Abide With Me, Mahalia Jackson, and New Orleans

Given that New Orleans is playing in the Superbowl this year, this seems like a fitting video to display.

Oh How Beautiful. .

Authority and the Voice of God

The book of Genesis is filled with stories of the first order of importance. Every one of them is meant to be contemplated for at least a full lifetime. Everything in existence is expressed if not explained in these 50 chapters – and not in easily understandable ways.

Two stories have dominated my attention for some time now: the story of the temptation of Eve and the story of Abraham offering up his son Isaac.

In the Abraham story, the father of many peoples is instructed by God as follows:

Take now your son, your only Isaac, whom you love,
And go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering
Upon one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.

If anybody wants to reject the God of the Old Covenant, this is the story to gloam on to. Here it is. Take it. Throw away this God and never have to deal with Him again. He gives you that option right here. You can even claim the ethical high ground.

All my life I have wondered about this story, though I am sure there are commentaries that explain away all the difficulties it contains.

I don’t read that sort of commentary any more.

How did Abraham know it was the voice of God? He couldn’t draw on ethics. This command is contrary to everything Abraham had learned about good and evil up to this point.

He couldn’t draw on experience – not even the mystical sort. God had promised Abraham that this child Isaac would be the seed through whom Abraham would realize the fulness of the covenant.

He couldn’t draw on any sort of Cartesian rationalism. I’m not sure it would have had anything at all to say about the matter, unless it would be to draw back to ethics and say, “This is wrong.”

He certainly couldn’t draw on the advice of others. Are we to believe that Sarah would have been confident that Abraham was sound of mind? What would Hagar and Ishmael have said? Who could have advised him?

Nor were the pop philosophers any use to him, those who insist that all you need is love. He was about to do something that could not be done, to sing something that could not be sung, to do something without learning how to play the game.

Abraham was alone before God and he possessed no faculty by which he could understand or justify what God required of him.

So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; and he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.

And then there’s Eve.

Here’s another easy out from believing in the God of the Bible. She who was called Woman, not yet Eve, because she was taken out of man, was naked and unashamed. How utterly unlike us.

Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, You shall not eat of any tree of the garden?”

And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate.

Then the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked;

How very like us.

What, I wonder, did Satan have to say to Abraham as he was travailing to the region of Moriah?

“Did God say…?”

“He wouldn’t say something like that…”

What attracts my attention as I read is the rather simplistic thought that God and Satan communicate differently. Even when He asks questions, as in the words of our Lord to the Pharisees or the dialogues with the prophet Elijah, God always speaks with Authority.

It is natural and fitting that He would do so, for all Authority is His and nobody else has Authority that is not delegated from Him.

On the other hand, Satan has no Authority at all, for God has given him none. He cannot, therefore, speak with Authority. So far as I can tell, that leaves him with two options: he can seduce or he can threaten. On the one hand, he can draw on intimidation and tyranny. On the other, he can draw on seduction and sympathy.

For this reason, he labors continually to form minds that are either sentimental or cynical.

The sentimental mind is easily seduced and is therefore a play-thing for a demon.

The cynical mind trusts nobody and is willing to acknowledge no authority as legitimate. It is a great Satanic achievement.

When people stop believing that Authority comes from God, they go through a period of liberation because they are freed from those who, like them, are cynics – who use the doctrine of Divine Authority for their own power-plays.

The temptation to do so is irresistable, so history is the story of cynics rising and falling to replace each other.

But the man who believes that Authority is a Divine Property delegated to man is properly bound to submit to the Divine Authority. Such a person serves as the only foundation for a just and free society and such a society can endure only so long as the wisdom of such a person nourishes it.

When God spoke to Abraham, He spoke with Authority – an Authority inherent in the Person speaking. When Abraham heard his voice, He did not need to speculate about it. He knew. 

When God spoke the sermon on the mount, we read that

When Jesus finished these words, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had Authority.

This isn’t as hard to understand as it might seem. A father who speaks to his child has Authority delegated directly from the God of heaven, an Authority that carries a natural honor and dignity that every child in the history of the human race has sensed.

Lose sight of this as a father and you become disoriented and uncertain in your duties to and relationship with your children.

When a father compromises Authority by sloth or aggression, he breaks the very hierarchy of reality and brings disorder into his soul, through his soul into his home, and through his home into the soul of his child.

The well-being of the soul of the child and the order of civilized society is rooted in the relationship of honor between father and son, which in turn is manifested in the relationship of Father and Son.

