SubscribeStar Saturday: The Mountains

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.  For a full rundown of everything your subscription gets, click here.

I wasn’t sure if I would get to this post today, and originally I was planning on writing about the political implications of the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  But because I’m enjoying some time with the family, I thought I’d focus on something a bit lighter.

My older brother turned forty on Thursday, and to mark that middle-aged milestone, he wanted to spend the weekend in the mountains outside of Asheville, North Carolina.  Most of the clan got up here Thursday evening, but I wasn’t able to make it up until this morning.  High school football dominates my Friday nights, and personal days are a precious commodity.

So, here are some quick reflections about my short trip to the mountains.

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Old-School Fun

While on vacation, the last thing I want to think or write about is all the unpleasantness in the world.  If I’m having fun (and, presumably, I am!), why not my loyal, dogged, faithful, persistent, lovable readers?  (After all that flattery, why not check out my SubscribeStar page, hmmm?)

My local paper ran a story on Monday about the discount cinema in Florence, the Julia 4.  Because fun is outlawed in The Age of The Virus (yes, yes, I know I’m at Universal Studios—it’s a joke), we can’t see movies anymore.  The Julia’s solution:  become a drive-in theater.

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More Medical Updates

My apologies to regular readers for the lack of real content this week.  There are race wars and Antifa street gangs to discuss, but I’m so weary with fever, I can only slam out these short medical updates.

I had enough symptoms—chills, fever, and headaches—to get test for The Virus.  I should find out those results in a day or two.  Fortunately, my breathing is unimpaired.  I spoke with a physician’s assistant from the neurologists office regarding my migraines, which increasingly seem linked to my fever (although I would still like to shell out for a scan to rule anything else out).  Everything is in a bit of a stasis, however, until I get the COVID results.

My appetite is doing well, though I have taken this bout of ill health (and the stomach-related issues I was experiencing last week) to begin correcting and improving my diet.  Primarily, I’ve been cutting down on salt consumption, and calories in general.  My blood pressure is elevated, and needs to come down substantially.

I am teaching my first session of History of Conservative Thought for 2020 on Wednesday afternoon—online, of course.  If necessary, I will take acetaminophen in the morning to help get through the discussion.  Here’s hoping I can meet with the three young men enrolled in person next week.

That’s it for now.  I just awoke after dozing on the small twin bed in my study (one of the darker, cooler rooms in the house) for over an hour.  My fever is coming down without medication—I last took acetaminophen around 6 AM—which is promising.

Thank you for your continues support and prayers.

—TPP

500

Well, here we are:  500 days of consecutive posts.  What a whirlwindthe laughter, the tears, the celebrity guest appearances.  We’ve sure had some fun.

500 is one of those beautiful, fat, round numbers that everyone loves—it’s got charisma, gravitas.  Five (5) is a strong number, not like the effeminate four (4), or that weaselly three (3), always so mischievous and ubiquitous.  Nor is five a rotund country preacher—that’s eight (8)—or a couple of street toughs, leaning wolf-like at the corner, eyes peeled for their next mark (7 and 9).  Five isn’t a child, like two (2), and while he’s proud, he’s not haughty like that diva, one (1)—always standing alone.

Couple Five with two juicy goose eggs, and you’ve got a number with some real heft, some real authority.  It’s an auspicious number, one that suggest great longevity and antiquity, yet with some spring left in its step.  500 years is a long time, but, historically speaking, it’s just the beginning (well, maybe—we’ll see if America makes it to 500; we’re not even halfway there and we’re struggling).

When you do an image search for the number 500, you come up with a lot of crummy Italian cars—“Fix It Again, Tony.”  While searching, I also recalled that nonlinear romantic comedy, 500 Days of Summer, which spawned a decade of movies about “quirky” hipster chicks, thus ruining the dating landscape forever (suddenly, being flighty and unreliable became virtues, and none of the would-be hipsters looked like Zooey Deschanel).  Curiously, the Indianapolis, Daytona, or even my local Darlington 500s didn’t show up, at least not in the image search.

