Monday, May 30, 2011

Well, I could resist reason no more. I have been worn down to the point where I can no longer cling to personal inclination over self-evident truth. I fought and reasoned and begged, but it is no use.

I must renounce a certain aspect of this blog...namely the transparent sheet. It's opaque now, so the two people criticising me for my 'artistically unreasonable' inclincations may sheath their swords. My fight is over and my battle lost.
Monday, May 23, 2011
The place: a deep, unknown region of an omnipresent sea lapping before a hoary cliff that reaches from the east of the horizon to the west, flooding into two great caverns. The vessel of woman wishes to navigate to through the passage, but alas! Atop the left portal is a great harpy. She bares her teeth and screeches against the dainty vessel, hanging by the talons of her hairy legs she stretches out long chipped nails, clotted with black blood, waiting for the wayfarers.

Atop the right, stands a gaunt giant. A cyclops--by the act of gauging out one of his own eyes--he heaves a might hammer above his round head, muttering words of blame and condemnation, ready to smash the bright barque floating on the doldrums.

Confronted with this ultimatum, the females on the ship begin debating, some wishing to placate the giant, others hoping to side with the harpy, and many who wish to said away and drown the ridiculous hope of reaching noble Ithaca, content to sail without direction on the wine dark sea, so long as they are free to move with the wind. Many of these three parties, sick of disputation, put out in dingies to pursue those foreboding inclinations, while the less decisive stare at the fourth party, which is contemplating the wall of granite before them. Happy with none of the propositions they stare and wait.

'What are you waiting for?' one of the wavering girls asks.

'For a third gate to open in the stone,' is the decisive answer

What Is the Feminine 'Cosmetic' Solution?

A man once bought a still in an town where distilling alcohol was held not only illegal, but ungodly. Drinking spirits, wine, or beer was something for Catholics, 'Whiskeypalians,' and other miscellaneous heathens. Having had a good laugh over the idea of brewing his own moonshine, he simply used it for the innocuous purpose of covering a well. Still, any passerby would naturally suppose that some more iniquitous work was afoot.

One of the man's daughters was mortified and wanted her mother and grandmother to intervene. The grandmother, a woman possessing all the natural lore of a Native American and all the simple godliness of an apolitical Puritan, responded by painting the still and then planting flowers around it. Her rationale? It was Proverbs 15: 1, A soft answer turneth away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.

She knew, as the modern Western woman does not know, how to live peacefully with men and with the world in general. What many philosophers have come to know rationally ('What is wrong with the world is me') she knew intuitively. Her task: to improve only what God had given to be in her grasp. Her strategy: the typical feminine mixture of beauty and pragmatism. If a thing could not be used to beautify or to improve life, then out it should go. If it didn't go? Well, one must do one's best to hide or decorate it. These two rules brought her through a life of hard work to, I believe, everlasting benediction.

In defense of the first rule's seeming passivity, a woman cannot combat qua woman. It is that simple. Direct combat means taking up the weapons of men and laying aside her own femininity. However adept a woman may be with the arms of men, they are still the arms of men. As the brilliant Molly Gustin (the only credible Platonic rationalist I have ever met) often said, women win by subterfuge, not brute force. One need only ask Delilah if scissors are as effective as swords.

Should a woman however prefer the sword and win an argument in that 'liberated', forceful manner she has been taught to embrace from the 1960's on, she causes resentment in the man she argued with. If this man is someone whose love or fellowship she desires, then she has lost, for if he concedes the point, he may come to see her as a colleague, not a companion. Or he may concede resentfully, closing off his tenderness from her.

Then again, he may concede, but this still does not prompt him to act on his concession (e.g., yes, he agrees that he should clean up the dirt he tracked into the room...but it lays there still). Then again, he may concede, act on the concession, but grumbling all the time before he retreats into a sulky mood. Or worst of all, she may have succeeded in breaking him. She has demolished the ego which drives him to accomplish things and turned him into a compromiser that just wants some peace and quiet, even if he must become a slave to get it. Surely, even the most strident feminist would not want her great achievement to be a hen-pecked cockerel. After all, that would make her a hen.

