Monday, May 20, 2024

Post Funeral Finalities

This was an exhausting weekend.

The service for my mother went well on Saturday.  All of our immediate family was able to be there, as was a number of family friends and some of her teaching friends (I was honestly surprised at how many of them came).  The service itself was one that my mother would have likely approved of, the core of the Pastor's message being Psalm 23.  My eulogy - which after a some anonymization I will post as I did my father's - was generally well received.  People got up and shared memories, some of which I had never heard before.  After that, we retired for a light repast, making small talk with everyone and thanking them for coming.

Following that, of course, was what probably could have been called a light form of a wake at my sister's house.  All of her children and all of mine were there, along with my Uncle - her surviving sibling and, I think, the oldest member of this entire branch of the family - and my Aunt, his wife.  The Outdoorsman mixed drinks and we all had a good time simply being in each other's presence.

That said, yesterday I was completely wiped out:  emotionally, spiritually, mentally.

This was actually a little surprising to me.  I had underestimated the amount of energy it took to "be on" for effectively the whole day - an introvert by nature, I can shine like social star if I need to.  But that, plus being back at the house for the first time since February with the reality that other decisions are coming down the pike (and the simple fact this is longest I had not been there in almost 4 years), plus seeing my own family whom I have not seen in some cases since March or even Christmas - there was a lot of emotion there.  And emotion, at least for me in that amount, can be draining.

Long time readers will recognize these irises.  They are, I believe, actually taken from my material grandmother's garden.  My mother was a great lover of both daffodils and irises.  The daffodils I largely missed this year due to timing, but the irises were there to greet me.

The thing that came to me as I was driving back down to drop off the truck, trailing my family in the rental car, was the finality of things - and not just this, but other things as well. The biggest, of course, is  that my parents are gone with the harsh finality that life gives to such things.  There is no particular regret on my part - I had said what needed to be said and, as readers here will know, this was the curtain call of a tragedy that has been playing out for the last eight years.

But there was other finality as well.

There was a sense - a real sense - that even though I will go back to New Home next month to train and collect my things, it will not ever really be my "home" again.  Even my trips back there after June will be more and more constrained:  one likely in July to pick up the rabbits, perhaps one between then and when The Ravishing Mrs. TB likely moves in October, and then perhaps one of the two holidays of Christmas or New Year's.  After that, I will likely seldom go back at all except for events or possibly Iai training.

Another finality is the estate - not that anything is fully settled (I tried to avoid it on this of all weekends), but that it is now something that has to be actively dealt with and worked on.  Given working out some exigencies, the chances of renting it in the short term are probably low - good for me having to relocate stuff to the barn, a little less good for managing the house and its repairs.  And in a real way, the focal point shifts from New Home to there (not to mention, of course, working out how often I will be able to get there in the next six months to a year).

It was a great deal of change wrapped up into a single weekend. I had anticipated a funeral; what I got was the realization of the entire re-casting of my life.

Sunday, May 19, 2024

His Love For Us

 An additional note:  Recently long-time commenter and Friend-Of-This-Blog (FOTB) Nylon12 posted elsewhere that he has potentially concerning  news from a doctor's visit.  Prayers, good thoughts, and well wishes would undoubtedly be appreciated.

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Memorial Service

We have the memorial service for my mother this weekend.  My apologies for the brevity of today's post.

 This window is one that my mother insisted be built in the house at The Ranch.  The small toy tractors were gifts to my father over the years.

Friday, May 17, 2024

Foolishness to The Greeks: The Gospel and Western Culture II: Profile of a Culture (Part I)

 "As a people who are a part of modern Western culture, with its confidence in the validity of its scientific methods, how can we move from the place where we explain the gospel in terms of our modern scientific world-view to the place where we explain our modern scientific world-view from the point of view of the Gospel?"

This is the question Lesslie Newbigin starts with in the second chapter of his book Foolishness to the Greeks.  In fact, he embeds in the very name of this chapter:  "Profile of a Culture".  To see where are, he states, we need to look back to how we got here.  And that road, he points out, leads straight through The Enlightenment.

The Enlightenment was based on a number of preceding factors:  the re-discovery of Europe of lost texts of Greece and Rome, the developments in science of the period (Tyche, Galileo, Newton), and even the new philsophy of Rene Descartes.  Primary in this, Newbigin asserts, were the developments of Newton: suddenly, the universe was seen not to be governed by divine purpose, but by laws of cause and effect.  Suddenly teleology - the study of purpose - no longer had a place in the world of thought:  things no longer served God's purpose in their actions and movements, they were moved by scientific laws.  There was no need to go farther:  "To have discovered the cause of something is to have explained it".  

We had entered The Age of Reason.

Medieval society, states Newbigin, was "held together by a complex reciprocal network of rights and duties..." - and the most treasured of human rights - The idea of human rights "..apart from this actual web of reciprocal duties and rights, would have been unintelligible".  In other words, man took the idea of cause and effect and extended it to the individual, who suddenly has the "right" to determine their own rights, apart from any obligation to others.  Primarily defined as those rights are ones that we Americans are very familiar with:  Life, Liberty, and The Pursuit of Happiness.  Add to this the fact that modern science provides no means for belief in life after death, and the rights of the individual become paramount  -after all, this is all there is.

Rights, says Newbigin, only exist where there is "a legal and social structure that defines them.  Anyone can, of course, assert a need or express a wish apart from such legal or social structure.  But a claim to a right must rest upon some judicial basis."  In the Medieval world, this was found in the reciprocal obligations between tenant and lord (no matter how lousy that relationship could have been).

  In the modern world?:

"Who, then, has the infinite duty to honor the infinite claims of every person to the pursuit of happiness?  The answer of the eighteenth century, and of, of those have followed, is the nation-state.  The nation-state replaced the holy church and the holy empire as the centerpiece in the post-Enlightenment ordering of society.  Upon it devolves the duty of providing the means for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  And since the pursuit of happiness is endless, the demands upon the state are without limit.  If - for modern Western peoples - nature had taken the place of God as the ultimate reality with which we have to deal, the nation state has taken place of God as the source to which we look for happiness, health, and welfare."

Add to this the view of eschatology.  Suddenly the state becomes the end of existence - and the power of treason and progress the means for it.   The Enlightenment replaced the Gospel with the doctrine of Progress.  Hope for a future world has been replaced by the reality of a future which ultimately those now living will never see.  The nation-state, the guarantor of rights which - as noted above, are now infinite - now has the justification for expanding its power and reach; after all, it is the promise of tomorrow.  From this thinking, Newbigin says, the basis of the totalitarian state was laid.  Worse, makes the young the focus of the state as they are the future; the old "can be neither objects nor subjects of hope but only an increasingly burdensome embarrassment."

Newbigin ends this section (and I have to close it partway through; there is still too much to discuss) with this statement:  "The transmission of traditional wisdom in families from the old to the young is replaced by systems of education organized by the state and designed to shape young minds toward the future that is being planned."

Thursday, May 16, 2024

The Collapse CXXXXVII: Wheat

 20 July 20XX+1

My Dear Lucilius:

We were up and off at the crack of dawn: myself, our group, Cato, and three others with him, the two gentleman we had seen yesterday and a third young man, whom he introduced as his Son (who has become Cato the Younger, of course).

