Thursday, September 18, 2014

In Norcia

Writing from an enoteca on St. Benedict's Piazza. Just been to Compline. Will be here a week.

Modernia, the Asteroid 2.0, the War and the Apocalypse can all just get on without me for a few days.

Working, but no posts.

Go pray the Rosary or something.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Only one problem with that eremtical life...

the constant stream of people.

If it were me, I'd be up on the hill above the trail chucking pine cones at em...

Get off my lawn!!


We are done!

OK that is IT!! I am solving this problem once and for all.

I hereby ban for all time and for all people everywhere the use of the apostrophe. There will be no more problem with "you're" "they're" or "it's". There will simply be no further use allowed of any verbal contractions.

To show possession, all persons confessing to use the English language shall from this moment forward revert to the archaic form of showing possession by writing it out complete: "mother, her book" or "the book of mother".

It might seem a bit weird at first, but we will soon get used to it, and it will be better than having to go through life either fighting the urge to shout at the computer screen or explaining the correct usage over and over.

And it will have the added advantage of making all writing sound like Jane Austen. Which can only be for the betterment of all.



The Door to Narnia

What if you knew a secret formula, a chant or an incantation, a method of getting to Narnia, or even to Aslan's own country? Would you use it? What if the only way to make the magic work, the true magic, was to make an immense personal sacrifice? Would you do it then? What if it required the sacrifice of everything you have, and took the rest of your life? And you had to give up everything and go live in a completely different way, in a different place... worth it?

What if there were a little stone house, a kind of gatehouse, where on one side of the house you came through the door in this world, and across the room there is a little wooden door, and every day, eight times a day, starting very early in the morning, you had been asked to open the door and sit in the doorway and look through, and as long as you have sung the proper song in the proper language, that doorway would show you the world that you have longed all your life to go to, would you do that?

This is a little story of a man who came from Poland to live in a little stone house high above a secret valley in the mystical Sibelline mountains in Umbria, the cradle of Western monasticism.

It is translated from here.

Hermit for love, for love that transforms the world, destroys evil, invents the good and hope. For this love Tadeusz came from Poland and climbed the mountain to live in solitude among wild boars, foxes, weasels and eagles. The resort in Val Castoriana branch of the Nera Valley is not even marked on maps, as are the villages of the Valley, Acquaro di Nera, Collescille that form the bastion. It was the cradle of the first hermit's life in Italy, as evidenced by the rock caves and inhabited by St. Fiorenzo and Sant'Eutizio, who migrated from Syria in the fifth century as a result of the persecutions of the Emperor Anastasius Aryan Dikoro and heretical bishop Severus of Antioch. The young St. Benedict frequented these places of Umbria that exude peace and holiness, who drew inspiration for founding his monasteries at Subiaco.

You come to the hermitage of San Fiorenzo, which dates back to the tenth century and is perched on a steep slope (near the walls is the ancient collapsed cave where the saint lived), after walking for half an hour along a narrow and steep trail that breathes the air of the firs and larches of a mountain that reaches 1,100 meters.

When Tadeusz discovered it ten years ago, it was a ruin, the vaults collapsed, the roof caved, the church unsafe. He rebuilt stone by stone, leading by hand the material from the valley, supported by the persuasion of having arrived at the place destined by the God who, had the first time, called him to the hermit's life when he was 15 years old. "But I do not, then I said. I wanted a normal life. After high school I have been in the military, such as 684 days in jail, because communism fell in 1989, but in the army things changed slowly. Then I worked for two years, but the "Voice" continued to pursue me. Nothing to do, it was so strong that I left parents, friends, projects, entered in the Work of Providence of Don Orione in Warsaw and took a first year of novitiate. "

"I did not want to be a priest," continues Tadeusz. "I came to Rome in '90 and from there to where I lived with the Monte Corona Camaldolese monks eight months. I was happy and strong, but still was not what I wanted. There is a profound difference between community life as a hermit and that in total solitude. If you live alone in a hermitage there is a complete insecurity, you have to abandon yourself completely to Divine Providence. Between you and God there is no means, are in direct contact with the eternal Father." So Tadeusz, consecrated layman, diocesan hermit, after receiving the Rule approved by his bishop, began a life of prayer, silence, penance, manual labor, waiting every day that "the Lord did his part."

