This post was a “sticky” feature that was first published on April 2 and was on top for a week. Scroll down for more recent posts, including the first part of an essay on the AfD by Hans-Peter Raddatz, a fake ID scam at the Nigerian embassy in Rome, Viktor Orbán’s election victory in Hungary, a thwarted terror attack in Berlin, a Russian report on Malmö, and Algerians busted for gang-rape in Prague.
Spring Fundraiser 2018, Day Seven
Update from the Baron: Gratitude
This is the final update for this week-long fundraiser. Tomorrow morning I’ll take this post off “sticky”, and it will gradually scroll down the page and into the archives of oblivion.
At the end of this quarterly bleg, I feel a profound sense of gratitude. Gratitude that it’s over at last — Fundraising Week is a grueling, sleep-deprived time — but more than that, I’m profoundly grateful that so many readers have shown up to indicate their generosity by hitting the tip cup on our sidebar.
[If you haven’t yet made that cup clink yet, there’s still time! It’s just to the left of me here; you can’t miss it.]
Our theme this week has been Virtue, and since last Monday we have discussed various virtues, in our own idiosyncratic meandering fashion.
Gratitude is a virtue, to my mind. Or more fully: maintaining a sense of gratitude as one’s basic approach to this veil of tears we were born into. Remembering that every moment is a gift from the Lord, in all its glory and fullness.
It’s difficult to maintain a sense of gratitude on a routine, quotidian basis. I know I struggled with it for decades, but mostly failed. What changed my attitude fully and finally, however, was the onset of wet macular degeneration in my left eye, which happened just over five years ago.
Those first few weeks were horrible. I had to fashion a makeshift patch to put over the left lens of my glasses, to keep the ugly, animated blob in the middle of my vision from interfering with my work and my daily routine. Reading anything, but especially the printed page, became a nightmare if my left eye remained uncovered.
It’s my habit to make coffee using our espresso machine when I first wake up in the morning. Normally I’m by myself when I do it, which is good, because I love mornings, and being able to enjoy the quiet smell of coffee and the light through the kitchen window gets my day off to a good start.
During that grim time in March and April of 2013, I noticed that my eye wasn’t bothering me much during the coffee-making ritual. I didn’t wear the patch then, because I didn’t have to read anything. And I could just kind of drink in the colors of things, and the reflections from the window, and the pleasure of executing the small tasks involved with making coffee happen.
And I was content.
A calm settled over me, and I was grateful for what I had, what was in front of me. Not angry that my field of vision would go SPROING! whenever I turned to look at something complex or patterned. Not resentful that ill-fortune had sabotaged my eyes.
Just glad that I could still see the early green of spring peeping through the window, and watch the reflections dance on the water in the pitcher in front of me.
I started the nasty treatments at the retinologist’s during that time (which involved a needle in the eyeball — that’s all I want to say right now). They turned out to be effective relatively quickly, and within a couple of months I saw a big improvement — the pulsing pinwheels started to draw back and fade. By late summer the obvious defect in my visual field was barely noticeable, and I was able to put the eyepatch aside. And by July 2014 my condition had become so stable that the doctor ceased the injections.
The condition gradually leveled off until my eye reached the state it’s in now. I can still see the scar from the damage, but it doesn’t bother me or interfere with my normal activities. And, as of January 2018, I only have to visit the retinologist once a year for a checkup.
I’m in remission, which doesn’t normally happen to people who develop wet macular degeneration. In the typical case it’s progressive: the injections help, and you go off them for a while, but then a new eruption appears, and you have to start them again.
The tentative conclusion in my case is that my macular degeneration isn’t really age-related, like it usually is. For one thing, the onset was about twenty years earlier than average — the people I see in the waiting room at the doctor’s office generally far exceed me in geezertude.
My private theory is that I ruined my retinas with all those decades of painting landscapes outside in the bright, bright sun, looking at a bright, bright canvas, all day, day after day, through the spring, summer, and fall of every year. I wore ’em out.
But now I’m on the AREDS regimen of supplements to preserve what’s left, and it seems to be working. I actually see better, generally speaking, than I did in January of 2013. I wear my shades when I’m outside, and don’t let my eyes get overtired.