The planned trip was a little over two miles; the intent was to make it to the site, perform a visual assessment of the state of the wheat (and ability to harvest it), and then return back here. We would head out the following day, hopefully bearing news.

The road was similar to what we had seen for the last few days and the trip as ordinary as any other day we had been walking until the flankers, Cato’s men (due to their familiarity with the area) returned with two pieces of news. The first was that there was, in fact, a field with wheat. The second was that there people in the wheat field, with every appearance of folks looking as if they were thinking of a harvest.

This was unexpected to say the least.

A hurried conference was held. Had the scouts seen pickets? No, but they assumed that they were somewhere. Weapons? Nothing obvious – but again, hard to see. Did it look like forced labor – chains, overseers, field bosses? No. Anything that suggested our recent sort of Locusts? Anything distinctive about them? After thinking for a moment, Cato the Younger said “Young. They were almost all young – college age or thereabouts”.

Young, college age kids not under compulsion out in a field, maybe harvesting wheat. We sat there thinking for a moment. Finally the Colonel asked “Didn’t the College up the road have an agricultural program?

We discussed potential outcomes and finally came up with a solution – risky, but maybe not that risky.

Five of us – the good shots – headed up to the edge of the hill. I, stripping down my upper body, tied my undershirt to dead branch. Carefully I edged up to the hill – well below where the firing line was – and raised the shirt/flag.

The reaction was effectively what you might think it was: a scattering of people onto the ground. Likely at this point whatever guards they had were now engaged.

We all sat there – us on the edge of the ridge, my shirt fluttering in the wind, the field to our front shifting with waves in the grain and waves made by bodies – for some period of time, probably much shorter than I think. Then, slowly, someone got up and held his arms wide, clearly unarmed.

Taking what for me as an undue amount of chance (I have become reckless in my old age, Lucilius!) I came up over the rise and held my hands out as well, one grasping the ready-made truce flag, the other wide open.

We don’t have anything” came the shout form the field, the voice of an older man.

That is okay” I shouted back. “We are just looking for wheat.”

He seemed to talk to the stalks around him. Another half dozen came up out, youngish men and women from what I could see. From our side, Young Xerxes and Ox rose up, firearms pointed down.

And that, Lucilius, is how we met Epicurus and Themista and their troupe of college students.

After the initial introductions – everyone out slowly, guns down – a slow course of conversation started which eventually became a flood: Where were you from? How did you survive? And you? And why are you here, or how did you even get here?

Within a little while, the conversations had boiled down into smaller groups. The Colonel, Cato the Elder, and the man we now knew as Epicurus were talking higher level items – crops, yields, labor, likelihood of harvesting undisturbed. One of Cato’s men, Josè, was off with some of the students to look at the house that was attached to this part of the property; they said there was some kind of radio but they had no idea if or how it worked. Ox, The Leftenant, and the other of Cato’s men was off walking point along with the group here (The Leftenant, apparently, giving pointers so that our appearance unannounced was not repeated). Young Xerxes and Cato the Younger had fallen in with the students; perhaps the first time in over a year or more they had spent time where a majority of the people were in their age bracket.

I spent time with Themista. Yes, there are notes that will be an entry all its own.

The short – very short – version is that this group was from the Big City State College, a group of effectively marooned students and teachers that had nowhere else to go, so they made do during the Winter and Spring. Epicurus, as it turns out, was an agricultural professor there, and apparently the operating head of this group. He – like me -had remembered this plot of land, regularly planted but far enough from the main centers of population that it might still be a resource.

By the time afternoon had rolled around, the readiness of the grain to be harvested (another 6 weeks or so, without any inclement weather) was guessed at, the aforementioned radio turned on and used to communicate with Cato’s people via the help of a small battery bank (and a message to be relayed on from there to the Garnet Valley), and some level of discussion had occurred about what was to be done with it – or so I surmise; I was scarcely involved in any of the discussions. I spent my time talking, walking, listening, taking notes and pondering (like, for example, how much grain could it be theoretically possible to harvest by hand, and how would that even work).

We set off back to the edge of Cato’s property well before evening, wanting to get an early start on the trip home tomorrow. The group, all of them, waved us a hearty goodbye as we went up and around the corner.

The young, Lucilius. Perhaps a future yet exists for us.

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Why I Am Not A Fan Of Drawers

 I am not a fan of drawers.

Drawers (the storage kind, not the wearing kind of course) are arguably terribly useful things, especially in small spaces.  They allow a much greater amount of storage than what can be accomplished alone by closets and shelves, the other two choices. 

And yet - as I am reminded as we prepare to move - I am not a fan.

Why?  Because they become lazy persons' organizational strategy (and to be clear, I am that person).

Do not have a place for it?  Drop it in a drawer. Cannot take the time to deal with it?  Put it in a drawer.  Best intentions of dealing with it later?  Put it in a drawer.  And so it goes.

The difficulty, of course, is that often drawers simply serve as storage spaces and nothing more.  At least in my own life, shelves and closets see some level of active use.  But drawers?  Drawers can go weeks or months without being opened.

Is that true across the board with drawers?  Not necessarily.  The drawers in our kitchen get regular use - or perhaps better said, some of the drawers in our kitchen get regular use.  Silverware drawer, yes.  Kitchen Gadget drawer, yes.  Backup Kitchen Gadget drawer, lesser, but yes.

Drawer that ends up holding operating instructions and single serving condiments or the one that has "the other stuff" we could not otherwise categorize?  Not so much.

It is not as if they do not have their uses.  Small drawers in shops for hardware are blessings, and dedicated units for things like clothing or sewing or crafts or those giant shop ones on toolboxes for holding tools are incredibly useful.  

But the household ones?  At least for me, they just become "thing" sinks, where 90% of the items go to an ignominious existence in the limbo of not quite used but not quite forgotten.

One of the things we are discussing in the move to New Home 2.0 is some kind of desk unit. If we get one - and to date, the kitchen breakfast bar is just the right height for standing and typing - I am going to push for minimal shelves, or even none at all.  If we are going to have the magical ability to do some kind of fresh restart, I would like to not give myself the opportunity to start squirreling things away in drawers again.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Of Mother's Day Gifts And Sorting

For Mother's Day this year, Nighean Bhan gave the The Ravishing Mrs. TB two things.  The first was a multi-week meal plan (instead of having to pick recipes week by week), a very appreciated gift as it is a thankless task week after week, year after year.

The second was "helping" her go through things.  And by "helping", I mean effectively forcing her to go out and start sorting through the things in the garage and the things in the house for the upcoming move.

Our middle daughter has a gift for organizing and decluttering. She is ruthless with herself:  her room is a sort of visual white space with minimal items all carefully chosen for their importance or relevance to her life and carefully selected in terms of placement.  She likes to do it as well, so periodically our cabinets and pantry have been subjected to clean outs where a box of foods of unknown origins appears and the expectation is that these will become the next "go to" food when one is looking for a snack or a quick bite.

After 30 plus years of being together, we have a lot of things as individuals, as a couple, and as a family.  And, sadly, we are likely too enmeshed in them to perhaps consider them in the light of need, want, and utility.

