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Late Results
by Scott Cairns

We wanted to confess our sins but there were no takers.
—Milosz

And the few willing to listen demanded that we confess on television.
So we kept our sins to ourselves, and they became less troubling.

The halt and the lame arranged to have their hips replaced.
Lepers coated their sores with a neutral foundation, avoided strong light.

The hungry ate at grand buffets and grew huge, though they remained hungry.
Prisoners became indistinguishable from the few who visited them.

Widows remarried and became strangers to their kin.
The orphans finally grew up and learned to fend for themselves.

Even the prophets suspected they were mad, and kept their mouths shut.
Only the poor—who are with us always—only they continued in the hope.

Fascinating read. I don't know if I agree with all of it. I found it way too harsh towards the "Tea-Partyers" and it got a little long-winded in the middle for a bit, but it definitely made me think.

Thank you for this.

Well, if you say so, perhaps I shall reconsider (Resisting inserting smiley faced doo-da here..).

Cyber-nonspace: To zero and beyond! God help us.

Please reconsider the termination idea. I will happily take care of the
typo. There is no e-space to take up, since there is no space in "e," and a
person cannot consume or weigh.

On Thu, Oct 1, 2009 at 10:35 AM, wrote:

I was shocked out of my morning coffee reverie by the sudden suspicion that I'd made a terrible typo in my Tuesday comments. As soon as I could I checked to confirm my idiocy. May a thousand fists strike my hollow head. Elicit, not illicit. Elicit, not illicit. Illicit is nonsensical. I know that.

There are two reasons I've never commented on a blog until now: 1) It requires self-publishing without an editing function, a sure recipe for orthographical and grammatical silliness, and 2) One never quite knows how one's comments were taken, if they were read much at all anyway... And for good measure, I would also point to the awesome strangeness of all these disembodied personalities making unceasing ado over the vast sea of ado produced by millions more disembodied personalities. It's all a bit overwhelming. Talking to everyone, talking to no one.

I'm considering terminating my incredibly brief career as a blog commenter. Probably it all boils down to Pride. I don't like the public-ish nature of it. Too easily humiliated. And email has the opposite flaw: it's creepily hyper-private. Oh, the modern world!

At least we can listen to Bach's St. Matthew Passion over and over again on these charming sound-projecting devices. Technology's single incontestable victory.

Again, apologies for taking up so much of your e-space, Father Jonathan. I feel like a little child with an attention complex.

Probably.

"Remember that the Axis leaders were united in an "Anti-Comintern" agenda."

It's like Fric and Frac arguing over who's top dog. Hitler correctly called his economic agenda socialist. His nationalist and racial agenda differentiated his program from the commies, who were more universalist in their ends. His leaving cooperative capitalists in place made his economic program more efficient than the Soviets', and his nationalism made his governance appear less "weak" than the social democrats'.

Scratch someone who hates the "bourgeoisie", and you'll find a socialist.

Joe, I take your points completely, and accept the correction they carry.
There is neither undermining or "myopic banality" (a toothsome phrase) to
fret about.
I'm still stung from seeing some of my own old acquaintances carrying and
fondling those Obama/Hitler signs, and I know that they are not LaRouche
people (despite the fact that the LaRouche gang distributed them). What
bothered me is that my native crowd were very happy to embrace the
signification.

Thanks for your help in clearing up some obfuscations.

On Mon, Sep 28, 2009 at 11:24 PM, wrote:

Father,

Your points regarding Nazi's socialism are taken, though I think we may have different chicken/egg understandings of the concepts in discussion. It's because Nazis were ethnocentric and xenophobic that you suggest they were "right wing", and it's because Nazis (and Stalin) were ethnocentric and xenophobic that I suggest those traits are not exclusively and fundamentally "right wing".

It's this unfortunate conception that allows for cheap dismissals of (sometimes equally cheap) objections in current political discourse. There may arguably be some prima facie correlation in our current culture, but that's a discussion for another day.

I do understand that LaRouche's later views are a matter of contention, but I think the mitigating point remains: the LaRouche ppeople are essentially extremists whose participation in the protest was more or less independent of the Tea Shindiggers. Or, as the TPers might paraphrase: "WE didn't invite them!"