And I’m very, very GRATEFUL.
That sense of profound calm that settled over me while making coffee back in the spring of 2013 has remained and become a permanent fixture. I’m glad just to look at things, and I don’t sweat the small stuff like I used to.
I’m grateful to be here. I’m grateful to be able to read and write and create digital images. I’m grateful that I can keep doing this grueling job. And I’m especially grateful that y’all are willing to support us in our work here at Gates of Vienna.
Many thanks to all of you.
Saturday’s gifts arrived from:
Stateside: Alaska, California, Nevada, New York, and Virginia
Far Abroad: Kuwait and the UK
This concludes our spring fundraiser. Sometime tomorrow I’ll post a wrap-up with all the places where donations came from.
Update from Dymphna for Day Six: The Burden of Truth
This fundraiser is going well. People have been most generous, which heartens us tremendously. For some reason, we both began this quarterly with a marked lack of anxiety. Instead of being concerned that people are too busy/impoverished to give to the cause, we finally woke up to the fact that from the very first, when readers voted for these fundraisers over having ads, the quarterlies have been successful. So we’re here until the banks collapse or the words run dry.
And bless everyone who chooses to help the Cause — said cause being our operating jubjubandfrumious living expenses. I am ever aware of the choices our readers’ donations allow us to make. Like the organic chicken feet the Baron brings home so I can make bone broth. I’ll spare you the details on that process.
Living on OPM (Other People’s Money) has served to make me mindful of what and how I spend. That’s an extra added benefit of this mode of life. Any mindfulness a soul can muster improves liveliness.
Once again, this particular fundraising post is based partly on a commenter’s question but also on my mistaken assumptions about what he was asking, with improvisations on the themes he raised.
See Charles’ comment here.
Having assumed he was talking about how to handle things in chronic family or friend disagreements, I answered his queries about angry exchanges with some suggestions about how to reframe the situation.
But his response changed the entire equation: he was talking about differences with school officials. Or at least I think he was. Whoops! His problem is with school authorities, and you seldom win those unless you’re higher up the bureaucratic food chain than they are. But then if you were, the problematic functionary would already know that about you and the anger would never come up.
At the end, he mentioned that Germany and Sweden don’t allow homeschooling:
I find that the decision that Sweden and Germany made to continue the ban on homeschooling is dumb and ruins their image.
The people involved are people from my school life.
Well, that certainly skewed the frame of my suggestions. Not a chance of using those when you’re dealing with bureaucracies. Even when those bureaucrats are people you know socially, outside their work environment.
I disagree with Charles that either country thinks its “image” is “ruined” by keeping public schooling mandatory. To the contrary, even in the U.S., we have lots of Leftists who think homeschooling is only done by religious maniac deplorables. Many of these school workers, including teachers and school administrators, send their own kids to private schools; they know how awful public schools are.
That scenario is a good example of the divide in illiberal thinking: they live a lie, or many lies, and have no problem doing so. But we are held to standards of truth they believe don’t ever have to apply to them. The most obvious example is politicians, with the Clinton family being the most corrupt case in point, though the Obamas learned fast and are well on their way to the one-half percent who live atop the financial pyramid in our country. But we’re no different than the Rest of the West in that regard.
All of us are ruled by the Media, even if we don’t pay attention to their lies. The leftists do pay attention, and they will pillory anyone who steps out of line. What is that kangaroo court in Canada called? “Human Rights” something-or-other? Even though there is nothing ‘right’ or ‘human’ about their diktats. But if you can amass a base of power, they will find it hard to gang-press you into silence.
Jordan Peterson is someone who has marshaled that power. Aside from the way his message appealed first to otherwise aimless, nihilistic young men, he was hell-bent on not bowing before the throne of compelled speech. And that stance won the approval of people of all ages who were tired of living in silence. JBP was the exemplar of a man who knew deep in his bones that “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”. When you’re reduced to that level, you’re free, really free.
But as Dr Peterson would be the first to point out, freedom never stands alone. It is organically yoked to responsibility. Thus he saw that his liberty might entail a heavy price, and it was up to him to pay that price — i.e., jail and/or a large fine. He has already lost funding for his research, and who knows when his tenure with the University of Toronto will be terminated. But he’s been beavering away at alternate means of educating people, especially young men who are otherwise sidelined, so it may be that he will resign to pursue those endeavors.
