08 October 2017

A Ticking Timeline

You can say what you like about our - it seems to me - more and more domestically (as distinct from  internationally) violence-ridden world. And also about the part that politicized, militarized religion does or does not play in it, whether here in peace-loving America or farther abroad.

One thing is burningly clear to me: Fundamentalist, supremacist Sunni Islam was surely awful enough c. 1900, in backwater places like the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. And no doubt the founding of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt itself, in 1928, played its part in further radicalizing/mainstreaming an already bad idea. During and after the last world war, various Soviet-leaning, anti-Western Nazi and other pro-Axis elements likely did their best to continue pushing it along down that road. But to think . . . now try and stay with me here . . . to think it took a pro-Western Saudi Arabia . . . along with its through-thick-and-thin partner, the American deep state . . . to make Sunni jihadism the geopolitical cancer we all (including perhaps a majority of the world's Muslims?) know and fear today . . .

Or was it just a pro-American Saudi Arabia?

13 September 2017

To the Next Level (mind you, we're only just getting started)

What is it about this strange twofold message I keep getting? This insidious meta-gospel that more and more seems - at least to my mind - to have the contemporary world by the throat?*

* Even as many would want to pretend the determined finger to the wind-pipe is actually a loving arm round the shoulder.

Can I put it in words? As usual, expect no impressive results. But I will try:

1) The redundancy of the Creator-God ("AWFULLY sorry - gosh, we'd love to keep you on, but . . .") - i.e., the redundancy of Deity Himself. As distinct from the Message, Idea, Agenda or Program He is supposed to embody - and in fact may have once directed - but which humankind will very shortly be mature enough to superintend on its own;

2) the redundancy of the creature Man - of, namely, individual, flesh-and-blood human beings as God made them. As opposed to the tasks, systems, operations, organizations and various meta-intelligences Man is busy creating, by which he'll no doubt continue to disincarnate, purify, extend and prolongue himself into an indefinite future.

Once again, this may all be the product of my morbidly overheated imagination, paranoia, etc. But just imagine for a moment I'm right, even by some considerable measure. And then consider how far it just might go in explaining the exciting world we now live in. To say nothing of our indefinite future . . .

06 September 2017

An Older Prayer for Peace

Yet more war clouds (alleged), in this bold, brazen, best of all humanly possible worlds we've created.

As I recall, somebody once said that, had we Westerners been really serious about nuclear non-proliferation, we'd have done our best to preserve at least some key elements of the US-Soviet bipolarity. Meaning, if there had ever been anyone gravely serious about keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of partners, allies, clients, stooges, victims, etc (arguably more serious than we were, anyhow), it was the Soviets.

No doubt I'm misremembering the quote, in whole or part. Still, even now it does get me thinking . . .

I don't know how this is going to sit with anyone else, other than badly. 
But I think even I, personally, could have come up with more than a few good, stabilizing uses - not for the Soviet Union as we knew it - but for an ongoing, duly de-Communized, detoxified Russian superpower/sphere of influence, say c. 1990. And perhaps still more uses for it in the ever more proliferant world of today. Assuming, of course, that global stability was in fact our real Western aim during the formative years (1992-1996?) of our present exciting era. For myself, looking back at what seem to be a number of crucial points on that timeline - e.g., the mounting, carte blanche arrogance and effrontery of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, mainland China, and not least, of an increasingly Berlin-centered unifying Europe - I'm finding less and less reason to think we in the West were pursuing anything but - I don't know, corporate-globalization-hastening instability?*

* Especially as I recall how eager we Yanks were to facilitate all the above.

As for my fantasy of a revived and cleansed Russia, I'm sure that most sound, expert opinion will tell me it was humanly impossible, as well as undesirable. Humanly, yes. But Divinely? . . .

Anyhow, maybe I'm only getting soft(er)-headed. Indeed there's a part of me that would like to be more of a hardheaded political realist. It's just that, again and again, I keep hearing some other part of me whispering: "If only we had prayed harder, when we had a crossroads opportunity, for the conversion of Russia." Instead of working and praying (I believe in more or less that order) for - let me see now - the prostration, corruption, confusion, destitution, demoralization, decomposition of Russia? Almost as if collapse was supposed to be the flip side of conversion. At least for any nation as deeply, if not irretrievably corrupt as those near-incorrigible Muscovites. (Thankfully the Saudi-Pakis had just the right scourge, if not cure.)