Despite my apparent apologetics, I am not, nor have ever been, a member of the Tea Party...Party.

I begin now to feel I'm undermining a wonderful post with myopic banalities--so I conclude.

Ack! Sorry for posting these terribly long comments twice. I didn't notice the little page-turning arrow at the bottom, and assumed my post hadn't gone through. Apologies!

...Continued.

Trillions of dollars of debt, you say? Shrugs all around. It will never elicit more fear than a vicious fairy-tale ogre. In fact, don't be surprised if, when it is time for my peers to govern the nation, the debt is declared to be non-existent, a figment of our predecessors' money-obsessed imaginations. For, as you surely know, my generation cares naught for such evil things as money. We like music and art and love and friends and traveling and talking and cooking and sharing. Sure all of this stuff is now bought and sold with this thing called money, but that doesn't mean anything.

I don't really know where I'm going with this except to say that things are bad and going to get more bad, and fie on those who deny it. I foresee an age spilling over with depression, vice and buffoonery of all kinds. Who will maintain the thin veneer of societal cohesion? Whoever the "bosses" of presidents and legislators are. A sort and set whose faces we will never know.

For our part, my fiance and I plan to go primitive, inasmuch as we are able. Live in, on and off a snip of land that we can cherish and pass on, and so forth. If I weren't engaged, monasticism would appear to be the only other conceivable option. Outside a very solid home or monastery, the name of Jesus is parody-fodder. I need to be a place where pronouncing the name of God doesn't cause embarrassment, anger and confusion. I do not expect my peers to spend their lives establishing such havens.

Such rambling! Forgive me!

Thanks, Father, for the compliments! In all seriousness, though, I often wonder whether I so eagerly seek out these memorable little turns in order to feed my ever ravenous vanity. I mean, most people my age write with the sense and aplomb of a rutting animal (unnecessarily harsh probably, but it always seems to be getting worse), so for as long as I can remember it's been a chief source of pride to me that I somehow escaped the disease. In college I was particularly likely to cave to prideful compliment-mongering; every writing assignment equaled an opportunity to show off. It was dangerous. Continued involvement in academia would have seen me totally chewed up by vanity. In my current life as an administrative assistant (in the language of old, a secretary), however, I may be on a path to reform. Toiling in obscurity is the way to go, I think. And also to pray constantly that God preserve me from pride.

You paint an ominous picture of the future, Father, and I am very much inclined to agree with it. I am only 23 years old, and my fiance is slightly younger. We fully expect the world to further embrace its darkest addictions and follies during our lifetime. Only a deep conviction that the Lord loves humanity and, especially, every individual human, keeps us from despairing at what we imagine is a taste, or foretaste, of the end of things.

How can one even begin to identify the myriad traps set for my generation, caught as we collectively are in the merging of a soft and expanding adolescence with the farcical modern concept of adulthood. The paradigm for what it means to be grown-up today seems to be quite established in the millennial mind: it means one has passed from the age of being given what children are generally thought to need (food, shelter, education, affirmation and entertainment), into the age where one is at last permitted to decide all things for oneself, and to acquire or achieve said things....

..Continued.

I don't really know where I'm going with this except to say that things are bad and going to get more bad, and fie on those who deny it. I foresee an age spilling over with depression, vice and buffoonery of all kinds. Who will maintain the thin veneer of societal cohesion? Whoever the "bosses" of presidents and legislators are. A sort and set whose faces we will never know.

For our part, my fiance and I plan to go primitive, inasmuch as we are able. Live in, on and off a snip of land that we can cherish and pass on, and so forth. If I weren't engaged, monasticism would appear to be the only other conceivable option. Outside a very solid home or monastery, the name of Jesus is parody-fodder. I need to be a place where pronouncing the name of God doesn't cause embarrassment, anger and confusion. I do not expect my peers to spend their lives establishing such havens.

Such rambling! Forgive me!

