"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."
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."
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.
I thank Thee for Amazon's censorship,
That of the Classic Orthodox Bible,
Blessed by my heirarch out of kindness,
Though prior single-volume publications remain live,
A Bible publishing friend's advice,
To break it in multiple volumes and be easier on the books' spine,
With repetition the New Testament's Gospel and Epistles were approved at $15 each;
The whole Old Testament, Law, Historical Books, Wisdom Literature, and Prophets must elsewhere be sought, $40 apiece.
I thank Thee for Fr. Seraphfim's axe-wielding converts,
For know I not all the Reason in Thy Providence,
Yet I note a few guesses:
That by them Thou savest me from full-blown fame too soon,
And if they hit me in my pocketbook thus,
Thou givest what money I need,
Not all of my wants.
And for such things the Sermon on the Mount bids me rejoice,
And the Sermon on the Plain positively bids me leap for joy,
So truly, rejoicing is fit,
For dishonor at the hands of men on earth,
Is one mark of honor in the life to come.
I thank Thee for this transcendently important life,
Birth and death, says St. Luke, are an inch apart,
While the ticker tape goes on forever.
After death, the blessed may rise from glory to glory:
In this life alone may we repent,
In this life alone may we choose between Heaven and Hell,
Life is the dress rehearsal,
And through eternity we will live the rôle we have chosen on earth.
The devil, God's buffoon, God's jester in fact,
Announced to all Heaven St. Job a mere mercenary,
So said the slanderer, only for his wealth,
And when the devil's slander proved utterly false,
The devil, who hath not power over swine except that God permit,
Slandered the saint again, shifting his slander to Job's health,
A second time struck him,
And was a second time made a buffoon.
I thank me for providers past,
One on intake gave my dosing the benefit of the doubt,
But ere too long set their hearts on improving and regulating my dosing,
Ignoring my cries that I was incapacitated when they had gone halfway to their goal,
Genuinely saddened to see me in declining health when they reached their goal,
But not considering that their victory was costing me my life;
Under that shadow and that uncertainty I wrote, The Consolation of Theology.
And finally, they decided that their preferred dosing,
Was not quite as important as my life.
I thank thee for providers now,
Who took me in as a refugee from a provider trying to improve my dosing,
But have decided that come spring,
They have their own new quest to improve my dosing.
I thank God for my ranking 7th in a nationwide math contest,
For seeing me to repentance for thus defining myself,
For letting me write Profoundly Gifted Survival Guide,
A note that others may learn things I learned at dearer price.
I thank God for all things material,
For food enough even in a fast,
For bedding, for electricity, Internet access;
For clothing to spare, and Paleo food to spare;
For every flash of lightning,
Every weather called fair or foul;
For a universe which announces Thy wonder,
For Heavens that declare Thy glory:
For the phenomenon I write about in Zeitgeist and Giftedness,
My coincidences of skating ahead of the Zeitgeist,
And my hope that we may indeed be at the doors of a renaissance of Orthodoxy,
That I may witness to, living or departed.
I thank Thee for my difficulties in communicating,
With autism or without;
(For profoundly gifted traits may explain things, Without the question of autism needed.)
I thank Thee that I have needed to struggle to communicate,
And that Thou hast been with me,
Guiding me still,
I thank Thee that Thou hast placed me,
Where Fr. Seraphim's followers have seen Creation Science as just legitimate, non-doctrinally biased "science,"
And not a massive import of Protestant belief and practice to Orthodoxy where it belongeth not,
Such things are a first domino to fall,
A second domino contrarian virtue signalling by asserting Flat Earth and the like,
Perhaps a third, to take a contrarian attitude to minor things "everybody knows" the Church asserts,
A fourth, to take a seemingly discerning exception to the deity of Christ or God's redeeming love for all sinners, I thank Thee for when and where Thou hast placed me,
And in Thy sovereign Love.
I thank Thee for a monastery at all—
Let alone a monastery such as this,
Unworthy son and brother though I may be.
I thank Thee for the Metropolitan Abbot—
Far in excess of what rights I might construe myself;
I thank Thee for the brotherhood, both for its many kindnesses and occasional friction;
Few are wise to enter hermitage directly,
And most of us if we seek monasticism are advised to the life together,
Where even frictions are part of how the Holy Spirit works on us.
I thank Thee that I have lived in the time of Covid,
And the cyber-quarantine which makes my The Luddite's Guide to Technology all the more to the point:
I thank Thee for the many places I have landed in the right time at the right time,
I would be foolish indeed to think I earned but a sliver, if any, by my own merits.
I thank Thee for the Philokalia,
And an Abbot wise enough to assign me humbler fare;
I thank Thee both for his blessings to read things he thinks would fit me now,
And his refraining from offering a blessing when I might better be served by something else:
I thank Thee that I have in him a physician,
To free me from self-will, a gate of Hell;
I thank Thee for each brother;
Perhaps even it may be said, as Ransom spoke in That Hideous Strength:
"You never chose me. I never chose you."
And if I live in times resonant with That Hideous Strength's ills,
I thank Thee for the compliment Thou hast given me,
Unworthy of it though I may ever be:
For Thou hast not placed me, as in Narnia,
Where peaceful reign followed peaceful reign,
Until there was hardly anything to be put in history books.
I thank Thee for the many good things I do not even think to thank Thee for;
To be placed in such a Creation,
And under a God the Spiritual Father,
Where everything that happens,
Is said to be a blessing from God,
Or a temptation allowed for our strengthening.
I thank thee for my Abbot,
Who like any good Abbot rejoices in the creation of immortal gods:
And Thou Thyself who guidest him,
And makes his work a participation that both represents and embodies,
Thine own Work,
In the Creation of immortal gods.
I thank Thee for marriage,
And the many who find life in its blessed estate;
I thank Thee that my parents are still married to each other;
I thank Thee both for what they did wisely,
And where you have given me something to outgrow.
I thank Thee for my teachers and mine education;
For blessings and temptations for my strength;
I thank Thee that my Abbot has clarified,
That I am no longer an academic,
And has set me on a start of obediences,
To help me grow, as he seeks for each brother.
