Monday, July 6, 2020

Lost Story, Lost Society

When our weary world was young

The struggle of the ancients first began

The gods of Love and Reason

Sought alone to rule the fate of Man

-          Cygnus X-1 Book Two: Hemispheres, Rush

The West, having divorced love (Christianity) from reason (science) in the Enlightenment, has lost both.  Looking around us today, we see few examples of either – least of all from many Christian leaders and churches.

And so, those of us who are paying attention are waking up to the fact that the more we focus exclusively on our minds, the less we think about our hearts.

-          Why Fairy Tales Might Be Better than a Vaccine, by Nicholas Kotar

An excellent discussion took place between Jonathan Pageau and Nicholas Kotar, prompted by this essay. (video)  They begin with comments on the voluntary closure of churches by Christians:

Kotar: and this is what really mystifies me about the reaction by a lot of Christians to the closure of churches.

He raises the point: whatever happened to recapitulating the darkness that is around Christ during the moment of His crucifixion?  He speaks specifically of His descent into hell during the three days.  I know this is a controversial position, and I don’t intend to debate it here.  It is sufficient to consider Christ’s suffering for Kotar’s point, I believe, to be valid.

The necessity for maintaining superficial health is more important than [recapitulating Christ’s suffering].  How many epidemics have we had [in history]?

He then offers one of the hundreds of Christian examples, during a cholera epidemic in nineteenth century Russia.  Churches never closed; new hospitals were opened; the monastics were sent into the hospitals to minister to the sick.

He contrasts this with the “superficial, pathetic, lax lifestyle that we live in the west right now….”  Instead of taking the opportunity as a wake-up call, we are closing the doors.

Pageau offers: the opportunity of coming together as a community during this time is what will get us through this “crisis,” not some hope for a vaccine.  He then raises the point of the scandals in the old-people’s homes.  They are abandoned, dying of thirst, no one caring for them.

Kotar (an upstate New York resident) notes that it was even worse in New York, where the governor sent covid patients into rest homes – into the populations most at risk.

The numbers in the US are clear: almost fifty percent of all people who have died from covid in the United States come from nursing homes.

In the meantime, people are furious that we are not all following protocol – a protocol designed to further disconnect community.  Many are totally lost if the store does not have signs on the floor telling them which way to walk; they stand frozen.

They then move on to the deconstruction of the common stories as evidenced in the recent riots.  There is no end to this: “it is the serpent that eats its tail.”  Pageau offers that those who are doing the deconstructing today don’t realize that they will be the ones eaten tomorrow.

Kotar: [These riots] come from an extremely leftist position – a communist one.  And what happened to the communists in Russia?  They came to power immediately after the revolution in 1918.  They were all killed twenty years later.

They discuss a Russian film, Burnt by the Sun, that depicts this reality in the 1930s Stalinist purges.  Pageau continues into politically-incorrect no man’s land: we hear all about the atrocities of the fascists, but then we ignore the other side.  We don’t really know anything about the atrocities of the Red Wave.

Pageau then offers his theory as to why: basically, we want to hide that the “we” that won World War Two was a “we” that included a monstrous regime as a partner – giving up half of Europe in the meantime.  Kotar adds that we also gave up all of our universities at the same time – to the neo-Marxists, “who also have the ability to tell good stories.”

My view: Good stories beat sound reason every time.  The best stories teach us something of ourselves.  The best stories confirm to reason, as these conform to our purpose.  Dry, rational arguments don’t win the day – if they did, we would all be libertarians, as there is no better political argument.

So how did this all happen so fast?  How have we so quickly fallen into this abyss?  It is because theneo-Marxists know the story-telling structure.  They have the symbolism; we lost it.

Pageau: Christians in the West have lost it because they were too busy arguing about the age of the earth and about dinosaurs and about things that don’t matter in terms of your actual life.  They started to see the Bible as just a bunch of facts that were aligned next to each other.  They saw narrative as almost something demonic.

We have given up narrative to the enemy, and they are eating it up (and eating us up).  We see it in the entire racial discussion today.  The story they are telling is a good one, even if it is lacking in facts.  Arguing facts won’t convince those who buy into the narrative – isn’t this overwhelmingly obvious?

We aren’t living through a clash of politics.  It is a clash of worldviews, of narrative, of story.  And we don’t have a good story.  We are living in a very simple good guy / bad guy story, and the majority has willingly taken on the role of the bad guy.  If this doesn’t change, this story only ends one way.

