that. I only know that I must do it.

HELMER: This is monstrous! Can you forsake your holiest duties in this way?

NORA: What do you consider my holiest duties?

HELMER: Do I need to tell you that? Your duties to your husband and your children.

NORA: I have other duties equally sacred.

HELMER: Impossible! What duties do you mean?

NORA: My duties towards myself.

HELMER: Before all else you are a wife and a mother.

NORA: That I no longer believe. I believe that before all else I am a human being, just as much as you are—or at least that I should try to become one.

It is a sign of feminism's hegemony that at least some women, despite every effort to want a career, ask "What is wrong with me?" because after all feminist direction they have received, they still can't dislodge a fundamental desire to get married and have kids. This last major chapter in The Medieval Experience falls squarely in the "She shall be saved from childbearing" camp, and all accounts of the good and/or improving state of women in the Middle Ages describes precursors to feminism's desire that a woman not be a homemaker. It doesn't just say that a woman should have other options besides being homemakers; it is that precursors to the good estate of women are always in terms of dislodging women from the role of wife and mother no matter how much women should want to be homemakers. And on this count, not a word of the book's account of proto-feminist tendencies shows the slightest acknowledgment and respect for some women wanting to be wives and mothers.

This book represents to me a missed opportunity. And for a book copyrighted in 1974, it doesn't seem to show the empathic understanding for today's singularity that it might, alongside failing to walk in a medieval mom's shoes. The original copyright year is the same year as Jerry Mander's Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, and Mander's title remains salient several decades later and after profound increases in technology, but The Medieval Experience is as a whole forgettable and gives remarkably little insight into the medieval experience as foundations of Western cultural singularity.

C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength

This book is a little bit more of a near miss.

I do not count it as a strike against this book that it takes some effort to appreciate; I am more than willing to recommend a book that will challenge its readers. But nonetheless, I see one or two major strikes against the book. Quite simply, it leads the reader to covet magic and many of its most tantalizing passages tantalize with magic from Atlantis. Furthermore, the character of Merlin is singularly riveting. One definition that has been used to describe the difference between a flat and a rounded character is, "A rounded character believably surprises the reader." Merlin comes awfully close to delivering nothing but believable surprises. And even if Ransom sharply limits Merlin's initiative, Merlin's presence is a problem. And I say that as someone who bore the nickname "Merlin" in high school.

However, this book is valuable in offering a sort of literary "YOU WILL" commercials, which admittedly did not portray how we are glued to mobile devices. The heroes are a delight to read about; the villains are more of a chore to read about, and the banality of evil comes through loud and clear. Furthermore, it is a description of a singularity, and on that point it is the closest work of fiction I know to a fictionalized telling of the singularity we are in.

On that score, That Hideous Strength is well worth the effort to appreciate.

Philip Sherrard, The Rape of Man and Nature: An Enquiry into the Origins and Consequences of Modern Science

A couple of comments about the author of this book. First, he is an important figure in the history of English-speaking Orthodoxy and did major work rendering the Philokalia in English. Second, he is a hypocrite and an old rogue. He has blasted the Western musical tradition, which an Orthodox might legitimately do, but one friend came to visit him and found him blasting out Wagner's opera, and that's Wagner's opera as in "Wagner's opera is not as bad as it sounds." I would also comment on how he writes.

The Rape of Man and Nature deals in caricatures and not the written equivalent of photorealism. However, this has usefulness if it is taken as caricatures and not a literal account of facts. It is a finding in psychology that people recognize someone more readily from a caricature than from a photograph, and the caricature artist's job is to take the most striking and salient features in e.g. someone's face, and then portray them in exaggeration that yields a striking clarity. And if Sherrard is a caricature artist in The Rape of Man and Nature, he is an excellent caricature artist.

This book really is a close "near miss," and I would readily recommend it for people who want a little bit of a feel of what was lost in the Scientific Revolution, and of what developments contributing to our ongoing singularity lost alongside scientific and technical gains.

Jean-Claude Larchet, The New Media Epidemic: The Undermining of Society, Family, and Our Own Soul

I've mentioned other titles as near misses. This one doesn't just score a three point basket; it is nothing but net. (In more ways than one.)