I thank Thee for the Hieromonk,
Who met me briefly on a pilgrimage elsewhere,
I hope I have not embarrassed him,
For he has done much to help me.
I thank Thee for each brother,
Child though I may be,
And their patience towards me.
I thank Thee for a 3D printer,
Both when it worked and now,
In the giving and the taking a lesson alike,
I thank Thee for what I have owned,
And what I have never owned.
I thank Thee that by Archimandrite Zacharias's writing, blessed by my Abbot,
I have been given a glimpse,
Of being a monk,
Identifying with all Adam,
Repenting, if Thou allowest,
To the benefit of all Adam.
And I thank Thee that I am a novice now,
"Bishops wish they were novices!"
And I thank Thee for Thy Holy Cross Hermitage,
And the welcome they gave me,
And the friendship that continues.
I am unworthy to thank Thee,
But I thank Thee still;
Thou art beyond all that even can be thought,
And yet Thou offerest to be our God, and my God.
If I carry a calm with me,
And am proven to be a calming presence,
I thank Thee for that,
And for seeing me through struggles that it took.
The Saint opened his Golden Mouth and sang,
'There be no war in Heaven,
Not now, at very least,
And not ere were created,
The royal race of mankind.
Put on your feet the Gospel of peace,
And pray, a-stomping down the gates of Hell.
There were war in Heaven but ever brief,
The Archangel Saint Michael,
Commander of the bodiless hosts,
Said but his name, "Michael,"
Which is, being interpreted,
"Who is like God?"
With that the rebellion were cast down from Heaven,
Sore losers one and all.
They remain to sharpen the faithful,
God useth them to train and make strength. Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith?
Or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it?
As if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up,
Or as if the staff should lift up itself,
As if it were no wood.
Therefore be not dismayed,
If one book of Holy Scripture state,
That the Devil incited King David to a census,
And another sayeth that God did so,
For God permitted it to happen by the Devil,
As he that heweth lifteth an axe,
And God gave to David a second opportunity,
In the holy words of Joab.
Think thou not that God and the Devil are equal,
Learnest thou enough of doctrine,
To know that God is greater than can be thought,
And hath neither equal nor opposite,
The Devil is if anything the opposite,
Of Michael, the Captain of the angels,
Though truth be told,
In the contest between Michael and the Devil,
The Devil fared him not well.
The dragon wert as a little boy,
Standing outside an Emperor's palace,
Shooting spitwads with a peashooter,
Because that wert the greatest harm,
That he saweth how to do.
The Orthodox Church knoweth well enough,
'The feeble audacity of the demons.'
Read thou well how the Devil crowned St. Job,
The Devil and the devils aren't much,
Without the divine permission,
And truth be told,
Ain't much with it either:
God alloweth temptations to strengthen;
St. Job the Much-Suffering emerged in triumph.
A novice told of an odd clatter in a courtyard,
Asked the Abbot what he should do:
"It is just the demons.
Pay it no mind," came the answer.
Every devil is on a leash,
And the devout are immune to magic. Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder:
The young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.
Wherefore be thou not arrogant towards men,
But be ever more arrogant towards devils and the Devil himself:
"Blow, and spit on him."'
And if I, utterly unworthy to give Thee thanks, may make so bold to make a request:
May you raise me up to pen a fitting word about humility?
I'd like to offer a few words about the books of Archimandrite Zacharias, disciple of St. Sophrony, disciple of St. Silouan, and I would like to tell you about my favorite of his leitmotifs, but there is something more basic I would like to appreciate first.
C.S. Lewis said in his writing that reading George MacDonald's Phantastes had baptized his imagination. Archimandrite Zacharias's books do not aim at imaginative fantasy, or imaginative nonfiction for that matter, but they have helped me to want better and want Orthodox monasticism. They baptized my personal hopes and desires, so to speak.
I have identified with, and wanted to be like, various characters in literature: Charles Wallace Murry and Blajeny in Madeleine l'Engle's A Wind in the Door, Merlin in C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength and in Steven Lawhead's Merlin, and others. I have taken seriously what St. Ignatius's The Arena says that Met. KALLISTOS is so quick to offer embarrassed apologies for: the fact that people, having read a novel, want their life to be like their life in the novel.
I have also had such identification with saints in the Orthodox Church: St. Philaret the Merciful, for instance, and it has been said that when Orthodox faithful take interest in a saint, that saint has taken interest in that faithful. But even beyond St. Philaret, Archimandrite has helped me understand more completely what a monk is (though I may never fully know this side of Heaven), and desire a monk's ascetical feat: identifying with, and representing, "all Adam," the entire human race, before God. The priest (whether married or monastic) has a job of representing God to his flock and his flock to God; in Orthodoxy most monks are not also priests, but there is something equally significant in identifying with, and representing, all Adam before God. All sins are cosmic sins like those of Adam, but if a monk repents, that repentance is of cosmic significance, and monastic and non-monastic saints' repentance sustains the world.
One leitmotif of Archimandrite Zacharias is that of the "inverted pyramid." Men are arranged into upper and lower classes, and those in power lord it over those without power. Christ represents an inverted pyramid, where he is at the very bottom before the entire weight of the pyramid above him, and above him various ranks of angels sustain Creation, and above them all are the human race.
One specific and practical feature of the inverted pyramid is that if we seek to go down, Satan cannot go with us. Satan wished a throne above God's, and he can go with us whenever we desire more status, more prestige, more human honor. He can go with us if we desire to go above others. But he cannot go with us if we seek to go down, serve others, and serve more like the Servant of all Servants who went even to the depths of Hell to save us.
There is much in these books that is presently over my head, and I want to reread all of Archimandrite Zacharias's books sometime. However, the idea of Christ at the very nadir of the inverted pyramid, and that Satan can never go with us if we go down, is a treasure and a word that has stuck with me. I suffer, like many, from wishing more honor, and not always out of pride. Human honor can serve instrumental purposes that do not amount to pride. But if we seek to go down, if I seek to go down, it is beyond the devil's power to accompany us. He can accompany us well enough when we want honor, but not when we seek to empty ourselves in a participation of Christ's own self-emptying and descending to the depths of Hell to save all Adam.
