Archimandrite Zacharias: An Appreciation

Books

An appreciation

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

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.

Thank you, Archimandrite Zacharias.

A Note on Reading St. John Chrysostom

There's advice I've given to a few people, and I'd like to post it here.

The "Chrysostom" in "St. John Chrysostom" is Greek for "Golden-Mouth," and St. John indeed did have a golden mouth. St. John Chrysostom is a great preacher for a good dose of clear thinking about life's struggles, and I encourage readers to read The Complete Works of St. John Chrysostom (cross-linked to the Bible).

Only there is one clarification I would give.

St. John represents a prolific writer, with his writing filling half a dozen volumes in the standard collection.

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.

And one other note: biased translators chose the least attractive work he wrote, and put it in the beginning. I would suggest opening with another work altogether: A Treatise to Prove that No One Can Harm the Man who Does Not Injure Himself.

Enjoy!

(You may get a good many years out of reading St. John Chrysostom...)

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!

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...

I Thank Thee

Buy Happiness in an Age of Crisis on Amazon.

I thank Thee, O my God,
For all that Thou hast done,
And all that Thou hast given me.

I thank Thee for Fr. Seraphim's militants,
Whose response to The Seraphinians: "Blessed Seraphim Rose" and His Axe-Wielding Western Converts,
Did not stop in a forum at harassment,
But show ongoing vindictiveness,
Not satisfied with one-star ratings to that title,
But see to it that positive reviews of all my works on Amazon,
If they can be dislodged,
Are taken down quickly,
Presenting readers with a review profile that gives every impression of copious mediocrity.
I thank thee for the revenge that still attacks me.

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,
Honoring God,
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.

St. Job, the blameless worshiper of God,
A title given a scant handful of times in the entire scripture,
Stands a prince to God's right hand,
Part of the great cloud of witnesses,
Victors who have run the race, fought the good fight, kept the faith;
Crowned and cheering those of us who still run the race.
St. Job's being struck down and rising up less than an inch apart,
His glory as a blameless worshiper of God lasts forever,
And following St. John Chrysostom, I proclaim him victor,
Not from when God restored his fortunes double,
But because when stricken, he answered,
"The Lord gave, the Lord hath taken away:
As it seemed good to the Lord, so hath it come to pass;
Blessed be the Name of the Lord."

Shaking the very foundation of Hell,
A work not begun only after Christ's most blameless worshiper answered,
"Behold the slave of the Lord;
Be it unto me according to thy word."

And both blameless worshipers of God cheer me,
I who in whose suffering St. Job might see,
A faint glimmer of his own in mine,
Depression, and cancer, and so.

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 have not the right to complain,
I have not reason to complain,
And not just because Orthodox see next to nothing in terms of rights,
My life is at God's disposal:
I have never gone to sleep knowing I would ever wake,
Nor can I deny,
That this may be precisely,
How the Lord sees me off to glory.

Under this shadow,
If it really is a shadow at all,
I thank God for everything.
Glory to God for all things!

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 that I got into the web,
Within a year or two of its foundation;
I thank Thee for my website,
For every post Thou hast given me space to write,
For every help Thou hast given me,
For awards won, whether or not they were rightly sought.

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.

I thank you for words about arrogance in The Consolation of Theology:

A Hymn to Arrogance.

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?

Glory to God for all things!

Thy most unworthy slave,
Br. Christos

Ignorance

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.

Br. C.J.S. Hayward

You Can Choose to Be Happy in the Here and Now

Buy Happiness in an Age of Crisis on Amazon.

There was one LinkedIn conversation that was bigger than what I realized. One man asked a question of how to handle the fact that he was not in a position to advance professionally and had no meaningful freedom.

I suggested something like,

Let's look at a position where you have as little freedom as possible, and ask if there can be any meaningful freedom. You can probably think of some pretty gruesome examples; I would like to look at Nazi concentration camps and ask, "Is there any way to have real freedom in a Nazi concentration camp?"

One person who answered "Yes"to that question was Victor Frankl, Jewish psychiatrist and Nazi concentration camp survivor who wrote Man's Search for Meaning."

If you are not in a position to advance professionally and don't see yourself as having any real freedom, you are in an excellent position to profit from Man's Search for Meaning."

(I've got to read the book directly and not just be going off of other people's summaries!)

That hit a nerve, although my correspondent was in every sense gracious. I was unwittingly corresponding with the Jewish son of a Jewish survivor of Hitler's concentration camps, and seared by the stories. There was nothing academic to him in the example I chose. He was very gentle about his response, and he was appreciative at my suggestion that if he was in the position he said he was in, he had a great deal of meaningful freedom, and perhaps at my pointer to Man's Search for Meaning.

The core point attributed to Frankl is that we do not automatically go from stimulus to response; we go from stimulus to free choice to response, even if we are unaware of our birthright. Such an insight is also at the core of the Philokalia of the Niptic Fathers, with "nipsis" referring to an inner spiritual watchfulness. It is something like the core of what classical Buddhism has to offer as well. My dear Abbot condensed it to one line. He has said and underscored, "Never react. Never resent. Keep inner stillness."

Enjoying the here and now is a choice. Our surroundings may seem like something to escape, but that is a spiritual trap, the core response in the Philokalia being to just keep on praying until the "demon of noonday" has passed. It is a crushing experience, but over time we can learn to crush it.