And so, the "helpful" oversight of Nighean Bhan as things need to be gone through.

Do I have an idea what all was done?  I do not, although I am lead to believe a fair amount of time was spent in the garage, our home equivalent of the Wild West.  It sounds like work was done there - although we effectively have three or more Christmas Trees of decorations (without trying hard), so there still maybe work to be done.

My role?  Look at pictures that came through later in the day and assess whether it was a keep or give away.   

This round was mostly "cabinetware" - thus, things like mugs, glasses and the like.  Most of the choices were pretty straightforward - after all, one can only have so many mugs or chopsticks.  On the other hand, there were some moments that made me think hard - like, of example, mugs from my previous employers.  Worth keeping? Maybe, maybe not.  Personal historical value?  Pretty high.

There were some expected ones: the 0.5L mug from Munich I got when I was there in the early 1990's, the china mug from Ireland that got and have never used, myself being the ultimate breaker of items when I use such things.  And some unexpected - but the unexpected really were things I have not seen or used in years. At this point why keep them?

At one point in our conversation, The Ravishing Mrs. TB commented on the fact that thought of downsizing had not occurred to her over the years as a possible outcome.  It had not occurred to me either; after all, the typical path always seems to be larger and more.  And it seems that - like many others - we responded to that with a vengeance.

Now, we get the other side of the coin:  downsizing, keeping those things which are only most memorable or most useful.  It is something that one thinks about in the abstract as happening "someday". 

And then, someday comes.

Monday, May 13, 2024

On Receiving An Assessment

The assessment has come back for The Ranch.  

It is not necessarily the end of all the work, but it remained the single largest issue to discuss in settling the estate.  There are loose ends still for sure - one I know about is completing an estimate of the equipment that is there - tractors and so forth - but they will be relatively minor in the course of the whole settlement.

As you might expect, the assessment has gone up in the 18 months since the first one was done - not incredibly (for which I am grateful).  About 4%, which seems right given the current state of things.

On the one hand, it will be nice to have things resolved.  On the other hand, this will introduce a new set of challenges to the life of The Ravishing Mrs. TB and myself.

The biggest, perhaps, is simply how we are going to deal with a property that is not in the state that we live in.  Yes, we have folks there on a daily basis - Uisdean Ruadh of course and The Cowboy and The Young Cowboy - so that is no more a concern than is now, but there are other concerns.  Maintenance on the house of course; these things do not maintain themselves.  Equally as critical, the two major expenses of property taxes and insurance.

There will be a little rental income from The Cabin of course, and that helps - other than insuring that we are keeping enough money for ongoing maintenance there as well (fortunately I have some idea of what that should be on an annual basis.

On the one hand, I admit these are completely first world problems.  On the other, just because they are "first world" does not mean that they are not concerns.

Still, moving this towards resolution has the impact of setting the course of the rest of our life - so in any sense, some resolution is good resolution.

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Happy Mother's Day 2024


 In all seriousness, Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there.  You have more influence than you likely know.

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Of Things Desired And Things Needed And Things Eliminated


One of the great challenges of the relocation to New Home 2.0 is The Downsizing.

Yes, we have the luxury few have of not having to relocate everything as we are keeping the house.  Yes, it is likely that New Home 2.0 at best represents a short rest stop on our way to other locales.  And yes, one does need less things as one gets older.

But no matter how you slice it, we need to get rid of some things. 

The Ravishing Mrs. TB is on this on the macro scale, viewing and reviewing things like furniture, décor, kitchen items, etc. as well as her own personal items - although she will likely spend far more time in New Home for up to a year than here in New Home 2.0.  Leaving me to focus own on my own things.

I have referenced before that now having seen the place, I have to trim back my "what to bring" by what seems to me to be a considerable amount.  The challenge is that, even in this need to bring things back, I still find that I want things.

Books, of course.  Not surprising to anyone that follows me here.  I have made efforts to corral this by putting together a list and if I want a book, it has to go on the list - no more off the cuff purchases.  Which works, of course, except if you go into a used book store.  Simple solution?  Avoid used bookstores.  And used book websites.  And really, any websites that offer books at all.

It is not going as well as I might have hoped.

And although I have managed to cut my typical purchase of books to a trickle (at least for me, anyway) it does leave the fact that I see other things - and want them.  

Coffee for Turkish Coffee?  Background materials for old Role Playing Games that might help me write The Collapse?  Some nifty clothing item?  These are things that have rolled past my eyes in the last two weeks.

It is at moments like this that I need to take Epicurus' advice to heart.

It is true:  at one time, I had none of this.  They were all things that for the most part I wanted (or did not know I wanted until I got them).  And now having them,  I am somehow not satisfied with them.  I "need" more.

But do I?  In a life where I am transitioning from a house to an apartment, where everything I now bring in will have to move out at some point, do I really "need" it?  Or is it fueling a desire that always wants more, or a vanity that that wants me to get it because "I am an adult and I can"?

Learning to say "no" to myself is always the hardest thing.  So naturally, it is a lesson I have to constantly relearn.

But all of this has a larger component as well.

We live in a world - at least here in the West - where we are defined by what we want.  We have a name for it:  Consumer Culture.  We have an entire industry, advertising, dedicated ultimately to getting people to desire and buy that which they do not truly need.  We have built entire supply chains and businesses - food, goods of all kinds - on the premise that people will buy what they could do themselves if only they are shown the convenience of and pleasure in doing so.  

There is nothing wrong with that, of course - people should be free to spend their money as they choose.  But when one effectively bets the house - in this case, the economy - on people always having to desire and purchase that which they do not have nor need but desire, it eventually goes badly.  Because when comes down to it, when the money is down, people focus (again) on what they really need and what they can really do for themselves.

So in a way, we have managed to not only completely ignore Epicurus' advice, we have managed to base our economic future on it.  Let us hope that we can stair step our way down instead of falling off the ladder.

Thursday, May 09, 2024

Foolishness to the Greeks: The Gospel and Western Culture I (Book Review)

 Last week I had mentioned a concept from a man named Lesslie Newbigin, someone that - prior to March of this year - I had never heard of.  A quote of his was used in a sermon and it was so thought provoking I ended buying a book or two.

Lesslie Newbigin (1909-1998) was born in England.  A convert in college, he entered the mission field in 1936 and went to India, where he remained until 1959.  After a spell at the Internal Missionary council, he returned to India in 1965, remaining there until 1974.  Of note, both in 1947 and 1969 he was named a bishop of an ecumenical church in a country not his own - a rarity in the day.  He returned to the UK in 1974, where he lectured, wrote, and preached up to his death.  (Fuller biography here.)

Newbigin is a rarity, a man who became completely immersed in another culture who had the ability to compare two cultures and their concepts, practices, and understandings of Christianity.  The two books of his I purchased - Foolishness to the Greeks:  The Gospel and Western Culture and The Gospel in a Pluralist Society  - are in a way both books on a similar theme:  the nature of what Western Civilization has become and the idea that we, as Christians, need to view our own society as a mission field.  

His writing is excellent, thought provoking, and dense.  Rather than try to press it all into a single review, I propose to space it out to a chapter a week.