This is a couple of paragraph's work taken from many profitable volumes of reading, and it cannot but fall short of a worthy account of Archimandrite Zacharias's offering. However, I cannot but thank Archimandrite Zacharias for mediating to me a word that the devil cannot go with us if we go down, and more than that, to baptizing my desires and helping me want to be a monk as much as I have wanted to be like any character in literature.
There was a great breakthrough in the Western use of frozen foods when someone visited ?Inuit? and found that their frozen fish, which they left outside igloos in bitter cold, tasted markedly better than that man had ever found frozen fish to taste.
Upon investigation, what was found was that it makes a profound difference for the taste of frozen food whether it is frozen at relatively high temperatures in the frozen range such as Western frozen food was until then, versus frozen food that is frozen at much bitterly colder temperatures than had been so far been used in Western freezing of foods.
As to why fish tasted different when it was deep frozen versus when it was put into freezers just barely below the freezing point, the bitter cold created lots of small ice crystals in the freezing fish very quickly, and these crystals were too small to generally rupture cell walls. When fish is frozen just a small amount below the freezing point, a few ice crystals form very quickly, and they grow large and rupture cell walls. Upon being taken out of freezing temperatures and cooked, fish frozen in bitter cold had intact cells that tasted like fresh food with intact cell walls, while fish frozen in temperatures just cold enough to freeze had cell walls torn by large ice crystals, to the effect of tasting much inferior to fish that was either fresh and never frozen, or quickly frozen in a deep freeze.
There is one sense in which a philosophical bent can look at frozen food with ice crystals big and small, and analyze from then on, but "common sense philosophy" is such a rarity, almost a contradiction in terms, because the philosopher seeks the simplicity of a single or a few large ice crystals that turn out to break cell walls in their crystalline clarity. People who have claim a "common sense" philosophy seem to have an inevitable caveat: hence Bishop Berkeley offers or at least claims smooth sailing with common sense, but only if you accept his "idealism," which bears no particular connection to the common label of "idealism" conveying a sense of a naive purism absent in many who are more experienced, but instead transfers the concept of the object from the subject to the object, in the term C.S. Lewis used in The Discarded Image, where it makes sense to speak of a rock, but by "rock" one does not mean that there is some kind of physical item that has any form of existence outside of minds, but only the sensation and presence of the minds of men and of God. In a philosophy TA who argued this, there are rooms that stop existing once you leave them, those one moves through in a dream, and rooms that don't stop existing when you leave them are only barely more real than the items we hallucinate in dreams.
One webpage written by a non-philosopher venturing into philosophy said that all we experience is an illusion (one could say a hallucination as much as dreams), but behind the illusion of a brick is (drum roll please) a brick. And Berkeleyan philosophy retains the illusion, the shared waking hallucination as well as the individual hallucination in dreams, but dispenses with a concept that there is an extra-mental brick that gives the illusion of a brick.
A visit to Owen Barfield's Saving the Appearances: A History of Idolatry would see an opening point to say that a rainbow can be seen but is not a discrete physical items as far as atomized physics would understand things, and then goes on to say the same must apply to our experience of a tree. It could help some people see how speaking of a brick incorporates some social construction. To someone who has grown up in the West, there is a distinct concept of a brick (as opposed to, for instance, uncut stone) which has the shape of a rectangular prism with some holes (in an unglamarous version of "strong but light"er technology), and is ordinarily used in building walls in construction. Someone who has grown up in purely aboriginal environments will not likely perceive a brick wall as a regular geometric pattern of bricks and mortar used to build what is conceptualized as a "wall"; a person not exposed to such has no reason to have a concept of what the rest of a brick would look like upon merely seeing one side incorporated into a wall.
Though, it might be added with reference to the nature connection movement or the defiling read of Wizard of the Upper Amazon, people in aboriginal settings will come upon a natural scene and at a glance see things an urban person could not be led to see even with much effort. Something analogous is discussed in Michael Polanyi's Personal Knowledge, where an adult inculturated in Western middle class culture can look at X-rays and see things leap out at a glance that people outside the culture of expert practice could not be led to see. And this is for Westerners who began to read X-rays as adults. It is a capital error to conceive of primitive people as simply a modern person, perhaps a dumber modern person, with a great many points of knowledge subtracted. Primitive literacy in the surrounding environment, such as one can get late, remedial ABC's for in the nature connection movement, means taking in a wealth of things that most of us reared in civilization could not even imagine.
I hesitate to speak of astrology because it is one of the things that has come out, and it does not offer the same merely academic specimen it may have had in ages past. I regret choosing alchemy as an example to open The Horn of Joy. My conscience forbade me to read Planet Narnia which I understand to unfold the characteristics and qualities of the seven astrological planets in the seven volumes of The Chronicles of Narnia. However, I wish to declare at least one brief claim about astrology, suggested by some to be a precursor to today's scientific determinism.
I do not believe the alignments of stars and planets in any way influence us, I said "Not for purposes of astrology!" when someone asked me to confirm my birthdate and provice where I was born, and I do not believe we have business with astrology. However, I do believe that the time of year one is born could influence one's initial experiences, including adult behaviors, and there would be positive selection in a folk system like astrology, and I would furthermore posit that as a theory the descriptions of any astrological sign describes any person than behaviorism, a cell-rupturing crystal in which, to cite The Discarded Image, the appearance of subjectivity is transferred from the object to the subject. Astrology cannot afford to rupture the cell membranes of common sense too badly, or people will reject it. Behaviorism is like much of philosophy in that it does rupture cells and produces a flat picture which, perhaps, describes no one better than any astrological assertion of personality type. Even if we restrict our attention to bird brains, it is unclear to an uninitiate like me how one would use behaviorism to explain bird brains’ well-documented ability to give GPS a run for its money in their homing! (I rather suspect that behaviorism draws one’s eyes away from asking or really seeing such questions.)
