Over at Veil War, there is now in existence at this very moment the fourth installment of the Really Big Idea series. Allison Dickson explains the ideas behind her
Joe-Bob says check it out. Two thumbs up.
Over at Veil War, there is now in existence at this very moment the fourth installment of the Really Big Idea series. Allison Dickson explains the ideas behind her
Joe-Bob says check it out. Two thumbs up.
Chapter Nine is up over at The Veil War. Read and enjoy.
“Captain Lewis,” the Prince said through the interpreters, “Yes. Tend to your wounded. Send a dozen men wit
h beasts of burden down to the valley, that we may share the spoils of battle. You and your officers may join us at sundown. Then, we will eat; and we will plan. Our presence here in this world can not have gone undetected, and we will have to move quickly.”
Chapter Nine is the first installment of what, in my head, is part two of Captain Lewis’ story. The tone is a bit different; and there are new characters and new challenges for our Marines.
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I don’t know how significant this is, but in my recent travels through Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Ohi0 – and then back – over the Christmas holiday I saw “Ron Paul 2012″ etched, inked or ca
rved next to five urinals in mens’ restrooms. Given the number of stops I made thanks to the infinitesimal bladders of my children, that was a Ron Paul Pisser ratio of about one out of two.
I saw no exhortations for Mitt Romney, Obama, Gingrich or any other announced candidate.
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It’s Veil War Thursday. And that means another chapter of edge-of-your-seat action.
“What are they doing firing a half mile out?”
Lewis dropped the glasses. He watched the gray cloud
of arrows climb skyward. It looks like they’ve got the distance…. And there goes another volley.
Evans was incredulous. “How the hell could anyone draw a bow that could shoot an arrow that goddamn far?”
Five flights of arrows were in the air when the first round hit. Those five hundred arrows hit the goblins like the wrath of god. “Holy mother of fuck!” Evans shouted.
“I don’t believe it. Every single one of those arrows hit.” Pethoukis said softly, stunned.
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It came to my attention that the original explanation of why this blog is named the Ministry of Minor Perfidy, or ‘perfidy’ for short, is not easily available. While the most dedicated and assiduous readers could likely track it down, it is our
goal here at perfidy to make things easy.
Back in July of aught 3, we had this to say:
In his most recent bleat, Lileks tosses this out:
When I hear a speech like Blair’s, I have to check the calendar. And the calendar is usually wrong. It may say 2/23, or 7/16, or 4/30. But I know what the date is, and the date is 9/12. It’s going to be 9/12 for a long time to come.
While I’m on the subject of Lileks, I should mention that we shamelessly stole the name of our blog from one of his bleats.
In a bleat shortly after the beginning of the war, but before American troops reached Baghdad, Lileks had this to say:
These pictures are fascinating – it’s a capital in wartime, and it looks like it’s had a few bad gas main leaks, nothing more. The giant black plumes of fire come from oil trenches set alight by the Iraqis, and looking at them from above you realize they make excellent visual markers for incoming bombers. (If they needed such a thing, which they don’t.) The first picture shows a Presidential Palace – two words that ought not cohabitate, really – and it’s had the crap blown out of it. Across the street is a gigantic assembly building of some kind, perhaps the National House of Enthusiastic Rubber Stamping. It’s untouched. I’d wager a five-spot that they left it for whatever legislative body comes next. There’s no sign of bombing anywhere else, except for a small building down at the bottom of the picture; perhaps that was the Ministry of Minor Perfidy, or the State Bureau for Interrogative Dentistry. Something naughty happened there, in any case. I’d thought that the first phase of the air war would see the atomization of all the palaces, but perhaps that’s not so; good. Turn them into bed & breakfasts. Give every iraqi citizen a coupon good for one free night in a room in the palace. Thin Mints on the pillow, courtesy the US Military.
The phrase just caught us, and we ran with it. If you’re going to steal, steal from the best.
It is a commonplace that the advance of technology killed the Feudal age. The cost of training, equipping and supporting the Medieval knight was large, relative to the economic output of the era. And this cost was necessary because in many respects it was the best bang for the buck given the technological and economic realities. So the military necessity, the social structure and the available technology mutually created and supported each other in an environment where there had been significant collapse of large-scale institutions and in which there were powerful threats to local populations.
