Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Journey into Solitude : Chapter One :: In Through The Out Door 1

The day Christian walked out of the world, it rained for about half an hour and then was quiet. He sat in his cubicle and out of the corner of his eye he could see droplets of water slowly trickling down the windowpane. It was about eleven in the morning. The walls of his cubicle were grey. The carpet was grey. His chair, which squeaked, was a dingy, unwashed grey. The flat screen of his computer flickered momentarily, then continued in its mission of displaying a tangled mess of spreadsheets and browsers, a cumulative projection of grey into the world. My name is Christian. I work for Global Corporation, he thought. I am a Level Three Data Entry Administrator, Second Grade. Then he didn't think again for perhaps five minutes.
The ambient noise of the cubicle farm was central air and the random clickclickclick of keys being pressed. The occasional ring of a telephone broke into the sussurus of data being entered. Fed in here, spat out there. Around and around, like effluvium, the data moved. Most of it was pointless. Or worthless. Some adjective ending in "less" anyway.
At eleven thirty the weekly Morale Meet-Up began. It was important that it was called a meet-up, and not a meeting. Christian went to thirty-seven meetings a week. None of them was called a meeting. Meetings were not done at Global Corporation.
The Morale Meet-Up met up in the conference room. Christian took a seat at a table that had been impressive once. Twenty years of coffee mugs and watches, of donut crumbs and spilled drinks, had put an end to that. At the table sat the other seventeen members of Christian's department, carefully shoehorned in together.
For thirty minutes, they listened while a corporate drone attempted to buck them up by telling them in the vaguest terms possible how important their work was to Global. Christian doodled on a pad of paper: geometric designs at first, then sketches of the people across from him, then finally organically complex squiggles.
Precisely thirty-six minutes nineteen seconds into the drone's spiel--part harangue and part condescension--Christian rebelled. There was no lead-up. He simply thought, as though someone had written on the surface of his brain in bold stark letters:
I Hate My Job.
This thought, while it had previously floated serenely beneath the waves of Christian's subconscious, had never been expressed explicitly. It was soon followed by the following realizations: I am forty-two years old. I have no wife. I have no girlfriend. I have no kids. I have no friends. I live in a shitty little apartment with an unhealthy plant. My apartment is dilapidated and infested with mildew. I have not been happy in a long time. Maybe ever.
I Hate My Life.
Thirty-seven minutes and twelve seconds into the drone's spiel, he was interrupted by a pen flying across the room and impacting the projection screen behind him. The pen had left Christian's hand with no particular force. He had simply thrown it, with the air of a scientist, to see what would happen when he did.
All eyes in the room traced back along the pen's trajectory and fell on Christian. He politely nodded to them and said, "I have more important things to do with my life than listen to this. I quit. Goodbye."
With that, he stood and left the room, his job, and his miserable life.

The Music of the Spheres

Music is very important in Christianity, for good reason. Is there any sense as primal and yet as perspicacious as hearing is? From the deep boom of the cannon fire, to the patter of soft summer rain on leaves, from the rising chorus of Gregorian chant to the sigh of a sleeping baby, sounds move us in important and mysterious ways, and none more than music. In our own Christian tradition, we see the notion of chant and song being important components of worship. Why? What is it about music that affects us so deeply?

The answer, I think, is that we glimpse the underlying nature of reality in music: the glissade of the wind instruments mimics the continuous, while the sharp percussion reflects the discrete. Wave and particle, energy and matter. A sea of smooth waveforms flowing effortlessly into one another, but lapping at the shores of the islands formed by packets of notes. A wind born of brass and wood, caressing the sharp upthrusts of a forest of percussive beats. Music inspires because fundamentally music is.

Music exists, fundamental and distinct from ourselves, because God has willed it. Why has God willed it? This, I cannot answer. But I hear the Universe, an endless, ever-varying symphony, playing for all eternity in the heavens. It is a glorious Song, sung together by God, the angels, the planets, and ourselves. For we sing too. We raise our voices, not in rage or hate, but in joy, the never-ending joy of existence. Our voices are small, but the grand Conductor gestures his baton in our direction too, and coaxes ever more pleasing notes from us, and the planets and stars, whose voices far outweigh our own, smile indulgently and encouragingly towards us.