So here we are.  But where is here?  Let’s take a look at the State of the Blog:

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TBT: Gig Day II

Tomorrow—Friday, 1 May 2020—Bandcamp is waiving the commission it takes on sales of musicians’ work.  That means every purchase made on the site from midnight to midnight Pacific Standard Time tomorrow goes completely to the musicians (other than PayPal processing fees)—another 15% in our pockets.

The Age of the Virus has really taken its toll on musicians.  As I wrote last Thursday, a substantial portion of my income in 2019 came from music lessons and gigs—nearly 17% of my gross income for the year.

With The Virus holding full sway over us, shutting everything down, there are far fewer opportunities for musicians to earn a living—except by way of online album sales.

As such, Bandcamp sacrificing that 15% commission is a huge act of charity for its users.  It also means that it’s the best time to support musicians you lovelike me!

Bandcamp gives musicians the opportunity to sell their music in high-quality digital formats directly to fans.  One nifty feature is that artists can offer their entire discography in one go, often at a discount.

To that end, my discography—seven albums, EPs, and retrospectives, spanning fourteen years of artistic development—is on sale for $15.75.  All of it.  That includes my tour de forceContest Winner EP and its hit single, “Hipster Girl Next Door.”

Another fun feature is that Bandcamp allows fans to pay more if they so choose.  Indeed, when I announced on my Facebook artist page that the full discography was up for grabs, two fans paid $20 for it.  Some artists have reported fans paying as much as $100 for a single album.  I don’t expect that kind of generosity, but, hey—dig deep.

Regardless, there’s never been a better—or more necessary–time to support indie musicians.  We can’t play gigs.  We can barely teach lessons (some folks are doing so online, but it’s just not the same).

So, any support you can offer is always welcome.  To purchase the full discography, you can view any of my albums (like Electrock EP: The Four Unicorns of the Apocalypse) and find a button/link that reads “Buy Digital Discography” (unfortunately, there’s no way to supply that link directly).

Of course, you don’t have to buy all seven albums—it’s just a good deal.  You can also buy individual releases, like 2006’s Electrock Music (ludicrously cheap at $1 for twelve tracks!) or 2007’s Electrock II: Space Rock (just $5!).

But enough soliciting for now—there will be more of that tomorrow.  Let’s get to the ostensible purpose of today’s post—TBT.

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TBT: How the Reformation Shaped the World

It’s a brand new year, and I’m excited for what it holds.  For this week’s TBT, I looked back to the first post of 2019—which then snowballed into a year-and-counting of daily posts.

This piece drew inspiration from a Pager U video (links below), and featured some of my off-the-cuff reflections on the influence of the Protestant Reformation.

I’ll let the original speak for itself.  Here is 2019’s “How the Reformation Shaped the World“:

There’s a video up on Prager University called “How the Reformation Shaped the World” (PDF transcript for those who prefer to read).  Stephen Cornils of the Wartburg Theological Seminary gives an adequate, broad overview of the impact of the Protestant Reformation (albeit with some noise about Martin Luther’s anti-Semitism, which, while accurate, smacks of throwing a sop to politically-correct hand-wringers).  You can view the video in full below.

I’ve written about the influence of Christianity (and it was, notably, Protestant Christianity) on the founding of America, and I’ve discussed how shared Protestantism helped create an American identity.  Indeed, I would argue that, without Protestantism, there would be no America, as such.

I would also argue—perhaps more controversially—that America’s commitment to Protestantism as opposed to Catholicism allowed the nation to avoid the anticlerical upheavals seen in France and other predominantly and officially Catholic countries.  While there were official, established churches at the State level into the 19th-century—which I wrote about in “The Influence of Christianity on America’s Founding“—the lack of federal establishment, and the general movement towards greater religious liberty, ensured a proliferation of Protestant denominations in the early Republic.

Catholicism inherently insists upon a top-down hierarchy of control.  Luther’s view of man’s relation to God is horizontal, as Bishop James D. Heiser argues in his extended sermon The One True God, the Two Kingdoms, and the Three Estates (one of my Christmas gifts, incidentally, and a good, quick read for just $5).  That is, every man is accountable to God directly, and is responsible for accepting Christ and maintaining his relationship with God.  That horizontal, rather than vertical, relationship infuses Western Civilization with a sense of individualism, the effects of which have been far-reaching and both positive and negative.