Pageau: How do you get out of that?  Do you just self-destroy?

Kotar: That’s the only way.

Kotar then offers the “digital black face.”  Apparently, this is a thing – people, not mocking, but identifying that they wish they had a different identity.  People are separating their identity from their family, place, nation, etc.  People have no story, no narrative.  They are lost; they don’t even know who to be.

Again, I insert myself: this is the result of individualism run amok.  Murray Rothbard warned libertarians of this kind of thinking:

Contemporary libertarians often assume, mistakenly, that individuals are bound to each other only by the nexus of market exchange. They forget that everyone is necessarily born into a family, a language, and a culture.

…usually including an ethnic group, with specific values, cultures, religious beliefs, and traditions.

Returning to the video: The two then enter into a discussion of ancient myths and stories, where there was the possibility to create complexity in the character; for example The Iliad.  Even though it is a story told by the Greeks, it isn’t always clear who is the good guy and who is the bad guy.  There is the well-known scene of Achilles and Priam, when Priam comes to Achilles to ask for his son’s body.  One ends up siding with Priam – the Trojan – in this encounter.

Kotar: But Jonathan, you have to have the capacity of holding more than one idea in your head at a time to be able to do that.  I am increasingly seeing the inability to see the possibility of any complexity to any argument.

Modern communication and social media are intended to remove nuance.  Kotar offers that these systems were designed to do this: reduce us to our basic needs and wants for the purpose of advertising.  We can no longer see the story without first seeing the color of the protagonist.

Tolkien – apparently there is now a discussion that the Orcs are black, and this – obviously – is racist.  Kotar offers that Fahrenheit 451 has it right: there will be no books left; all books must be burned.

Kotar: If you have lost your connections to your stories and traditions, you are easily manipulated by anybody.  You will be manipulated by anybody who has the best story with the loudest voice.

There is a wonderful discussion about the margin and the center – with lessons to be learned by conservatives and liberals, Christians and atheists.  Take a listen, as my writing has gone on too long.


Let the truth of Love be lighted

Let the love of truth shine clear


Armed with sense and liberty

With the Heart and Mind united

In a single perfect sphere

Returning to Kotar’s essay:

After all, Christ himself, reaching down to the level of his fallen creation, told the most compelling truths in the most compelling way: by parables and symbols. 

Whether you are a believer or not, you cannot disagree with the fact that Christ’s narratives changed the world.  There are numerous lessons here for those who seek liberty.


  1. One of your finest essays BM. Bravo.

    My take on it is that we are in deep, deep trouble. The propagandists seem to have won.

    The only hope we have is that God promised victory in the end and God will not let us down. The other hope is that a great story teller will come to help us out and de-program some of the poor deluded we see around us.

    I have had conversations with people who can not understand that sunlight will purify. That sunlight will kill germs. That viruses can't live in the direct sunlight of Florida in the summer.

    May the story teller come soon!

    1. Thank you, Mark. I found the conversation between Kotar and Pageau - and Pageau's comments in other videos on these same topics - to be very enlightening.

  2. The story for Christians is pretty simple. It the same narrative we have been preaching for 2000 years.

    Secular libertarians probably won't ever have one because there is no agreement. Maybe Right Libertarians can have one that is parallel to the Christian narrative but I am not waiting on it.

  3. I find, what we call so-called Christians, are showing what they are when they attempt to improve their position on earth and not with the teachings of God.
    From what I read in the New Testament I wouldn't spend to much time in improving the earthly experience but concentrate on the ultimate experience with Jesus Christ in heaven.

    1. Matthew 16: 28 Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.

      I think Christians do themselves, their neighbors, and God a disservice when they give up on this world.

    2. "I find, what we call so-called Christians, are showing what they are when they attempt to improve their position on earth and not with the teachings of God."

      As stated, this is probably true. People who attempt to improve their position on earth AND NOT WITH (without) the teachings of God really are showing what they are, even if they do call themselves Christian.

      Nevertheless, just because this is true does not mean that we are to simply ignore the hell on earth in order to focus on our own personal, subjective experience with Jesus in heaven. In fact, reading the New Testament should show that our time on earth is meant to produce good by working to improve the “earthly experience”, not only of ourselves, but that of those around us as well.