As technology fitfully advanced, new military paradigms arose. The rise, first of archers and pikemen and then the firearm, created a tactical environment unfriendly to the armored knight, which then made the cost of training, equipping and supporting the expensive and arrogant knight sufficiently unpleasant that he faded from the scene.
Technology didn’t stop with killing the knight. Masses of musket-equipped soldiers were eventually joined with mass-produced muskets, mass-produced canned goods, and eventually mass-produced mass production. Soon, even the emaciated descendants of the knight – the aristocracy – was on its knees.
Democracy triumphant! Workers of the world unite, and eat the rich! Buy large quantities of Chinese trinkets!
However, the rise of capitalism and democracy were not without their downsides. While the initial wave led to decentralization of economic and political decision-making, the system did not provide much in the way of safeguards against the eventual re-centralization of power using the techniques and technologies that the age of mass production and eventually the information age provided.
Crony capitalism, regulatory capture, the unfettered rise of the financial industry – we are seeing that allowing these things to happen, and especially to happen with the seal and approval of a democratic mandate, equivalent to the mandate of heaven – is probably not a good idea. In fact it likely will lead to the collapse of modern society – and if you read zero hedge, you’ll know that this will happen sometime before next Tuesday.
There are new technologies on the horizon. The maker movement, 3D printing, home fabricators, automated CNC routers, the nascent technological cornucopia will soon force upon us vast changes, fully equivalent in scale to the changes brought by the industrial revolution, and before it the late medieval technology boom in metallurgy and clockwork and the harnessing of wind and water power.
These technologies, if you listen to the hype of their creators and promoters, will lead to a golden age of libertarian skittle-shitting unicorn rainbow happiness. And hey, they might be right. It might be stage one of the rapture of the nerds, and all humanity will just leap forward into the promised land where everyone is safe from obnoxious jocks with big muscles and little understanding of the wonders and nuances of star trek minutia and WoW guild politics.
But will it?
Just to be contrarian here for a moment, what if the new technology does not result in further democratization and libertarian society fertilization? Okay, sure, the cost of many things will go down, and that would be an argument in favor of the established perception of the economic and social potential of this complex of technologies. Global design and local production will surely have a vast effect, one corner of which will be lower cost of some goods.
But will the cost of absolutely everything go down? I think, yes and no.
The rifle is a simple piece of technology. Mass produced in quantity and distributed, it is and has been the center of large national armies for half a millennium. To be sure, we have accreted a lot of things around the hoary and grey-bearded rifle-equipped infantryman. Artillery, air forces, etc, ad nauseam. And those can generally only be produced by nation states because you need to own the factories to make these expensive items that allow the democratic citizen soldier to prosper on the battlefield.
The concentration of power enabled by mass production and democratization has been focused on the nation-state, and increasingly on the parasitic large corporation/finance behemoths that interpenetrate and influence the nation-state. As Aretae recently pointed out, the interference of the nation state in even simple things like transportation networks hugely distorted the ‘natural’ growth of economies. And this leads to interesting thoughts.
The growth of new methods of production might lower the cost of some things enough that the cost of other things, especially networks of things will go up, relatively speaking. (If useful things become cheap enough, you can get lots of them. If they are intelligent things, having lots of them will grant capabilities beyond a linear extrapolation of having just one would lead you to expect.) Will the cost of these networks of things rise to the level at which you need the concentrated essence of economic power – the nation-state – to effectively field fighting forces with them? The likeliest case, given the wider range, is that the cost would fall between the normal individual’s means and national-debt-inducing.
If there is a collapse, or pseudo-collapse, in national and international economies and society as a result of the recent and ongoing unpleasantness – what will happen? Local-producing makers and fabricators will create regional trade networks. Trading designs globally, but producing locally, we can imagine whole new industrial ecosystems growing up around descendents of today’s maker spaces. The modern smithy will be a fab lab where the local artisan can produce circuits, finished parts in plastic and metal or wood – customized and perfectly suited to the task at hand. No more mass-produced assembly line toys from China – if you want something, you go to the smithy and he makes it, just like of old.
