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Too Easy, Too Soft

09 Dec

Svar, via email, shared an interesting interview with an author I had not heard of. Tito Purdue, the author, discusses his view of modernity and its poisons.

Some people believe our decadence has been caused by loss of faith, but I’ve come to believe that loss of faith is itself caused by prolonged prosperity, which dissolves discipline and offers temptations that cannot be resisted by most people. America could have stood up to anything except this.

Rather than work too hard myself, heh heh, below is a copy/paste of an email I sent a few on the Council with regard to the article.

I don’t necessarily agree that prosperity is itself the problem. It’s the idleness that initially accompanies it and comes to be the source of prosperity. We make money not by toiling, but by shifting pieces around the board. No sweat, no exposure to the elements, no real hardship. When the flesh is insufficiently challenged, the mind has too much room to roam and dream up justifications. Having said that, I don’t romanticize agrarian dusk to dawn workdays. There needs to be a blend. The paper pushers need to make sure the bottom line doesn’t exclude the less mentally agile. That is, prosperity that includes the laborers and doesn’t destroy their jobs and seek to buy their loyalty with baubles, and doesn’t give them an abundance of free time to think of justifications for any whim they have, can prosper. The trick is avoiding the jealousy and avarice that propelled ’50s man to turn into ’80s man. Of course, successfully performing that trick is to overcome very base desires.

In other words, the turning continues and our generation finds itself in the unenviable position of either sacrificing our way to general salvation or picking up the pieces after the next great flood.

As it is said, idle hands. . .

 
27 Comments

Posted by on December 9, 2011 in culture, spirituality, The Decline

 

27 responses to “Too Easy, Too Soft

  1. Madbiker

    December 9, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    Over at Free The Animal, Richard spoke about the pleasant mindlessness that comes from manual labor. His blog is decidedly atheist but that does not mean he doesn’t have good insight.

    I think it’s important to see the results of your handiwork before you. Part of the satisfaction of working comes from seeing an accomplishment. Put the end result of a project too far out, and many if not most people will be unable to appreciate the daily efforts. Labor which is straightforward, defined, requires physical effort and only some critical thinking can allow the mind to calm, to focus, and cease to fret. By making the outcome of the labor itself important, other worries fall away, including those desires that might lead to sin or sinful actions in the acquisition of those desires.

    Sounds like I’m advocating labor camps for moral fortitude, huh? Not at all. But something has been lost along in working our way, intellectually, into a prosperity that kills our intellect and morality, reducing humans to the animal natures we’ve striven so hard to rise above.

    The Zen philosophy of simplicity – of chop wood, carry water – can be applied here, I think, without too much infringement on traditional Christian views.

     
  2. Will S.

    December 9, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    Agreed, Ulysses.

    It does seem, too, that a challenge of prosperity can be, that those who do prosper, become proud, forget that God is the ultimate source of all blessings, and like to engage in the conceit that they (a) did it themselves, and (b) that they therefore don’t need God.

    I wonder, though, whether that ties directly into what you’ve highlighted, that idleness you’ve described. After all, someone who is prosperous but busy, and faithful, is less likely to fall into such a trap, as per your explanation.

    In light of which, I’d say the Old Order Mennonites and Amish, are prime examples. By our standards, we might count them as poor in terms of lacking the material possessions we all have, but they seem to all have enough to feed everyone, roofs over their heads, etc.; none are on welfare, none lack clothes, none look like Third World, distended-belly poor children, in all the pics we see of Mennonites and Amish, from time to time. They seem pretty prosperous – and they are that way, through hard work. Little idleness for them, save maybe some free time in the evening after chores are all done. And they are faithful communities, free from the distractions of the modern world…

    Not that I’m suggesting we need go all “The Village” and follow their lead, but… Sometimes, it’s tempting…

     
  3. Svar

    December 9, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    I’m going to do a little copy/paste myself:

    Ulysses, I actually think that in this Modern Age the mind of the average person has atrophied. The justifications are not the justifications of the individual, but the justifications of a mass of atomized individuals with a hive-mind, the Crowd. The Crowd is fed-ideas via pop culture and mass media, not through any innovations of it’s own.

     
  4. Svar

    December 9, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    Tito is right in that now, the heroes of our age tend to be basketball player and rockstar types. There was a time when a hero would be a general, a writer, or a composer. I guess you can judge a society by those that it looks up to.