A note:  Newbigin is an excellent writer, well read, and has very well developed arguments.  All errors and misrepresentations of them should be charged to my account, not his.


Newbigin, in the first chapter - "Post-Enlightenment Culture as a Missionary Problem" - lays out the following statement:

"My purpose in these chapters is to consider what be involved in a genuinely missionary encounter between the gospel and the culture that is shared by the peoples of Europe and North America, their colonial and cultural off-shoots, and the growing company of educated leaders in the cities of the world - the culture those of us who share it usually describe as modern".

Studies of missionary culture, he suggests, miss the mark in not focusing on the West, as "it is this culture that, more than any other, is proving resistant to the gospel".  Why is this?  This is one of the questions he spends time on developing.  At the moment, he simply recognizes it as a problem.

The Church, posits Newbigin, exists in a culture.  It originally started in a Jewish culture, then expanded to a Roman-Greek culture, and from there expanded into the cultures of what became medieval Europe before being transmitted to larger world mostly (but not entirely) during the Age of Discovery (The Thomasine Churches of India, for example, being an exception).  The communication of the Gospel, has to include communication in the language the receptor culture understands, calls for a change (metanoia or turn in direction in the Greek, which we call repentance in English) - but also has to rely ultimately on a work of God. We cannot make anyone convert; we can only call them to it.

The classic view of the missionary involves someone that goes to a culture and communicates in the language of that culture (Newbigin's first point) and calls for a change in the individual's direction, repentance and salvation (Newbigin's second point).  The third point - the work of God - is beyond the missionary's scope of control.

To those who are accepting Christ, they accept Him through the one that presents Him - if a missionary, then how the missionary views and experiences Christ.  But as the Christian grows in faith and in the reading of Scriptures, 

"...he will gain a standpoint from which he can look in a new way both at his own culture and at the message he has received from the missionary.  This will not happen suddenly.  It is only as the fruit of sustained exposure to the Bible that one begins to see familiar things in a new light.  In this light the new convert will both see his own traditional culture in a new way and also observe that there are discrepancies between the picture of Jesus that he (from in his culture) finds in the New Testament and the picture that is communicated by the missionary."  

What can happen?  In one version, the new convert retreats to his own culture, seeing the Gospel as merely a tool for the missionary's culture to implant itself in the converts culture and take power or take over - or in turn, converts the Gospel into a vehicle for the new convert's message (such as Liberation Theology).  In the other version, the new convert reflects back to the missionary how the missionary's culture has influenced his vision of Christ.  Taken this way, suggests Newbigin, lies the possibility of mutual correction - no one culture has a monopoly on Christ; we all interpret him through the culture that we live in.  

The modern world has what Newbigin (taking from Peter Burger) calls a "plausibility structure", that which can be normally taken for granted without argument and from which dissent is considered heresy (in the old definition, of the individual deciding making a decision instead of following the given tradition) - in the modern world's case, it has developed this structure such that the public world of facts are considered different from the private world of beliefs, opinions, and values.  We, as the self center of our own universe, are ourselves heretics because "we make our decisions about what to believe".

But herein lies the issue.  In the modern world, says Newbigin, there exists a world of "facts" distinct from "values":  "Values systems embodied in styles of living are not right or wrong, true or false.  They are matters of personal choice.  Here the the operative principle is pluralism, respect for the freedom of each person to choose the values that he or she will live by". 

But in the world of facts, everything has to be tested.  Pluralism is not allowed; "No place is given to the possibility that what was given in the religious experience could provide an insight into the truth that might radically relativize the presuppositions of the scientific disciplines." In fact, Newbigin suggests that the modern world will not consider them as such because it takes two things for granted:  that Christianity is the same as all other religions and that all religions have to submit their truth claims to the discipline of science.  Whether or not the discipline of science will consider them remains for further discussion later.

It is Newbigin's belief and argument that the claims of the Risen Christ can be checked as a historical event - and if historical, then true and a "fact".  But the plausibility structure will only allow personal beliefs to be a value (and thus not in the public realm).

"This separation of value from fact is reflected in the separation of private from public life that is one for the characteristics of our culture." And the Church, he suggests, accepted this dichotomy due to the challenge of the Enlightenment and retreated into the world of the private sector and values.  By doing so, he says, it insured its survival as an institution, but at the cost of surrendering "a crucial field":  "And yet the claim, the awesome and winsome claim of Jesus Christ to be alone the Lord of all the world, the light that alone shows the whole reality as it really is, the life that alone endures forever - this claim is effectively silenced.  It remains, for our culture, just one of the varieties of religious experience".

The result of this, says Newbigin, is that modern Western culture and Civilization is not a secular society:  "It is a pagan society, and its paganism, having been born out of the rejection of Christianity, is far more resistant to the gospel than the pre-Christian paganism with which cross-cultural missions have been familiar.  Here, surely, is the most challenging missionary frontier of our time."

Newbigin foresaw that the coming greatest mission field for Western Civilization is not abroad.  It is literally in our own backyards.  We as the West have become the people we need to send missionaries to.  And to do that, he posits, we need a more fuller understanding of our culture not as we live in it, but as a third party would understand it.

The Collapse CXXXXVI: Cato

19 July 20XX+1

My Dear Lucilius:

I write this at the waning of the light on this evening. The Colonel, The Leftenant, and Young Xerxes are asleep and Ox walks this first watch. Our visitors have returned to their own location; they have said they will meet us at first light.

And I remain, writing. Because for the first time, I have had the opportunity to speak with someone completely removed from my area on his experiences.

When I first broached the subject at dinner, the main speaker - the one who had come down with the gun - looked at me with the sort of look one gives the mad. His expression of “Surely you jest?” after my simple “What has it been like?” likely said a great deal about how he viewed anyone who would ask such a thing.

But I pleaded with him. If we were ever to rebuild or even to come back as something different, these stories would have to be told. And to be told, they would have to be recorded.


He over my shoulder as I started writing. “Cato?” he asked?

“A name” I replied. “You have to have a name. Cato the Elder: Famous Roman senator – but also famous for his book on farming at the time, De Agricultura.”

He shook his head again. I had undoubtedly again confirmed that there was no way I could have survived the past year as anything close to a bandit.


My family (said Cato) has been here for well over 150 years, so far back that the original Cato that lived here came with the later pioneers that followed this trail. They came – like a lot of ‘em did – for mining. He came for ranching. Somewhere buried away we have his journals.

He was a rancher – cattle mostly, Hereford and such. His son became a rancher, and his son, and down the line it went. I’m the seventh generation that has been doing this; my son and daughter will be the 8th, if such a thing continues now.

You’ve lived here a while? (I nod yes) Then you know what is like here: too hot in the Summer, too cold in the Winter, with not enough Spring and Fall between the two to really make it bearable. But weather aside, this is a land of wide open spaces and quiet and horizons. A man can get lost just taking it all in, watching the cattle on the range and being in a place that you cannot see another sign of men. It is a good place to live, to be born and raise kids and – at least for all my folk before me – to die.