In C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength, right after Ransom (the Director) has raised a philosopher's objection to MacPhee's assumptions, is found the following:
"The question is worth raising, Mr. Director," said MacPhee, "because I submit that it points to an essential falsity in the whole system of this place."...
"How do you mean, MacPhee?" asked the Director.
"I mean that there is a half-hearted attempt to adopt an attitude towards irrational creatures which cannot consistently be maintained. And I’ll do the justice to say you’ve never tried. The [tame] bear [kept as a pet] is kept in the house and given apples and golden syrup till it’s near bursting—"...
"The bear, as I was observing," said MacPhee, "is kept in the house and pampered. The pigs are kept in a stye and killed for bacon. I would be interested to know the philosophical rationale of the distinction."...
MacPhee made a little stamp of impatience and said something which was drowned first by Ransom’s laughter and then by a great clap of wind which shook the window as if it would blow it in.
MacPhee is complaining that he can not find a single (large) crystal that would contain both the keeping of pets and the use of animals for meat. But Ransom has not succeeded at placing both in the same large crystal; both coexist in his mind in a number of small crystals that keep cell membranes intact.
The suggestion I offer here is philosophical in character, and I am not using "philosophy" with the common meaning of "my philosophy," where the phrase "my opinion," or "my approach," would be more appropriate, along with a suggestion that a non-philosopher's "my philosophy" is almost never the sort of thing a philosopher trades in. But I would call my suggestion here philosophical without being offered as a part or aspect of an encompassing philosophy. I would call it philosophical, at least up to a point, without being the sort of thing that qualifies as a philosophy. And suggest that common sense philosophy, so much as one may speak of, might sacrifice the philosopher's few large crystals for eclectic common sense's avoidance of rupturing cell membranes. (And remind the reader that in Orthodoxy, attempting to endow the Orthodox Church with its first systematic theology is asking for a heresy trial.)
Orthodoxy extends in another direction away from mere common sense, offering foothills and peaks of mysticism, but the more spiritually advanced do not find bigger crystals; if they depart from a close map of small crystals, they depart in the direction of the living flesh of a live organism.
But that is the topic of another article entirely, and one which I might or might not write.
I was given a ride recently for a hospital visit over an hour away. I thanked the friend and postulant (beginner at an Orthodox monastery). He commented that he liked being with me, because I was very calm and calming to be around. That was exquisite politeness, but it was not flattery. Another postulant, my godson, commented that he liked being around me because he hoped some of my calm would rub off. The thought occurred to me that I might write down some of what I have learned about keeping one's calm, and send a link to both postulants. As I told them, some of my calm is hard-won, and I wanted to talk about what to do that might win it.
I do not believe the Law of Attraction as formulated in New Age to be desirable, but there is a Little Law of Attraction that is worth its proverbial weight in gold. The Little Law of Attraction is that if you think thoughts of peace, you will get more and bigger thoughts of peace, and if you think thoughts of anger, you will get more and bigger thoughts of anger, and conflict with it. If we keep our mind on our circumstances, we will be dragged into a Hell on earth. If we focus on the Lord, we will have peace and a Heaven on earth. Thus I would summarize the better parts of Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives by Elder Thaddeus, which also says that we have an incredibly beautiful sensitivity to the thoughts of others, and pick up on what they are feeling. This is part of why my deep calm was calming to the others. Furthermore, even if we do not realize it, we have a choice whether to be dominated by the anger of others. My understanding, not having read the book, is that this is the same freedom discussed in Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, and the latter may be a better starting point. We may not recognize our freedom here, and it comes in a brief window, but we have a choice. Addicts are told, "You have more power than you think," and the power can be exercised in this short window.
That choice is in continuity with nipsis or the spiritual watchfulness of the Philokalia, which on this point I would summarize as follows. If there is a spark that can become a flame in your house, you can put it out before it becomes a proper flame. If it does become a proper flame, you can put it out before it spreads with a fire extinguisher, but this is worse than just putting out the spark. If it becomes a flame that is too big to put out with a fire extinguisher, and spreads through your house, if you leave with your life you can call the fire department and you may have the flame put out then, and get insurance to help, but it is better to put it out with a fire extinguisher than wait until it is too big for a fire extinguisher. There are several ways to escape with your life, but the earlier in the process you stop it, the better, and the least harm it will cause you. If you put out what is still just a spark when it is still just a spark, the entire remainder of the damaging process of a house fire is avoided.
For an Arthurian image, be like the Fisher-King, in a boat on the waters, watching with a spear to stab fish in the water. And there is something further I would like to point out: the Fisher-King is wounded through the thighs, meaning he is wounded between the thighs, and of a damaged virility.
The biggest attack on manhood in the recent past is porn. Porn is, to quote Proverbs, "in the beginning as sweet as honey, and in the end bitter as gall and sharp as a double-edged sword." Lust is the disenchantment of the entire universe, which disenchants everything else, and then disenchants itself. The only goal of lust is more lust, and porn is nothing more than an advertisement for more porn. Furthermore, what men do after looking at porn is an ultimate exploitation of the model, using her unhappy performance just as a tool to spark... if you have this struggle, and most men today do, think about what is really going on. And lust is cruel; it generates anger whenever it is not getting a "fix", and it is a great enemy to inner peace.
I mention this point, which may seem none of my business, because really the whole Sermon on the Mount relates to calm. Lust and porn are an enemy to calm, and worth getting free of. The Sermon on the Mount does not just help us reach calm when it touches on stoic philosopher Seneca the Younger's "We suffer more in imagination than in reality," and says not to borrow trouble from tomorrow because "each day has enough trouble as its own." Trying to solve the rest of your life's problems on a day's resources is a gateway to something truly hellish, and worry does nothing but hurt us: "Do you think you can add a single hour to your life by worrying? You might as well try to worry your way into being a foot taller!"