Our souls know Authority when they encounter it and they rejoice in it.

But when the father or the mother or teacher or pastor or ruler either shirks the delegated Authority or seeks more than is fitting, our souls fall into anxiety.

We fail in our Authority when we use threats and seductions instead of simply speaking with authority.

We also fail in our Authority when we assume an authority that is not legitimate.

In our godless age, we are convinced behaviorists. We don’t believe in the great mystery of the will, only in appetites. So we stimulate behavior in our students through rewards and punishments and figure that’s all we have to offer.

This is, of all psychological doctrines, perhaps the most Satanic, for it forces us to imitate the Great Manipulator in the way we govern the souls of our children.

If you are a father, simply act on your Authority. Speak from within your Authority.

If your child rebels, then of course you should punish your child. If he obeys, then perhaps you should reward him.

But the great reward that every child seeks is a well ordered world that orders his soul to match it.

In other words, what your child wants of you is that you be a Father.

Then you can be like the God who spoke to Adam and Eve and Abraham with Authority and His voice was known, and not like the serpent who seduces through flattery and anxiety.

If you are a mother, beware of sentimentalism. Your duty is to raise a man or a lady with a soul of steel and a heart of flesh.

If you are a teacher, do not fear your students. They are created to honor you. They want to. Speak with Authority and they will hear your voice as deep calls to deep. If they do not, and some won’t and many will close their ears when they do, then enforce your delegated Authority. But do not reduce your students to mere appetites and fears.

They have a will, though it is underfed and neglected. It cannot be controlled, for it is free. But it can be awakened and beckoned.

Will you beckon with the Authority of God or the vanity of the Enemy?

Let me try to simplify:

  • Humans have appetites and wills.
  • The appetites respond to stimuli.
  • The will responds to Authority.
  • Our age believes in neither the Will nor Authority.
  • Christians believe in the Will and Authority.
  • Teachers and parents and others who have delegated Authority tend to distrust Authority and to fall back on management of the appetites through stimuli, such as threats and seductions.
  • When we do so, we are abandoning our faith in that act.
  • We don’t have the right to so treat children, for it is manipulative and driven by personal convenience and the lust for power (be it never so petty).
  • If Authority is not delegated to us, we must not atempt to enforce it.
  • If it is delegated to us, then our fundamental duty is to act on and fulfill it.
  • When we act on delegated Authority, we must trust it and the God who gave it.
  • The first clue that we do not trust it and Him is when we fall into behavioral manipulation of our children, charges, or students.

Two Wonderful Discoveries

First, a conference in Louisville, organized by my friend David Wright: The Climacus Conference.

Second, a blog that goes with a book called Beauty for Truth’s Sake. Looks wonderful, so I’m adding it to our blog list.

Could a Politician have been less than up front? No…

This, it would seem to me, is important. It might underscore the depth of Obama’s hypocricy, or it might simply show that the health care plan we were offered was 1. a disaster, and 2. not what Obama said it was. I can’t see how it can be seen favorably unless the writer is simply wrenching the statement from its context.

Follow this link: Obama’s Stunning Admission 

And let your mind dwell for a few minutes on the implications. I think they are quite profound.

High School Attainments

I was just over at the Well-Trained-Mind board where I posted this bit about what a high school student should have attained by graduation. Perhaps you’ll find it valuable too:

As a father with three children in college and one a senior in high school who is also home schooling his ninth graders I’ve thought a lot about this. If you don’t mind, I’ll think about it some more right now…0

The first thought is about college. Not much creates more anxiety, but not much is more toothless.

What I do and what I encourage schools and home scholars to do is to determine 10 or 12 colleges you would like your children to attend and then call the admissions officer at those colleges.

Tell them what you are doing and ask them if they want that sort of student. Don’t let them dictate what you are teaching the eternal soul you are raising.

Then you can start to develop your “profile of a graduate” with a clear head and this vague thing called “college” won’t matter to you anymore. Instead, you’ll have concrete, specific colleges for which to prepare.

When I think about what I want my children to achieve by the time they graduate, I try to throw out the assumptions of the age.

For example, Andrew Pudewa has taught me not to think high school matters. Therefore, with my ninth grade son, I have told him I have two goals for him: 1. to be running a profitable business of his own by the time he is 19 and 2. to receive his college undergraduate degree by the time he is 19.