Even he doesn’t understand the public phenomenon he’s become, though he is sometimes overwhelmed by it, to the point of tears. This is part of an interview with a former PM in Australia:
He has a following politicians only dream of. Why? Because he not only tells the truth as he sees it, his fidelity to truth means he damns the cost. No wonder he’s a Pied Piper.
The current situation is such that being truthful can cost your job, your family, many of your friends. And maybe jail time. It can destroy you.
Below is part of a jubjubFederalistfrumious essay written in 2014. The emphasis is mine, and I recommend reading all of it, not just my snip:
Reporters were relatively quiet when they learned that Attorney General Eric Holder had targeted Fox News reporter James Rosen as a possible criminal co-conspirator (and lied about it to Congress), because Fox is perceived as right-of-center, but found their voices when the liberal Associated Press had their records subpoenaed by the Department of Justice. These despicable acts by the DOJ, far from being actual investigations, were simply acts of suppression. Yet even in this case, the media response was tepid, given a combination of their investment in this president [Obama] and their fear of retaliation by an administration which has no true allies, only their enablers and accomplices, for whom they hold no loyalty or allegiance.
Whether any of these many executive agency actions will have their intended suppressing effect, or whether members of the broadcast and print media, conservative or liberal, will refuse to be cowed into submission, remains a question for longer-term study.
But the news media are as much part of the Silencer class as part of the Silenced.
CNN’s Brian Stelter, ironically the host of a show called “Reliable Sources,” recently argued that when it comes to the issue of climate change, “There’s no necessity to give equal time to the quote/unquote other side.” He went on to repeat the alarmist lie that “between 95 and 97 percent of scientists agree…” But even if that were true, didn’t 95 percent of leading thinkers at various points in history agree that the Earth was the center of the solar system, that the world was flat, that all creatures were created as they exist today? (Even the Catholic Church acknowledges at least some forms of evolution.) Didn’t they believe in alchemy and phlogiston?
slitheyScience is not – and must not be – about consensus.mimsey
Even at Gates of Vienna, we have commenters who simply presume we have abandoned the scientific method for some nebulous climate “consensus” which is driven by illiberal fear. That is the religion of scientism rather than genuine science. It is like so many other leftist alarums used by the media: they need scare stories to keep up readership. What else can they do as technology makes them increasingly irrelevant?
We don’t pretend to give equal voice to the illiberal left. They already own most of the microphones. What we want to do is provide a place for the minority voices, even when they sing off-key.
Speaking of voices, did you know a male choir was directed to open up for female membershipMY CURSOR WAS HERE
Police have forced a male choir to change its name because the group does not include women.
Members of Derbyshire Constabulary Male Voice Choir say they have been left “heartbroken” after claiming Chief Constable Peter Goodman told the group that he wanted it to become mixed voice.
However, the choir said this would not be possible because it would take years to achieve. The group is made up of a number of former officers and has raised £750,000 for charities over the years.
As a result, Mr Goodman said the 62-year-old choir could not keep Derbyshire Constabulary in its name and so the group will become known as Derbyshire Community Male Voice Choir.
The news comes just a day after it emerged the force had the highest gender pay gap for forces in England and Wales.
The UK grows more soviet all the time. It is galloping toward some dark future I no longer comprehend.
Dollars to doughnuts there won’t be any intrusions into female chorales, demanding they let men in. Human nature being what it is, no normal man would want to do that, but then human nature is being deconstructed, reconstructed, and slivered into ever-smaller “identity” groups. Soon we will each have our own “group” and the circle will finally close again.
On Friday our donors came in from:
Stateside: California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Tennessee
Far Abroad: Austria, Germany, Israel, and the UK
The Baron will be back tomorrow for the final update.
Update from the Baron for Day Five: Knowing What’s Important
We’re rolling along towards the weekend in our quarterly fundraiser. It won’t be much longer now! If you haven’t already visited the sidebar to hit the tip cup, please saunter over there now and make it clink. This is how we keep going — we do this for a week four times a year.