     
  5. Will S.

    December 9, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    @ Madbiker: Interesting. My high-school physics teacher said he sometimes regretted not following the rest of his family into tobacco farming, as there is a certain satisfaction a farmer gets, when he can look upon his field, and see the results of his handiwork, visibly, tangibly. “My back is sore, but I accomplished that.”

    I don’t know about mindlessness, though; I guess it depends how engaged one’s mind is, by the particular task. I’ve done a lot of manual labour jobs, and I’ve usually found I can run on autopilot, while my mind is busy thinking about stuff. That helps the day to pass pleasantly enough, to a point.

     
  6. Will S.

    December 9, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    @ Svar:

    Tito is right in that now, the heroes of our age tend to be basketball player and rockstar types. There was a time when a hero would be a general, a writer, or a composer. I guess you can judge a society by those that it looks up to.

    Indeed, and also, by how much those it looks up to are compensated.

    People sometimes complain that teachers are overpaid, but if that be so, what of Hollywood stars, professional athletes, pop musicians, etc.? My dad has pointed out, that we pay millions and millions, collectively, to those that entertain and distract us, while only a slightly higher than average salary to teachers, whose jobs are to teach us how to learn, and function, in a civil society. (Not getting into the matter here, about the value of public education today, the problems with it, etc. I think my dad’s larger point still stands.)

     
  7. Svar

    December 9, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    @ Mad Biker

    I don’t know much about Zen philosophy, but from what you said, it is compatible with traditional Christianity. Same thing with Confucian philosophy: http://orientem.blogspot.com/

    C. S. Lewis used to point out elements of the Truth in pagan religions.

     
  8. Ulysses

    December 9, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    Madbiker – There is a reason I’m a pseudonymous blogger and not a paid theologian. Having said that, I think there are universal truths that appear in many religions, as Svar referenced with Lewis, but sometimes the simplicity of Buddhist philosophy nicely captures Christian expressions, eg. freedom from lust and the desire to covet. I also agree in shortened time horizons for work. I don’t always want to more the yard and seeing an end, even if it’s not 100% tangible, is satisfying.

    Svar – I think it was Elusive Wapiti who wrote on John Bagot Glubb. Glubb was the British military man who oversaw the Middle East. He studied the history of civilization and concluded that the final stages for each society were marked by worship of athletes and entertainers rather than intellectuals.

     
  9. Master Po

    December 9, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    My high-school physics teacher said he sometimes regretted not following the rest of his family into tobacco farming, as there is a certain satisfaction a farmer gets, when he can look upon his field, and see the results of his handiwork, visibly, tangibly. “My back is sore, but I accomplished that.”

    Or the tobacco farmer sees the results of his handiwork and proclaims, “Another twenty teenagers may now become hopelessly addicted to carcinogenic agents.” (Just kidding… but as always just mostly)

    Regarding The Village a great movie, but very instructive (to us) precisely in what Shyamalan got wrong: the fake religion of the villagers was decidedly non-patriarchal. It was, in other words, far too politically correct to be a believable edifice of insularity, which would be required for that community to pull off what they were attempting. The religion of the Amish is not some hippy-dippy, non-judgemental, pacifist shlock. It may be low church (about as low as you can go), but it is vigorously self-enforcing, identity-based, and personally and socially demanding. It is, in short, a type of “old, strong religion.” It happens to be the wrong one, but serves as an otherwise excellent model of how a small minority might not merely survive but thrive* under a coming intellectual and moral dark ages. Two hundred years from now, identifiably Catholic enclaves (and Reformed enclaves, assuming they exist at all ;-)) may have very similar features to those of the Amish and Hasidim today.

    *The Amish not only do not appear to be poor. They are not poor. As as a result of all that hard work with little to spend it on, they often pay cash to buy up adjacent farms. They also seem to have plenty of sex and without modern implements. I read somewhere that if current demographic trends continue to some date in the 21st century, there will be more Amish in the state of Ohio than it currently has a residents. Of course, they don’t vote, so no telling how that’ll work out for them… But voting has never been, and is certainly not today, much more than a public donation to the imperium.