As it is, the dice  have rolled, the slots have turned, and we now have, strictly speaking, neither collapse nor conversion. But suppose that, even now, God has put something other than lemons in the machine. Suppose it happens that enough of us, on all sides - Russians, Chinese, Americans - should somehow gain enough presence and peace of mind to actually see, and to summon, the residual good, the underlying, God-given humanity in both ourselves and each other. As opposed to what we usually call forth: the Man-given, demonically, stupidly advantage-seeking side of us, that's always pretending (until it's too late) it can somehow exploit and gamble with problems like Korea. If such an epiphany ever takes place, be sure to wake me. Assuming I'll be of any use, of course.

Maybe then enough of the three of us will be finally on the same page. Or at least enough for us all to be ready, and co-ordinated, if not for this near-conflagration, maybe for the next one? If not for Kim Jong-un, surely for the next sociopathic (state or non-state) actor?

04 September 2017

"Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden"

Read on a young girl's T-shirt at the local Jewel:


And you know, really, I think she's got something there.

In fact, I wonder if that very thing - the "exhaustingness" of pride - is one of the humbler reasons why humility has been so popular down through the ages. (And also - given how much we celebrate the Strenuous Life in these times - why it's so hugely unpopular today?)

(And, no, I didn't say any of those things to her.)

31 August 2017

Musings of a Christian Elitist; or, The Roots of Calvinism?

"May I be forgiven, Lord God, for marveling at the sheer glut of human beings you've made, in your unsearchable wisdom. So many miserable creatures with nothing to distinguish them, much less redeem them from the great mass of inert, faceless, featureless humanity. Men and women so tiresome, so pointless, so utterly redundant in anything useful they might have to offer, to anyone, that more than once I've been moved to wonder - again, Lord, please forgive me! - why you should have bothered to create them at all. Because, frankly, I find it impossible to see what difference they make in the vast sweep of things, for better or worse. It's as if they had never been.

"Then again, when I consider the sheer overwhelming glut of souls who are destined for nothing but the monotony, as it were, of eternal punishment, I think I begin to get the picture:  Why should you even pretend to equip so many who are lost with anything worth finding - any distinguishing gift or talent, usefulness or loveableness? Or indeed any quality even remotely interesting?

"I mean, it would all be for nothing, right?"

29 August 2017

The Longing of the Ages

Once again, what an unprecedentedly glorious world we live in. So vastly superior to any previous age, civilization, culture, nation, religion, therapeutic formula, etc, one can think of. With the possible exception of China in the Ch'in Dynasty. Oh, and the Beijing-centered, global-reach Neo-Ch'in Dynasty gathering momentum even now, as we speak.

I say that with no small confidence, in spite of the political turmoil, if not low-intensity civil-war conditions, currently engulfing places like the United States. Or rather - let me see here - is it because of those same conditions, that the world is so much better and wiser than ever before. I forget. Local communities throughout the US, convulsed by hate and misunderstanding (though deliberate mutual incomprehension might be an apter phrase): - maybe those are just unfortunate concomitants, or even the necessary collateral damage, of Global Aggregate Progress. Why, just you wait. There may yet prove to be a direct, unvarying proportion between
(1) my willingness to hate my neighbor politically, and
(2) my real, profitable connectedness to non-neighbors half-way round the globe.

You still don't believe me. Seriously, what other Age than ours could have succeeded in raising both India and China - and from the all-but-total prostration of that unspeakably vile Mid-Twentieth Century - to the threshold, if not the heights of - what? Global-reach Economic Superpowers? ("Lifted WHOLE CIVILIZATIONS out of poverty we did.") And all within the span of little more than a generation. And at an advancing pace even now, as we text.

Whew. China and India, both practically on top of the world. Besides being globally-connected. Now if only someone could get them to start peacefully and patiently connecting with each other. And in such a way as to help them see some small part of their, yes, common, and mutual, interests. Particularly with respect to certain (no doubt mostly stable and quiet) backyards they both have. Places like Central Asia, and the Indian Ocean. Or regarding certain long-term dangers they both face, in common with a hopefully one-day (dare I suggest it?) more sensible, eastward-looking Iran and Russia. Dangers starting with a post-ISIS - and globally much smarter - Sunni jihadism. One that's already been known to despise most generously and impartially both Hindus and Confucianists - not to mention just about every other variety of Indian and Chinese out there, including the "lukewarm" Muslim kind.

"Oh but now wait a minute: Haven't jihadists been known to be sometimes - I mean, well, USEFUL - albeit marginally or indirectly - at loosening those awful strangleholds of national/regional/local sovereignty? And so advancing the tide of globalization? And in precisely such crude impenetrable places as the borderlands of China, India, Russia? OK, well, maybe not exactly useful to everybody. But surely to those who count the most: Globally-minded Yanks, Brits, Euros, Saudis, at least some mainland Chinese and Pakistanis . . ."

