Traditional vs modern society

Traditional vs modern society

One of the reasons that I am a traditionalist.

Please note: this does not mean that traditional societies were, or healthy societies ought to be, static or stagnant. There was, is, and ought to be a dynamic equilibrium, incorporating ebb and flow, travel and interchange, etc.

But what is rejected – and what I reject – is the absurd notion that “change is good,” that change for its own sake should be the norm, and the preferred option.

Change is not good! Not intrinsically. Good change can be good, but the burden of proof is on those who desire the change, to demonstrate how and why it will be good, and that the difficulties and challenges that accompany it – for there will always be those – do not outweigh the benefits.

Stability, balance, equilibrium: these are the things that make for stable, peaceful, and long-lasting societies. Without a great deal of caution and care, change can result in chaos, and chaos is more likely to be destructive than otherwise.

In defence of blood sports – Epigram

Blood sports. An unethical, unsustainable stain on the landscape. Blasting defenceless animals out of the sky. Sounds harsh right…?

Source: In defence of blood sports -Epigram

More on field or so-called “blood”-sports, from a British perspective:

It is not a question of human rule and dominion but a case of stewardship. I am deeply concerned about the environment – I wouldn’t splash out on free range eggs or endure the seven hour train journey instead of a flight home if I didn’t – but providing species as a whole are conserved I won’t lose sleep over the death of an individual animal.

And if anything, shooting offers a more honest relationship between man and beast than the average consumer could ever hope to have with their beef lasagne (or was it horse?)… When you eat game meat you know where the animal has come from, how it was killed and that it enjoyed a free and wild life – something that cannot be said for much of the meat coming through our industrial abattoirs and supermarkets.

Indeed!

I am reminded of one of the great Aldo Leopold’s essays in his seminal A Sand County Almanac, “Wildlife in American Culture,” where he notes the value of hunting, as inculcating both knowledge and respect for the food chain – much diminished if the only thing we are “hunting” for is the best price on styrofoam-and-plastic-wrapped supermarket meats – and what he calls “split-rail value,” or anything that reminds of of our national (or more broadly, cultural) origins and evolution.

Hunting, and related disciplines like fishing, trapping, etc., are not the only ways to inculcate these values, of course, but they are particularly poignant and visceral means of doing so. They allow the practitioner to be a participant in what is sometimes called “the circle of life,” rather than a mere observer of it, in a way which no other activity save agriculture can do. And of course, farming (or gardening) and hunting are two activities which have always been very closely linked, in human history.

The whole question of field sports is made out to be a class issue. It isn’t. It is a city vs countryside issue.

I am sure the majority of those 80% who condoned the fox hunting ban were city dwellers with little appreciation of the tradition hunting carried for hundreds of years. ‘Just because it’s a tradition doesn’t mean it’s right’ I hear you say, so let’s look at it another way.

To people in the city, who have never come close to anything wilder than a cat, the concept of an aggressive fox seems alien, but in the countryside, foxes are vermin. Straight up. They terrorise lambs causing real damage to farmers. Growing up in the countryside, foxes were not some fluffy creature. They were the stuff of nightmares, crawling into the chicken run and butchering the lot for fun.

Unfortunately many people, both here and abroad, have grown up with a more-than-a-little “Disney-fied” version of how the natural world works. I have spent years working and teaching in environmental, outdoor, and conservation education, and I can assert with 100% confidence that predator (including foxes, coyotes, and even those adorable “masked bandits,” raccoons – ever seen one ticked off? they’re not adorable then!) numbers need to be controlled, to limit the spread of disease and protect domestic animal populations.

And prey animals (“game animals,” to us) need to have their numbers controlled, also – especially in the absence of “top predators” like wolves, bear, and mountain lions – to avoid overpopulation, resulting in starvation, disease, etc. In a totally natural environment, absent the influence of human beings, of course, that would not be necessary; nature would maintain the balance – but the means it would use, namely the aforementioned tools of predation, starvation, and disease, are hardly cute and cuddly. Again, this is not “Bambi,” this is the real world.

Again, those who are opposed to field sports like hunting (“shooting” and “stalking,” in British parlance), trapping (more of an economic activity than a sport, per se), and mounted foxhunting tend to have an excessively romanticized, fictionalized view of the world. It is particularly ironic when those opposed to field sports are willing to eat packaged meat! Such animals frequently live much worse lives, and suffer less humane deaths, than those hunted ethically (poaching, of course, cannot be defended under any circumstances).

