Throne and Altar maintenance

  1. I’ve paid WordPress $30 to keep tasteless ads off this site for another year.
  2. I’ve shut down comments on posts older than 2 weeks.  A trickle of comments have continued since I discontinued this blog, and I’ve lacked the time and energy to respond.  Leaving comments open carries with it an implicit promise that I don’t feel able to honor.  If you’d like to contact me, I still check the email account about once a week.  If you’d like to engage in a public argument or conversation with me and conservatives of my stripe, please move on to the Orthosphere, a “live” blog to which I occasionally contribute.  Comments on this post will be open for two weeks–not that I think there’s a lot to say about it.

Personal updates

  1. My 3rd-year review application is in, and I don’t feel very good about my prospects in this job.  I have several major research projects finishing this winter, just a few months too late to help me.  In terms of publication rate, this is going to be the most productive year of my life, but it may well be my last year as a research scientist.  Now I’m wishing I had bothered to pick up some marketable skills these past two decades.
  2. Julie is over two years old now.  She is fascinated with fans (weird but true), other babies, and the moon.  (I’ve already boasted to my introductory astronomy class that she can identify full and crescent moons.)  She had some trouble with dry skin this winter, and now she’s always insisting that her dolls have “skin rash” and need “creamie”.  She talks a lot and likes to repeat everything she hears.  After church today, she told me that her dollie had “temptations”.
  3. Parvina and I are getting older.  If we’re ever going to have another baby, it needs to be soon.  Like before our first, I worry about creating new humans when their chances of escaping corruption, apostasy, and ultimate damnation are so small.  Three years ago, I remember deciding that, since the atheist Left has won the entire culture so definitively, the proper thing for the remaining Christians to do would be to spend the rest of our lives in continence and mourning so that at least we don’t increase the number of reprobate souls.  Obviously I changed my mind.  Not that I ever found anything wrong with my original reasoning.  As far as I can tell, having children in today’s world mostly just increases the population of hell.  Something in me just rebelled at such a morbid conclusion, and I decided that when my reasoning gives crazy results like that, something must be wrong with it, and I don’t even have to figure out what.  So I got to work doing the sort of thing that God expects of ordinary laymen and trusted Him to make it work out somehow.  Call it a leap of faith.


Now it is time for Throne and Altar to retire.  The old posts, essays, and book reviews I plan to leave up in perpetuity (meaning until WordPress gets rid of it or I see a compelling reason to delete it).  The site will now function, as it was originally intended to, as a repository for aspiring reactionaries to give themselves a crash education.

In ascending order of importance, the reasons to retire now are

  1. With the completion of my essay on natural law, I’ve pretty much said what I intended to say with this site.  The purpose was to provide the rationale for a traditional social order from the light of man’s natural reason and natural reverence.  I’ve done that to the best of my knowledge and ability.  Throne and Altar was the result of years of study and reflection, most of them before it went online.  Arguably most of the work was done before I got my first viewer; most of the essays and about a dozen book reviews were already written.  The next step would be to defend the truths of Revelation, and for that I feel much less well prepared.
  2. There is now the Orthosphere blog, which will provide a voice for our beliefs and perspectives.  Through a long process of mutual influence, Svein, Proph, and I have come to agree about many things.  One is that we can best serve the cause by coalescing our efforts and maximizing visibility for a single blog.  I’m very excited about the new site.  In addition to the three of us, it features some of the best Auster/Wood commenters–like Alan Roebuck and Kristor.  I’ve often wondered why these fellows give away such great material on other peoples’ blogs instead of having their own (having one’s own blog trains one to think this way), and now they do.  Add to that Thomas Bertonneau, who most of us already knew from the Brussels Journal, and occasional posts from James Kalb, one of the original inspirations for many of us.
  3. This coming year is going to be the make-or-break year for my career.  With the baby, teaching duties, and the time it’s taken to train students, my publication rate has dropped dangerously low.  There’s a serious danger I’m going to be fail my 3-year review next year or fail to get my grants renewed, and (either way) lose my job and my career.  This is as it should be–there’s no need for mediocrities in tenured positions.  I’ve got a year to make a significant contribution to astrophysics, and I’m involved in a half-dozen projects I need to push to completion.  This hobby of mine doesn’t take up much time (far less than getting Julie to sleep every night), but it’s high cognitive level time.  A person’s creative hours are shorter than the work day, so an intellectually challenging hobby is more costly than the time spent would indicate.  Really, I should have completely given up blogging months ago, but my vanity wouldn’t permit it.  Having invested so much in my notorious alter ego, I find that I cannot completely let him go.  There was a final project to finish, one last indulgence I decided I could afford.  And now I’ll be moving into a sort of Emeritus position at the Orthosphere.