Regardless, the impact of the Protestant Reformation is staggering to consider.  The Catholic Church in the 16th century was an increasingly sclerotic and corrupt institution, one that had fallen from its great height as the pacifying influence upon a barbaric, post-Roman Europe (of course, the Counter Reformation reinvigorated and, in part, helped purify the Church).  With the advent of the printing press and translations into national languages, conditions were ripe for an explosion of religious reform in the West.  The ripple effects of the Reformation still pulse through Western life and culture.

That said, I’m not anti-Catholic, nor is that the intent of this post.  In today’s political and theological climate, committed followers of Christ must band together, be they Catholic or Protestant.  I don’t “buy” Catholic theology in toto, but I respect the Catholic Church’s longstanding traditions and consistent institutional logic.  Thomas Aquinas’s cosmological argument in the Summa Theologica is pretty much what I learned growing up as an Evangelical Protestant.  And I’m broadly sympathetic to the traditional Catholic argument that the Reformation busted up the orderly cosmos of medieval European society (see Richard Weaver‘s various essays for further elucidation of this idea).  A side effect of the Reformation naturally includes many of the cons of modernity.

Ultimately, too, Christians face the double-threat of modern progressive ideology and radical Islamism.  I’ve written about the former in detail, but not so much the latter.  For the moment, suffice it to say that the two are temporary, uneasy, but powerful allies against a traditionalist, conservative, Christian worldview, and both are deeply antithetical to Western values and culture.

These are some broad and slapdash thoughts, ones which I will gradually develop in future posts as necessary.  Any useful resources or insights are welcome—please share in the comments.

Happy New Year!

Election Results 2019

Yesterday Lamar, South Carolina held elections for Town Council.  Since our local paper doesn’t seem to be putting the results online, I thought I would post them here.

I drove by Town Hall last night to check the results, but they were still working on finalizing the results when I drove by, and I lacked the will to drag myself out of the house again.  But I swung by this morning and photographed the official receipt from the machine, as well as the handwritten results (akin to a student council election), which were posted to the front door:

My strategy of voting for the challengers in a “Jacksonian spirit of rotation in office” failed, as the two incumbents sailed to reelection.  As such, Town Council is unchanged.

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Conservative Inheritance

In 1950, literary critic Lionel Trilling wrote in The Liberal Imagination (PDF) the following about conservatism, which he viewed as being virtually extinct following the Second World War:

In the United States at this time liberalism is not only the dominant but even the sole intellectual tradition. For it is the plain fact that nowadays there are no conservative or reactionary ideas in general circulation. This does not mean, of course, that there is no impulse to conservatism or to reaction. Such impulses are certainly very strong, perhaps even stronger than most of us know. But the conservative impulse and the reactionary impulse do not, with some isolated and some ecclesiastical exceptions, express themselves in ideas, but only in action or in irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas.

It’s probably the most frequently cited quotation from a liberal among conservatives, because it did, in 1950, offer a practical assessment for the state of conservatism in the United States.  The twin struggles of the Great Depression and the war led to a triumph of what Russell Kirk called “Rooseveltian liberalism,” which sought to use the power of the government to address economic problems.  With the defeat of Nazism and Japanese imperialism, and entering the long Cold War with the Soviet Union, Americans placed great faith in the ability of their government to solve basic problems.

Indeed, the experience of conservatism since the Second World War has largely been that of accepting liberalism’s underlying propositions.  “Conservatism,” then, came to be more of reaction to the excesses of liberalism—a tapping of the brakes, not a full stop or reversal—rather than a cogent philosophical and social system on its own.

While that’s a controversial statement with many exceptions—there remained many conservatives, like Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, who continued to resist Rooseveltian liberalism—consider that the first Republican President since 1932, Dwight Eisenhower, accepted much of the New Deal, and left it virtually intact.  His signature achievement as president, other than ending the Korean War, was to champion the construction of the Interstate Highway System.  That was a worthy undertaking, to be sure, but the legacy of a major Republican president was to spend millions, rather than rolling back the interventionist state.