Finally, from a philosophical viewpoint, the reality is that we are not separate from Nature, either above or below it; we are part of Nature. We may have abilities of self-reflection, cognition, and communication that are greater than our fellow-creatures, but we are still what Leopold called “plain members and citizens of the land community.” And we are, biologically and evolutionarily, predatory omnivores, like raccoons, opossums, and bears. Pretending otherwise is dishonest, and does both us and our fellow-citizens of the land community a disservice.

Unless we evolve the capacity to photosynthesize, we will be dependent upon killing something – whether animal or plant – to survive. And what many people do not realize is that vegetable production, even organic vegetable production, is not benign. Many animals are displaced or killed to plant, cultivate, harvest, and protect those fields of greens, roots, and other veggies. If you are a vegetarian or a vegan, please be clear-eyed enough to realize that this choices does not remove or immunize you from the deaths of animals, it merely makes those deaths less visible.

(Just as “Leave No Trace” camping relies heavily on extractive industries to produce the synthetic materials, stove fuels, etc., that replace more traditional camping techniques… but I digress.)

We cannot escape from our mutual interdependence on the rest of the natural world, and we cannot escape from the fact that a portion of that interdependence requires us to kill in order to survive. We may as well – in my view – do so in a way which is ethical, and which teaches us other lessons about the proper way to interact with the rest of the rest of the natural world, and with each other.

Wisdom from our Roman Catholic brethren

vitruvian_man - Da Vinci

“The human body shares in the dignity of ‘the image of God’: it is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a temple of the Spirit: Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity. Through his very bodily condition he sums up in himself the elements of the material world. Through him they are thus brought to their highest perfection and can raise their voice in praise freely given to the Creator. For this reason man may not despise his bodily life. Rather he is obliged to regard his body as good and to hold it in honour since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day.”

— Catechism of the Catholic Church, ❡❡ 364

Far too many Christians fall into the Gnostic heresy of devaluing the material world, including the human body, and believing that only “things spiritual” have ultimate worth. Do not be like them!

The Pacifist Temptation | William Doino Jr. | First Things

“Those who follow the Just War tradition—including many in the military and diplomatic corps—place a premium on clear-eyed negotiations, and see war only as a last resort.”

Source: The Pacifist Temptation | William Doino Jr. | First Things

Pacifism is a recurrent temptation in the Christian tradition; indeed, some radical Protestant denominations – including the Amish, the Quakers, and the Brethren / Mennonites – are especially known for their philosophical pacifism: it is almost a trademark. And there are many others in more “mainstream” churches who pursue peace very seriously.

These frequently compassionate and well-meaning people take the designation of Christ as “the Prince of Peace” further than, perhaps, the evidence will bear: the quote from Isaiah about “of the increase of his Kingdom and of peace there shall be no end” refers to the coming Kingdom, when Christ will reign in triumph – not the age of the Church Militant in which we find ourselves.

Such a view also fails to take into account sayings of Jesus such as “I come not to bring peace, but a sword,” and events such as that captured in a popular internet meme: “What would Jesus do? Turning over tables and whipping people with knotted cords is not out of the question!” In direct and marked contrast,

“Those who follow the Just War tradition—including many in the military and diplomatic corps—place a premium on clear-eyed negotiations, and see war only as a last resort. But they also realize that the existence and maintenance of ‘hard power’ is often crucial in preventing war and bringing about peaceful resolutions; for once you take military force off the table you risk dramatically increasing the possibility for violence. Even a cursory study of history reveals that unilateral disarmament only emboldens warmongers.

“But the Pax Christi statement asserts: ‘Recent academic research, in fact, has confirmed that nonviolent resistance strategies are twice as effective as violent ones.’ There are no footnotes, however, to any academic research showing how pacifists will defeat ISIS or could have brought down the Third Reich if only they’d been given the chance…

“It is one thing to honor individual Christians who cannot in good conscience take up arms and are willing to suffer for their beliefs. It is quite another to encourage movements which call on democratic societies to conform to pacifist demands—in the face of tyrants and mass-murderers—and are blind to the incalculable suffering pacifist policies would lead to.