Thus far the Establishment globalist view, as I understand it. But to return to China and India:

Might that just be the glorious fate of two once-and-future-mighty civilization-states: to be locked in a more or less permanent contest for elbow-superiority? After all, in any radically-interconnected globe, it stands to reason that even civilizations may overlap and interpenetrate. Well then, if neighboring individuals and local communities can nowadays more or less peacefully hate each other, and all without prejudice to higher global efficiency and productivity (all for the sake of a Higher Love, of course), how much more may neighboring civilizations . . .

Or, finally (and to take a worse-case scenario): Is mounting Sino-Indian tension merely one of the many prices to be paid for real, radical global connectedness - including an ongoing willingness to risk nuclear confrontation. Or even, occasionally, nuclear destruction? Help me here . . .

22 August 2017

A Fixers' Utopia: Some Thoughts on Our Modern Ministry of Love

I swear. Sometimes I think I envy those folks who see all the really vital things in life - the most basic, elementarily necessary things - as being in essence, well, simple. And straightforward. And pure. Or even innocent.

Take charitable love, for instance. What could be more simple and pure? or more protective of innocence? What could be more constitutive of Real Life, lived well and usefully, than that Will by which I desire the fullest, most complete happiness of someone else, as only God can know and make it? Especially seeing that it is God, after all, who does the actual knowing and making, not me. How could anything so straightforward possibly get confusing, or convoluted?

Then again - as we're perhaps discovering more and more today - maybe it can get more messy, and ought to. At least if love wants to keep on growing, and becoming bigger, more productive, more global in scale. Not to mention more truly challenging of the human, and not merely the Divine, inputs and other factors involved. No progress without adversity, as they say; no adversity without the old departure from Eden. Which in turn can take us deep into all sorts of unexpected places, and even unexpectedly ugly places, to put the matter politely. The question then becomes, Are we manful enough to take a stand and fight - if necessary all by ourselves - once we get there?

Certainly by now, to all recent appearances, the fight seems well underway. If not well on its way to the proverbial Next Level. As I understand it, this is an Age that believes passionately in Love. But here's the catch. What we've been discovering is that there can be no hard, effectual love (as opposed to the soft sentimental kind) without truth. And there can be no abiding truth without hatred of untruth. And sometimes even hatred of the holders of untruth - I mean, if that's what True Love of Truth should end up requiring. Which in turn, as one might imagine, can only mean unprecedented opportunities for serious love to grow, evolve, become more efficient and productive - or even re-educating - by all sorts of globally dynamic leaps and bounds. Though sadly, it is true, not without a few unintendedly brutal, albeit necessary results.

Witness, e.g., the many classes of global refugees, whose freedom and dignity have been under assault in their home countries, and whose pain can only assuaged, in some cases, by the freedom of spontaneous sexual assault upon women in their host countries. Or take, more generally, the many growing, and growingly militant, categories of oppressed people, whose suffering can only be remedied by the counter-oppression of other categories of people. In short (and assuming I read it correctly), our modern Hard And Effectual Love is fast becoming a most vehemently, if not vengefully righteous thing: the sort of discussion to which you might want to bring a few blackjacks, helmets, steel boots or baseball bats - not to mention cars and other high-powered weapons - the better to silence or otherwise intimidate the unrighteousness of your opponent. But either way make no mistake: this modern love thing is already grown into a mighty complicated business. At least compared to where we started.

And so  I continue to be fascinated with the immense strides being made by charitable, unselfish love in our times. Neither do I mean chiefly the more familiar (if not clich├ęd) brands of charity being performed by organizations. I mean even more so love as coming from a single individual, or as exchanged between individuals. Or even clusters of them. Such people as married and cohabiting couples. Or parents and children.* Even (or especially?, as I suggested earlier) between and among groups of highly agitated political idealists.

*Some definition may be in order here: By charity I understand That apart from which all other loves - erotic, romantic, familial, affinitive - have no life at all; have nothing, indeed, to distinguish them from the merest self-interest, except so far as It is present.

The progress of love. Or surely, at all events, of what we modern humans think is charitable love? Which, when you (not only think but) pray and ruminate on it, may be exactly the problem.