"Here you are at the center of the world"

And God has answered the call. Here there are people who have brought him food, and offer material for the restoration of the hermitage, now back to the ancient understated beauty with the chapel overlooking the valley, the cell with a bed, a table for work and study, a kitchen, a room to accommodate guests. The electrical energy is supplied by a solar panel, the burning of the wood used for economic stove.

On Sunday, Tadeusz descends to the fields five miles on foot, to help the priest during Mass, families invite him to lunch, someone needs your help, then back up the mountain to listen to the silent God and to pray for all the people of the planet. "I have here in the center of the world, so many times I see it well, often less well. I try to see the positive things. As Christians, we must be witnesses of joy. We're so sad and so not cooperate with the grace of God which sends us the energy to overcome the difficulties and trials, provided that we know take advantage of it."

To this energy Tadeusz appeals in times of distress and temptation, when solitude is disturbed by stormy thoughts. It's the time of Jesus, led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. But even when the temptations are silent, the hermit's life is never at rest. "The struggle for the control of thought and mind can endure for a lifetime. So should we take the mind and hold it in prayer, soak in the name of Jesus 24 hours a day, as do the monks in the east, claiming: "Lord Jesus, Son of the living God, have mercy on us." This prayer enters into the heart, whether you're working, sleeping or praying. Salt inside of you with a burning heat impurities and restores serenity and peace."

"The monks of the desert," continues Tadeusz, "on the window sill put a handful of pebbles with two containers, one right, one left. If it was a good thought, put a pebble on the right, if you arrive a bad one, a pebble on the left. The evening did an examination of conscience: if there were more stones to the right supper, or skipping the meal. "

"In the silence of gathering myself"

And to those who think that the hermits "flee from the news" to carve out a world of their own, Tadeusz replies: "You do not become hermits to escape from the world and its troubles, but to make a life of sacrifice and penance that gives the brothers of human companionship more help than they would have given if I had stayed among them. Live forever in the world, even if you live out of the world. With Jesus I can get anywhere. If something goes wrong on Earth is my fault, because I just prayed. But the brethren of the city, which became a chicken coop, where you are forced to frantically produce "eggs" for the food chain of consumerism and enrich those who give the food, I say that to find yourself and the meaning of life is necessary to rediscover the value of be quiet. "


Friday, September 12, 2014

It used to be normal

Rubbish. This is just normal knitting speed for someone who was taught properly in childhood.

This is one of the great crimes of modernity, the robbing of these skills from young people. I grew up watching my mother and grandmother and their friends doing this constantly. None of them ever went out without some kind of needle work tucked into their purses, and any time they had reason to wait, in the post office, at a bus stop, out would come the stuff and off they went. Throughout my childhood, I took it for granted that this is just what ladies did.

And they all knitted this fast. Crochet too. Later in life, my mother took up bobbin lace and tatting.
So familiar were the movements that when I finally decided to pick it up myself, at 16, it took a few lessons from the (of course) English mother of a friend, and in no time at all, my fingers just automatically started doing what I had grown up watching.

But I realised how culturally impoverished modern young people have become when I took some knitting with me to a meeting of student pro-lifers in Toronto one weekend. As the speakers were talking, I sat at my spot working on a pair of socks. They were all fascinated, and quite taken aback. I told them that my mother had knitted her way through her undergraduate degree (maths and marine biology). She said it drove her professors mad to see her there, fingers flying, looking as though she wasn't paying attention, but they soon learned that it actually aids concentration. These days of course, the kids sit in class looking at their phones and tablets. (Note to self, if I ever teach a class in anything, the first person to pull out their phone while I'm talking will get the ruler across the fingers.)

Mothers, if you don't know how to do these things, learn them, and do them in front of your kids. Save Western Civilisation; learn to knit.


Monday, September 08, 2014

The Skinner Box

I'm a bit worried the internet is ruining my life. What if it's all a giant BF Skinner experiment? Think about it. The headshrinkers have discovered that you get a teeny, tiny dopamine jazz every time you see an email or a FB message come in. Or every time someone retweets something you've said, or leaves a message in your blog commbox. A friend of mine used to call them "love bubbles" and said it didn't take long after signing up for FB before she found she was pretty much addicted to them. She solved the problem by quitting Facebook cold turkey.

And then she became a cloistered Carmelite nun. So, you know...