Thanks, Father, for the compliments! In all seriousness, though, I often wonder whether I so eagerly seek out these memorable little turns in order to feed my ever ravenous vanity. I mean, most people my age write with the sense and aplomb of a rutting animal (unnecessarily harsh probably, but it always seems to be getting worse), so for as long as I can remember it's been a chief source of pride to me that I somehow escaped the disease. In college I was particularly likely to cave to prideful compliment-mongering; every writing assignment equaled an opportunity to show off. It was dangerous. Continued involvement in academia would have seen me totally chewed up by vanity. In my current life as an administrative assistant (in the language of old, a secretary), however, I may be on a path to reform. Toiling in obscurity is the way to go, I think. And also to pray constantly that God preserve me from pride.

You paint an ominous picture of the future, Father, and I am very much inclined to agree with it. I am only 23 years old, and my fiance is slightly younger. We fully expect the world to further embrace its darkest addictions and follies during our lifetime. Only a deep conviction that the Lord loves humanity and, especially, every individual human, keeps us from despairing at what we imagine is a taste, or foretaste, of the end of things.

How can one even begin to identify the myriad traps set for my generation, caught as we collectively are in the merging of a soft and expanding adolescence with the farcical modern concept of adulthood. The paradigm for what it means to be grown-up today seems to be quite established in the millennial mind: it means one has passed from the age of being given what children are generally thought to need (food, shelter, education, affirmation and entertainment), into the age where one is at last permitted to decide all things for oneself, and to acquire or achieve said things.

Trillions of dollars of debt, you say? Shrugs all around. It will never illicit more fear than a vicious fairy-tale ogre. In fact, don't be surprised if, when it is time for my peers to govern the nation, the debt is declared to be non-existent, a figment of our predecessors' money-obsessed imaginations. For, as you surely know, my generation cares naught for such evil things as money. We like music and art and love and friends and traveling and talking and cooking and sharing. Sure all of this stuff is now bought and sold with this thing called money, but that doesn't mean anything....

Joe, I think I know where you're going with affixing the "left" label on
LaRouche, but I don't agree.
Also, while the Nazi's carried the word "socialist" in their name, there was
much more of a "right wing" and fascist direction in their policy. They
coalesced, in an environment that had grown weary of the usual
disappointments of democracy, under a charismatic tyranny that combined
ethnocentrism, xenophobia, racial mysticism, and corporate sponsorship.
There were some socialistic elements, but there were far more of the other
sort.

Remember that the Axis leaders were united in an "Anti-Comintern" agenda.

On Mon, Sep 28, 2009 at 5:22 PM, wrote:

Father,

Not that I disagree with most of your observations--though I sometimes find your blog too relentlessly dyspeptic--but I'm not sure the Bywater hobbits' historical ignorance is as cringe-inducing as you suggest: "Nazi" is a contraction of the "Nationalsozialistische" in Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (or National Socialist German Workers' Party).

And it was acolytes of radical Leftist Lyndon LaRouche who are responible for the ubiquitous-on-cable-news "Obama Hitler" sign.

Marianne, you can keep the phrase "Nanny Marketplace" and use without needing to reference, as well-deserved for your own trenchant *bon mot's*.

To whit: "One's personal idea of Pleasure Island" ... "Civic Slot Machine view of voting" ... "nation-wide pseudo-political pseudo-discussion."

Since we're speaking privately, "let me disclose the gifts of age" (quoting Eliot here). I think that we are merely entertained with "pseudo-discussions," since the real powers and authorities that run things are not who we vote for, and never will.

We have just witnessed the most massive, egregious financial shift in history. By the time it's all said and done, trillions of dollars will have been moved from public assets to the coffers of ... who? And no one expects it to ever be paid back.

Meanwhile, the lower classes -- who used to be dependably critical of fat cats, tycoons, monopolists and canape-eaters -- now willingly file into air-conditioned buses and are trucked all over the country to protest a new entitlement for their own fellow lower-class citizens.

The thing I wonder about, Marianne, as a priest who is called on to lead his people in prayer for these powers and authorities, is just who I should pray for. I know I should pray for President Obama, the legislature and the judiciary -- and I do.

But what about their bosses?

And don't say it's the people, because, verily, it is not.

Thanks for your kind comment.