But the thing is, a fully realized maker fab will be able to create enormously sophisticated devices and indeed entire infrastructures on a custom and ongoing basis. This goes far beyond printing interesting dildos in pink ABS plastic. Drones, drone controllers – and therefore systems of surveillance, mini-missiles, over the horizon attack capabilities, metalstorm pods, munitions, AAD systems, all networked and controlled by systems of software modeled on modern game software.
Producing rifles – even super-cool, electrically activated, rapid-fire, armor-piercing, self-homing bullet firing metalstorm rifles – with this nearly automated manufacturing technology would be the smallest thing. Equivalent to the medieval smith making a knife – a trivial exercise.
In a world that is suddenly regionalized (at best) or hyper-localized (at worst), where large-scale institutions are enfeebled both by the growing power of new technologies and the economic systems that evolve around them as documented by people like John Robb; and of course by their own inherent flaws as ably documented by Moldbug and Foseti – you have something that starts to look a lot like the pre-feudal age where the common folk are at risk from the still powerful remnants of the old order, and from out of context threats like vikings and other mobile bandits.
And what defends local communities from threats? A defense infrastructure that is complicated to produce, and difficult to utilize. While the local maker can produce any simple tool almost at cost from scrap metal and plans pulled out of the cloud (just as the medieval smith could produce simple tools from pig iron and the sweat of his brow) creating a complex of drones, missiles and automated defense systems that might be very like that imagined by Daniel Suarez in his books Daemon and Freedom(tm) is more on the order of a highly skilled armor smith producing a complicated and effective suit of armor, and the sword smith creating a usable and durable sword out of high-grade steel. And the horse breeder providing destriers, and the community providing for the feeding and training of the knight who used them…
What if the new proto-medieval knight (the old one was the thug who was skilled at arms, and seized the opportunity to create an economic situation that would support him and provide defense for the people sufficient enough that they accepted the rest) is the techno-geek gamer who understands the means of designing and utilizing the new high-tech to provide for the defense of the commons. And whose training to be effective takes years, and requires the output of a significant community, and works best when the skills are transmitted in a master/apprentice mode.
Because one guy with a rifle won’t be an effective combatant in a world with networked drones, micro-missiles, sensor networks, and who knows what else that could be created with a mature fabbing technology. And as easy as a rifle is to learn to use, learning to use complex networks of weapons won’t be.
Technology forces cultural changes. But not usually in ways that we expect. Our current system is between two and four centuries old, depending on how you count it. Technology is undermining it, along with its own inherent and multiplying flaws. That’s about as long as things generally last. In times of great change, things don’t normally continue on a linear extrapolation of current events, or even the events of the last century. We are perhaps foolish to imagine that the result of the changes taking place will be merely the elimination of only the bad parts of the current system.
Part six of the Veil War went live today and is now terrorizing its neighborhood, Frankenstein-style. Take a gander over here. One nice thing about this whole novel writing project is that
I now have a good excuse to both post on perfidy, and not post on perfidy. Best of both worlds, baby!
And a gentle nudge: for all my readers who have blogs – and I know that a few of you do: the time has come for all of you to link to the Veil War. (cough… Naked Villainy, Murdoc, Rocket Jones, AW1 Tim, Aretae… cough) Just saying. I will ruthlessly mention you on perfidy until you comply.
I’ve been surprised by the amount of traffic that veilwar.com has been getting from perfidy. It’s been a steady flow of refers – not so great a flood as Blackfive’s generous linkage generated a couple weeks ago – but significant. I haven’t had any sort of stats functionality here on perfidy.org for a good long while now, because a) I don’t care that much and b) if I knew, I might be depressed. But I’m thinking that the residual traffic left over from our glory days must be greater than I imagined/feared.
If you will forgive a little bit of me-time, I am very pleased with how things are going. Blackfive sent about 300 readers my way, right before the third installment went up. As of part five, the last installment for which we have full statistics, there were over a hundred reades. I think that’s a pretty good stick rate, and not bad considering its only been a few weeks since the whole thing started. And I see from followers and commenters that I am just edging into second order readers – people who are being referred by the first wave. So that’s cool. And once I get the ebook ready for sale on Amazon, there will be several new avenues for promotion.
Thanks to everyone who has read, and linked, liked, friended, followed and shared the Veil War. It really is appreciated.