If you value the Counterjihad work done at Gates of Vienna, please help us out. It only takes a little bit from a lot of people to make it all come together. That’s the funny thing about this sort of distributed funding — it seems precarious and uncertain, yet it always happens in more or less the same way every quarter. Just enough people unpocket themselves of just enough money to keep this engine running.
We’ve been looking at virtues this week, in a (mostly) lighthearted manner. The old-fashioned virtues. The ones that were held up as the norm when I was young. Even back then they weren’t really the norm, not entirely. But they were understood to be the standard that everyone strove to reach, and we looked up to people who actually managed to adhere to them.
But not anymore.
Our public standards have all but disappeared. Or, rather, they have been replaced with an orthodoxy of baroque hedonism and mandatory materialism. If it feels good, do it — or else! Unless you’re a white male heterosexual, of course — then you’d best be meek and inconspicuous.
But my early-morning meditation seems to be degenerating into an unseemly rant. Ahem! Back to virtues. And one particular virtue: knowing what’s important. Or, more colloquially, as an imperative: Don’t sweat the small stuff.
If you stay in this line of work for more than a few weeks, you’re bound to run into people who are commonly known as “ankle-biters”. These are folks who are energized by arguing at length with others about the finer points of whatever it is they’re doing or writing about. And I’m not talking about simple nitpicking — that’s mild in comparison, and mostly harmless.
I won’t mention any specific examples of ankle-biters’ favorite hobby-horses, because then they’d be all over me here, fussing with me about those very topics. I don’t want to talk about content here, but process. And ankle-biting is an energy-sucking process that does nobody any good.
Ankle-biters are serious, intense, and tend to go on at great length. They don’t want to let go of that discursive legbone, and are mostly immune to being swayed by counter-arguments. If you get sucked into arguing with them, it will take up all your time and may raise your blood pressure to unhealthy levels.
I learned many years ago that it was best to let ankle-biters go ahead and bite away. But not on my ankle — they can chew on others’, or on thin air, for all I care. But if I don’t insert my leg where their teeth can reach it, I don’t experience any problems.
Or, as Dymphna likes to say, “It don’t confront me none.”
I do my best to conserve my energy so it can be expended it on more crucial matters. A lot of work needs to be done here, and I need all the gumption I can muster to manage even a small fraction of it.
A corollary to all of the above is the need not to engage in public fights with people who are mostly on the same side. That’s why I strove to avoid ad-hominem attacks during the LGF Wars and all the other skirmishes in the various Recent Unpleasantnesses of the last twelve years. I knew I might eventually need to stand in solidarity with some of those angry antagonists — not all of them, but some — so the rickety bridges between us needed to remain unburned.
It’s a good rule: Don’t sweat the small stuff. And especially when someone is arguing angrily with you about something you disagree with. In the heat of the moment, it may seem important, and your likely impulse is to fire back with both barrels. But is it actually worth it? Step back and examine the issue, and especially examine how much common ground you share with your interlocutor. It’s time to take a deep breath and ponder what really matters.
That’s my general approach. It’s predicated on the assumption that one of these days — maybe not in my lifetime, but certainly within the lifetime of some of the people reading this — our backs will be against the wall, and we’ll need every comrade-in-arms we can get.
At that point, we’ll look back on all these issues that set us at each other’s throats (or ankles), and notice how ultimately trivial and negligible they were, compared to the Ragnarøk we’ll be facing at that point. The guy whose lapels you’re shaking right now may be exactly the person you want to watch your back when that day comes.
And it will come. I guarantee it.
It’s all about knowing what’s important — which is a tough virtue to acquire.
And that’s enough preaching for this morning.
Thursday’s generosity flowed in from:
Stateside: Colorado, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Pennsylvania
Far Abroad: Luxembourg and the UK
Dymphna will be back tomorrow, and I have no idea what virtue she will pick up on.
Update from Dymphna for Day Four: Quo Vadis?
Y’all have been generous this time around. But then you always are; gratitude really is humbling.
For those who don’t trust or like PayPal, those who take the time to sit down and write a note to go with your gift — and find a stamp — that’s some work! I save all of them in a box decorated with birds. Sometimes I’ll open it up and read those notes again. Some are decorative cards, others are written on newspaper clippings. One professor wrote his note on the back of an old syllabus. That was/is fun! The anonymous gifts are intriguing.