You know, Fr. Gregory, that we're watching a new thing? Not only are the (non-conservative) right-wingers obtuse (in terms of classical learning), but now they are well-versed in the erotic grimoire.

Someone coined the term "Southpark Conservatives" a few years back -- which is troubling. It used to be, in the pre-lapsarian world of flannelgraph sunday school, that a
conservative would never say "darn" much less "damn," and Howard Stern would have evoked immediate exorcistic rituals (from fundamentalists who don't know how to manage such a business, but he would have occasioned them to try it anyways).

Now that the Right has pried open Pandora's dirty box, too many fundamentalists are being allowed to curse and go to R-rated movies.

I think this has jaded them to the point where they are no longer bothered by the crass hijinks of their prophet/profit entertainers.

Between you and me, I was really taken aback by the kerfuffle over the word "teabag." Not so much because of the scatological meaning (because there are scatological meanings in spades for most of our vocabulary -- hence the
effectiveness of a rather inane species of humor) ... but rather, I was surprised that so much lexical authority has been given, by "kum ba yah people" no less, to such a raunchy trove.

"I am not sure where this riposte came from, but I suspect it emerged from the usual sophisticated strategy of uncovering hidden and clearly unintended vulgar connotations, and then strumpeting them about with the hope of discrediting the critic, whilst leaving the critique completely unanswered."

Yes, I am afraid you are correct. I wonder if the same post-modern vocabulary "scholars" run around the "tea" events reminding them to be more careful with their self-appellations. I suspect that they do -- if they can pull themselves away from their Howard Stern re-runs.

Apatheia. That word again. One that hopefully will keep its meaning even if it finds its way into the un-urbane "dictionary".

Dear Fr. Jonathan,

I feel bound by fundamental etiquette to thank you for providing me with the phrase "Nanny Marketplace." I intend to use it as often as I find myself entangled in the aimless nation-wide pseudo-political pseudo-discussion that one cannot be assiduous enough in avoiding. It somehow perfectly encapsulates the fact that one might effect more Change and Hope by turning off one's gadgets than by signing up for every latest political revolution e-mail listing (and, more importantly, go some way to restoring Hope to its proper status as a virtue, i.e. an anti-slogan).

I graduated to voting age during the height of the Kerry-Bush mudfest. From this great epoch in our nation's history I especially recall the desperate entreaties of a certain partisan of MTV: "Vote or Die!" To my millennial generation civic duty had never been so sexy and thrilling. So off to the slot machine/voting both we went. Gay marriage! (Pull) Cha-ching! War is bad! (Pull) Cha-ching! Impeach Bush! Cha-ching! For some, of course, the battle cries sounded different, but the intent was in all cases to participate with full glitz in fashioning America to resemble one's personal idea of Pleasure Island.

It has been disheartening, to say the least, to realize that the great majority of political rhetoric today promotes this Civic Slot Machine view of voting.

In a way we should be grateful, for now we have been thoroughly disabused of the notion that the world as we have it is going to be reconciled with the Truth. Our battles as Christians are not with our so-called enemies, but with the enemy of all, and our hero is not political figure X but Christ Himself. The rest is just diversion and fantasy.

Keep up the writing, Father. It is a blessing to us.

Thank you, Symeon, for this encouragement. I am not used to being accused of vulgarity, especially with etymology that is dredged from the effluvial repository of auspicious tomes like the "urban dictionary." You are right, too, about the place of the Apocalypse in Orthodoxy. Though it is not read
publicly in Service, it certainly does inform the dogma of Liturgy and History in Orthodoxy.

Mark: with Symeon's corrective about the place of Revelation aside, your phrase "and the imagery is there" is replete with meaning. "And the church lacking wisdom traded the gospel for politics" is a phrase I will vote for over and over again.

Blessings upon you pilgrims in the Wasteland and under His Severe Mercy.

For those pruriently-minded or simply confused souls indignant over the term 'tea-bagger' used in this article, please note that the contemporary use of the term in American politics denotes a certain form of protest regarding the current administrations use of American tax dollars, and has, so far as I can judge, its provenance in an identification with the members of the 'Boston Tea Party'.

I'm astonished that this word is evoking this sort of indignation considering its ubiquitousness in the current news media... and I don't even watch or read the news, really!