They – we – survived a lot. We survived most of the mines playing out and a World War and The Great Depression and another World War and the modern world as it started moving. What we almost didn’t survive was not just the modern world moving in, but the modern world pressing in. Happened in the last 25 years or so. Suddenly everyone has to be up here in the Summer to “get back to Nature” or some such foolishness. The price of land skyrocketed and the Summers became full of people traversing the roads. Our towns became “tourist destinations”, filled less with functional stores than with stores catering to the tourists. I could not get a pluming fitting or bullets where I used to, but I could get hand roasted coffee or pottery. Neighbors started sellin’ out or allowin’ folks to build Summer cottages in their fields for the cattle to eat around.

The jobs fled. I was worried my kids would have to do something different – because the price of beef dropped. You’ll remember that.

And then, last September happened.

We heard the rumors at first on the radio. One of the hired men – Josè, you saw him at dinner – has a radio up over the hill, where we had some smaller dwellings for the hands. He started hearing of things stoppin’ to work, people startin’ first to panic and then gettin’ angry. And then came a flood of cars – goin’ where, I have no idea. You know as well as I that this road does not lead anywhere better than the city that is close. But they came: couples with bikes on their bike racks, trucks with loaded beds and trailers. As time went on that changed too: it just became vehicles alone unloaded except for people, often with nothing but themselves and a pet or two.

A few of them stopped – that tended to happen as time went on. The first ones just wanted directions or possible fuel. One I gave them, the other I had none of. As time went on, the requests became less for directions and more for food and fuel and water. The first two we still had none of; the third I could direct them down the road to the river.

Their faces. Their faces changed over time. The first few were full of the confidence I had seen on the face of our Summer visitors: this was a temporary state of affairs and they would soon be back. But as time passed, the faces lost their confidence. They became tired, then sad, then hollow. The last car – I remember it like was yesterday – was an older couple with one of them small fluffy dogs. The back of their car was load with photo albums – the only memories they had left, the man said. My wife gave them something to eat, something she had done for no-one else.

It was hard, seein’ people goin’ out without even hope.

And then, about November, the cars stopped just stopped commin’.

Winter was hard. If you live here long enough, you know to prepare for it and we were fine in that way. But having the power be spotty is different than the power not coming on at all.

Did we lose cattle? We did. The business of living means that you do not have enough time to do what you used to. We feed hay here to overwinter them – everyone does – and in this case, losses meant more for the rest.

By the time Spring rolled around, it was clear that things were not comin’ back. The radio transmissions had died out. The traffic had died out. Which meant – likely – the next crowd comin’ down would be someone looking to steal instead of looking to move through.

We moved what we could up over the hills. We tried to contact what I’ll call our neighbors, although they are miles distant from here. Could not really find more than one or two. We threw a guard up at this house in the event someone did show up to make them think this was the main place and to keep them here.

You can see the results – they did show up, and they burned the place down.

Oh, we gave as good as we got – in fact better, as they crawled away leaving dead and we only had some wounded. But it matched what I thought would happen. Anyone from here on out was likely to not be a friend.

That’s it. We keep the cattle and our guard over the hill. Someone monitors the radio from time to time to see if anyone calls (like you did). Our biggest problem at the moment is figurin’ out next Winter’s pasturage. Maybe that field you think is still there might help.

Have we thought of going up to City to see what there is? Sure. But it’s a two day walk (no way I’m driving). Given the last group that came through, I’m none too keen to meet another and cannot imagine what is left there that we might need – sure, maybe the odd plumbing fitting or box of nails, but is that worth the walk? Is it worth a life?


Having finished, he stood up from the fire, apparently to walk up the hill to bed. “Do you think anyone will ever read this?” he asked?

I shrugged. “I do not know. But I have to try.”

He looked at me and snorted. “An annalist. And an idealistic one, to boot”.

Perhaps not the worst thing that has been said about me.

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca

Wednesday, May 08, 2024

New Home 2.0 Updates - May

 In the ongoing planning of relocating to New Home 2.0, there are three updates.

The first - or at least the most immediately relevant one in my case - is that my automobile arrived on Monday.  In a way, it was a little bit of a hilarious drop off in that the driver, who was in phone contact with me, unloaded the car in the parking lot, took some pictures, handed me his phone to acknowledge and sign, and then left.  Never once did he ask for any identification - I guess assuming that if I had showed up I was the right person?  Or, given the nature of the transport - a decade plus years old Mazda - the likelihood that anyone would show up falsely is shockingly low?

Either way, I am glad to have my automobile back.  The sense of being able to go somewhere when I want is intoxicating.

The second item is that we have a packing date in early June for moving items.  It will be right after I am home one last time to go through things, which I am exceedingly grateful for as having looked at the apartment we actually have and the climate, I have some additional rounds of cuts to make.  They will come in and start packing the day after I return to New Home 2.0; they estimate 4 to 11 days for the shipment to arrive here.  If all goes well, The Ravishing Mrs. TB will be able to be here to help me unpack everything and get it set up. Hopefully by the beginning of July, this will actually be a home.

The third item is an update on The Ravishing Mrs. TB's job.  

She has spoken with her current employer and while they will hire someone new to do 80% of her job, there is still 20% of it that they would like her to retain.  To that end, they are going to continue to employ her in a part time capacity (10 to 15 hours a week?) to do this part.  The transition date is now set for late September (she had a pre-planned trip, so she will leave for that trip and return as a part-time employee).  That said, we are not sure when she will permanently relocate to New Home 2.0, given that the latter part of the year has several holidays for which we have not fully planned yet.

But things are definitely moving forward.  For which I am thankful.

Tuesday, May 07, 2024


 It that time of year that we engage in the annual sport of Property Taxes.

As expected, our bill arrived late April.  As expected, there was an increase - although this year strangely enough, there was decrease on the total assessed value of our home but an increase in the total amount being assessed (some dark arts involving the loss of some deduction which I can clearly see on the sheet, but I do not understand).

During my usual grumbling and cursing of all things taxes (because apparently even when things go down, they never do) I caught a small comment at the bottom of the page:  "The difference between the 2019 appraised value and the 2024 appraised value is 46%".

Helpfully, the next line is "The percentage information is required by Tax Code Section....".

If you run this to ground, of course, it is nobody's fault.  The Collection authority points to the Appraisal Board, noting they are only collecting what they are told to collect.  The Appraisal Board points to the Entities that set the rates, stating they are only executing the law.  The Entities that set the rates (local boards, county government) simply state they are doing what the voters have told them to do. The voters will point out they did not say anything about obscene assessment gains; they blame the Entities for raising taxes too much.

And so it goes. No-one is at fault, but everyone except the home owner is happy to take the result.

46% increase.  In no other way has my life improved 46% in 5 years.  My salary has not gone up in that amount.  Any investments I have have not increased in that amount.  Nothing in the real world has gone up 46% in value.  I have not lost 46% of my weight (highly dangerous of course, but it is possible thing to lose).

It is bad for the homeowners, who at some point will get pushed out by taxes.  It is bad for home buyers, who can no longer afford the very high cost of buying a home (let alone owning it).  It discourages home ownership, which was for years was a mechanism for many average folks to build a form of wealth (and stable communities of home owners, by the way).  It is bad for renters as well, who feel the downstream effects of rising property assessments (says the man who is now in both worlds).