I would like to thank all of my regular commenters for teaching me so much:  rkirk (as I first knew you), Stephen, Bill, Michael PS, Reggie, JMSmith, Proph, Drieu, Daniel, Bruce, Alan, and all the rest.  Some of you I’ve corresponded with so long that it feels like we’ve become friends, even though we don’t know each others’ real names.  If you’re ever in Eastern Washington, send me an email.

Me, my father, and Billy Joel

I got my taste in music from my parents, and my father was the one who introduced me to Billy Joel.  It’s an association that has outlasted two technologies; my parents have The Stranger and An Innocent Man on record and Storm Front and River of Dreams on cassette cape, and I’ve got the four-volume Greatest Hits on CD.  Most rock singers peak and fade quickly, and their songs only capture what they were at one moment in life.  Mr. Joel, however, was productive for a very long time, and it’s very interesting to just listen to the Greatest Hits CDs sequentially and see how a man’s perspective changes with time.

One day, I think it was when I was in college and visiting home, my father and I were on a drive somewhere, and Piano Man was playing on the radio.  In the song, Billy Joel’s character is a piano man at a bar reminiscing on what a bunch of losers everyone around him is:

Now Paul is a real estate novelist \ Who never had time for a wife \ And he’s talking with Davy \ who’s still in the navy \ And probably will be for life \ And the waitress is practicing politics \ As the businessmen slowly get stoned \ Yes, they’re sharing a drink they call loneliness \ But it’s better than drinking alone

At this point, my dad pointed out that the piano man is being presumptuous in his pity for these people.  Perhaps Paul is really devoted to his career and not marrying was the right choice for him.  And the Navy is a perfectly good and honorable career.  Perhaps they’re unhappy, but the song doesn’t say so, so it’s just as likely to be the narrator’s imagination.  Really, nothing he sees justifies his dire conclusions about the people in the bar.  I hadn’t thought about it before, but once it was pointed out to me, I could see this smug sense of superiority throughout the song and in several others of the “early” Billy Joel era.  I can understand and pity these people because I live on a higher level of sensitivity and authenticity.  It’s a very common attitude among young men of an artistic or intellectual bent.  I was infected with a bit of it at the time myself; subtle hints like this from my father helped me outgrow it quickly.

Whether the point he’s making is good or bad, Joel is a songwriter who always puts a lot of thought into his lyrics; he at least tries to say something interesting, not just catchy.  One can’t assume a complete identity between him and the roles he puts on.  It could be that Joel meant the piano man to be arrogant and over-dramatic.  I’ve never been able to work up any offense at his most blasphemous song, Only the Good Die Young, because he right away establishes some distance between himself and the character.  The latter’s argument

Come out, Virginia- Don’t let me wait. / You Catholic girls start much too late. / Ah! But sooner or later it comes down to fate. / I might as well will be the one.

is so absurd, and it’s so impossible to imagine a girl actually going for it, that we know Joel can’t be speaking entirely in his own voice.

My father was also the one to notice that Joel’s perspectives changed significantly with age.  The later songs aren’t about girl chasing or other young men’s interests anymore.  As he put it, they sound more like the voice of a man with a family and responsibilities.  He pointed this out when we were listening to the “later” Joel song, The Downeaster Alexa.  This is one of the lesser-known Billy Joel songs, but one that my dad and I both really like.

Well I’m on the Downeaster “Alexa”
And I’m cruising through Block Island Sound
I have charted a course to the Vineyard
But tonight I am Nantucket bound

We took on diesel back in Montauk yesterday
And left this morning from the bell in Gardiner’s Bay
Like all the locals here I’ve had to sell my home
Too proud to leave I worked my fingers to the bone

So I could own my Downeaster “Alexa”
And I go where the ocean is deep
There are giants out there in the canyons
And a good captain can’t fall asleep

I’ve got bills to pay and children who need clothes
I know there’s fish out there but where God only knows
They say these waters aren’t what they used to be
But I’ve got people back on land who count on me

Now I drive my Downeaster “Alexa”
More and more miles from shore every year
Since they tell me I can’t sell no stripers
And there’s no luck in swordfishing here.