So what to do then in an imperfect world that one does want to better? After all, God has given us free will, and He has not drawn a map of what is in our power to change: Behold I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves. Be ye therefore wise as serpents and simple as doves. (Matthew 10:16)

A girl must listen to her kinswomen. She must regard the teachings of wise philosophers, and of course, she must cultivate her own common sense and heed the voice of her intuition over that of her lower passions. For as much as the Left may argue otherwise, much of the feminist credo is merely the tripe of our base instincts. To nag, to be shrill, to let the victim have it, and not to be docile, pleasing, or content with 'superficial' solutions--this is not courageous! This is self-indulgent. Outside the anomalous homes inhabited by male tyrants who actually employ their fists, the line feminists advise women to take is depressingly banal and--in the sense of both age and precedence--conservative.

In a search to validate the cream of tradition, as opposed to the dregs, I stipulate first, that one must recognize that the dichotomy between men and women is only one dichotomy. Perhaps it is the most important one, but it is still only one. As E. M. Forster observes in Howard's End (albeit through an unsympathetic character) that 'equality' between men and women is no feasible social solution, because men never even had equality amongst themselves (for those who have not read the book, I am interpreting 'equality', as used here, to imply not only the equal possessions of wealth and power, but of talents and abilities as well).

As exciting as the Left would make it out to be (i.e. that human discord is always a desperate struggle between groups for the supremacy of black and white ideals) one must remember that life is more often a dispute between individuals. The lady berating me for leaving my bicycle in the corridor (where it disturbs no one) would not likely be moved by appeal to an argument of universal sisterhood.

Introducing the second point: however hard and unfeeling
Henry Wilcox, the character cited above, may have been, he at least understood that happiness is a primary thing, and one that we all desire as the fruit of our deeds. He would not have subordinated the clear notion of happiness to the vague idea of 'progress.'

So in this argument, noble tradition succeeds
by default if the individual takes G. K. C.'s advice and dismisses secondary notions (e.g., progress) in favour of the primary ones (e.g., happiness), for who should want the first without the second, and who will not gladly take the second without the first? Is one a troglodyte for this? Well, the Left says we are animals, so we may as well follow our natural destinies and enjoy the simple, attainable things over ideals so abstract we do not even know what they look like. One can fill one's house with strife over the hideous piece of technology one's husband has bought, or smile and put up one's hair. What would your cat do?

Practical Applications

There is now a general outline of the realm of what is possible. First, it concerns how women deal both with men and other women, so we females should not take particular umbridge. Second, the proper course of action will also cultivate the soil to produce the fruit of happiness. However, where men and women part ways, is in the shape of their motions.

A man wishes to project, to take his skill, his specialty, and see what path it might take from the valley to the peak. A woman moves in circles, seeking to improve her environment as a whole. A modernist may be tempted to sneer at this, but they should recall that such circles can be quite large. A woman's family and environs might consist of a single household or of a vast empire. What matters is that she continues to operate as a lady.

Take the situation with several women living in the same house. It usually ends that only one of them takes it upon herself to clean the bathroom. It's not fair, but she has already tried talking with her roommates gently and reasonably, and they still do not do their share of housework. What can the conscientious one do? Nag? Well, this may or may not work, and it will sow discord. Let the bathroom get filthy? She will quickly discover that the filth tortures her far more than the people she is attempting to punish. Or she can clean it herself, accepting this duty as her lot. This acceptance will lead to contentment and, therefore, a greater chance of happiness.

The fictional Captain Jack Sparrow once observed, 'The only rules that really matter are these: what a man can do and what a man can't do.' It may be a truism and a painfully obvious one, but human beings often cloud logic with ill-recalled experience and reality with muddled ideals, rather than using the former ones to judge the latter. This makes for a befuddled head. Occasionally, one needs to dig up Aristotelian syllogisms to think straight, which is why Aristotle is a giant, and Bertrand Russell is a dwarf on a ladder. Before the complex, always state the simple.