Most of our surroundings are beautiful, but we can become immune to the beauty of a wooden floor, an off-white wall. But we can choose to be awake to this beauty to which we have fallen asleep. We can choose to be grateful, and by the way positive psychology is squarely on target that we should be grateful for. Mindfulness also helps; it used to be considered "paying attention" and part of politeness to the boomers, and we are seeking mindfulness from the East because we have rejected it in the West. But gratitude and mindfulness are both choices, as is enjoying beauty. A Russian proverb answers the questions by saying, "When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do?" with, "There is only one important time, and that time is now. The most important one is always the one you are with. And the most important thing is to do good for the One Who is standing at your side." Today this is recognized as profound mindfulness. It is still also manners at their best, and something that goes beyond manners.

There is also what St. John Chrysostom referred to as "healing an eye". Lust, classic Fathers say, has the characteristic of a lion who looks at a deer and sees only meat. And, perhaps I might add, meat that is rarely enough and does not engender any form of permanent satisfaction. It has been called the disenchantment of the entire universe. But a man looking at a woman has a choice to see an integral and beautiful whole: a spirit adorned with a body and a body adorned with clothing. C.S. Lewis, telling an imagined story with the saints in paradise in The Great Divorce, said,

Long after that I saw people coming to meet us. Because they were bright I saw them when they were still very distant, and at first I did not know they were people at all. Mile after mile they grew nearer. The earth shook under their tread as their strong feet sank into the wet turf. A tiny haze and a sweet smell went up where they had crushed the grass and scattered the dew. Some were naked, some robed. But the naked ones did not seem less adorned, and the robes did not disguise in those who wore them the massive grandeur of muscle and the radiant smoothness of flesh.

We are not ready for such things now and C.S. Lewis offered only an imagination. Or, if you prefer Wendy Shalit's A Return to Modesty, we can be "naked and bored." But there is great deal of benefit in seeing an integrated whole, a spirit adorned with a body and a body adorned with clothing.

More broadly though, our healed eyes can sense beauty, and in rough circumstances, bleeding and in an ER, I know one who was able to see the beauty of a hospital curtain and wait in satisfaction.

It is not easy. But counselors tell those fighting various addictions, "You have more power than you think." Nipsis or spiritual watchfulness extinguishes sparks before they become a fire. If your house is on fire you can call the fire department, and they may salvage surprisingly much. If your chair is on fire a fire extinguisher may see that a fire that started on a chair, stays only with that chair. But the best option is to stomp out the first spark before it has set the rug on fire. Or if I may take the bull by the hand to mix metaphors, don't go near the bait; just ignore it and let it pass by.

Never react. Never resent. Keep inner stillness.

Happiness in the here and now is a choice, and we have more power than most of us think. When there is a little spark, dash it against the rock. But the metaphor is strained because the best solution is not to engage it and not give it the fuel of your attention.

Happiness is also a by-product of what positive psychology calls "the meaningful life," and there are other things to being healthy in your heart of hearts and having a good condition. A healthy (such as Paleo) diet / exercise / sleep can also make a big difference. But the biggest difference is always in our heart of hearts. Part of that is that we can savor the here and now and be aware of its beauty.

You can choose to be happy in the here and now.

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.”

Follow Me on oKyrios!

I am at a monastery now, and one hieromonk early on explained that the monastery was trying to act on the problems that I tried to document in The Seraphinians: "Blessed Seraphim Rose" and His Axe-Wielding Western Converts. He explained to me how Protestants were coming with questions that were perfectly respectful, appropriate, mature and so on. Perhaps the deliberate example he gave was an outsider's question, but not a bad question for a respectful outsider to be asking. And they are getting harassed and blasted to smithereens by axe-wielding Western converts.

And what the monastery is trying to do is provide a more wholesome alternative: a social network among other things, but a social network, run by Orthodox Christians, specifically not designed to be addictive, nor to sell advertising, but to serve the genuine interests of its members. The email account they provide is specifically intended to protect your privacy, as is the site as a whole. There is a $5 a month charge to cover costs, so we can serve it without ads.

The network is called oKyrios, Greek for "the Lord," and you can support me by creating an account at at https://lavra.okyrios.org?aff=CJSHayward. After you have created an account, you can log in at okyrios.org.

If you have not already joined, I invite you to do so.

A word to the wise

I am the author of The Luddite's Guide to Technology: Beyond the Black Mirror, and I hold Jean-Claude Larchet's The New Media Epidemic: The Undermining of Society, Family, and Our Own Soul in high regard, and some people who know me might be surprised I am recommending a social net.

I would, however, like to recommend using some of the lessons learned from Facebook. Like, for instance, the people who enjoy Facebook most are those who dip in and out quickly, not people who languish in depression, from others' happy posts, for hours. If you're going to use the social aspects of oKyrios, do so in limited moderation.

Besides social aspects, oKyrios has for instance a radio stations, a schooling system and recordings of bishops and other leaders offering really good lectures. About the lectures, which eclipse my own offerings, I would say this: Listen to one lecture and then stop for the day. Let it sink in; let it mingle with silence. This is not because I have any real concern about the lectures being anything but excellent, but one lecture sinking in is a good thing. An intravenous drip of noise is not a good thing, and that's true even if the intravenous drip of noise is an intravenous drip of some of the best Orthodox lectures you'll find anywhere on the web.

If you are not familiar with Humane Tech, at very least read their "Take Control" page, and apply its lessons to getting the best out of oKyrios. Consider setting a 15 minute timer and only stay on oKyrios for those 15 minutes.

You can get much better results from online services by making and following deliberate decisions, than if you just do whatever is easiest.

oKyrios is a wonderful resource, and all the better if you use it well!