Another point in the Sermon on the Mount has to do with love for enemies. Love for enemies was something I knew to be important growing up, but I did not really know how. My struggles with remembering wrongs others had done against me (a sin by the way—and nothing merry!), became markedly better when I was able to thank God for them. St. Silouan and the writing of St. Silouan's disciple St. Sophrony and St. Sophrony's disciple Archimandrite Zacharias were tremendously helpful in helping me let go of an onerous burden of remembering all the bad things that had happened to me. They also underscore something important: how much you love your enemies is a litmus test for how far you love God, so love for enemies is not just one issue among others. We should not be angry to those who wrong us, but love and pity them for bringing occasion for our suffering. Innocent suffering is a sharing in the sufferings of Christ, and the Sermon on the Plain bids you leap for joy when you are badly treated because of Christ. However, the principle applies to undeserved suffering.
There was a student who worked in my department's office, who talked about having butterflies in her stomach about a shortly upcoming dance performance. I gave permission to offer a word of advice, and I asked her, "Is there a person, or a place, or a memory that is pleasant to think about to you?" She said that yes, there was such a thing. I said that she had practiced and the only thing remaining was to do the performance, and I told her, "I want you to think about that until the performance." Counting your blessings, and being grateful for all that God and other people have given you, is a recipe for joy, and it was more in reach than my telling her not to worry: yes, that is what I wanted, but on her resources, how? If some of what I said above is too much for you now, it may be an easier task to be mindful of your blessings. It has been said that in prayer we should not have very good thoughts but no thoughts, but that's a more advanced lesson. Even if St. Silouan and his spiritual progeny have something better, developing gratitude is a recipe for joy, and it is something else that we can do to try to push out remembrance of wrongs others have done against us.
When I was studying theology and things were getting rough, there was a period of about two or three weeks when I was stressed to the point of uninterrupted waking nausea. Part of it was triggered by a questionable decision a doctor made with my medication, but the heart of my worry was, "Will there be a place for me?" And there has been a place: I was at my parents' house, and then now at this monastery where I am trying to grow up. I am retired on disability. Now the question may come of, "But inflation is taking off," to which I would say, "The Bible never says, 'Lack of money is the root of all evil.'" Most of the original recipients of the Sermon on the Mount was addressed to the poor and downtrodden in what would today be considered a third world economy. As the cliché goes, "I do not know what tomorrow will bring, but I know Who brings tomorrow." Possibly changes in the economy will result in, or rather trigger my death, but I have never in my life gone to bed knowing that I would wake up the following morning. I do not see my death as really negotiable, unless I live to Christ's return, and I would recall a joke where a husband and wife came to Heaven and the husband told his wife, "We could have been here several years earlier if you hadn't cooked such healthy food!" Death is not to be feared, just death outside of repentance, death outside of obedience to the Lord, and the Lord can see that there is a place to me even if I die tomorrow.
There is an old Protestant hymn that says,
Keep your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in his wonderful face,
And the things of this world will grow strangely dim,
In the light of his glory and grace.
My abbot underscores a short maxim of "Never react. Never resent. Keep inner peace." The intent of this posting is not to offer something better, but to offer an aid how. And if you want low-hanging fruit, try to let go of worry and trying to solve tomorrow's problems on today's resources, and start trying to push such thoughts out of your heart by giving them competition in terms of active remembrance of every good blessing God has given you in your entire life. And maybe read e.g. God the Spiritual Father or better the whole collection in Happiness in an Age of Crisis, which includes God the Spiritual Father and several other relevant pieces.
One of my friends said, "Star Wars is my life," and talked about having his father be the best pilot in the galaxy.
I have some real resonance for C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength. I have come to an odd and eclectic family, a "St. Anne's Company", headed by a Ransom (more than a philologist, His Eminence Metropolitan JONAH).
Where is Merlin? That could be me, and let me explain.
There are three or four characters in literature I was strongly drawn to before becoming Orthodox: Charles Wallace of Madeleine l'Engle, A Wind in the Door, and later Blajeny from the same book; then Michael Valentine Smith of Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land. And there was something toxic in my identification with each.
I asked one brilliant friend if he knew of any good treatments of gifted children in literature besides A Wind in the Door, and he mentioned Stephen Lawhead's Merlin, and partway through reading it I went from wishing for such spectacular manifestations of awen to "We both belong to the same college!"
A standard distinction between flat and rounded characters in literature is that a rounded character believably surprises the reader. In C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength, Merlin comes awfully close to delivering nothing but believable surprises, and he is riveting. He is described, not as a figure from the ?5th? century, but as "the last survival in the ?5th? century of something much older", and while you could then "still do some things innocently, you couldn't do it safely."
Sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, and somewhere in there a sorceror's bargain slips in. "Give me your soul, and I will give you power," but under the circumstances it is not you who have the power. Count distracted parenting, where moms glued to mobile devices are pushing strollers in front of cars. My magnum opus is The Luddite's Guide to Technology, in which, instead of Merlin being told "You can't do that today," I am saying "You can't do that today."
And as far as believable surprises, one of my monastic brotherhood asked, with a warm smile, "Are you from another planet?" He sung a tune, and I said something about newer music. He said it was from ZZ Top in the 70's, and I said that I meant as the centuries go by.
More is perhaps to be said, but I wish to move on.
Here, I have been blessed to read Archimandrite Zacharias (Zachariou), and it talks about the cosmic nature of monastic repentance. He describes giant saints who have extended the life of the world. While this monastery may not have any epic saints or any saints at all, if the world does not end it will be due to the repentance of those today, and the college of Orthodox monasticism may do the job of little St. Anne's overcoming the hideous strength of Lewis's "N.I.C.E." And I am glad to be approaching membership in that team.
The analogy could be pushed still further (see the Christmas homily in The Sign of the Grail about how the figure of Merlin, deepened and enriched, becomes an image of Christ, but I do not wish to do so. In things that are truly great, a man may be asked to give up even the motives that led him into seeking something truly great.
I have learned instead a better understanding of what a monk is. A monk identifies with all Adam, and repents for all Adam, and this is a cosmic act, even as each sin is a cosmic act that repeats Adam's sin. The priest is responsible for representing God to his flock and his flock to God, while the monk is a representative of the human race.
The beloved St. Seraphim of Sarov echoed St. Isaac the Syrian: "Make peace with yourself and Heaven and earth will make peace with you." "Save yourself and ten thousand around you will be saved." And this is not primarily through the unlawful, to a monk, means of human struggling, but with a wholehearted flight to God.