The problem is whether we mere humans really can know what charity is, or is like,  from the inside - as opposed to knowing it merely externally and observationally. It seems, for example, all but second nature for many of us to think of charity as a procedure we can freely fine-tune, according to our latest knowledge and expertise; or as an operation we must rigorously oversee, in which the operatives can be fired at will. What is much harder to imagine is the kind of love that can be more fruitfully compared to a plant, of which the one indispensable soil is God. A plant which can in fact, by the mercy of Divine Grace Incarnate, be each one of us; and may even embody the secret yearning of all of us. Indeed, I suspect it is only as we get more and more of our Maker inside of us, that we begin to know love more than externally, by being enclosed and sealed, within the garden, as it were, of the one Mind that truly loves.

No small proviso, one must admit. All the same, I doubt that even the blithest disregard of it has ever stopped the most dedicated secularist from giving love his best shot. That is, I doubt that such a constraint has ever deterred someone who didn't believe in God, or who saw Him merely as coach, or clockmaker, or jihadic commander-in-chief - or chief enemy - from trying to love "on his own," to the best of his ability. And even from the bottom of his heart. Humans have always found good, compelling humanitarian reasons for believing that God is more or less unreal; or that He is the enemy of our moral growth; or that He has indeed taken us so far, but must be now got out of the way - nay, He's begging us to get Him out of the way! - so that we can at last progress even farther on our own.

Meanwhile, as for whether these latter, go-it-alone kinds of love are the ones most often at the forefront of our global modern life, who knows? All I know for sure is this: I keep on being amazed, as I said in par. 5, by the extraordinary progress caritas is making today, under the ever-encroaching conditions and demands of our 21st-century world. The way it continues to mutate, and permutate, and produce all sorts of wildly unexpected, if not downright unintended results. The way nowadays, for instance, many of us love (some might call it suffocate, but never mind) our pets, our children, even, I'm told, not a few of our employees - one might easily get the idea that real love simply can't function apart from the most hovering, hectoring kinds of fixing, interference, micromanagement.* As if it were some grievous sin - or at best a gross negligence - ever to let anyone or anything be, or be itself, or worst of all, be happy being itself ("Not when it can be IMPROVED, buster!"). As if, indeed, there was nothing God-made that couldn't be improved continually by our taking thought, and so adding to its stature at least an inch or two. So that even our ostensibly most generous loves risk becoming - the busier we make them, the more worriedly invested we become in them - a kind of tyranny.

*I'm aware that, even nowadays, there continue to be all sorts of less caring, less conscientious pet-owners, parents and employers; I'm talking about the other kind.

 Of course we didn't intend them to become tyrannical. In any case, why should it matter? The important thing is that we stick to our principle, our agenda, our ideology. To hell with where it takes us.

And naturally it goes without saying: If the way I choose to love is one that gives me great worry or even anguish, is it asking so much that the creature receiving it should partake of some of the cost involved, as well as the benefit?

Still in all, I can't help wondering if it was always like that. Seems to me I remember a time when people knew how to care, and even expend themselves, for others without overwhelming them with the fact, and making them more or less miserable. Or was sacrificial love always this fretting, nagging, complaining, self-dramatizing thing?

Anyhow, as I've said before in many places, ours is a busy dynamic Age. One of great ferment, unrest, turmoil, creativity. Again, no creation without destruction. And so I have one more thing that continues to amaze me. It's the way a great many of our commentators, mediacrats, pundits, bloggers, agitators, prognosticators, and countless other "fixers," profess to be shocked - shocked, they tell you - at certain of the many things busily fermenting in America over the past several years. And in particular, all the many garden and other varieties of political hate, and still more often contempt, that keep boiling over. On Right (isn't that where the trouble always begins?), on Left, on pretty much everywhere in between. As if, really, all the good busy loving people - Hillaries, McCains, Soroses, Merkels, Musks, Kochs, etc - had been just going along minding their own business. And they being the real creators of our time, there could hardly be an era more innocently undeserving of such viciousness than the Early Twenty-first Century.

But what if, in fact, the whole process is following the most direct and express logic, from Alexandria to Charlottesville to Barcelona? Suppose our hyper-vicious politics is, I mean, a wholly natural consequence (if not a wholly owned subsidiary) of our busy modern fixing, micromanaging loves - as inflicted on everyone from our most "helpless" animals and children, to our most immiserated immigrants and refugees. To say nothing of - at least if we are to believe ISIS et al - an apparently surging number of infidels. AKA Muslims In Name Only (MINOs).

In short, if you love something, don't ever let it go. Kill it if necessary, terrorize it as the opportunity presents itself, but by all means don't . . .

Conversely, what's the point of loving anything that can't - or, worst of all, refuses - to be fixed?