A significant problem.  A serious problem.  Yet, one that seems to be no-one's fault or responsibility to fix.

Monday, May 06, 2024

TB Takes Shank's Mare

 As mentioned in Friday's post, I reached the end of my company approved rental car and, after taking the train home, was essentially left with my feet (aka Shank's Mare) as my mode of transportation.  I had thought that it would only extend one and one-half days (Thursday and Friday morning) and that Friday afternoon would see the arrival of my car.  Sadly, circumstances did not play out that way and today is the current estimated date of delivery.

On the bright side, I live close enough to work to walk.  On the less bright side (for a limited time), the only feasible option I have is to walk.

Note the word "feasible".  In point of fact there are other options - but a quick look at ride sharing suggests a $9 ride one way to work (for 2.5 miles), excluding tip.  Which puts an interesting mathematical dimension to it:  with tip, that is about $4.32 a mile.  If I had a car, the cost would certainly be less than that per mile (around $0.38, given average fuel prices).  So purely on walking on Thursday and Friday, I "saved" myself $21.6.  Financially, that makes sense.

And so, I walked.

I have not been in a position to walk to work since the early 1990's, where (for a brief time) I lived within a miles of my job.  There is a certain novelty to being able to do so.  And as  I have noted before, walking is possible here:  at least this part of the city has sidewalks in numerous places (on both sides of the street, no less) and certainly right up to my current place of employment.

The walk takes me about 50 minutes, or about 20 minutes per mile.  If I pushed myself a bit more, that is something like 3 miles an hour.  I do carry a backpack with my work computer, lunch, etc., but that cannot be more than 5 pounds - so weight is not a significant factor.

The walking itself is not bad - yes, it is mostly office buildings and light industrial so it is not the best of landscapes, but it is also quite green and makes for a relatively pleasant walk.  Although Friday turned out to be a bit less pleasant, as I walked through 50 minutes of drizzle.  One learns to carry a raincoat and water resistant backpack everywhere here so it was not a dire emergency (and I have certainly hiked through far worse conditions) although neither is the best of all possible worlds.

Of course, no car meant that everything over the weekend was either spent in the apartment or by foot - and so both church and grocery shopping were conducted with a walk.  Again, not unmanageable by any circumstance, although it does somewhat limit the amount of groceries one can bring home (fortunately, it is only me here at the moment) - one backpack-ful is somewhat less than you might imagine.

How are my legs?  Sore, but that probably does not come as a surprise simply due to the fact I have not walked this much in some time.  The soreness is not unmanageable - although it hardly makes me want to do a lot when I get home.

The biggest "complaint" I have is simply the amount of time it takes - almost two hours instead of what would be about a 10 minute drive.  One does not appreciate the loss in time until one is confronted with it.  And that is for a relatively short distance - imagine 5 miles each way, or even 10 miles.  The reality of pre-20th Century travel, where a great many people spent most of their lives near where they lived, becomes far more comprehensible.

What will I do when I get my car back?  Drive some of the time I suspect - but I do think (as long as the weather holds) I will continue to walk at least one day a week, if not more.   The exercise really does do me good.  And the humbling nature of moving, one foot at a time, makes me appreciate modern transportation all the more.

Sunday, May 05, 2024

The Modern World Curses The Church


There are two sub texts here, of course.  One is the sort of prayer given by Augustine of Hippo when he prayed "Oh Lord, save me from my desire - but just not quite yet", the prayer of the potential penitent who is not quite ready to give up their sin.  The other is when the Church lurches over to the side of the World in things like "the new most important thing"  which in our modern world is mostly social - in those cases, suddenly the Church is seen as a credible institution which has not so much "saved" society as having been enlightened by it.

But Chesterton had the right of it.  The modern world curses the Church for not saving it- because it does not wish be saved, at least not in the way it needs to be.

Saturday, May 04, 2024

The True Business Of People


It is not necessarily that I will be going back to school. But I do now spend a lot more time in thinking about and studying what interests me instead of what will "get me ahead" in the world.

Friday, May 03, 2024

TB Takes The "A" Train

One of the outstanding matters in my relocation to New Home 2.0 is my automobile.  In short, it is being shipped here - but has not yet arrived (if all goes well, it arrives on the day you are reading this, Friday).  I had a 30 day rental which was paid for, but due to my staggered start schedule and the trip to Turkey, we could not ship the car until my return. Which meant, of course, that there would be less rental car time than time I needed the car.  

Not a big issue of course - currently I live about 2 miles from my place of work, which makes it easy enough to walk to (I of the hikes in the Sierra and all).  What it did mean was that I needed to get the car back to the airport and then get back home. 

I had two options:  Hire a ride sharing service which, at commute hours, would run about $85 including tip, or take the local light rail for the princely sum of $2.80.  And as one of the reasons we rented where we did was the light rail and the option to take it to the airport, it seemed logical that I should prove the decision mattered.

In terms of the mechanics itself, nothing could have been easier.  Pay at the exit of the airport, walk 100 yards or so to the light rail (which is the end of that line), and get on.  One transfer to make; otherwise nothing to do but sit and watch.

While I am not a regular participant of things like light rail, it is certainly not like I have never used them.  I have occasionally been on select US Systems and even overseas - mostly Japan of course, but also in places like London, Munich and Athens.  I generally know how they work and at least in theory, what to expect.  And so, the ride became a series of observations.

Much like any other public transit, the ridership is varied and people keep to themselves. At the airport, several older couples boarded, talking to an employee about which station to get off at. That was the bulk of the conversation:  other than the occasional person talking on the phone, the ridership itself was silent as the train moved along. As might be expected - especially from Americans - no-one shares a seat unless it is absolutely necessary.

The train traveled from the airport through the industrial outskirts to the center of town, then out to the outer parts of the suburbs.  The green of the surroundings (and it is so very green here) was cut by the signs of a struggling economy:  the trash piles of abandoned encampments and the cluster of occupied encampments of the homeless, the graffiti which became a regular accompaniment from the airport to downtown (and which, I am told, was not an issue some years earlier), the empty facades and buildings that were downtown - if you were taking this train to get downtown from the airport, this was not the best way to show off the city.  Even the train itself gave some rather...interesting creaks and whines as it made certain turns - not at speed of course, but significant enough that I wondered if anyone had actually lubricated the thing.  Apparently this is a common occurrence; no-one looked up or concerned at all.

For what was effectively a rush hour run, the train was not full.  At every stop a few folks got on and a few folks got off. Nothing like Japan of course, where at rush hour one is packed in to the point that one cannot control one's ability to compensate weight for the movement of the train.  

By the time I arrived outside my doorstep (within 100 yards). the trip had taken about 80 minutes.

Was it worth it?  Financially of course 3% of the cost of the ride share speaks for itself.  Was it safe?  Safe enough; there were no "problems" and any discomfort I felt was simply the discomfort I always feel around people I am not acquainted with.  Will I use it again?  Certainly if I needed to get near downtown, it makes a fair amount of sense (one would dismount, in this case, before the rather shocking parts) as it is probably a 30 minute trip and I cannot drive it any faster than that (no parking fees as well, of course).