The flipside of needing to sacrifice even the motives that led me to monasticism is that monasticism holds treasures I had not even guessed at before approaching monasticism, and a coincidence of similarity to being in a C.S. Lewis novel is an utter consolation prize to the feast I have been invited to and participate, if in the smallest way, to saving the world.
This much is written with heavy use of the discursive reason as applied to divine topics, and true monasticism has the heart hold all things and discursive reason be a sun next to the moon of the heart or spiritual eye. And even this description is dust and ashes next to the realities tasted in monasticism, and many which I am far from tasting even yet.
This "New Testament" is an "Old Testament" next to the realities of the spiritual struggle, the spiritual path, in monasticism.
I have been wary of Western Buddhism as a sort of neo-Deism: a religious faith, if it may be called that ("Buddhism is not a creed. It is a doubt."--G.K. Chesterton: Chesterton could also have said, "Buddhism is not a Creed. It is a Dao."), where in its native element the ethical heavy lifting is done primarily by what a Western scholar might call a system of virtues, and there are fewer inviolable rules, while the Western self-identified Buddhist picks up on the fewer inviolable rules but does not do heavy lifting by its Path of eight cardinal interlocking virtues.
Nonetheless, a visit to Buddhism can be helpful in another aspect. Buddhism is arguably a stronger grade of skepticism than is prominent in the West ("Buddhism is not a creed. It is a doubt."--G.K. Chesterton), but when the Buddha's followers asked him if there were gods, he said that there probably were, but the question was irrelevant, because any [good] deity would have already blessed us to the maximum extent possible.
My first response, on hearing that answer repeated decades ago, was, "Well, that rules out the Christian God very quickly." My thought there was that the great skeptic's answer did not entertain a correlation between being blessed by Deity and one's relationship with Deity. The Christian God, said in the Sermon on the Mount to make his sun shine on good men and evil men alike, has something beyond desire to bless us to the maximum extent possible, but for how well the blessing works for us, it matters whether we cooperate with the blessing or resist it. The Great Physician wants to give us the supreme Medicine, but it matters a great deal for us whether we take the Medicine as directed or throw the Medicine on the ground and spit on it. A Russian philosopher has been asked that perennial question, "Could God make a stone He could not move?" and answered, "Yes; that stone is man."
None the less, I have been having a struggle with something I should know better than, thirsting for worldly honors. Or, to be more precise, a mad thirst for more earthly honors when I have had enough honor that I should know that worldly honors do not satisfy or make lastingly happy. One thought that was in my conscience was, "What would St. John Chrysostom say?" And without thinking of exact words, I knew what kind of response he would give: a good dose of clear thinking that would paint black as black and white as white. I thought of gratitude for what I have been given--and a next life in which God offers honors such as eye has not seen and ear has not heard. I did not think of it at the time, but also relevant is a post I wrote when I tried and failed to locate a copy of St. John's "A Comparison Between the Monk and the King:" A Comparison Between the Mere Monk and the Highest Bishop. Or, as the Holy Cross Hermitage's ever-kind guestmaster condensed the entire topic, "Bishops want to be novices!" Wherefore, being a novice myself, I should recognize the privileged position I already hold, and be grateful for the crown assigned to my role as a novice, rather than hanker after the half-eggcupfull of external glory that is assigned to bishops but is withheld from novices. (I also did not think of being one of half a dozen at a monastery which has the artisan's attention of an esteemed bishop. Perhaps it is glorious to give communion, such as my Aboot gives, but the glory is dwarfed by the glory of receiving communion, a glory shared between Abbot and novice alike. (And by the way, my Abbot is a high rank of bishop, but he usually doesn't wear the crowns he is entitled to wear. He seems to leave wearing crowns to the novices.)
I fought against this mad thirst for a while and was losing despite my best efforts, perhaps a cue to the wise that what I was fighting was not some confused logic but a temptation and a sin to be repented of, and found a familiar enough foul stench in that my thoughts of being happy through external honors was not making me happy, but sad.
And when I had struggled enough, salvation came. It came not from recognizing the particular privilege of a novice, in learning the freedom that is in obedience to an Abbot, and of being entrusted a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light when more privileged roles bear a heavier cross. Salvation came, this time, in a visit from the Buddha, so to speak. And this even apart from what the Buddha had to say about desire.
I would not retract any of my earlier thoughts about "Well, that rules out the Christian God," but casts a particular light on the Providence of God, but this visit from the Buddha showed that there is something of the Providence in the idea that deity, if such exists, will already have blessed us to the maximum extent possible. C.S. Lewis said, "We want God to change our circumstances. God wants our circumstances to change us." And furthermore this combines in an odd way with the Christian God whose Grace can bring Heaven everywhere, but we can if we want veto enjoying Grace and instead experience it as Hell. The point of this visit from Buddhism is not really a point about the Grace available in my own particular circumstances, but about all circumstances in general, or rather a point about every particular circumstance. Until we have grown enough, and perhaps even then, the demons tempt us to ungratitude towards circumstances in which God has already blessed to the maximum effect possible, save our accepting and realizing His Providence as the Maximum Providence of God the Spiritual Father, of a God who cares for each of us more than an a mortal spiritual father takes care for his charges, of a God who however much our Plan A fails, and then Plan B, and Plan C, and so on down the alphabet, remains a God who is always dealing with us on Plan A. It can be easier to see this Providence years after the fact, to realize what painful circumstances gave you and what God saved you from by taking away what you wanted to pray for. And with effort, God can help us realize his Plan A for us where we are here and now. But the temptation is just that: a temptation, a hook of Hell designed to take away as much as possible our happiness in circumstances in which God has blessed us to the maximum extent possible save possibly our consent, and is building here on earth the foundation and substance of an eternal glory.
Dumber and Dumberer
And really, what had brought on this temptation, or rather immediately triggered it in my immaturity, was one of the magazines freely given our Abbot, a magazine offering trite coverage of an English Princess, who said, "Someday I will be Queen," "is 7 but thinks she is 17," and "speaks four languages," "is at the head of her class," and something about being a style icon. I would briefly comment on what I was coveting in her royal privilege:
"Someday I will be Queen!"