Maybe it’s a boy thing, but that seems to have motivated him.0

With those goals in mind, I then think in terms of three columns that Mortimer Adler developed:

1. Skills to master

2. content to know

3. ideas to understand and appreciate

For example, under 1, it is imperative that a human being in any age master language and reasoning skills to a high degree. Everything else follows, especially in the professions and management.

So I emphasize Latin, Greek, and the language arts of listening, speaking, reading, and writing (more Pudewa influence), along with the reasoning arts of arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy.

Under 2, I want my children to vote, so I’d hate to think anybody would ever do that without knowing the contents of our consitution and the job description of those to whom we delegate our authority. I also want them to know our history as a people so they can understand why we are the way we are and what is possible.

Under 3, I want my children to understand freedom, justice, and order; truth, goodness, and beauty; glory, honor, and immortality; being, mode, and change; wisdom, virtue, and personhood – because these 15 ideas contain everything.

If I were bold enough to make a suggestion, then, I would recommend:

  1. that you contact the colleges you are interested in
  2. that you would not be cowed by the way things are done in our failing culture (after all, you home school!)
  3. that you identify the knowledge, skills, and ideas that YOU want your children to master before completing high school
  4. that you not fall into despair when you only make it part way there! One step on the path of life is better than a thousand miles on any other.

I hope this has some value for you. It has helped me clarify my own thoughts, so thank you for asking such a great question!

Why We Learn to Write Formally

Arthur Quinn put it nice and simply:

Writing is a matter of making linguistic choices, and reading depends upon understanding the linguistic choices made by someone else. The figures of speech help you see the choices available in a given context. And being able to see them helps you make them or judge them.

Figure of Speech: 60 Ways to Turn a Phrase

Nicely said.

 

State of the Union – 1982

There is an eight or nine minute portion in Ronald Reagan’s 1982 state of the union address, beginning at about 3:30, where he clearly explains the economy and how they were solving the problem.

I acknowledge that we don’t have the same problems now as we had then, but Reagan still had the basic principles of the solution right. More than anything: government can’t solve the economic problem, only the private sector can make real jobs that last.

Listen to this speech here: youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2QFLsxeEl5I. The thing I like most about it is how Reagan doesn’t talk down to us as he explains the way things work.

Non-Pareils

Beginning today we are adding a new, irregular feature to Quiddity. We call it “Non-Pareils” which is French for something without parallel, that is to say, without an equal.

Because we feel shame when we teach writers the form of careful thought, many people make a living as writers who are incapable of properly ordering a complex thought.

To help our readers, we will inattentively and carelessly grab samples of such inattentive and careless writing (which we can do because it is so easy, demanding little care or attention) and post them on this blog.

Then you will have the opportunity to pareil the non-pareils. Can you imagine how much fun we’re destined to experience?

Here’s non-pareil #1 and it’s a little tricky, though certainly not diabolic:

Obama defeated John McCain by winning the black vote 24 to one, the Hispanic vote two to one and taking a larger share of the white vote, 44 percent, than did John Kerry or Al Gore.

What’s non-pareil about this? How would you fix it?

If that excites you and you want another nibbler, I’ll give you this bonus sample from the US Air web site, though it’s quite a bit easier:

You can either buy a choice seat or we’ll assign you a free seat at the airport.

Patrick Henry Explodes

Patrick Henry famously demanded of the Virginia House of Burgesses, bending down on his haunches like a lion about to leap, then exploding upward as the words passed out of his soul through his mouth and into the stunned chamber: “Give me liberty, or give me death.”

Increasingly, I am persuaded that those really are our only two options. Slavery of any sort, acceptance of slavery of any sort, the preference for security over life, is a form of death in life.

Once upon a time, boys dreamed of growing up to be advernturers. David Farragut was fourteen years old (!) when he was given command of a ship full of British prisoners and told to bring them from somewhere around Florida up to, I think, Boston.

Fourteen!

Now the admiral or somebody would be arrested for defying child labor laws.

We are a frightened, effiminate peopl,e terrified of suffering, but embracing death every time we turn around. We live in mortal fear that our neighbor might out-perform us on the SAT (itself a product and cause of anxiety), that we might miss a promotion, that we might have to drive an old car, that we might not be able to rely on our chosen bureaucracy to provide for us and our heirs till we die.

As a result the only ones who rise to the top are those who have the temerity to promise us whatever we think will make us safe. Then they walk around protected by a bodyguard.