     
  10. Madbiker

    December 9, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    @Will S.:

    I should rephrase “mindlessness.” What I mean is that point where the mind and the body are focused on one task, working in unison, almost seamlessly, so that the mind is freed from the minutiae of daily concerns. Frivolous thoughts fall away and give way to more pertinent concerns, and even those fall away as worries are reduced to background thoughts while mind and body work together.

    I think this is what prayer and meditation are supposed to accomplish. A calming of the mind so that legitimate concerns can be given their appropriate attention and frivolous thoughts can be likewise discarded. Physical labor or activity can induce this state as much as a long and quiet sit, and for some people, may be the necessary crux upon which the prayerful/meditative state rests.

     
  11. Will S.

    December 9, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    @ Madbiker: Ah, gotcha.

    @ MP: I both liked The Village and equally found the picture of religion there as weak as you did; I noticed no invocation, other than a vague “We are thankful, for what we have been given”, at their communal meals.

    Do you really think, though, that either Catholics or Reformed can form enclaves, adopt that protectionist, preservationist mentality of the Anabaptists, without losing something of themselves, in the process? I admit that the Reformed have done so, to a degree, in the past; I’m thinking of the Secessionists from the state church in the Netherlands who emigrated to America, and set up a ‘colonie’ in western Michigan. At first, they were quite isolated; but then, the rest of America moved into the area, and they spread out, and while at first, their ethnic and cultural and religious distinctives were enough to keep them from being fully Americanized, over time, they caved, and assimilated to a great extent, if not completely. I suppose this was a repeat of the Puritan settlement of New England, and, for that matter, the Boer colonists in South Africa. So, yes, there have been those in the Reformed world, willing to be separatists, for a time, yet not forever.

    Apart from monasteries, when have Catholics as a whole ever had a separatist mentality? Generally, both Roman Catholicism and the Reformed tradition have been outward-looking, looking to transform society around them, to help build Christ’s kingdom on Earth. I can’t see either changing from that, without losing something of themselves in the process. The Anabaptists were universally persecuted (not without some merit, either, given what they were like in Munster, Germany, near the beginning of their existence), and they had a theology that rejected the State (hence why they don’t vote) so that made it easier for them to evolve as they did, into largely autonomous enclaves, generally separated, except for trade, from the world around them.

     
  12. pb

    December 9, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    “Apart from monasteries, when have Catholics as a whole ever had a separatist mentality?”

    Europe was converted, either voluntarily or by force and so on. For a separatist mentality, one would have to look at the early Church, before the Fall of Rome, and not necessarily everywhere in the Mediterranean world.

    The American thing is different – we need to imagine ourselves as early Christians than as Europeans who lived in a Catholic society. Even that will not be enough since the political economy undermines the building of community in many places.

     
  13. Svar

    December 9, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    Master Po, why are you linking to a site that talks about stopping alien abductions?

     
  14. Master Po

    December 9, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    Actually, Will, I think monasticism is very nearly what will occur–only this time around among families, i.e., among those with the most to lose. In the 6th Century, Christian doctrine had not developed very far to include those with worldly calling of marriage. I wouldn’t say it’s the ol’ “sex is dirty” crap, but there is some truth in any widely held stereotype. Rome had built civiliation, St. Benedict and his followers preserved it, so that it could all be rediscovered in the high middle ages. Only to be fatally infected by… (shall we say?) scholasticism on steroids… and I’ll leave it at that… to avoid the risk of offending those of… erm… less than Catholic sensibilities.

    This time around, the infidels are mostly of our damn tribe (axiom: liberalism iss (is and only is) a Christian heresy). Therefore, none but the most hide-bound, trogloditic clergy can even perceive it coming. The monastics of today, like the clergy, are on average among the most blind to the civilizational peril. Today, thanks especially to the last 150 or so years of doctrinal development, articulate and serious lay Catholics see the rising sewer waters all around them. They, more than the clergy, more than the religious, are the ones desparate for sanity: They are the ones desparate that their own grandchildren will have a Faith to follow at all.

    That is all not to say, however, that I see it as a permanent solution. The enclave solution is a temporary stop-gap until the Catholic Monarch is installed, eventually uniting all like-minded Catholic enclaves… whereupon war may be waged again against the heretics and infidels if they don’t keep to their own place.