Since then, conservatism has gone through a number of permutations, many of which I’ll cover throughout my History of Conservative Thought course this summer.  My point here, however, is that conservatism, strictly speaking, cannot exist in the dominant framework of modern liberalism.

I’m not rejecting the tenants of classical liberalism—equality before God, the possession of God-given natural rights, the freedom of association—per se.  But conservatism is an empirical, rather than a rationalistic, endeavor.  Indeed, Russell Kirk argued that conservatism is not an ideology, as such, but the result of millennia of human experience.

Or, as Ted McAllister writes in “Toward a Conservatism of Experience” for RealClearPolicy, “Conservatism is an inheritance, not an ideology.”  He continues:

American conservatism emerged out of our experiences as a self-governing people who love their inherited liberties rather than abstract rights; whose laws have historically emerged out of our norms rather than a specious theory of justice; whose gift for creating and protecting political freedom (the freedom to govern ourselves, our communities, our associations) has served as the primary obstacle to the relentless drive toward an egalitarian administrative state.

McAllister’s essay—which is really a book review of Patrick Deneen’s book Why Liberalism Failed—makes a compelling case for a conservatism based not on metaphysical abstractions but on the “discovery, articulation, and defense of a reality we experience and of affections formed long before we needed to defend them.”  McAllister argues that conservatism had to adopt a more universal, ideological paradigm during the Cold War to face the major existential threat of international communism, but should return the localized, particularized forms of organic social arrangements America enjoyed prior to 1945.

Part and parcel to this restoration is a rejection of democracy’s excesses.  McAllister writes that “democratic culture overindulges a love of equality and abstract moral truths,” that it encourages a leveling of all people into bland masses and, paradoxically, hyper-atomistic individuals.  In such a culture, perverse individualism separates Americans from their communities and their heritage.  Instead, our churches, schools, social clubs, and other institutions have fallen prey to progressive ideologues, rather than serving as the glue that binds society together.

There’s a lot to chew on in McAllister’s review.  Permit me one more extended quotation:

American conservatism is rooted in inheritance, in the rough guidance of experience over abstract idealism, and in the protection of the pluralism found in voluntary association and in self-governing communities. This is why something profoundly American is lost when conservatives embrace abstraction and universal slogans in their struggle with either liberalism or progressivism….

Suffice it to say that today we lack a strong and traditionally conservative intellectual — and specifically academic — class. The easiest measure of this weakness is found in both the number and the intellectual range of conservative academics. Of particular importance here is the dearth of conservatives in the humanities. Indeed, the number of conservative scholars devoted to such studies as philology, literature, theology, philosophy, and history as well as themes such as imagination, beauty, and truth, has dwindled both in raw numbers and as a percentage of conservative academics. Of course, outside the academy, there are journals and institutions that engage the moral, literary, historical imagination, which offer some reason for hope. But the overall trend on the Right has been toward intellectual work geared toward contemporary and immediate concerns — more about power than about beauty.

In essence, McAllister argues that, while we often appeal to abstractions in our never-ending battle against progressivism, we adopt their rationalist framework by doing so, albeit out of necessity and expediency.  That said, our focus on the immediacy of political power has led conservatism to sacrifice culture—a key reason, I would argue, as to why progressives are so dominant there.

McAllister overstates the problem slightly—just look at New Criterion to see “conservative scholars devoted to… themes such as imagination, beauty, and truth”—but the Left certainly dominates our culture.

At this point, though, I wonder how we can get back the old conservatism.  It’s a worthy goal, but it seems unlikely in an age in which progressive and postmodern dogma reign supreme.  The extent to which the progressive frame infects conservatism—even down to our mental processes—is disheartening, and explains the capitulatory approach of once-great conservative publications like National Review, which can barely contain its eagerness to run and apologize to Leftists for challenging them.

In the long-run, though, conservatism’s foundation—its groundedness—in objective reality, as opposed to rationalist abstractions, will allow it to prevail in all its beautiful, localized, variegated permutations.  That “long-run” just might take a very long while to arrive.