I was a bayman like my father was before
Can’t make a living as a bayman anymore
There ain’t much future for a man who works the sea
But there ain’t no island left for islanders like me

The man who used to warn that “working too hard can give you a heart attack-ack-ack-ack-ack” has come to take the father’s provider role very seriously.

The thing that most strikes me about Joel’s later songs is his growing focus on transience, the sense that no matter how much we cherish them, all things are destined to pass away.  We certainly see it in the above song, where the character loves and wishes to carry on his father’s way of life but sees this way of life being destroyed by large impersonal forces that, in the long run, he cannot resist (the depletion of the fish population, in this case).  It’s a sentiment that certainly speaks to us reactionaries.

I think what happened is that time and a growing sense of mortality have turned Billy Joel from a cocky Jew into a sober atheist.  He knows–it’s the one thing that atheists know with unmatched clarity–that our time is short, very short.  One day, I was playing on the floor with little 12 month-old Julie with the CD player on in the background, and I happened to catch the lyrics

This is the time to remember \ Cause it will not last forever \ These are the days \ To hold on to \Cause we won’t \ Although we’ll want to

Nothing profound, but it hits me with more force than it used to.

Where is the comfort for an atheist, when he realizes that extinction is the fate of all things?  One of Billy Joel’s last songs was a lullabye to his daughter Alexa.

Goodnight, my angel
Now it’s time to sleep
And still so many things I want to say
Remember all the songs you sang for me
When we went sailing on an emerald bay
And like a boat out on the ocean
I’m rocking you to sleep
The water’s dark and deep
Inside this ancient heart
You’ll always be a part of me

Goodnight, my angel
Now it’s time to dream
And dream how wonderful your life will be
Someday your child may cry
And if you sing this lullabye
Then in your heart
There will always be a part of me

Someday we’ll all be gone
But lullabyes go on and on…
They never die
That’s how you
And I
Will be

This is how an atheist faces death.  He turns to his children, and thinks that perhaps a part of him will live on in them.  But then he remembers that someday they too will be gone.  Everyone he knew and loved will be not only dead but forgotten.  However we reach forward, no one can claim a place in the distant future.  If a higher meaning is to be found, we must look outside of time.  As he rocks his daughter to sleep, he senses that, although they are two distinct people–unique beings whose time is short, what they participate in, the love of fathers and daughters, is something ancient, perhaps even eternal.  Someday we’ll all be gone, but this moment we’re touching and enacting something of ultimate significance.

And this is true.

The mystery that is Bonald

Bill writes

It’s interesting to wonder what’s going on with Bonald on CAGW, race realism, and now missile defense.  Perhaps it is what he says above, that he thinks they are distractions from the important issues we should be paying attention to.  Perhaps it is what “Anonymous at 69″ is saying, that he has been socialized into these opinions and has not yet gotten around to evaluating them critically.  Perhaps it is what I said in an earlier post, that he is, though habit or worry about being eventually unmasked, respecting taboos whose violation he knows carries real consequences, especially for the untenured.  My theory, while tempting, has the problem that he has described himself as moderately anti-semitic (in those or almost those words), which would seem to be a third rail as problematic as the others.

How indeed to explain me?   I’m sure that what I find plausible is socially constructed, because that’s true of everybody.  I tend to be extremely suspicious of expert opinion only when it contradicts my core beliefs.  In other areas, I put the burden of proof on the dissenters.  On the other hand, it’s not likely that I’m peppering in a few PC beliefs thinking that they’ll protect me if I get exposed.  Bill himself points out problems with this theory, but let me spell them out further.  The one topic on which the elite will really brook no dissent is sodomy, and I’ve pretty definitely taken the most unacceptable view possible on that.  No amount of support for carbon taxes could save a man with my stated views on homosexuality, abortion, divorce, and censorship.