I'm not going to try to list everything that is worth reading in this title. Buy it and read it yesterday.

C.J.S. Hayward, The Luddite's Guide to Technology

I'm not going to write at length about why I believe my work is relevant, but my suspicion is that this book and not the overlapping The Best of Jonathan's Corner will be my most lasting contribution, if (of course) the Lord tarries.

At the time of its writing, it has two stars on Amazon, two reviews, and no customer ratings. I would ask the interested reader to read what the Midwest Book Review has to say about it.

Looking back at C.S. Lewis

"These days of final apostasy" is not a new phrase; St. John Chrysostom in fact said that the world was breaking apart and coming to an end, but while antiquity ended, the world has continued.

The world has continued, and C.S. Lewis, on the eve of World War II, famously addressed students, "Life has never been normal. Humanity has always been on a precipice," although it may be that the Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night because the end of the world has been so insistently predicted over the ages that no one takes the message seriously.

I think it is worth understanding to what extent we live in a singularity, and we have multiple things that could be apocalyptic events: apart from the obvious threat of global thermonuclear war in a world where each city and each major university has a hydrogen bomb aimed at it, the Internet could collapse like an increasingly brittle house of cards, and take the economy down with it. Or things could continue to change and new societal vulnerabilities could develop. The pace of change has been accelerating, and it might well continue accelerating until there is a step that is sui generis, on par with C.S. Lewis in the nonfiction fraternal twin to That Hideous Strength: The Abolition of Man, in which Lewis describes the final step in "man's victory over nature:"

The wresting of powers from Nature is also the surrendering of things to Nature...

Man's conquest of Nature, if the dreams of some scientific planners are realized, means the rule of a few hundreds of men over billions upon billions of men. There neither is nor can be any simple increase of power on Man's side. Each new power won by man is a power over man as well. Each advance leaves him weaker as well as stronger. In every victory, besides being the general who triumphs, he is also the prisoner who follows the triumphal car...

Man's conquest of Nature turns out, in the moment of its consummation, to be Nature's conquest of Man. Every victory we seemed to win has led us, step by step, to this conclusion. All Nature's apparent reverses have been but tactical withdrawals. We thought we were beating her back when she was luring us on. What looked to us like hands held up in surrender was really the opening of arms to enfold us for ever.

I do not know how the world will end, or whether the apocalypse will turn out to be anything like any of the possibilities I mentioned. There has already passed a moment when a nuclear power ordered a military officer to launch global thermonuclear war. That was during the Cuban missile crisis, and all of us are alive today only in the wake of a soldier who refused to obey an unconditional order. In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ says, "Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?" God provided a way out of global thermonuclear war then, and he may shelter us, at least for a time, from a meltdown of the Internet. We live and die as God allows, and he may sustain us still. He may give us more to repent. Since Christ's First Coming, his Second Coming has always been imminent, and part of what I omitted from C.S. Lewis's passage above is a reality that has not literally been fulfilled even when That Hideous Strength's Pragmatometer is live in what is fed to us by the Internet:

The final stage is come when Man by eugenics, by pre-natal conditioning, and by an education and propaganda based on a perfect applied psychology, has obtained full control over himself.

It is my own opinion that "a perfect applied psychology" is by definition a pipe dream, a materialist's explanation of spiritual phenomena such as is discussed in How to Think About Psychology: An Orthodox Look at a Secular Religion. But it is possible that Nature's final conquest of Man as described above will come without needing all-powerful eugenics, prenatal conditioning, or a perfect applied psychology. Pipe dreams have already become real. And one world government is an increasingly real possibility on more grounds than technology.

Conclusion

I have begun with an Orthodox Fr. Seraphim of Plantina and ended with a Protestant C.S. Lewis. The turn is not expected of an Orthodox author, but I have generally had an easier time with C.S. Lewis fans than those of Fr. Seraphim.

All the same, I hope to have shed some light in the process, and introduced a useful distinction between donning X-Ray goggles that let you infallibly identify historic details cryptically referred to by the details of Revelation, and recognizing and understanding that we live in a singularity very different from that of over 99.9% of humans who have ever lived.

Much Love,
Christos