      Matthew 4:23, 24
      Matthew 5:14-16
      Matthew 8:3, 13, 15, 16
      Matthew 9:2-8, 22, 25, 29-30
      Matthew 10:8
      Matthew 12: 10-13, 22

      These references were collected by simply skimming through the first part of Matthew and all have reference to the things Jesus did to improve the “earthly experience. I could produce many more examples if I was to take the time, but nowhere do I find any thought or command that we are supposed to concentrate on our spirituality at the expense of the needs of others. In fact, James warns against this sort of action on the part of believers (James 2: 14-18) and admonishes us to practice our religion by “...visiting orphans and widows in their trouble...” (1:27)

      Unfortunately, too many Christians have the idea that “keeping oneself unspotted by the world” means withdrawing from the world. This attitude would be more in keeping with the Essene or Buddhist traditions than it is with Christianity. There is the saying that, “He is so heavenly minded that he is no earthly good.”, which is nothing more than a well-deserved slam of those who think so highly of their spiritual condition that they can’t be bothered to work to ensure that their neighbor has enough to feed and clothe her kids, but would rather steer her to a government program.

      Consider the economic, political, and social mess we are in today. How much difference would there be if vast numbers of American Christians had taken the commands of Jesus seriously in these arenas instead of consoling themselves with the thought that everything would be corrected and made proper—when Jesus comes back to slap some sense into those people. While we’re waiting for that to happen, our situation becomes worse and worse, which we then point to in order to justify our belief that nothing we can do will make it any better—and Jesus better get back here soon, very soon, or we’re all lost.

      Yes, we are supposed to think about the “ultimate experience with Jesus Christ in Heaven”, but we are also supposed to work in the experience we find ourselves on Earth. This is scriptural, again from Jesus, (Matthew 22:37-39)

      “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself...”, which the apostle Paul distills down even further in Galatians 5:14.

      “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

      Justify inaction because the New Testament tells us to? Not the way I read it.

  4. The narrative I see around me is that we are at a stage of civilization so advanced as to be beyond such barbaric things as accepting the tiniest risk of dying of disease, or seeing virtue in our terrible forefathers, or undertaking the style-cramping task of raising children.

    Our snowflakes see themselves as the very apex, the culmination of eons of history. None before or after can hold a candle to how smart and virtuous they are.

    This is evidently the end game Progressive narrative, the perfecting of mankind. Turns out that perfect man is a spoiled brat who couldn't survive a day without his smartphone. PRIMITIVISM, as Barzun would put it, does have its appeal.

    I'm waiting for the realization to dawn on these people that they are quite mortal and not special at all. Things will really get fluid then.

  5. “If there is one fact we really can prove, from the history that we really do know, it is that despotism can be a development, often a late development and very often indeed the end of societies that have been highly democratic. A despotism may almost be defined as a tired democracy. As fatigue falls on a community, the citizens are less inclined for that eternal vigilance which has truly been called the price of liberty; and they prefer to arm only one single sentinel to watch the city while they sleep.”
    ― G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man

  6. “If there is one fact we really can prove, from the history that we really do know, it is that despotism can be a development, often a late development and very often indeed the end of societies that have been highly democratic. A despotism may almost be defined as a tired democracy. As fatigue falls on a community, the citizens are less inclined for that eternal vigilance which has truly been called the price of liberty; and they prefer to arm only one single sentinel to watch the city while they sleep.”
    ― G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man

    1. What really bothers me is where this fatigue comes from. "Social energy" is too vague. It seems to me that said community becomes either complacent following success, or frustrated by a lack of progress towards their goals. Either way the issue seems to boil down to a collective lack of broader perspective, a sense of "this is it, nothing else to see here."

      Douglas Murray calls it "existential tiredness" in the video. It rhymes well with my feeling that, even though it's true that there are deliberate civilization destroyers in our midst, and that the rationalist basis for modern Western civ is flawed, these factora don't fully explain what's going on. There is a widespread willingness to simply stop caring about - indeed, to wilfully destroy - the past and future.

      That saying about bad times -> strong men -> good times -> weak men -> bad times seems quite true these days.

    2. Does that just mean powerlessness?

    3. I meant purposelessness. Is that what "existential tiredness" is? Seems similar.

    4. Well, either that, or their purpose is inadequate, pointing towards goals that are unachievable/destructive? On the one hand, people who just want to party and break things and put the blame on someone else, and on the other we have SJWs, neocons, health tyrants...