In today’s comments, a reader said,
And on the theme of this quarter’s bleg… some folks have a To Do list, others have added a Bucket List, and I have recently devised my very own ‘Road to Hell’ list — as in the road that is paved with Good Intentions.
His rumination brought to mind Socrates’ trial — the charges being impiety and the corruption of Athens’ youth. He refused to change his speech and was sentenced to death, but it is Socrates’ words (via Plato) that ring down through the ages: the unexamined life is not worth living.
Which in turn reminded me of a woman I met today. She was the checkout clerk at Wal-Mart, and I noticed she was struggling to breathe as she bent over to scan my bags of potting soil. Given how obviously she battled for each breath, I asked if she was having an asthma attack. She whispered, “COPD”. I wondered: was she not using an oxygen tank because it might cause her to lose her job? How did she manage to walk to her car after work to get to her oxygen? I concluded that not working wasn’t an option for her.
Yes, if you haven’t noticed, I’m in the Garden of Free Associations, which is where I usually end up after reading Leonard Cohen’s ‘poems’. Even as I cringe from his self-revelations (Imagine! A Canadian!), I admire his unflagging spirit. Like the woman in Wal-Mart gasping for breath, he just kept on keeping on, despite his flaws. Sometimes I wonder if he died of lust. Isn’t that a kind of gasping for life?
Here’s a song by another master lyricist to carry you along on this meditation (lyrics here)
I love Robert Hunter’s songs — I even have the whole book of them. His images are evocative, his music often haunting.
So if God doesn’t look down on the boys in the barroom (we hope), we’re still left with the question of how to live once we step into the sunlight. What to do with this, our only life? That’s why the process of discernment is so vital and yet so hazardous to our complacency. We are forced to go back and revise what we thought we knew… and our re-visioning doesn’t end until the final thought fades out. Homo sapiens is, above all, a planner. Tomorrow always beckons… even The Tomorrow past all the others.
Yesterday I saw a video commercial for an expensive journal, obviously aimed at the affluent young. Each page (like Gaul) was divided into three parts. The top of the page had a brief pre-digested quotation to help the person “aim” his day. The next section was a blank space where one could write a to-do list, a bucket list, whatever. And the last section was a place to write down gratitudes. I thought the Gratitude space could have been bigger and the to-do list smaller, but then I’m much older than their target audience. Watching them tout this great new idea of a daily journal, I wondered if I weren’t seeing a Jordan Peterson Effect.
So maybe before Dr. Peterson begins selling his version of The Examined Life, we could make our own with one of those cheap composition books. The quotation could be anything you saw or heard or thought about during the day. Old songs are often best. They stay in our minds the longest. But whatever pops into your mind.
For many years I practiced a variation of this as a way of meditation and planning and calming the anxiety that always hums in the background. I can’t remember now why I chose the 23rd Psalm, but it turned out to be a gold mine for me. All the Psalms are songs; as it turned out the one I chose had a vivid image in each line. Some of those images took me years to truly comprehend. Now that it’s so ingrained I’ve come to realize it’s the narrative of life from birth to death. Who knew?
So I would write or type out each line (in essence, each picture the line would present would flash briefly). As soon as Real Life popped up with a concern, a to-do, a judgment (well, you know how the monkey mind works), I’d stop to write down the thought and then keep on going. In the beginning, it took many repeated verses until my mind finally shut up and let me type the whole Psalm in peace. Then I knew I was ready to begin my day. And sometimes the Psalm would change without my noticing that I’d typed, say, “and I will dwell in the face of God forever”. I decided to accept those alterations; they often became my meditation for the day.
When I was done, I’d have my list of things to do, not to mention things I was worried about or judgments I’d made. In other words, my “journal”. After my daughter died my meditative life took a nose-dive; it was hard to aim when I kept falling into a black hole. But lately I’ve been thinking it might be a good idea to resurrect that old exercise. Maybe a new song, maybe the same old Psalm.
Examining our life tends to make us more careful of one another. And a careful person is more authentic to himself. Such a one tends to know where he’s going, even if it’s simply a jaunt down the Road of Good Intentions, just to see where it leads.