The bathroom cleaning roommate eventually achieved peace of mind by realizing what she could and couldn't do. She couldn't change other people, but she could alter the course of her own feelings. One may argue that her relationship with her cohabitants will never be close because of this, but that is not so. In altering her reactions, she has accepted them as they are. They may not be friends, but they are at least congenial. She may be doing a little extra, unpleasant work, but her living quarters are all the more pleasant for it.

The Peculiar Importance of the Cosmetic Reform

John Medaille, writing for The Remnant, noted the similarity between the words cosmetics and cosmos in one of the most chivlarous essays I have ever read about women (the title is 'Women, Cosmetics, and the Cosmos'). The article's idea is essentially: woman cannot better the entire cosmos, but she can better her immediate surroundings; if she does so, she will receive a certain measure of consolation. When a feminist and human rights activist was attempting to help unjustly imprisoned women in a country torn by upheaval, she was astonished that they asked her for trivial things like makeup. It was not until her own imprisonment, that the modern visitor understood why the unfortunate ladies had so dearly wanted lipstick.

Like altering her abode (be it home, room, cubicle, or desk), putting on her face can do much in helping a woman to encounter whatever situation God sends her. I could not write this essay peaceably before making my bed, and I cannot count the number of times another woman has asked me if I had a little lipstick in my purse. 'I'm just having a bad day. Maybe it will perk me up.'

In condemning these inclinations passed down by our foremothers, the Left, alas, is not alone. Some of the Church's saints (and some of her great disappointments) have had very harsh things to say about women and their desire to decorate themselves and their surroundings.

Similarly, too, do even the servants [122] of those barbarians cause the glory to fade from the colours of our garments (by wearing the like); nay, even their party-walls use slightingly, to supply the place of painting, the Tyrian and the violet-coloured and the grand royal hangings, which you laboriously undo and metamorphose. Purple with them is more paltry than red ochre; (and justly, ) for what legitimate honour can garments derive from adulteration with illegitimate colours? That which He Himself has not produced is not pleasing to God, unless He was unable to order sheep to be born with purple and sky-blue fleeces! _Tertullian, On the Apparel of Women

Well, at least he ended as a heretic, so there's no need for ladies to feel guilty about any purple scarves they may own, but St. Jerome also reproaches women:

No; you should choose for your companions staid and serious women, particularly widows and virgins, persons of approved conversation, of few words, and of a holy modesty. Shun gay and thoughtless girls, who deck their heads and wear their hair in fringes, who use cosmetics to improve their skins and affect tight sleeves, dresses without a crease, and dainty buskins; and by pretending to be virgins more easily sell themselves into destruction. _St. Jerome, Letter 130

Ouch. However, this excerpt is not as clear as the first. A woman might fringe her hair without 'affecting tight sleeves' or she may employ cosmetics tastefully and do so without exposing her bosom. The godly man has made the mistake of branding everything a ditzy or shameless girl does as wrong. Goodness! is brushing one's hair even allowed?

St. Augustine, et al. hold the same dismal views. Such writings as these can drive a contemplative woman to depression, an unconvinced woman to indifference, and an irreverent one to flippancy. Yet, I am convinced these reactions would probably surprise the aforementioned men. As unkind as their words are, I am sure they would have been abashed on beholding the tears of a girl they had just berated for wearing flowers in her hair. Very likely, many of them thought women would feel liberated if they did not have to care about their looks. Alas, being a saint does not in itself qualify a man to grasp feminine psychology.

As men with better understanding have discovered, a woman does not primarily dress to allure. She dresses for herself (and for other women). Why else would men hate so many popular fashion trends and hairstyles? Because they were not conceived with the fancies of men in mind! Men have written as much themselves here (see fact number 18). Such a revelation would have shocked the male saints who thought adornment had its roots in concupiscence (forgive me, ye pious men, but none of you could speak infallibly on such an issue).

For a woman, the idea of making her person more lovely has an objective charm. It helps to beautify the world for her. Thus, when a woman is in love, she will attempt to enchant the man as well as enhance her own environment. Such making-over as this has been defended by the greatest Doctor of the Church:

Nevertheless a woman may use means to please her husband, lest through despising her he fall into adultery. Hence it is written (1 Cor. 7:34) that the woman "that is married thinketh on the things of the world, how she may please her husband." Wherefore if a married woman adorn herself in order to please her husband she can do this without sin.