    Svar, because it is funny… but I’ve got others…

     
  15. Svar

    December 9, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    “Today, thanks especially to the last 150 or so years of doctrinal development, articulate and serious lay Catholics see the rising sewer waters all around them. They, more than the clergy, more than the religious, are the ones desparate for sanity: They are the ones desparate that their own grandchildren will have a Faith to follow at all.”

    I’ve recently been convinced that the Faith is no longer dying, but completely dead. The Truth is Eternal, but the Faith is dead.

     
  16. Master Po

    December 9, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    Ya gotta get out more, Svar…

     
  17. Svar

    December 9, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    You’re right, Master Po, I do. I really need to get out more, however, I can’t go anywhere for a while. But what does that have to do with anything?

    Btw, you’re doing something wrong. You keep getting thrown into the spam bin.

     
  18. Will S.

    December 9, 2011 at 7:53 pm

    @ MP: Hmmm. Are you a fan of Walter J. Miller’s “A Canticle for Leibowitz”? Interesting novel.

     
  19. Will S.

    December 9, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    @ Svar: it’s probably because Master Po has changed the website linked to his name.

     
  20. Kathy

    December 10, 2011 at 7:41 am

    “It does seem, too, that a challenge of prosperity can be, that those who do prosper, become proud, forget that God is the ultimate source of all blessings, and like to engage in the conceit that they (a) did it themselves, and (b) that they therefore don’t need God.”

    Yes this is the problem in a nut shell, Will. Too many, in their conceit, puffed up pride and superior (or so they think) intellect, think that God can be tossed aside because he is superfluous to their needs. Very sad.. 😦

     
  21. Kathy

    December 10, 2011 at 8:07 am

    “I’ve recently been convinced that the Faith is no longer dying, but completely dead. The Truth is Eternal, but the Faith is dead.”

    Ah, Svar, tis true one can become disillusioned and despondent when one looks around and sees the faith being trampled underfoot by many.. Take heart and keep praying, There are still many who hold the faith dear to their hearts, and who trust in God above all else.. 😀

     
  22. Svar

    December 10, 2011 at 9:57 am

    Thanks, Kathy. I haven’t lost faith in the Word, but in most Christians.

     
  23. 7man

    December 10, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    Yes this is the problem in a nut shell, Will. Too many, in their conceit, puffed up pride and superior (or so they think) intellect, think that God can be tossed aside because he is superfluous to their needs. Very sad..

    I agree with you Kathy. There are many with limited intellect who grasp at the usual shallow solutions proposed by others. They have little ability to think for themselves. Although many men exhibit this, women are much more susceptible due to their pliable nature. Rather than completely tossing aside God, many men are logically finding the necessity in traditional moral structure for society. This is evident in the manosphere when men lament that morality and their desire to “love one woman well” is nigh unto impossible under current laws and modern conditions.

    A woman does need a good man to guide her in these matters. So few women accept this. Otherwise she falls back on the typical emotionally derived remedy of just trusting God and advocating a women’s view of morality, without understanding implications and consequences of the bigger picture.

    A man should value the influence of a woman so he won’t lead her wrong, but accept his responsibility too. It is disconcerting to see people feign perfection to the world when the truth is that they privately struggle with the same matters.

     
  24. Master Po

    December 10, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    But what does that have to do with anything?

    If you get out more, you’ll find the good… and the redeemable. Human nature is not changed by modern deformities. There is still good in most, under that shell of hardened shit… and many come to find they are covered with it even without the aid of Christian Revelation (Keoni Galt and Mencius Moldbug come to mind) and commence their journeys home, even if they don’t know quite where they’re heading. The human mind was created to apprehend truth–this was diminished but not destroyed by the fall. I say again, get ye a wife, master her, make babies, raise ’em right, and so make your indelible mark upon the world.

     
  25. Master Po

    December 10, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    “A Canticle for Leibowitz”

    Alas, I had not heard of it… but after a quick wikiview it looks quite interesting. It appears to be classified along side of the works of Waugh and W. Percy, inter alia, who are writers I very much respect.

     
  26. Will S.

    December 10, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    @ Kathy: Indeed.

    @ MP: Yes, I think you’ll like it. I certainly did, and I’m not even Catholic. 🙂

     
  27. CL

    December 10, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    The author Tito Perdue has a point; people don’t experience spiritual growth through being comfortable and pampered.