The boys from Wednesday’s barroom looked in from:
Stateside: Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Texas
Far Abroad: Finland, Hungary, and New Zealand
Australia: New South Wales, and Queensland
The Baron will be back on the bar stool tomorrow.
Update from the Baron for Day Three: Keeping One’s Word
We’re hurtling along through Fundraising Week, which is when Gates of Vienna’s loyal and dedicated readers are asked to open up their hearts and their wallets and contribute to the upkeep of this blog. This is called “crowdfunding”, which means that when lots of people give just a little bit apiece, it adds up to enough to keep the enterprise going.
This week’s theme focuses on the traditional virtues, which were the glue that held our culture together until postmodernity arrived and declared them atavistic and irrelevant. I’ll be continuing the virtuous discussion, but first there are a couple of housekeeping necessities that I neglected in Monday morning’s post.
#1: We tithe to Vlad Tepes from the proceeds of this fundraiser. Vlad’s video work is absolutely indispensable to what we do here, so we send him 10% of what we take in. If you want to send him more, he has a tip button at his site.
#2: Bounced thank-you notes. I should have posted about four of these much earlier, because they bounced during the previous quarter, but I was dilatory (as usual). The four email bounces from last quarter were from Washington State, New York State, Chicago, and Massachusetts. And then there was a bounce yesterday, from Sweden. So if you’re in one of those places, and didn’t receive a thank-you note, it’s probably because my email didn’t get through. Rest assured: we really do appreciate your generosity.
Now back to today’s virtue, which is Keeping One’s Word.
I chose this virtue because it is the one that resonates the most strongly with me. If I give my word and fail to keep it, I experience great distress, a nearly physical pain. I don’t know whether my condition is hard-wired, or a result of my early upbringing, but it motivates me to be very careful about making specific commitments. I don’t say “I’ll be there” unless I’m pretty darned certain I can actually show up — that only a car crash or a cholera epidemic could manage to stay me from my appointed rounds.
If I think I can do something, but I’m not sure, I say, “I’ll do my best.” Most of the time I’m able to manage it, but if for some reason I don’t, my suffering afterwards isn’t as intense as if I had given my word.
Keeping one’s word is part of a larger constellation of manly virtues that also includes telling the truth, taking responsibility, supporting one’s family, paying one’s debts, respecting women, and facing physical danger without whimpering.
In the old days, before Deconstruction, a man who possessed such virtues was held to be honorable. His honor depended on his hewing closely to those virtues, or being publicly penitent if he ever (very occasionally) lapsed in any of them. A man whose honor was tarnished was much less likely to be successful in business or the military. And one who consistently failed to behave honorably would be called a cad, or a rogue, or less polite names.
Those days are gone. Honor is no longer the common currency among men. Following Gresham’s Law, greed, bluster, braggadocio, mendacity, and lechery have moved in to fill the void.
But those of us who were raised more than fifty years ago still remember the manly virtues. Especially if we were raised — as I was — by parents whose values were carried over from even earlier times.
As Riddley Walker remarked (in the eponymous novel by Russell Hoban), when he saw the “shyning of them broakin machines” at Fork Stoan: “O, what we ben! And what we come to!”
Tuesday’s donors hailed from:
Stateside: California, Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Texas
Far Abroad: Germany, Israel, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the UK
Australia: New South Wales
Dymphna will be back tomorrow with more on the feminine side of virtue.
Update from Dymphna, Day Two: Discernment
At the risk of contradicting the Baron, it wasn’t mere procrastination that led us to delay this fundraiser. Consider the variety of incidents and accidents since February 1st:
Aside from the Skunk Repair, there was our relative’s horrific vehicular accident; and the sudden death/funeral of another (not at all connected, on the other side of the family); and the wedding of yet another. Plus Lent, Passion Week and Easter. Not to mention my constant companion, Pain, who takes on an ever-changing visage, each of them a variation on Grimace, not all of them approaching “The Scream”.
Preparing for each fundraiser takes some contemplation, which we’ve not had room for of late. So let’s rephrase the Baron’s “procrastination” as “considered contemplation” (from which we were startled awake by a donor asking if he’d missed something).