Come. Let us sing together.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

My Letter to Instapundit

On Thursday, I decided to throw my two cents in the ring (pardon my mixed metaphor) on the issue of gay "marriage." I decided to do this in the most subtly smart-alecky way I could, so I sent Glenn Reynolds, of Instapundit fame and a known proponent of gay "marriage," the following email:

Dear Mr. Reynolds,

I greatly enjoy your blog Instapundit. It is very informative, and provides links to a wide variety of commentary, and I wish to thank you for providing this valuable service to the Internet community. However, recently you have been using the term "marriage" in your posts quite frequently. I am not familiar with this term. Could you define it for me?

Thank you for your help,

<*Augustine Aquinas*>

No response as of yet.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Roman Subway Crash

A tragedy in Rome today. A subway train missed a stop light and collided with a stopped train. One person is dead and sixty are injured. They are in my prayers.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

In Dreams

I have just awoken from an interesting dream. In the dream, I am in a restaurant or a club of some kind, clearly a stylish place. Beautiful and charming people are eating and chatting, amongst fashionably modern chairs and tables. And in the middle of the restaurant is an industrial death machine. Not a machine for killing, but for the appropriate treatment and disposal of corpses. A mortuary.

A man has died. Of what, I do not know. A black man, of some age and worth. Younger black men, b-ballers and such, stand around bereft of leadership.

Certain rites must be performed. Proper respect must be shown to this great man who has died. I must perform the rites. Whether I am selected or volunteer, I do not know.

I accompany the corpse. I must be careful. The workers in the mortuary must not know what I am doing. Nevertheless, they do know, and know that they must help me. But they too must avoid detection.

The corpse is moving on a conveyor belt. I get on the belt beside it. At a certain time, I must put pills inside its coffin. Then the corpse will dissolve. This will prevent it from being chopped into tiny pieces by a component in the machine. After this stage, the corpse will reconstitute, and continue on its journey whole.

The workers fret over me. I tell them not to worry, that I have done this before, when my grandfather nearly died. That is true, they say. He did this before.

I move alongside the corpse. At the appropriate juncture, I scatter the pills over the corpse. I roll off the conveyor belt, and land beside the gutted corpse of a seagull. I can see ribs amongst the feathers.

I walk to the other side of the dicing machine. The coffin awaits me. I accompany it further. The corpse inside is whole. Finally I have reached the point where it must go on without me. I put a basketball on the corpse's chest, and say farewell. I leave the conveyor belt and return to the restaurant.

The young black men are there. They are distraught from the loss of their leadership, but they do not know that he is gone yet. One of them, not particularly big, with whom I have apparently had words, comes towards me.

When he reaches me, he punches me in the mouth. I can feel the blood, taste it. I look him in the eye. I say, "I would shed my blood for you."

He punches me again and again, always in the mouth. "I would die for you," I say. Again and again, he strikes me. It is important that he does this. I can sense the sadness behind his hate and his anger, and I know that he needs this.

"I would shed my blood for you," I say again. My mouth is a mass of blood and broken teeth. As important as it is for him to hit me, it is important that I say this. As often as necessary, until he hears it.

Finally, the beating stops. "I'm sorry," I say. "He's gone." The young black man's face blanches, and he turns to one of his companions and clasps him in a strong embrace, his body shaking and unbalanced with grief. The other man holds him, consoles his pain. I am no longer needed.

Now I am on another level of the restaurant, one above the last. A kitchen, but one that is flooded. Japanese women work cooking food whilst their babies and little children swim around. Some of the babies have been caught by their mothers and are being scrubbed, their little voices raised in outrage over this indignity. I walk, chest deep in water, amongst them. They do not see me.

I walk through the water. Now it is chin deep. My blood rills down my face and into the water. I look back, and see a trail of diffusing blood in the water. I step out of the water and prepare to return to the restaurant/club below.

A small, blown tulip of glass is in my hand. It appears to be a light fixture of some kind. The long tapered stem is broken. I walk down a flight of stairs to the club below. I am no longer wet.

My face is a mask of blood beneath the nose. I can feel my loosened and broken teeth rattling around in my mouth. The patrons of the club say nothing. They ignore me. I am not sure whether they can see me but simply do not wish to see me. They do not acknowledge my presence.