I am sure that all perfidy readers are upstanding, law-abiding and courteous citizens of whatever community, state or nation in which they reside. Therefore, they would never feel the need to use cialis online
_(protocol)”>BitTorrent technology to download movies, music or other information over the internet, and therefore would never have any desire to use the sort of anonymizing technologies and services that could protect them from the unwelcome attention of noble and selfless industry associations and their enforcement arms, the bandwidth throttling of internet providers, or indeed the various tentacles of federal, state and local governments.
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Maybe the problem of stagnation in our space program over the last 40 years is not government mismanagement, lack of vision, underfunding, red tape or any of that. Maybe…
We just ran out of Nazis
I was flipping through some old notebooks today. Amidst the dross and deranged scribbling, this, verbatim:
Outline for Autobiography
- Confused from the outset (birth to 1985)
- Working at apathy (1985-1988)
- An opportunity for future nostalgia (1988-1991)
- A legacy of poor personal investments (1991-1996)
- A moment of clarity (1996)
- The moment passes (1996-1999)
- A leap into the unknown, or running with futility (1999-2000)
It was a dark and stormy night. No, really, it was dark. And it was stormy. It was also Friday the 13th, which Bulwer-Lytton hadn’t the wit to include. Somewhere in the Midwest below an unseen full moon, I was born. The nurses in the maternity ward were joking about Rosemary’s Baby, which was either ironic or eerily prophetic depending on whose side you take.
At this point, my parents had been married for seven years and I guess this was their shit or get off the pot moment. Three years later, they got off the pot and separated. They had met at one of the thousands of fully interchangeable liberal arts colleges that can be found interrupting the otherwise scenic beauty of Ohio with their faux-gothic halls and industrial brutalist dorms and cafeterias.
Dad was in Columbus, pursuing an advanced degree in Russian history, getting a pilot’s license starting a classic car collection and generally hooting it up in a very subdued academic way. My mom worked for an insurance company and got very politely angry.
I began my career with failure. My purpose in life was to bring order and comity to my parents marriage. For a time, it seemed that this ploy might actually work – in this brief sojourn in the sunlit uplands of marital happiness that surrounded my birth by about six months on either side, life was good. My parents were distracted from selfishness on the one hand and passive-aggressiveness on the other by the immediate demands of pre- and post natal care.
But I could only maintain that level of effort for so long. Inexorably, I became more self-sufficient and less time consuming and I could not hold my parents together. Having failed to provide for my family, I went on wild spree of campus protests, martial law and tear gas. This was brought to an end by Governor Rhodes’ ill-fated and ill-considered attempt to be tough like Ronald Reagan in California, the end result of which was the Kent State shootings.
My early career in rabble-rousing was thus strangled in its crib by the sudden onset of the seventies, just as I was getting going. I decided to retreat and formulate a new plan.
“Praise not the day until night has come.”
That’s as far as I got. My best estimate is that I wrote that sometime in the Spring of 2000.
Your weekly reminder that today you can go over to Veilwar dot com and read the next gripping installment of the Veil War.
Lewis blocked two handed with his rifle, and the sword chopped into his rifle, right through the rail a
nd into the receiver. The goblin growled in rage when Lewis twisted the rifle, tearing the sword from his grasp. Lewis threw the ruined rifle and attached sword to the side and reached for his sidearm, backpedaling.
The monster was fast; unbelievably fast. He jumped and low tackled Lewis to the ground. Lewis’ head smacked the ground and his vision narrowed. All he could see was the green-hued snarling face in front of him. He couldn’t find the grip of his .45, and the goblin had his hands on his throat.
I have to say I’m slipping into the full time writer thing with shocking ease. It’s going to be painful to go back to work. Cranked out over 5000 words yesterday, and looking to top that today.
I think I could really dig being a professional novelist.
Granted, this is not at all surprising. I am a professional writer already. I work at home most of the week. I had a pretty good idea. There is nevertheless a big attitudinal difference between writing boring crap for a large corporate entity and writing ripping yarns.
Yesterday I did over 4000 words. The day before was only a little over a 1000, but I had to take the whole fricken family to the dentist, which killed half the day; plus errands and whatnot. Today my goal is north of 5000 words and finish part two of the Veil War. If I maintain that pace through the end of my two weeks, I should clear over 50000 words, which would be a nanowrimo in a fortnight. Nanowrifrt.