That question sent us to our next concern: gosh, how far behind were we, and when was the next payment to the IRS due? Egads!
Yeah, y’all well know by now we’re beholden for your donations to keep the Gates of Vienna oiled and functioning. It keeps the Baron going early and late (more often the latter). Sometimes, though not often, we’ll get an angry note from a now-former donor announcing we’re not sufficiently anti-Semitic or pro-white, but those are just the punches you take in this business. We roll with ’em and keep moving. But the vast majority of donors are merciful indeed. They give us an A for our efforts… for which we remain deeply grateful. Without you, those gates would swing shut.
Instead of jumping right in with this essay, it seemed more seemly to begin with an overture — so there were pages of random notes to sort my ideas into coherence (hah!). At first the idea was to be a consideration of the Big Picture, i.e., what ails our culture.
After staring at those failed attempts, I poured out some brandy and thought, “Surely we’ve all been there, done that… and worn a huge rut in the carpet in the process? Some of us even have the tattered t-shirt by now.” Gradually, the more pages I filled (or trees felled to write this), the smaller the focus became. Beginning with a comparison of the bloody 20th century with a reminder of 9/11 to start the 21st — whoo, boy, not a good harbinger, was it? But those nineteen bridegrooms and the thousands who followed on did get our attention, however fumblingly we’ve responded.
Thus, instead of a Grand Cultural Assessment, something all of us indulge in these pages, how about we look at a more quotidian virtue: individual discernment. I’m a big believer in Discernment, in learning to become both the serpent and the dove. A life-long process, eh? [Or as old Mr. Carroll, who used to come plow our vegetable garden, would opine, “Ain’t fair. Seems like as soon as you get it all figured out, it’s ’bout time to up and die…”]
The bedrock of Western values is the individual, both his (yeah, his) freedoms and responsibilities. Not for us the comfort of karma or Allah’s will or loud group cries about systemic patriarchal injustice. “Allah’s will” is just another way to say “whatever”, and karma is a form of desperate quietism, and loud group cries are a sure sign you’re witnessing the (paid-for) ravings of poor souls who never grew up… just so many loud, irrational Peter (and Patsy) Pans.
So even if we believe in God’s judgment (I don’t — I think he just lets the light in so we can judge for ourselves), we’re still responsible for our free choices, however crippled we may be by the wounds from slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Sometimes life just sucks. Not a whole lot of mystery there.
I’m suggesting we take a break from pointing at cultural collective sins (especially those on the other side) and look more closely at ourselves as individuals. Let’s ask Self a few questions (making our voices kind; this isn’t an inquisition). Remember the goal: discernment. We want to differentiate in order to make moral decisions — in the U.S., that is the genius of our Founding Documents. “Life, liberty,” and (to vary the tune), in addition to happiness, an implicit individual responsibility to the Self and to the Community.
In the West, we’ve long put aside tribalism to allow the individual to take precedence. While the various “movements” want to devolve to an earlier structure (think how easily it permits the delightful chaos of violence), we don’t go there. That’s not to say we’ll leave our families open to violence because we speak out, but we do attempt to find a balance somewhere between freedom of speech and the harm inflicted on us by doxxing. It’s a darned high-wire walk sometimes.
Here are some questions for your consideration as you contemplate your concomitant freedoms and responsibilities:
- What do I want? That’s a bigger question than it seems. Which “I” is doing the asking? The grown-up or the whiney kid or the awkward adolescent? Which of your many selves has the most energy and why? Is it character or habit?
- To what extent am I limited by fear or shame? Or is discretion the better part of wisdom? Can I tell the difference?
- What gives me courage? What makes me hide?
- Do I play tyrant or slave with myself or am I the Understanding Dad I always wish I’d had?
- What makes me content?
- What do I regret? Have I made my peace with Regret?
- What do I resent? Is it situations in which I feel powerless? The IRS comes to mind.
- What lights up my anger like a Christmas tree?
- Do I recognize the power of my words? They can be nuclear weapons, as my heart and memory can well attest. For example, have I ever insulted someone on a comment thread because it was easy and I thought I’d never be called to account? (Hah! Nothing is free.)