I cut a path through the room. Finally, I find my father. "There you are," he says, and then sees my face. "What happened to you?" The first thought I have is how I am going to explain the destruction of four thousand dollars worth of orthodontia. At last, I simply say, "I got the shit beaten out of me."

Then I awake. I have had this dream twice tonight.

Friday, October 13, 2006

An Ever Increasing Circle

Imagine for example, a two-dimensional surface such as a plane. This plane extends off to infinity in every direction. To a being living in the plane, there is nothing beyond the plane, and indeed the notion of a third dimension is inconceivable. A mathematician of the University of Squash or theologian amongst the First Flat Church of Christ, Polygon, might be able to imagine the idea of a third dimension, by simple extrapolation. They may see the two dimensions of their own universe, and speculate a third. But they are incapable of truly imagining the reality of a third dimension, as we are incapable of imagining a fourth or a fifth dimension. We can say, "Oh, another dimension, what an excellent and original idea!" But we are incapable of imagining what life would truly be like in a universe of four dimensions.

Suddenly, to the inhabitants of the plane, a strange and unusual apparition appears. At first a point, then an ever increasing circle, then a diminishing circle, then a point again. Then the apparition vanishes. Truly they have never seen anything like this before. A creature which changes shape, and vanishes into nothing? And then they tell their family and friends, but the other Planers merely laugh. "There is no room for your crazy beliefs," they say. "They are not rational!" And so only the memory remains, kept alive by those poor Planers who had the misfortune of witnessing the miraculous: the passing of the almighty Sphere through the plane.

We are as tiny scratches of ink upon a piece of paper. Once in an age, a Sphere of great worth passes through the page. And we scoff. And we laugh. The page is all there is, we say. Black ink on white paper. Color is a thing of three dimensions. We scoff. We go about our lives. And inside our black outlines, all is white. All is empty.

The Sphere floats on. Floats on to other realms, and other pages, where we cannot follow.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Holy Music

My local record store is having a going-out-of-business sale, so I purchased Handel's Messiah and J.S. Bach's Magnificat and Easter Oratorio. I haven't had a chance to listen to them yet. Once I do, I may post something on the connections between music and mathematics; many mathematicians are excellent musicians, and vice versa. And of course, music is a profound method of connecting to the Divine, as is arithmetic.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Let He Who Is Without Sin

Yet more evidence that Islam is in fact a perversion of the one true faith introduced into the world by Satan.

Thank you to Venomous Kate for the link.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Ghost in the Machine

The Amish school shooting is indeed a great tragedy. Five small children died. Or rather, their bodies died. For it is important to remember that while we are of these things, we are not these things. We are but a small portion of a great iceberg of being, the tip which shows above the waterline, while beneath it great things are hidden. How proud and how sad we have become, that we think this be all there is. But our bodies, crude puppets that can barely do our bidding, that weigh us down with earthly affairs, are like roughly hewn stone axes compared to the great celestial machinery that is our souls. Let us never neglect our bodies. But God himself must have mercy on us should we neglect our souls.

Combatting Nihilism

While I do not have the time to get into specifics, allow me to say that combatting nihilism is perhaps the greatest purpose in life, indeed, the supreme purpose of man in this universe. God has created us to be His soldiers, an Infinite Army to be a branch of His Infinite Creation, whose sole purpose is to combat the forces of anti-creation. In that sense, to worship and obey God is to fight for Him, and to fight for Him is to worship and obey. But it is not easy. Many are called, but few are chosen. To fight the good fight, the just war, the Glorious Conflict which, neverending, provides the meaning to our lives! And, with supreme irony, the very act of making war upon us ensures nihilism's defeat, for our lives gain the transcendent, gain purpose and meaning through our struggle.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Hierarchy of Nihilism

It is a grievous error to believe that Satan is the greatest enemy of mankind. Satan, while truly a formidable opponent and mankind's tempter, nevertheless pales in comparison with man's true enemy: nihilism. Satan's goal is to rule in Heaven. Nihilism's goal is the total destruction of the universe.

By nihilism I mean, of course, an acceptance of the destructive impulses in humanity. Three things compose nihilism: a rejection of all standards, objective or otherwise; a dull hatred for reality, due to reality's continued evidence of objective standards; and finally, a violence against those standards, reality, and God Himself.