“The pacifist temptation has long been rejected by the Catholic Church, for abundantly sound reasons, drawn from Christian teachings on mercy, compassion, the common good, and authentic peace. In a world where Christians are being savagely tortured, crucified and decapitated, the Church should not succumb to that temptation now.”

Beauty Matters

Beauty Matters.png

Indeed it does.

Nor is it limited to the Roman observance, although traditionalists in the Roman Catholic Church (and more generally, the liturgical, sacramental Churches, including Eastern Orthodoxy and – when it is being true to itself – the Anglican tradition) are often acutely aware of its importance:

“The only really effective apologia for Christianity comes down to two arguments, namely, the saints the Church has produced, and the art which has grown in her womb. Better witness is borne to the Lord by the splendor of holiness and art which have arisen in the community of believers than by the clever excuses which apologetics has come up with to justify the dark sides which, sadly, are so frequent in the Church’s human history. If the Church is to continue to transform and humanize the world, how can she dispense with beauty in her liturgies, that beauty which is so closely linked with love and with the radiance of the Resurrection? No. Christians must not be too easily satisfied. They must make their Church into a place where beauty – and hence truth – is at home. Without this the world will become the first circle of Hell.”

Pope Benedict XVI: The Ratzinger Report, p. 129

Beauty, however, is the birthright of all Christians – ours is, after all, a sacramental and incarnational faith, and therefore one which values the created order as an important source of God’s self-revelation to us. The Scriptural warrant for this goes back at least to the Psalmist:

“Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”

Psalm 29:2, 96:9

And of course the classical Christian tradition, at least in the West, has repeatedly cited the “three Transcendentals” (Goodness, Truth, and Beauty) as not only pointing toward God, but being aspects or attributes of God – ones that we should seek to mirror and live out in our own lives:

[The] Three Transcendentals of ancient philosophy (which has so greatly shaped Christian Tradition) [are] the True, the Good and the Beautiful. To destructively compress Plato and the Neoplatonists, all truth points to the transcendent Truth; all good points to the transcendent Good; all beauty points to the transcendent Beauty; and in turn, the transcendent True, Good and Beautiful is the One, the source of all being, which classical theism identifies as God, and is in turn identified with the God of the Bible by orthodox Christianity.

In short: for Christians, “Beauty Matters.” It is not an extrinsic, superficial adornment to our lives and our liturgy; it is an intrinsic, essential element of them.

Throne, Altar, Liberty: Christianity in the Age of Unbelief

A sympathetic review of God in the Dock, a compilation of essays by the late great author and Christian apologist, C.S. Lewis.

Source: Throne, Altar, Liberty: Christianity in the Age of Unbelief

This is a blog post which is a review (well, more of a recommendation, but with commentary) of a blog post which is a review of a book. Such things may become problematic! At what point do they become circular, and self-referential? At what point, in contrast, do they stray too far from the thing itself? All I can say in response is, read this post, if you so desire, but then read Gerry T. Neal’s excellent essay – and then, above all, read C.S. Lewis’s God in the Dock! Don’t take our word for it, see for yourself.

Like most (if not all) other writings by “Jack” Lewis, it is well worth the time and effort required. Time, because although the individual essays are fairly short, in the main, the collection itself is fairly lengthy. Effort, because although Lewis is a superbly gifted and engaging writer – at times provocative, at times witty and entertaining, and often both at once – he engages deep subjects, worthy of deep thought, and gives it to them.

As is common with deep thoughts, well-expressed, they often evoke feelings of “But of course! Now, why didn’t I think of that?” And although I purchased and read God in the Dock way back in 1998, and have referred to it many times since, Mr. Neal’s essay has provided me with some fresh perspectives on Lewis’s work – and a few “ah-ha!” moments, as well. Continue reading “Throne, Altar, Liberty: Christianity in the Age of Unbelief”

“Beauty is vanishing from our world…”

beauty-is-vanishing-from-our-world-because-we-live-as-15967758

To destructively compress Plato and the Neoplatonists, all truth points to the transcendent Truth; all good points to the transcendent Good; all beauty points to the transcendent Beauty; and in turn, the transcendent True, Good and Beautiful is the One, the source of all being, which classical theism identifies as God, and is in turn identified with the God of the Bible by orthodox Christianity” (Pascal Emmanuel Gobry).

It follows from this that, in a sense, to live as if beauty does not matter is to commit an offense against God Himself!