I will note that, apropos of my comments on the small downtown here, the line does continue on to that area, so it will make an interesting Saturday morning trip to get a coffee when the weather is better.

Perhaps most relevant for our move, would I take it to the airport?

I would consider it.  Upsides:  Cost (not just of the ride, but of parking), convenience.  Downsides: Time to airport (both the total time as well as meeting the flight time) and just "people" in general.

Still, having options is good.  And, while not necessarily a ringing endorsement, it is certainly something that I would not ever consider doing again.

Thursday, May 02, 2024

The Collapse CXXXXV: Rendezvous

 19 July 20XX+1

My Dear Lucilius:

From Crossroads, it was another two solid days of walking along a similar road to what we had been on. As with the trip coming form McAdams, the signs of housing were few and far between here – again, roads wandering off into back behind curves or hills that were likely not wise to follow for any number of reasons. The hills themselves were none too taxing.

For everyone else. Not so for me.

If these four days of travel have made me conscious of anything, Lucilius, it is that I am not a young in any sense of the word. Likely I outstrip even the Colonel by a good fifteen to twenty years at this point. And while before all of this I would have told you that I felt in “decent” shape”, this trip - even more so that the one last month - has convinced me that I am “decent” only in the fact that I am still upright and moving.

Thankfully, we made no significant ascents and so any sort of altitude related issues were not a concern, only my tired body at the end of the day. And even when we have ended the day, I am slow but able to help. No, it is upon rising, when virtually every muscle of my lower body notes that this is not quite what it signed up for. Rising is slow, getting ready is slow – slow enough that I try to do everything I need to as quickly as possible just to meet the timetable we need to be on for moving. The first mile or two are slow as well until things get stretched out a bit and rolling.

Everyone is kind about it and affects not to notice.

To the trained eye (not mine), evidence of The Locusts was along this trail. The good Colonel took time to point them out: fire locations, swaths of garbage left by those picking through things for only the things they wanted. And although all of these locations were older, we became more cautious as we moved forward, the road curving to dead blinds that could not be seen around.

Around mid-day of the fourth day on the road, we arrived at our destination.

That this was a ranch of some kind at one point was evident from the outbuildings and multiple fences around it. That it had been the location of not just The Locusts but a battle was evident from the damage to the outbuildings and main buildings around it, not to mention fire-scorched earth and holes made by nothing else but bullets and the occasionally scattering of bones not animal in origin.

Our instructions upon arrival were rather precise: behind the ruins of the main house there was a pile of stones (whether a grave or not, we were not informed). Directly in front of the grave, to the hillward side that rose up behind it, we were to place three of those stones in a triangle and wait.

The stones placed in their triangle (after I fussed for probably what was longer than necessary: Did it need to be an equilateral triangle? Was one side too long? I fussed until I was kindly reminded that given the state of things, any triangle would be obvious as an artifact), we returned to the ruins and waited.

About an hour later, Ox noted that he saw someone coming down the hill.

The Colonel, The Leftenent, and Ox slowly withdrew to covering positions within the ruins. Young Xerxes stayed in the center. I walked out through the ruins to stand by the stones.

You may query the wisdom of this, Lucilius. The math is simple: I am the least useful member of the party for this sort of thing. If for some reason this was a set up – a rather elaborate one, I grant you – those four would be in the best position to fight their way out and their experience would be the most missed. Pompeia Paulina would miss me no doubt, but the ability of this team to survive would be at its highest.

And so I stood, hands carefully exposed and at my side, waiting.

The form continued to approach until it resolved itself into the shape of a man – a man with a rifle aimed more or less in my direction. Or at least I liked to believed aimed less in my direction.

He stopped well away from me even as he came more into view, dressed in what would be considered in these parts as ranching garb with a faded hat proclaiming a seed supplier no doubt long gone. He no more stood out from this part of the country now than he would have two years ago.

“You’re here for?” came the shout.

“Wheat”, I returned. “I am here for wheat. The wheat up the road. I am here to look at it”.

He shouted something up the hill in what even I could recognize as Spanish. The response from the hill came back as “three” even to my broken interpretation, so I assume they were counting the rest of the party.

He turned his attention back to me. “And how do I know you’re not simply bandits, an advance party sent to spy out this location?”

I shifted a bit. “First, we laid out a triangle of stones, which we were instructed to do via radio contact. The second, simply, is that can you honestly believe a bandit party would send someone like myself as the lead element?”

He chuckled a bit at that, although he did not drop the firearm down. We stood there looking at each other as birds flew overhead and up and over the hills behind the ruins.

Finally, he brought the firearm down, chuckling. “You’re right – you have the required signs, but by God there is no way someone like you could have made it last year as a bandit.” He waved up the hill behind him and two figures rose up, even as the three behind me detached themselves from the ruins and slowly came forward.

I write this note as one of his men and Ox and Young Xerxes are preparing a meal for us and the other man and The Leftenant stand watch and the Colonel and the rancher talk; my usefulness as an initial contact spent, I have little enough to contribute except to keep an odd eye out on the surroundings.

Which is fine with me of course, Lucilius; this sort of potentially facing down an armed man with nothing more than my appearance and a hopeful story is a bit more than I can bear.

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca

Wednesday, May 01, 2024

Live Nobly


(Editor's note:  The InterWeb is back up and running, so responses should be less delayed.)

The Ancient Greeks had an intellectual concept called arete.  It meant "excellence", and it was the idea of the realization of one's purpose or function to the highest degree possible.  It was living one's life to the greatest potential that one could, being the best and most effective that one could to achieve a result.  And this accomplishment was to readily available for all to see; in that sense the Ancient Olympics and other Greek Games were an example of arete, as was fulfilling one's purpose - thus, the death of the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae was also an example of arete.

Too often I have let myself off the hook by living up to less than my full potential or function.  Very occasionally it is because of a justifiable reason; more often it feels like simply laziness on my part.  Living up to all that one is capable of - and that is a sliding scale of course, based on the individual - involves work and effort, and such work and effort that is ultimately driven by ourselves internally.  People can guide us or lead us, but ultimately it has to come from within ourselves.  We are the architects of our efforts, if not always of our results.

And - at least for me - I know when I have made the ultimate effort - and I know when I have done less than I could have or been satisfied with less than my best.  I also know when I have been "putting in the work" as the saying goes, even if the apparent result is less than I hoped for.  

Why I settle too often endlessly bothers me.

But the reality is that we, at any moment, can choose to live better lives, to live towards a sense of arete.  And we should encourage ourselves - and each other to do so.

After all, as Seneca points out, it is something - unlike Death - that we can control.

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Liking Happiness

Over my recent trip, I had the opportunity to read two books by the late Theologian Lesslie Newbigin (1909-1989).  I had not heard his name until almost my move from New Home, but was intrigued enough to seek out books about him and order (book reviews are in the works).  A very short summary is that he was for many years a missionary to India and returned, finding that the Western Civilization he had grown up in was in the process of changing drastically.  He wrote about the change in roles of Christianity as it addressed this post-Christian society (I will note for writing in the last 1980's he was ominously prophetic).

One of the notes he does make in both books that I read was that - even at that time - he perceived the Post Enlightenment Society of Western Civilization to be a society without hope.  Change that idea of "Hope" to "Happiness", and suddenly we have a blog post.