There are very few who espouse pure nihilism, but many more who express some small part of the nihilistic agenda. In America, at the dawn of the twenty-first century, we can find nihilists across the entire political spectrum, but the party of nihilism today is primarily the Left. We can see this in the hierarchy of nihilism, which is the method by which nihilists advance their agenda.

The first stage of the hierarchy can be called "anti-transcendentalism", but is more generally known by the name utilitarianism. All concepts, from the most sacred to the most mundane, include a transcendental element. For example, a chair is both the substance that composes it and also the idea of a chair. This idea of a chair is the concept, and it contains a transcendental element--the idea that chairs should be comfortable, the vast history of chairs, famous chairs both real and fictional, God's Throne, etc. The non-transcendental element is the function of the chair, that is to say, the idea that a chair is something one sits upon. The goal of utilitarianism is to strip out the transcendental and leave only the functional. For example, the military has a long and glorious tradition, a warrior ethic, and a certain concept of itself as being a pale shadow of some true Military. Under utilitarianism, the military is merely an organized force of men for killing other men. The appeal of utilitarianist thought is that in the short-term, it can be used to increase efficiency and make a structure more productive or useful. Unfortunately, in the long-term, utilitarianism strips out the transcendental, which is that which appeals to men. To continue using the example of the military, certain changes made during the late twentieth century may have in the short-term increased the effectiveness of the military by, say, increasing the number of available recruits, but at the cost of destroying the transcendental element and cutting off the modern military from its glorious heritage and its link to the pure Military. Joining the military is no longer special. It contains no honor. There is no particular reason to join, because it is just a job like any other, with the exception that one can die doing it. Is it any wonder that enlistment levels fall off, year after year?

After utilitarianism comes cynicism. By redefining concepts to exclude the transcendental, the utilitarian wing has opened the door for the cynical wing to enter. Old institutions lose their effectiveness, because they have lost the transcendental. New institutions cannot arise, because the very notion of an institution is under siege. All concepts are rated by their utility. God is no longer the holy source of the Divine, but instead something dragged out to demonstrate one's "trustworthiness" or "virtue" (Trust and Virtue are, of course, also under attack, particularly by those who lack either). Courts ask witnesses to swear to tell the truth, "so help you God", when no one in the court believes in the Deity in question. Right and wrong become simply words, useful in describing actions that may hinder or help one's agenda, but containing no special meaning. Marriage is just a contract to receive benefits from the state. Parenthood is merely the guardianship of a child until adulthood. The press is simply a vehicle for dispensing information, true or not, so long as it boosts the ratings. "Is" does not mean "is."

The people become cynical. Old words and concepts are attached to things which no lonmger function the way they are supposed to. And functionality is the central organizing principle of the New World Order. God alone can help you if you are not "functional." The people become disillusioned with the old concepts, and react against them. God is no longer simply a useful concept, but becomes an object of active ridicule. Those who believe in virtue are mocked for being "prudes", "goody-two-shoes," and worst of all, "hypocrites." The elite sniff, "So-and-so has issues," or "hang-ups" or whatever the word du jour is. Witness William Bennett.

The final stage of the hierarchy is nihilism itself. The old concepts are jettisoned. No new ones emerge. All is "free," free of the stultifying oppression of standards. All is "equal," equally squalid and meaningless. All is chaos. Marriage is gone, washed away in a orgiastic flood of perpetually shifting domestic arrangements. The priesthood is gone, for God is dead, don'tchaknow, and well, when God is dead, all is permitted. Political parties are gone--that quaint old notion of showing loyalty to those who share your principles and opinions? That'll never get you elected. Heck, principles will never get you elected; they stand in the way of old Number One. The military is gone, because the nation is gone, and everything it stood for, its hopes and its dreams, principles and policies, glories and failures, history and traditions, those are gone too, and no longer need defending. Truth is gone, because what matters is Spin. Beauty is gone, because it is so unfair that some are born beautiful, or with artistic talent, and who are you anyway to say that my feces-stained Madonna isn't beautiful? Liberty is gone, because your Liberty gets in the way of my Libertinism, especially your judgment of me, and your democratic processes that block me from doing what I want to do, so I'll just get some "judges" to declare your laws unconstitutional, and then I'll do what I want anyway.

Thus we see the world end, in a hell of nothingness.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

--William Butler Yeats, from "The Second Coming"