I'm just remembering something I read a long time ago about an experiment with mice. The mice were addicted to some popular drug, and taught they could get a dose if they depressed a switch. Then they were put in a cage in which there was one switch for food and another for the drug. The switch for the food would work every time, but the switch for the drug would only work randomly. The mice ignored the food switch and clicked the drug switch constantly. When the food switch was turned off, they kept clicking the drug switch incessantly until they starved to death.

BF Skinner was a bad man, but he raised an important question:
[He] invented the operant conditioning chamber, also known as the Skinner Box. He was a firm believer of the idea that human free will was actually an illusion and any human action was the result of the consequences of that same action. If the consequences were bad, there was a high chance that the action would not be repeated; however if the consequences were good, the actions that led to it would be reinforced. He called this the principle of reinforcement.

Is the internet really just one vast Skinner Box?

Where's my tiny dopamine rush?


A great pair of shades

So, for the umpteenth time, I forgot to take off my sunglasses when I went in swimming, and, sure enough, after tucking them down the front of my suit, they worked their way up and out, just as I hit the deep end of the pool. I tried to grab them, but just barely too late. It was about seven feet, so, I figured, no big deal. Ditched the snorkel and dove down. They were just out of reach, and I realised that it was actually more like ten feet, and I'd gone into the part of the water between the two breakwaters and it was cold and deep.

On the second try, I blew out all the air in my lungs to get down lower and juuuuust barely didn't quite get them. Back up and treading water, I realised, was going to create more movement in the water that might push them deeper, so before I had quite caught my breath, down I went for a third try. As I was blowing the air out again and swimming down as hard as I could, I thought, "Man, this would be a really stupid and embarrassing way to die." Just as that thought was fully formed, I managed to grab them.

Human stupidity apparently knows no bounds. But they really are quite a good pair of shades.


Thursday, September 04, 2014

Meet John, the Kinesin motor-protein

When I was lying around the house all day recovering from chemo, I watched a lot of interesting YT videos on microbiology and cell biology and kind of fell in love with kinesins, those intrepid and fearless little motor proteins marching stoically back and forth across their microtubule highways, towing their outsize dirigbles of proteins and cell nutrients along, giving their all so that you can have healthy cells, no matter what kind of crap you've put your body through. They're steadfast, if somewhat goofy-looking, friends.

Meet John, the Kinesin motor-protein


Things popes say: Jesus "instructed them in order to convert them"

Beware of
"this distortion of the Gospel and to the sacred character of Our Lord Jesus Christ, God and man, prevailing within the Sillon and elsewhere. As soon as the social question is being approached, it is the fashion in some quarters to first put aside the divinity of Jesus Christ, and then to mention only His unlimited clemency, His compassion for all human miseries, and His pressing exhortations to the love of our neighbor and to the brotherhood of men.

True, Jesus has loved us with an immense, infinite love, and He came on earth to suffer and die so that, gathered around Him in justice and love, motivated by the same sentiments of mutual charity, all men might live in peace and happiness. But for the realization of this temporal and eternal happiness, He has laid down with supreme authority the condition that we must belong to His Flock,

- that we must accept His doctrine,

- that we must practice virtue, and

- that we must accept the teaching and guidance of Peter and his successors.

Further, whilst Jesus was kind to sinners and to those who went astray, He did not respect their false ideas, however sincere they might have appeared. He loved them all, but

He instructed them in order to convert them and save them.

Whilst He called to Himself in order to comfort them, those who toiled and suffered, it was not to preach to them the jealousy of a chimerical equality.

Whilst He lifted up the lowly, it was not to instill in them the sentiment of a dignity independent from, and rebellious against, the duty of obedience.

Whilst His heart overflowed with gentleness for the souls of good-will, He could also arm Himself with holy indignation against the profaners of the House of God, against the wretched men who scandalized the little ones, against the authorities who crush the people with the weight of heavy burdens without putting out a hand to lift them. He was as strong as he was gentle.

He reproved, threatened, chastised, knowing, and teaching us that fear is the beginning of wisdom, and that it is sometimes proper for a man to cut off an offending limb to save his body.

Finally, He did not announce for future society the reign of an ideal happiness from which suffering would be banished; but, by His lessons and by His example, He traced the path of the happiness which is possible on earth and of the perfect happiness in heaven: the royal way of the Cross.

These are teachings that it would be wrong to apply only to one's personal life in order to win eternal salvation; these are eminently social teachings, and they show in Our Lord Jesus Christ something quite different from an inconsistent and impotent humanitarianism.


Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Save Malta!!

This is a blegging letter, but it's not for me. It's for Malta's only active pro-life and pro-family organisation, formed this summer, to start their work pushing back against the Culture of Death, the Culture of Nihilism and suicidal despair, that has turned its sights on their little Catholic island. We need help to fund a single person (not me) to go there and start running workshops training the Maltese Catholics to defend their home from the Ideology of the New Paradigm.

Read and then follow the link to their PayPal account. They need £250 to cover airfare for this person to fly down from England.

Again, this is not for me. It's for Malta.


So, y'all know I've been kind of in love with Malta in the last little while... well, there's problems down there in the little Catholic paradise.

I know we all know that Malta is the Last Man Standing. With the fall of Ireland, there is now not another single EU nation that entirely outlaws abortion for any reason. For many years, we enjoyed covering the news from Malta's interactions withe the gender ideologues, including the pro-abortion feminists at the UN. Time after time, they would dutifully show up at the annual CEDAW meetings and ever so politely tell the UN abortion-pushers where to put their ideology.

But a few years ago, that started to change:

Malta’s MEPs were among a small bloc at the EU who worked against the recent failed proposal by socialists and abortion activists that would have forced member states to consider direct abortion a “right”. But a December 12th op-ed in the Times of Malta warned that the Estrela Report is not going to be the last attempt to impose the rest of Europe’s abortion regime on their country.

“The daily sifting through pro-life articles makes me feel uneasy at the status quo of the pro-life work being done in Malta. Are we doing enough by way of educating our society as regards building a culture of life? Are we getting prepared for the next onslaught by some EU body on Malta,” Miriam Sciberras asked.

As we know, the reason we use the term "totalitarian" to describe it, is that the Ideologues of Death cannot leave a single corner of the world un-converted. There will be no exception made for any little corner, any little Shirefolk who want to just be left alone.

And brother, are they working on Malta! In 2005, the government, seeing the social catastrophe it precipitated everywhere else, said they would never legalise divorce. It was legalised in 2011. Since then the dominoes have been falling quickly. In incredibly rapid succession, (almost as if it had been planned) homosexual "civil unions" were legalised this year. This month, as the first civil unions were legally registered, Helena Dalli, the Socialist government's Minister for Social Dialogue (I'm not kidding) went to Budapest...

Dalli was head of the Maltese delegation to UN’s Universal Period Review, which took place in the fall of 2013. According to the report, Dalli’s delegation affirmed that Malta’s “new Government was fully committed to the protection of the rights of LGBTI persons.”

The document noted that only “a few weeks after being elected,” the Labour Party government, which came to power in March last year, amended the Maltese Civil Code “to allow persons who underwent a legally recognized gender change to be recognized in the new gender acquired, in those remaining areas where it was hitherto not acknowledged.”

Last month, we saw the passage of the "transgender anti-discrimination" bill. This was the fulfilment of a promise by Helena Dalli to a “transgender” congress in Hungary in May that while her government’s focus had been mainly on homosexuals, they would shortly be turning their attention to “trans” people.

“A month ago, we enacted a Civil Unions law with rights and duties on a par with marriage for same and different-gender couples,” she said.

“On the same day, we amended the Constitution in such a way as to provide protection on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. I am told that we are the first country in Europe to have included an express reference to gender identity in the Constitution.”

As one of the most useful barometers of the homosexualist ideology's advance, Wikipedia's LGBTQI pages, put it:
"Rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Malta have improved in recent years. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity is legal in Malta. A bill creating civil unions equal to marriage in all but name, with the same rights and obligations including joint adoption rights and recognition of foreign same sex marriage, was enacted in April 2014."

So rapid has been the advance of the New Paradigm in Malta that it received somewhat surprised praise from no less a source than ILGA Europe who named Malta, with Montenegro, one of Europe’s two “fastest climbers”.

Paulo CĂ´rte-Real, co-chair of ILGA-Europe’s executive board, said in a statement attached to the organization’s Annual Review, “It is very encouraging to see countries like Malta and Montenegro make such huge progress in the space of one year. It shows that so much is possible when there is political leadership, especially when it is coupled with meaningful engagement of civil society.”