Before and also now, I consider bare membership among the faithful of the Orthodox Church to outclass primacy in the Church of England.
And I am trying to cooperate with God in reaching Heaven, in glory so great that we are advised not to think too much of our glorified state. And, further, I recall St. Rostislav: "I have heard of how Constantine, great among kings, appeared to a certain Elder and said, 'If I had known what glory the monks receive in heaven... I would have taken off my crown and royal purple, and replaced them with the monastic garb'."
One person at the Mars Society talked about asking people, "Who was the Queen of Spain in 1492?" The answer comes quick as a shot: "Isabella." Then the next question is posed, "Who was the Queen of France?" And to that I will add that armchair historian as I am, I do not know who was King of England in the days of C.S. Lewis.
One psychologist drew a sharp point of, "The average Harvard PhD has never met someone as talented as you," and I have been in the dubious honor of being so far ahead of what professors were used to that their social skills started to melt away.
Something about being a style icon.
I'm not sure that ever, in my entire life, have other people looked at what I was wearing to take cues for style. People have borrowed a T-shirt for me as an emblem of bad dressing.
The overall predicament I was in reminds me when I was traveling through a hardware store coveting ordinary Swiss Army Knives while looking for an impossible-to-find wiresaw a friend wanted:
When I had a SwissChamp XLT on my belt:
God has already blessed us to the maximum extent possible apart from the question of whether we choose to relate to that blessing as a blessing or a curse. In one sense, God has already blessed us as Buddha said. But we are the stone God cannot bless if we interpret His Providence as a curse.
There was something profoundly stupid in my coveting earthly honors, and that something would have remained stupid even without the irony, like the pears passage of the Blessed Augustine, of owning pears better than anything he coveted enough to steal.
Adam reigned as an immortal king and lord over the whole world. He had a wife like nothing else in all Creation, paradise for a home, and harmony with nature such as we could not dream of. And, he was like a little boy with a whole room full of toys who is miserable because he wants another toy and his parents said "No." And lest we look down on Adam, we should remember that I am Adam, and you are Adam.
And the content of such temptations is stupid: stupidity and something that backfires if we entertain them even just a little... but there is something to be said for temptations in God's Plan A.
Everything that God allows in our lives is either a blessing from God or a temptation which He has allowed for our strengthening.
God allowed me a miserable few hours coveting privilege that I might be strengthened, and even if things would have been much easier if I had not entertained the desire, he allowed me the temptation for my strengthening and harvested my sin that I might strike at the sin all the louder.
Under current economic conditions, it seems like almost everybody's raising prices.
I'm not. I try to make my best books published through Amazon available on the low end for books of their size, and the titles that are too big to print through Amazon (such as the Classic Orthodox Bible) are on the low end for my publishing solution.
I know that people are raising prices, but I want my books to be cheap. I raise prices when I expand a title, for instance, and Amazon will not sell it at the old price. But in general I want my books to be available.
If you have not explored my books, I invite you to explore titles from about one hundred to over seven hundred page. My cheap books include:
I know that paper books have gone out of style, but I would really like for people to own my titles in paper. My books are also available as free ebooks, but paperback books are a form of wealth that I would like others to have.
Don't weary yourself by trying to read him cover to cover.
Instead, just wait until you are "hungry," spiritually, then read St John Chrysostom only until you are "full," and set the collection down. Digest the material, and then wait until you are "hungry" again to pick him up. And then read more, but again only until you are "full." And let the cycle repeat.
People have said that money cannot buy happiness, and I would give a caveat to that.
Years back, I mused that only up to a certain point can money buy more necessities; it can only buy luxuries. Beyond another point, money cannot buy more luxuries; it can only buy status symbols. Beyond another point, money cannot buy additional status symbols; it can only bring power.
And to that I would add a Canadian roommate's comment, made in the 90's, that a middle class American has basically all the creature comfort there is to be had.
But there is a caveat. A good pair of walking or running shoes, or better barefoot shoes, may not buy especially more comfort for your feet, but it can make more attainable the goal of walking or running and the health benefits that that brings. And really, as the video I quote below says, if the health benefits of exercise could be put into a pill, that would be the most important wonder drug in history. Shoes will not make you happy if you just buy them and don't exercise, but they can put regular exercise in better reach, and a solid exercise regimen can make you happier.
It is in this spirit that I would like to look at things that can make you happy. Getting more luxuries on Amazon brings only a fleeting pleasure, but some of the right purchases used rightly can help you to greater happiness.
So here are a few things that, used rightly, might contribute to happiness.
(One important caveat: with a few exceptions, like Infowars Turboforce energy drinks, the benefits do not turn on a dime. You're more likely to feel noticeably better after a month of using EMF protective clothing and good nutritional supplements than in the next day or two. Give these things some time.)
I spent more money buying a maxed-out GetAC x500 computer than I did on my car, as a computer that would let me work outside when weather permits and is built to last—for ages.
If you spend a fair amount of time on a laptop or desktop computer, it is a great advantage to have a computer with a sunlight-readable display. Macs usually have a brighter display than normal PC's, but rugged PC's are brighter than either. Rugged laptops are available on Amazon (you might consider a GetAC V110 or , and they can be built to last as a longer-term investment.
(If you just use mobile devices and don't really use a PC, then this item is optional.)
While this does not offer absolute protection, it provides some opportunity to recharge.
One possible caveat: Throwing protective clothing through the wringer by putting it through the regular wash can slowly degrade its protective value. I don't wash protective clothes if I can't smell anything in the armpits, and when I do wash it, I rinse it with cold water, dry what I can with a towel, and hang it to air dry.
Indoors lighting is usually much dimmer than outdoors; it's enough to see but not enough to thrive. Seeing bright lights during the day can help naturally, and sunlight is on the shortlist in the video above about things that prevent diseases of civilization.
When I am woken up by the sound of a regular alarm clock, I don't feel very awake. There is something to be said for getting enough sleep, but I have found that I feel significantly more awake when I am woken by a simulated sunrise than just sound.