And concerning cosmetics for their own sake?

However, such painting does not always involve a mortal sin, but only when it is done for the sake of sensuous pleasure or in contempt of God...
_St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Secunda Secundae Partis, Question 169, Article II

I doubt that the flicks of a mascara wand or the strokes of a powder brush are often carried out for carnal pleasure or wilful blasphemy.

It has been said that one does not truly love humanity on the macrocosmic scale, until such a feat is accomplished on the microcosmic one. So it is, when a woman sets out to solve problems, reform abuses, or fight evil, she will sally forth with greater strength, if she has expelled these things first from herself. Let the barque sail onward, for the great Ox has broken through the cliff of stone.
Monday, May 16, 2011

'They are not innocents selected at random by passing demons. Most have made a deal with the Devil. Only later do they become aware of the Devil's asking price.'
_Father Malachi Martin

For some reason I have always had a most sensitive fear concerning those strong, spiritual beings that chose to hate the Good, True, and Beautiful. To be reassured as to what they can and cannot do is why an impressionable teenager was allowed by her mother to read parts of a work on exorcism, Malachi Martin's Hostage to the Devil. What set this account apart is that, even though he is a talented and bewitching author, Father Malachy does not write in a lurid or sensational fashion concerning battles with the demons. In fact, it was because of this committment to speak the truth for God's sake and not for Mammon's, that he refused David Berkowitz's offer to write that monster's biography--forever sealing that particular portal of evil into the realm of man.

There is a lesson in that refusal which every writer should heed. When it comes to evil, one should not say enough to fascinate readers with the glamour of thrills and danger that prompt so many to watch horrific films or read frightening books. Yet, for the sake of the sceptical who possess a healthy immunity to the morbid fascination of incubi and succubi, occasionally a word should be dropped to ripple their apathy.

Yesterday was a beautiful day--the weather's masters tinting the spring foliage deep green against pewter skies, spraying everything with the gloss of a gentle rain, and studding every roadside or path with blossoms of lilac of every hue, from ruddy violet to icy lavender to pearl white. I was on my way to an afternoon Mass in a village outside of Warsaw. I was entering the church by the back door, having just dipped my fingers in holy water, and was adjusting my veil in the vestibule before the sacristy when I heard a harsh, shrill scream coming from within the church.

I stood in shock; a flurry of possibilities suggested themselves to me, when I heard another scream, this one in intelligible German. I turned and the parish priest beckoned to me from the sacristy. I was informed that Mass would begin in half an hour at the usual time, but at the present moment, an exorcism was taking place.

I hastily went outside to wait, standing at the back of the church, as near to the tabernacle as I could be, and began my prayers. It is my usual wont to think of Christ in the tabernacle as the vulnerable Lover. That day, I saw Him as the commanding Lord. Disturbed as I was, it was impossible to fear in that situation, which only revealed how impotent evil is against the Holy of holies. Glancing at the lustrous leaves of the wet lilac bushes, and inhaling the flowers' scent, I remembered that this was His world--even this world of matter. And it is this realm, as well as that of Heaven, that the serpent hates.

When the patients of the exorcist left (they had of course come of their own accord and asked for the exorcisms themselves) the exorcist himself was exhausted. At Mass, the congregation was asked to offer their Communions up for the ongoing effort of freeing the two people that had come to the church for help.

If you can spare a prayer, remember that an exorcist is always in need. After two heart attacks, Father Malachi Martin had this to say of such holy work:

'Every exorcism takes something out of you that cannot be put back. The demon goes, but it carries a part of you away with it. A little of the exorcist dies each time. It's a permanent mental fight against a powerful, dangerous enemy.'

Let us all remember in our daily toils and pains, which all too often render existence rather mundane, that in many places on this globe, a consecrated man enters into a very dark place, and for the sake of one who has thrown so many graces away, offers himself--trusting in God's protection--as hostage to the Devil.

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Warsaw, Poland
Domine, spero quia mundum vicisti. Lord, I trust that Thou hast overcome the world. Panie, ufam, żeś pokonał świat.
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