The ideologues must be licking their chops, because Malta is ripe for the plucking, their people softened and their leaders distracted and divided. And we know what's coming. The country's slide from the Faith, its adoption of easygoing European hedonism, along with European subsidies, will, as it always does, be inseparably coupled with European materialism, European ant-Catholicism, European anti-natalism, European socialism and, finally, the logical conclusion: European auto-genocide.

Why is it important? Malta's tiny. There are just under 420,000 people in the whole place.

Why was it important to Suleiman the Magnificent to bring the island to heel? Why did the Axis bomb the place to pancakes? Why is it important to totalitarian ideologues to have no tiny little place left in the world willing to stand up to them? Why did ILGA Europe hold their annual general meeting in Valletta last year?

On the whole, the reason the country is under threat is simple: the Maltese have not bothered to do anything to stop it. Indeed, they seem barely to have noticed. They are a Catholic country, and as is common among cultural Catholics of our post-Conciliar times, they have simply assumed that this was enough. In a nation with 95-98% of the population calling itself Catholic, it seems not to have occurred to anyone that they need to defend themselves against the incursions of this foreign ideology. They are Catholics who do not care about being Catholic. Not the laity nor the clergy nor the episcopate. Malta has also adopted Novusordoism without a single twitch of a qualm.

And the results are, as we would imagine, depressingly predictable.

In the last ten years, Malta's rate of Mass attendance has fallen from about 80% to about 50. From my own observations, I can attest that while their churches may be full, it is the usual story of cotton-tops and their grand children, dragged reluctantly along.

And perhaps most tellingly of all, the total fertility rate is barely above the European standard, at 1.45 children born per woman. Contraceptive use is rampant, and, as everywhere else in what used to be called Christendom, has been met in the Church by a determined clerical silence.

At the moment, the Maltese news is full of dark implications that there is a "power struggle" going on within the Maltese Church. Who knows what that means. And, given the general tenor of life in the Catholic Church at the moment, who knows how it is going to affect the situation there.

But in the midst of this unprecedented rise of the Big Dark, there is one little ray of hope. I recently wrote a column in which I said that Malta's third Great Siege is coming. Indeed, is already inside the gates, which the new ideological invaders found standing open and largely unguarded. Well, it turns out someone there was paying attention.

My recent visits to Malta haven't all been about swimming and pastizzi. I met each time with members of the nation's newest, (and as far as I can tell, only) comprehensive pro-life, pro-family, anti-New Paradigm organisation, the Life Network.

I recently spoke on the phone with their leader, who told me that there had been a meeting with the Maltese president, who had "assured us that the government would never legislate for abortion."

Just like the government of equally Catholic Ireland would never legalise abortion?

Just like your own government would never legalise divorce?

I warned her not ever to believe anything a politician says about abortion.

As I said, we had meetings, and we had a few dinners, which were also meetings. And I told them that they are the last ones. That in all the western world, there is no other place who has said no to the Culture of Death, who has stopped them covering the world in their shadow.

I told them that as grim as it looked, there could be a chance in Malta of turning back the tide. They have three things in their favour. However corrupted their Church has become since the Council, the Maltese are still a deeply Catholic nation. They may have been lulled to sleep with promises of soft pillows and a quiet night, but that 98% rating is still meaningful there.

And it's a tiny country. If they wanted to, if they were determined enough, they really could actually go door-to-door and talk to nearly every person in the country.

And third, Malta has them. This little group of people have been woken up. They've heard the drums and have they are starting to understand the threat their ancient and beautiful country faces.

A few weeks ago, the leadership of this group held a small backyard barbeque for pro-life students at the University of Malta with a view to founding a pro-life and pro-family student group. It was in July, and Maltese university students often spend their summers away on work placements, and still 23 students showed up, with about the same number sending a message saying they would be ready to join such a group. There are plans to go ahead with a campus pro-life group in the new academic year, which starts in October.

This group, that meets in a small office every Saturday, told me that they felt they were ready for any fight that might come, but that they needed to be equipped to make the case in the public forum. So, I have put them in touch with a group in England who trains pro-life leaders. This group has arranged for one of their members to go over there. This person has just done a four month training internship in Calgary with the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform to learn to do exactly this work. Their work is to go to other countries to teach pro-life people how to make the case and fight in the public square.

The ticket has been purchased, and the workshop booked.

We just need some help paying for it. They need about £250.

If you want to be a part of the Great Pushback in the world's last pro-life country,

go to their page and donate.