We are all unhappy from time to time; and anyone that has read me knows that more often than note, I fall into that category.  And yet, as strange as it may seem if all you knew of me is this blog, I am on the whole a relatively happy person.

Part of it is simply the fact that the simplest of things makes me happy.  A new book. Almost any sort of animal.  Free food.  Enjoyable conversation.  Puns.  On the whole, there really is a lot to be happy about and take simple pleasure in.

That said, I have come to appreciate more and more that there are a lot of people for whom simply do not like happiness.

What I am speaking of here is not those people that, often through no fault of their own, find themselves the victims of terrible circumstances.  These things lamentably happen, as they always have.  Who I am speaking of are the individuals that, in the face of pretty good lives and (in the case of Western Civilization) very affluent lives, cannot stand for any sort of happiness.

Bring up a subject, there is always something wrong.  Bring up a moment of joy, and there is some reason that joy should not be enjoyed.  Always, ever, looming over us is the great cloud of things going potentially going wrong or never up to snuff. Try to do something happy, and there is a wild look in their eye that one is either crazy or ill-informed or both.

Given a choice of liking or not liking happiness, they will almost always choose the latter.

Which, I suppose, brings up the world view which Newbigin suggests above: In a world that lives without hope, how can one like happiness?  There is no future, only a failing present that is ever destined for something worse.  Liking happiness, from that point of view, probably seems like a very great fool's errand.

Maybe we are on a fool's errand, given the world we live in.  But the one thing I will note is that, given the choice of being around the blithe but happy or aware but unhappy, I will almost always choose the happy.  Why?  Because life is already sad enough.  Constantly, only every finding the bleakest and most exacting thing wrong with it is not creating a sense of stark realism and it is certainly not winning people to their side.  

Is there a way to combined realism with happiness?  I am sure there is, although I am equally sure that I do a pretty lousy job at it.  But I will make one note:  the realist can attract me, but the happy will almost always attract me.  The unhappy, much less so.

Subvert the dominant paradigm.  Be Happy in a world that dislikes it.

Monday, April 29, 2024

On Moving In

The Great Move-In to New Home 2.0 occurred this weekend.

I say move in.  It was really me taking two suitcases packed to the gills, a backpack, and a pickup order that The Ravishing Mrs. TB put in for me at a national chain into an empty apartment, walking through the apartment and noting issues, and then putting away my things.

To be honest with you, I was depressed when I first walked in the door after getting the keys.

No matter how big you make the apartment in your mind, it is inevitably smaller than you remember it.  All of a sudden the thought "Where are we going to put everything?" flooded into my mind.  Looking at the Master Bedroom Closet space, I suddenly realized how much less it was than our home was.  And that I need to get rid of a lot more clothes than I had anticipated.

That thought - size and space -resounded as I walked through each room of the apartment.  In theory, the apartment is 50% smaller than our house.  That does not seem like so much in my mind - drop off two bedrooms and a family room, and no big deal, right?

It is, apparently, a big deal.

Somewhat obscurely, the kitchen is actually rather large.  Which is certainly not what I remember, but is welcome.

It will be an adjustment for sure.  One big item, for example, is that there is no real space for a desk, especially if all of the books come with me (which, of course, is what will happen - People get rid of books?).  There is a breakfast bar which I assume will become my functional desk, but then I wonder about all of the little things - memories, really - that I had on my desk.  What happens to those?

The reality of the move sank it even farther at that point.

I should be grateful, after all.  This round two of sorting things would always have had to happen if we moved anyway. This is just accelerating the issue and forcing me to deal with it now, not later.  And, I suppose, it is better to take my lumps and do the hard work now rather than have it happen with far less warning and far more urgency in the future.

(As a note, I will not have in-house InterWeb until the coming Friday, so I will be delightfully sponging off coffee shops for free InterWeb and trying to follow things on my phone.  As a result, responses may be delayed.  Thank you for your patience.)

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Standing At The Judgement


"'Hell and destruction are before the Lord:  how much more the hearts of the children of men?' (Proverbs 15:11).  But the sinner thinks that nobody sees him.  Concealing himself from human eyes, in the darkness of night or in a deserted place, he supposes he is not noticed by anyone.  But God's eye has seen everything; his guardian angel and conscience were witnesses.

At some time you will stand at the judgement:  then all that is hidden will be laid bare: uncompromising witnesses will be present - and you shall be speechless.  The verdict will not be subject to appeal.  There is only one way to prevent this ultimate inevitability:  repentance.  Hurry to enter, before the hour strikes...and it will strike.  

When? You do not know.  But it will put an end to your sins, or to any hope of pardon".

- Theophan The Recluse (A.D. 1815-1894)

Saturday, April 27, 2024

On Innovation

If you are not doing yourself the favor of reading FOTB (Friend Of This Blog) Eaton Rapids Joe's series The Cumberland Saga, I would encourage you to do so.  It is a rollicking tale about a small community living through a collapse (Rollicking?  Can I use that word in that context?) and is well worth the investment of your time.

Yesterday's serial episode involved some innovative thinking on the nature of weapons.  The weapons are beyond the point of this discussion (as they usually are here), but the idea of innovation is not.  The short version is that in the midst of thinking of parts, the innovative idea of 3D printing came up.


Among my many complaints about Our Political And Social Betters (OPASB) is the fact that for almost anything anymore, there is one solution:  theirs.  There is no negotiation, for example, on ways to address powering civilization (on which, as another FOTB John Wilder has often pointed out, the entire edifice stands):  it can only be solar or wind.  There are no other solutions and therefore, no need to discuss.  The same has been extended to virtually every area of human endeavor:  arts, religion, technology, human interactions, food, practices of all kinds.  There is only one solution, that of the OPASB.

Even I buy into this more than I should.

The difficulty for the OPASB - which I propose will become more and more evident every day - is that their solutions are not the end-all/be-all to the problem.  Solar and wind, for example, can be useful - until they are not.  Highly scientific and robotic farming works - as long as the chemicals flow and the finely tuned equipment works.  Defining what is art and entertainment works - until people simply no longer go to it.  Raising wages increases employee benefit - until labor becomes a cost which has to be reduced and the employee has no job at all.

The serial that ERJ wrote (above) is concerning solving for a particular problem.  What comes out of the discussion is a solution which had not been thought of before. An innovative solution.

It is here that the non-OPASB has the advantage.  Because they - we, really - can be innovative, flexible, and nimble.

Innovation is not easy of course.  And innovation should never be completely identified with progress, because in many cases current innovation looks a lot like traditional methods, methodology, and craftsmanship.  

The best part about innovation is it keeps mentally sharp.  Just trying to think of a solution is itself a useful exercise, even if the initial solution does not solve the problem.  Suddenly the world becomes a massive series of inputs to problems, just waiting to be used to resolve themselves.

The OPASB cannot and will not do such things.  They have too much invested - not just money, but pride - in doing things in their solution way.  To question the solution of the OPASB is to question the OPASB and, like almost all other authoritarian and totalitarian regimes, the OPASB will happily consume any doubters or heretics in its ranks.

Fight the power - quietly, silently.  Be innovative.