If you need to get up in the night to use the bathroom, it's a lot easier to get to sleep if you go only by the light of a red flashlight and do not turn on overhead lights. Red and amber goggles still let in much too much stimulating light, and can make it harder, and take longer, to fall asleep. Using a red flashlight and no overhead lights is a good way to avoid being woken up so much it's hard to fall asleep.
One friend explained to me that Cheerio's, which are sold under claims like "I'm eating Cheerios to be alive longer for my loved ones," are harvested by poisoning the plants with herbicides so it will be easier to get the oats off. Quaker Oats are also really bad news.
One tip for people who are on a limited budget: Balanced consumption of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids is important and something that we as a society do really badly. Usually meat, for instance, is heavily skewed towards omega-6. Canned wild caught fish (such as tuna and sardines) offers cheap omega-3 acids for people whose budget won't allow regular consumption of grass-fed, organic beef.
Orthodox fasting is done in agreement with your priest or spiritual father, but I might point out that fasting does not automatically mean grains and pasta; it is possible to keep a strict fast by eating Paleo vegetables.
Having a little weight resting on you promotes good sleep. I personally find a ten pound blanket better than others calculated for my weight; the general rule of thumb in choosing a weighted blanket is to pick a blanket about a tenth of your weight, and possibly throw in an extra pound or two. (This guideline is used for children as well as adults.)
Shoes with a raised heel are to some extent working with the body and train runners and walkers to lead with a heel strike that isn't how our feet are designed to work. Barefoot shoes work with the body rather than against it, and over time they wear increasingly well.
This is a big-ticket item and it's worth it, if it is a live option for you. Space programs realized how vital the pulsed energy of the earth's electromagnetic field is; miss it for one day and you will have no immune system ever after. Some people began to wonder, if an artificial PEMF generator is vital in space, whether such a thing might be helpful on earth.
And it is helpful. It is powerfully anti-inflammatory (diseases of civilization are powered by inflammation), and can be very regenerative. Check out the PEMF Supply homepage for more info.
A good counselor can be very, very good and a bad counselor can be very, very bad; counseling can be a powerful resource, and Orthodox spiritual direction or pastoral counseling can be even better. I've known a couple of Orthodox mental health professionals, and they hold high regard for e.g. the "three column technique" laid out in Feeling Good.
This title can be helpful whether or not your own needs would benefit from counseling.
I've written a lot that relates to happy living in our present times, and Happiness in an Age of Crisis is shorter than the other work and covers essential things to understand happiness. The Luddite's Guide to Technology is a longer and fuller collection that looks more broadly about what is good for human persons and what particular engagement with technologies are helpful. More is often less here, and these books have something to say to human flourishing.
If your phone is running your life, read these. One admittedly drastic tip for getting a little bit of control over your phone usage is to keep your phone turned off, and then turn it on when you have a specific purpose to use it for, then turn it off. The added inconvenience is powerful.
The Bible (I recommend the Orthodox Study Bible, perhaps paired with the Classic Orthodox Bible which sounds more like a Bible) says quite a lot about how we are made to function, and I am excited that the Philokalia is widely read not only by monastics but not the lay faithful. (The fifth volume is one that I have so far not had pastoral encouragement to read; the link is to the other four volumes.)
These are used best under the guiding hand of an Orthodox priest.
The things you give away
The story is told of someone who had a lot of books, and asked, "Will I have my books in Heaven?"
The answer came, "Some of them."
"The ones you gave away."
There is a parable in the Philokalia which states that people come and lodge for the night in an inn; some sleep on beds and some sleep on the floor, but all alike leave with only the possessions they brought in. The intended meaning is that on earth some people live in luxury, some not, but you can't take it with you, and you will leave with only your actions to your credit.
One priest commented that he had never seen a trailer attached to a hearse; the footwear I wear will be of no further use to me when I die, even if I am buried with footwear on, but the boots sent to Ukraine will be helpful.
And this isn't just a point about the next life; it is a point about this life, too, and we profit more when we are generous: it is more blessed to give than to receive.
Generosity is a characteristic of a happy and joyful spirit; it is an abundance to be had even if one possesses little; it is a cause and effect of good spiritual health. And what we can buy that will make ourselves happier is dwarfed by what we can buy that will make others happier.
Things not to own
In Bridge to Terebithia, one of the ways that the author marks Lesley as rich and privileged is that her family Does Not Own a Television.
I have listed above possessions that I believe to be conducive to happiness, and there are others. I haven't explicitly talked about owning older technologies, such as paper books. But a great amount of the stuff that we accumulate isn't really helpful.
Phones can be useful, but they open a door to some things that are really not savory—and I do not just mean porn. There are many G-rated uses for a phone that are a distraction and orient us away from joy. My own recommendations for cellphone use are to use it in a way that is purely instrumental; the only game I play is chess, which I want to learn how to properly play. There is also something to be said for not owning the newest and hottest doodad. I have an iPhone 8 which I purchased, used, and which I have taken steps to protect for the longer term (i.e. a screen cover and a shock-absorbing case), and which I would not trade for an iPhone 13 Pro Max (or whatever is the hottest new doodad when you are reading this). I believe my phone supplies enough EMF radiation; I do not hold it to my head much, and I do not really want to hold a 5G EMF radiation source to my head at all. (Older phones are already plenty radioactive enough to cause brain cancer in kids who always have a phone at their ear—and always on the same side they held the phone to.)
I do not know anyone who is happy to have a house that's brimming with stuff. It takes discipline, perhaps, not to buy things that will only bring satisfaction for a moment, and not buy things on impulse. But it's better, and less acquisitive purchasing decisions make for less cluttered houses. There is, in purchasing, something akin to the Weight Watchers maxim: "A minute on the lips, a lifetime on the hips."
General Omar Bradley, upon seeing atomic weapons, said, "We have grasped the mystery of the atom and we have rejected the Sermon on the Mount." Now we have grasped the mystery of a worldwide communication network that sports 5G radiation and continues to grow, and still rejected the Sermon on the Mount.