Since the completion of an actual novel length chunk of prose is now a goal that is much less airy dreaming and more a reasonable near-term prospect the next thing is just to get to the point where I can get people to buy it and therefore enable me to do it forever.
Today, my grandfather would have turned 100. He didn’t make it here. Pancreatic cancer got him two decades back.
But I’ve been thinking about him all day, today, every time I see the 11-11.
My grandfather had a thing about numbers. There were good numbers, and there were bad numbers. He’d have my dad get him license plates from the other side of the state because the license plate numbers issued in NW Ohio were better than the ones in NE Ohio. One time, my dad pranked him, though. Told him he’d gotten a license plate XQ-5381. “Oh, no.” He liked numbers that had patterns, or were in some subtle way harmonious. I like to think that that all started because of his birthday, which like today was 11-11-11.
He also liked writing on things. He annotated his physical world. When I was five, he took me down to his cabin in Tennessee. We went hiking over to Cumberland Gap, and he made me a walking stick, just my size. He whittled a handle for me, but he didn’t stop there. He took a pen and wrote
Cumberland Gap, Tennessee
I may have the date wrong.
My mom sent me a picture today. There was a beautiful tree on the hill behind the farm house he retired to. Grandpa posted this warning:
I miss Grandpa. I wish he could have lived long enough to meet his great-grandchildren.
Well, I set up a site for it to live on. Go and see The Veil War, where you can read the first 2000 words. I’ve got almost 30000 in the bag, and a couple weeks worth of vacation before Thanksgiving scheduled to add more, so there will definitely be more coming soon.
Read. And tell your friends.
Fun new blogs. Fun and new for me, at least:
If the black market were a single national economy, it would be larger than every nation save only the US.
Jetpacks, dammit. But the coolest thing in that article is this:
Jetpacks, sure. But look at the egress – it’s a bouncy slide. It looks something like a DC-X, and it seems that whoever came up with the idea thought that it would operate in the same way. An SSTO capability implies a point-to-point transport to anywhere on earth.
Alrenous has an interesting post on the Genovesi, a proposed new category of human to exist alongside long-familiar Spartan and Athenian types. I like it, but I have two questions:
As I mentioned just a bit ago, I am writing an actual novel. So, I’ll like be a novelist and stuff. Sweet.
The actual writing of the novel has been surprisingly pain free, given that I’d been putting it off for almost a quarter century. Once I started typing, it came out at nearly a 1000 words an hour, which is a pretty respectable rate. What has bothered me though, is the lack of decent writing tools that actually do what I want them to do.
As of late last night I seem to have solved at least one aspect of my problem – the need to be able to seamlessly move devices without having to worry about whether I’m working on the most current version. I downloaded iA Writer for both the iPad and Mac, which uses Dropbox for sync. Dropbox, btw, totally rocks.
I’d been aiming for a stripped down writing interface – I don’t want to deal with formatting. I don’t want to deal with most things aside from typing. I didn’t want to use a full-featured word processor. As a technical writer, I fully appreciate the capabilities offered by this sort of tool, but have become increasingly disenchanted with them except for the very final stages of creating a finished document. I find that I do most of my actual writing for work with WordPad. So OpenOffice, Word, Pages – all out. There’s too much in there to distract from actually writing.
Happily, there have been many apps released that purport to be the perfect tool in this space. Unhappily, most of them are wrong in this assertion. The closest was Byword, which has an elegant, non-eye-straining page for typing. It does the full screen, block-out-all-distractions thing. It does typewriter focus, so your cursor doesn’t always end up at the bottom of the screen.
Yet – it uses three different formats for saving files, each with different capabilities. When you fire up the app, if you hadn’t closed your documents from the last session, it will open them in new, untitled files. So if you start typing, Bam! you’ve got a new version whether you wanted to or not. And it didn’t have a companion iPad app, so syncing presented issues.
iA Writer was going for a buck on the iPad, so I had a what the hell moment and bought it. I quickly discovered that it is the best text editor I have yet used on the pad, and I’ve used a lot of them. Advantages: extra bar on the virtual keyboard with left and right arrow, left and right word (jump a word instead of a space) and common punctuation like quotes, dashes and parentheses. Clean typography – it’s very easy to read. (I only wish I could make the text a little smaller, so a little more could fit on the screen.) Word counts. Dropbox sync. Email as body or attachment. Very nice, I thought.