Pardon me, Father, for the interjection, but I was concerned lest the comment thread here get out of hand quickly!

Mark-

I'm not sure from where or whom you got the idea that the Orthodox Church is not 'fond' of the Book of Revelation, but this is decidedly not so, as Her children are both the recipients and preservers of the prophecy. It has a place in Holy Scriptures that may be likened to the Holy of Holies in the temple- showing forth symbolically the eschatological manifestation of the Kingdom of God. It is rather out of reverence for the holy ( and inneffable) nature of the text and what it symbolizes that is not used in the lectionary, nor usually chosen by the holy fathers for commentary.

Forgive me for so saying, but it is by and large late-Protestant 'exegesis' that has made a mockery of this book with every Tom, Dick & Harry 'figuring out' the text in new and ridiculous fashion every fifteen minutes or so, according very much to the spirit of the times.

I know we are probably speaking from different 'ecclesiological' points of view, but I hope you would agree that the Church, being the Body of Christ, and the pillar and ground of Truth has never lacked wisdom and has never- though many foolish men have, as you note,- traded the Gospel for politics.

"...Trying to cover and confuse permanent things..." The sadness, as you evoke, is that it has always been that way and still we forgot or let down our guard. If I remember correctly, Orthodoxy isn't fond of Revelation but the imagery is there. The Beast of the Sea and the Beast of the Land always conspire to deceive all the people who belong to this world. And the church lacking wisdom traded the gospel for politics.

Thank you, John, for your words and your Commonplace site. "Ofgrace," thanks also, especially for the thoughts aroused by your moniker. You are right, of course, about the extremities of malice. Despite his sardonic drawl, Buckley was always entertaining and never boorish. One wishes for the old days. "Shouting from the housetops" reminds me, Winston, of how non-esoteric and non-machiavellian we must ever needs be.

I certainly do not use this reference in any scatological meaning. I suspect that most people do not. The word is commonly used even by some of the people themselves who gather at these events.

The "urban dictionary" about which many wring their hands carries so many listings that it can be used against any unwitting sentence: even -- and especially -- verses of the Bible. I am surprised that so many sunday school alum's are so current with this rather indecorous bibliography. Sure not the stuff of the church basement shelf.

I am not sure where this riposte came from, but I suspect it emerged from the usual sophisticated strategy of uncovering hidden and clearly unintended vulgar connotations, and then strumpeting them about with the hope of discrediting the critic, whilst leaving the critique completely unanswered.

So consider the word changed. But too many people are reading the Masters and Johnson dictionary, at the expense of Samuel Johnson's.

On Sat, Sep 26, 2009 at 8:51 AM, wrote:

Stunning, powerful, and both eloquent and elegant, this needs to be shouted from the housetops.

Good essay, Father.

But the commenter may be right. Like a toddler making everybody laugh by repeating 4-letter words she doesn't understand, it's obvious you don't know what the word "tea bagger" means.

You don't, do you? Or are you deliberately referring to people you don't know by that word? It is a pretty filthy reference to use deliberately, and like any epithet the mere use of one betrays the nature of the one who flings it. Like excrement, it soils the flinger as much as the flingee.

Vile? Hissing?

On Sat, Sep 26, 2009 at 12:41 AM, wrote:

It's priceless when one can link to a Christian hissing while namecalling his enemies vile things like "Tea Bagger".

Wow! I don't need to understand all your literary references to understand this really hits the nail on the head (you are by far more learned than I). I'm constantly confronted with the billboard mentality (and worse) in my own small circle of influence where some closest to me are entrenched in the extremes of both major political ideologies and duking it out with each other. Forget Buckley: rather, try the malice of Coulter and Limbaugh vs. the Obama delusion enthusiast, who is president of his state's Planned Parenthood board! Lord, have mercy. Would to God that any of them could even BEGIN to hear this message. I'm a lone Orthodox crying in the wilderness in this little circle. Pray for me that God grant me grace for the ascetic struggle in my own life--that is more than enough to keep me busy for the rest of it. I desperately need to acquire the peace of the Holy Spirit, without which those around me perish as well.

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