I really do think that we should avoid putting non-core issues on the same level as core issues.  Lydia’s feelings reflect my own:

Social conservatives, those of us on the unabashed American right, are tired of being told to go to the back of the bus by our supposed “own” party.

I’m tired of being told that I should just shut up and vote for tax cuts for the upper classes so that maybe, someday in the unspecified future, my social betters will repay me with a parental notice for abortions law.  Let’s face it:  it wasn’t love for the rich that protected them from getting strung up by the communists.  People only risked their fortunes, reputations, and lives fighting the Reds for two reasons:  love of God and love of country.  And how do the rich repay us?  What causes do they support with their billions?  Buggery and mass immigration.  I admit that taxing those little homos into the poorhouse does hold a certain appeal to me.

So there’s the social conditioning and the irrational spite.  I also have some reasons for my beliefs.  I’m not sure what Bill is referring to on race realism.  It’s true that I regard negro IQ as a distraction.  What really matters is that blacks are a distinct subculture and that they’re being used as a wedge minority.  On strategic missile defense, I think it’s a stupid idea because if I were going to attack the U.S., I certainly wouldn’t do it by shooting one nuke at us.  I’d either shoot a shitload of missiles at once, if I had them, or, if I didn’t, I would sneak in pieces of the bombs, assemble them in the States, and have local spies set them off.  It’s a lot easier to make bombs than missles.  SMD is easy to evade.  I’m also convinced that no technologically advanced country would want to commit suicide by attacking us.  We’re always being told that some of these countries–Iran in particular–are “crazy” and will do suicidal things just for the hell of it.  I don’t buy it anymore.  We say a lot more menacingly crazy things about them than they say about us.  Do they go on and on about changing our “regime”?

I was a hawk during the Cold War because I’m in favor of killing communists–anytime, anywhere.  I’ve got no heart for killing God-fearing Muslims.

The foolish apologist

Here are the 10 pitfalls of the foolish apologist.  (H/T Mere Comments)

That was painful to read–I must be guilty of at least 8 of these.  I need to just shut up and go on a year-long penance.  Anyway, those of you who are interested in spreading the Christian faith (which should be all of you who are Christians) might find it helpful.  These are very easy pitfalls to fall into.  Believe me.

They’re coming after us

Some coalition of hackers has decided to “out” reactionary bloggers so that we can be exposed to ridicule and job loss.  Apparently, being anonymous and insignificant isn’t protection enough anymore.  Behold the vindictiveness of our enemies.

Is there anything we can do to protect ourselves, or are we screwed?

I’ve got the contraceptive mentality

Honestly, how can parents survive who have more than one child?

Wicked thoughts like this have kept popping into my head during this Christmas visit to my in-laws.  Julie has not taken well to sleeping in a new place, and I’ve gone through several nights when I got next to no sleep because of watching her.  It reminds me of when she was a newborn, and I think to myself “God, do I want to go through that all over again?” and “Could my career take another hit like that?”

This is, of course, the hedonistic, materialistic “contraceptive mentality” that we reactionary Catholic bloggers are always railing against.  I’m not particularly surprised to have experienced it; I’m a fallen man who has experienced lots of temptations in my day.  Something about it surprises me, though.

I’ve realized that the drive for regular sleep is stronger than the drive for sex.  Years ago, when I decided that I had to align my behavior with Catholic sexual morality, I would sometimes think to myself “What if this means I’ll die without having any kind of sexual release ever again?”  The thought gave me a little panic.  That was then.  Maybe it’s that I’m older now, or maybe it’s that I’ve successfully reproduced once, but I’m finding the practice of celibacy much easier than I once did, and the thought of perpetual continence actually has some appeal.  If Parvina (Mrs. Bonald) and I just abstain from this one activity (that we never have time or energy for anyway), our lives could be so much easier.

I know, that’s the Devil talking, preferring personal comfort to the generosity of making lives.  Maybe it will go away when Julie gets older and I start missing having a baby around (and forgetting what it’s actually like).  Julie was always adorable, but as she gets older, she keeps getting more fun, more responsive, and I even think more cute.  Having another one wouldn’t mean rewinding in time; my first one would keep going forward in her delightful ways.  I expect I’ll talk myself into having another one in a year or so.  It’s a wonderful experience.  Sometimes, though, you do think that it’s going to kill you.


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