These are some of the questions I’ve already answered for myself. Anyone interested can choose one to ask me in turn, or answer their own. Or come up with further questions. Truth be told, I learn more from your questions and answers than I do from my own. But you decide.
Monday’s donors checked in from:
Stateside: Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, North Dakota, New Jersey, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington
Near Abroad: Dominican Republic
Far Abroad: Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, Sweden, Thailand, and the UK
Canada: Ontario and Saskatchewan
Australia: Australian Capital Territory
The Baron will be back tomorrow with another update.
The Baron’s Post, Day One
Yes, the time for our quarterly fundraiser has finally arrived.
You could be forgiven for thinking there wasn’t going to be a spring fundraiser — this one is starting almost a month late. One of our regular donors wrote us a few days ago and asked, “Did I miss the fundraiser?” Hence the title of this post.
Nope, you didn’t miss it. It was delayed by circumstances beyond our control, one of which was procrastination.
I don’t know about you, but procrastination certainly seems beyond my control. After sixty-some years, I am still habitually late. Bad time-management skills, I suppose. Plus I’m always more optimistic about how long various activities will take.
My goodness — look at the month! Where did the time go?
[Dymphna suffers from a similar syndrome, so we make a great couple. We always miss the hors d’oeuvre, but usually arrive in time for dessert. However, I’ll let her speak for herself and tell her own stories.]
Anyway, here we are. We have finally arrived, clutching a bunch of daffodils and a still unfinished smile.
The White Rabbit’s watch says: “It’s time to dun readers for their quarterly contribution to Gates of Vienna.”
Most of you know the drill by now, but I’ll run though it for the newcomers: Ten years ago we got kicked out of Pajamas Media, which meant that we no longer received any advertising revenue. After consulting with our readers, we decided to remain ad-free, which is what we preferred, anyway. To make up for the lost income, we started holding a fundraising event for one week every quarter.
Our readers have been pitching in faithfully ever since. One way or another we’ve been able to put together enough to keep the dire wolf away from the window.
So… There’s a tip cup on our sidebar. Clicking it will take you to a PayPal form, where you can choose the amount you feel led to give. Alternatively, you can decide to subscribe, for $15/month.
After Jerry Garcia died, one of his daughters got up in front of the assembled mourners at the memorial service and thanked all the fans of the Grateful Dead. She said:
“Because of you guys, I didn’t have to work at Dairy Queen when I was in high school.”
Well, that’s how I feel about Gates of Vienna readers: if it weren’t for you, I’d be doing a job with shorter hours, but one that I like a lot less. And it wouldn’t be at Dairy Queen — there aren’t any of those around here. Maybe greeting customers at Wal-Mart, or bagging groceries at Food Lion. Or something even less stimulating.
Because of you, I’ve managed to avoid those things for ten years… and counting. And more importantly, I get to do a job that really matters, that has real meaning beyond just making a living.
When we were discussing the White Rabbit and his relationship to this fundraising week, it occurred to Dymphna that the anxious rabbit with the pocket watch represented one of the great virtues valued by Western cultures: punctuality. A virtue that in our case is honored more in the breach than in the observance… but we do recognize its importance.
So we put our heads together and started making a list of Western virtues. In addition to punctuality, among them were telling the truth, keeping one’s word, the ability to postpone gratification, and others that aren’t popping into my head right now (it’s one in the morning right now here at Schloss Bodissey). Fortunately, Dymphna wrote them all down, and we will be discussing some of them as the week progresses. Possibly with a little humor thrown in. Dymphna will chip in here tomorrow, expanding this post with whichever virtue seems appropriate.
The time-honored virtues were the glue that held Western Civilization together for centuries. Then the PoMo Boys started beavering away at deconstructing us. And now there’s not much left of virtue, not even enough to be honored in the breach.
We old fogies can still remember them, but what happens after we sail off into the red-tinged postmodern sunset?
On that somber note, I’ll close with a poem by Walter De la Mare, from about 1920:
by Walter De la Mare
Here lies a most beautiful lady,
Light of step and heart was she;
I think she was the most beautiful lady
That ever was in the West Country.
But beauty vanishes; beauty passes;
However rare — rare it be;
And when I crumble, who will remember
This lady of the West Country?
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