A great picture of our attitude to life is summed up in the Toyota commercial where the little child is encased in football equipment to play tennis.

To which I say, “A little pain never hurt anybody.”

We fear death in all its effects, but I think the power of death can be summed up in three areas: pain, shame, and weakness.

The only way to handle death is to fight with it directly. What shame do you fear? What loss of power intimidates you?

Have at it.

Aristotle suggested that the dissipation of your wealth is a form of suicide. I never understood that until recently. Andrew Pudewa has convinced me that student loans are an entrapment, a means by which many thousands of young people are enslaved to debt even before they begin their careers.

And for what? 90% of the time it is for a certificate that says nothing more than that you paid a lot of money to get a certificate.

Why do people do this? Why do they play this game and thus empower the frauds that create it?

Fear.

But “Life is risky, and those who withdraw from it embrace death,” as David Goldman of First Things expressed it.

We enslave ourselves to unmanning debt, to oppressive governments, to folly, because we are afraid to run the risk of living. Heck, we are afraid to run the risk of thinking or even of speaking what we are actually thinking.

So what are we to do?

Cast your bread upon the waters.

If you don’t, you will, as certainly as the moon drives away the sun at night, become a slave.

I wish our president would address the American people like this:

You are all going to die. Between now and then, you are all going to suffer. We cannot prevent that. If you measure our compassion by how much we pretend to be able to prevent it, we will have no choice but to enslave you because you have no will to freedom.

You, therefore, have a choice. You can either embrace that suffering by ignoring it and fulfilling the purpose of your life as self-governing people and communities, or you can run from that suffering into the hands of an ever greater emptiness of the soul and government of the state. There you will continue to suffer, but you will add to your suffering a shame that you will find so unliveable that you will cry out for the death from which you ran.

The government cannot help you in these areas. We will do all we can to defend your freedom, but even that, in the end, can only be maintained by your own will to freedom.  

I would advise you, therefore, to start a business or, if you can’t find anybody to buy what you want to make, go back a step further. Go to the ground itself and put your strength and your intelligence in it. Then you can draw wealth from it.

The more of you are willing to do that, the more free we can be.

But we can’t protect you from the pain and death and failure you will confront while you do it. You’ll have to grow up and be a man to handle this.

Then he could launch into the words of that manliest of poets, Rudyard Kipling (which I quote from memory and therefore, I am quite certain, with errors):

If you can keep your head while all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you…

If you can make one heap of all your winnings and risk it all on just one turn of pitch and toss
And lose, and never breathe a word about your loss…

If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run…

Yours is the world and everything that’s in it,

and, which is more, you’ll be a man, my son.

The book of Hebrews tells us that when our Lord went to His sufferings, He went with an attitude of defiance, “despising the shame.” In a sense, He didn’t take suffering seriously.

Neither did Paul. “This momentary light affliction,” works in us “an eternal weight of glory.”

We must renew the risk of living or we will find that, not demanding liberty, we were given death.

The View From Concord

I returned from a marvelous 6 day tour of FL with Andrew Pudewa to learn that the devestating impact of the American school on the American mind has not yet overcome the reality of every day life to completely lobotomize the American voter.

It’s a comforting thought. American Academics are so irrelevent to Americans that when it comes time to make decisions outside the academic environment, Americans are able to compartmentalize everything they learned at school and put it in the circular file where it belongs.

I hope it is even more true. When kids say, “that’s true for you,” I know they’ve been in school too long. But they do get out eventually. And most of them get jobs, though a woefully small number are able to think clearly enough and freely enough to run their own businesses or work with friends or associates they trust in small businesses that keep them close to the nature of things – in environments where they aren’t constantly appealing to the state to make things easier for them.

It seems to me that by the grace of God we have one more chance as a nation. If we continue to turn away from the God of nature and of nature’s law, the one that our fathers appealed to when they tried to justify their independence, if we continue to turn from that God to the state to save our lives and “change the world,” and if, particularly, the Republican party does not use the next two to six years to aggressively shrink our government, we will never have another opportunity to be free.

I say Republican, but the blue-dog Democrats are every bit as important in this task.

The Democrat party sold out to the Progressives ages ago. They have played the role of Uncle Tom and Demagogue ever since. So I have no hope they will ever shrink a government bureaucracy or reduce a tax or shorten the tax code.

I have only marginal hope the Republicans will.

But if we are not free, politically speaking, nothing else matters.

At least, that’s how things appear to me.