So, I sprung for the $10 Mac App. It doesn’t look as good as Byword, but doesn’t behave oddly. Syncs perfectly with the iPad app. The big type doesn’t look as bad on a 24″ monitor. Happy, happy, joy, joy.
I can now write on the computer, get up and grab the iPad and keep going. I find it amusing that after 30 years of software evolution; and enhancements in infrastructure, networking and computer power; the very best writing app that I’ve found mimics almost perfectly the functions and behavior of a typewriter from 1950.
That’s part of the problem. The other part is organization of background material. For my novel, I have tons of background notes to keep everything straight. Lists of characters major and minor, notes on the locations, notes on the various entities and their capabilities, notes on things that the characters don’t and likely won’t ever know but which certainly effect how the story goes. Putting all this in, say, one long word file would work in the sense that all the information would be stored on my computer.
But it wouldn’t be easy to access. If I were careful, and did everything up with headings, I could use the document map sidebar to be able to easily see any one part of it. But often, I want to look at more than one part of my notes. I always want the cast of characters visible, so I can reference that, and usually one or more other things that are relevant to what I’m typing. Word falls down there unless I want more than one document, which kind of defeats the purpose.
And I haven’t found anything significantly better. Right now I’m using Ulysses, which basically organizes text files into bundles, with a navigator at the side. I got it cheap, and it works, but there is no good way to really organize the files. I’d almost be better having small text files in a folder hierarchy – but only almost. Its saving grace is that I can view two (and no more than two) of the individual files. So I can have my cast of characters and one other thing visible.
I’ve tried Scrivener, which is a little better, but not much, and I don’t want to pony up $50 just to see if it works a little better than Ulysses. (Though they just upgraded to version 2.1…) I’m tempted to see if I can make Yojimbo work – which I’ve used to keep track of clippings and receipts and the like. If I did make individual text files and dropped them into Yojimbo collections, that might conceivably work. And, as a bonus, all the textual material would not be in proprietary formats.
What I really want is this, which I first wrote about over five years ago. A visual way of navigating files. If any coders out there would like to help me build this, I’d be more than willing to share the profits.
Aside from that gaping wound in my workflow, other bits have fallen into place. Sigil is a nice little app that creates ePubs pretty easily – and allows you to edit them if you discover some last second thing that needs changing. TextWrangler is a nice power editing tool useful taking .txt files and making bulk changes and has a good search function. Finally, Pages makes nice pdfs if you’re into that sort of thing.
While I’m being all Mr. Blog Chatty Cathy, look at this:
Ominous volcanic lightning pics are like catnip for Buckethead.
My son, having become cognizant of the existence of this blog, has offered to participate. If anyone has any questions – about anything whatsoever – ask and he will make up an answer for you. Just leave a question in the comments and I’ll pass it on to him.
Here’s a small one to get you started:
Q: Son of Buckethead, who killed President Kennedy?
A: It was the butterflies. Butterflies ate Oswald’s brain, enraging him. Enraged, he went to the Book Depository building and shot the president.
Q: Son of Buckethead, why did the butterflies hate Kennedy? And were they responsible for Oswald’s death as well?
A: Butterflies hate everybody. Usually, they just flutter around and stuff. But sometimes, they get mean. The ninja butterflies ate Jack Ruby’s brain to cover up the eating of Oswald’s brain. Butterflies are pretty sneaky.
In pursuit of my life long dream of having a career that involves nothing more than sitting in front of a computer in my jammies, I have been writing a novel. It became apparent to me that sitting in front of a computer in my jammies four out of five days a week as a technical writer and web developer is not enough. I need that last day. The novel is about 1/4 done, and the initial feedback has been very positive. Yay, me! I will shortly be setting up another website for that novel to live on, and you’ll see a link here.
Also, I have remembered that I never finished my series on state mottoes. Expect updates soonish.
I would like to state for the record that it has become almost impossible for me to have normal conversations about politics with, well, anyone. I no longer have common referents with the average interlocutor. And I can’t really say, go read the last six months of Zero Hedge, the entire corpus of Moldbug, and a hundred other things and get back to me when you can understand what I’m talking about. And can you summarize Austrian economics and the history of the Great Depression and the formation of modern banking every time you’re talking to someone about the state of the economy? And God forbid trying to explain where I’m coming from on politics.
And, on that note, thanks Chris for having read Zero Hedge and Moldbug and Charleton so that I can talk to you. You’re a mensch.
I have been, as is my wont, supremely lax in posting. This despite my setting up an automated process to post. So there you go.
I would say that the spirit moved me to the post this, but that would not be true. Even without the spirit motivation, Bruce Charleton has had some very interesting posts over the last little while. The one that caused me to actually pull the trigger on this post is this one:
Charleton’s knife of insight is sharp, here. If a modern St. Patrick were sent to us by real Christians from some parallel world, maybe from a Patriarch of Constantinople who didn’t live in Istanbul, what would he think of us? I imagine that this hypothetical Apostle to the Americans would see us in our secular glory rather like the Conquistadors saw the Aztecs. With horror.
What common ground could our St. Patrick find with us when the core assumptions of our daily life are so far removed from what, historically, people have always believed? Oh sure, we don’t put people on altars and rip their hearts out. Yet. But at least the Aztecs believed in the divine.
I have what others have described as an interesting relationship with Christianity. (And there’s a draft post that needs finished…) I find that I need a Pagan Missionary, really.
Then we have this:
Therefore deification does not mean the “actualization” or “realization” of one’s latent divinity, a belief that is less Christian than monistic or pantheistic.
Actualization is a fingernails on blackboards kind of word for me. It makes me want to punch somebody. Kind of like the feeling I get when I see someone wearing a Che tshirt. It is indicative of the depths to which we have sunk that even the people pretending to traditional faith still feel that it’s all about them, and not, you know, God or something.
And finally this:
But in Orthodoxy (so far as I see it, not far) there is not the same sense of trying to reach an intellectually coherent and satisfying answer as there is with Western Catholicism.
For the Orthodox there are these parable-like narrative theological explanations, mostly comprehensible to the common man – and beyond these simple explanations there is mystery.
If you want to go further, the path is spiritual not philosophical. The understanding aimed-at, therefore, is not more complex or logical, but (presumably) an understanding which comes directly by revelation, and is not (perhaps) communicable to those of lower levels of holiness.
This is the one thing in Orthodoxy that most appealed to me, when long ago I formally converted. I was raised in a particularly dry and dusty sort of Lutheranism. A comfortable enough community, in its way, especially if you can’t sing and like potluck dinners. Which, as it happens, is me all the way. However, the efforts of our Pastor to explain to me the passion and mystery of Christ, redemption, and the like fell a little flat. Largely because it sounded like he was relating to me the minutes of the local Rotary club. Of which he was a member. Look at the benefits that accrue, to you – the local business man, if you become a Rotarian!
And the Roman Catholic hyper legalism is just as annoying. But here’s these guys, the Orthodox, with a rich, nay, baroque iconography, beautiful liturgical music, they don’t do any of that. They go up to a certain point, stop, and say, “It’s a mystery.” I like that. I may not have the spiritual development to understand. Might not ever. But at least I’m not treated like a prospective Chamber of Commerce supporter, or bedeviled with hair-splitting exegesis.
I’ve always thought that good intentions were, in general, given too much credit. But this goes a little further, and rings true to me. Especially this:
“When I examine my conscience, I perceive that the worst intentions were typically those times where I was trying hardest to signal to myself and to others that my intentions were good, pure, blameless.
That was when I was most deeply in thrall to pride.”
A question that has been festering in my brain for some time now, even though I am not rich:
“But where can the rich go? Their choices include nations that have swarms of malaria-infested mosquitoes, bad TV, deadly climates, decapitation issues, French people, bland food and other signs of inhospitableness. When you consider these factors plus wars, pollution, terrorism, floods, droughts, earthquakes and tornadoes, I think you’ll agree that most of the surveyed land on Earth is unfit for fancy people.”
I may not be rich, but the nation of my birth is becoming increasingly annoying.