Once upon a time there was a man who was alive.

Location: Hattiesburg, Mississippi, United States
St. Cuthbert and Disciples in a Boat


Such Things Are Wont To Rebound

He who by Tao purposes to help a ruler of men will oppose all conquest by force of arms; for such things are wont to rebound. Where armies are, thorns and brambles grow. The raising of a great host is followed by a year of dearth. Therefore a good general effects his purpose and then stops; he does not take further advantage of his victory.

Fulfils his purpose and does not glory in what he has done; fulfils his purpose and does not boast of what he has done; fulfils his purpose, but takes no pride in what he has done; fulfils his purpose, but only as a step that could not be avoided.

Fulfils his purpose, but without violence; for what has a time of vigour also has a time of decay. This is against Tao,and what is against Tao will soon perish.

Tao Te Ching, Chapter 30, by Lao Tzu


A Saint For Peace

A brother at Scetis committed a grave sin. A council was called to which Abba Moses was invited, but he refused to go to it. Then the priest sent someone to say to him, "Come, for everyone is waiting for you." So he got up and went. He took an old basket, filled it with sand, and carried it on his back. The others came out to meet him and said to him, "Father, what is this?" The old man said to him, "My sins run out behind me, and I do not see them, and today I come to judge the sins of another." When they heard this they said no more to the brother but forgave him.

St. Moses the Ethiopian's feast day is today. He stands for repentance, for the healing of the self from violence and division: which we all need so badly. And out of the experience of this healing he lets us understand how ridiculous it is to pass judgment on the other who is undergoing the conflict of the divided self in sin. We are all of us part to the breaking of the world in our sin, in our own division, and to condemn another means we would have to irrevocably condemn ourselves. But into the broken divided and sinful world we see grace in the form of Christ Jesus and manifest in the saints: grace that forgives and heals. St. Moses is a resplendent example of this grace, that can take the 'worst' sort of sinner, steeped in the directions of violence and deceit and evil, and make him into a vessel of peace and grace and love.

And that is cause- the only solid cause- for hope in a world in which brokeness and violent division are very much in evidence. St. Moses shows us that the only true path to peace passes through change in our hearts and hence into the world, through the grace of the Prince of Peace, Christ our God. This is a peace that transcends class, race, and all the rest, because Christ is not for this group or that group, for the good people only, but for all humanity, bloodied and broken as we come.

O all-blest and righteous Father Moses, you drove away the passions' darkness, being richly illumined with light divine; and with your vigilant prayers, you withered up the wanton pride of the flesh, and mounted on high to the citadel above, where do you continually entreat Christ God to grant great mercy to us.


The Drunk and the Constable

A man whose job it was to keep the peace
Beat up a drunk, who fought for his release
And cried: 'It's you who's tippled too much wine;
Your rowdiness is ten times worse than mine-
Who's causing this disturbance, you or me?
But yours is drunkeness that men can't see;
Leave me alone! Let justice do its worst-
Enforce the law and beat yourself up first!'

Farid ud-Din Attar, The Conference of the Birds (Mantiq al-Tayr)


Roadside Gospel (Maranatha)

Legs of the notsky looming over
Dreaming things wings clipped long past
Sings like the asphalt boiled by summer
Legs concrete crawling heavy they
Say: TRUST JESUS, in the fast-pass rush
Scrawled out in urgent hand
(Urgency! Urgency! Awake!)
Drive-by gospeling grabbing
Hitch-hike pick me up on the margin
Of the thinning-out universe
Bruised heavy trucks pounding
Fumes choke, try to fill my lungs

And I see the Second Coming looming
And spreading out from under the overpass
The words the silent unstone says
Breathing into the dressed out dead


Kicking Television, Or, the Wretchedness of Popular American Culture (Not A New Theme But)

I don't normally watch much television outside of the occasional news broadcast, which is as much to pick up on currents in American news reporting as it is for the sake of the news (or lack thereof) itself. I will occasionally watch Law & Order and a few other shows, but not very often. This isn't really out of any high moral or aesthetic standard; instead it's more because I don't like being interupted by commercials. I suppose growing up with the Internet has gotten me used to information and entertainment practically on demand. I would rather get my news from Google News, and if I want to watch a movie I'll get a DVD.

Anyway, I have been watching a good bit of television over the past couple of days as a result of being marooned in our dorm lobby awaiting students needing to be checked in. Unpleasant experience. American television really is about as bad as they say it is. There is little artistic content and even less that might be considered redemptive; most of it is either hyper-sexual or hyper-commercial or both at once. Irony, sarcasm, (as ends in themselves) and cheap titillation: par for course. Quite frankly, after watching several straight hours I begin to understand how a non-American from a more traditional culture could, if exposed to adequate quantities of American or American-inspired television see our culture as nothing more than a cesspit. It's quite depressing.

I still maintain that there is more to American culture, as manifest in it regional variations, that is edifying and worth keeping. There's more than wars and Wal-Mart; music beyond MTV; film and literature beyond soft-core pornography. But watching our television you'd be hard pressed to discover that.


The Image of Man Deified

In general, absolute states on earth are the image of man deified, of anti-Christianity, they are the incarnation of the spirit of the prince of this world, from whom it is said: “and to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority” (Revelation 13:2). Even though in the days when the Revelation was written, this apparently referred to the Roman Empire as the image of state absolutism, today this may be applied to all varieties of this principle, to Bolshevism and racism (without even mentioning Japanese pagan deification of the Emperor and others).

“And the whole earth followed the beast with wonder. Men worshipped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshipped the beast saying, ‘Who is like beast, And who can fight against it?’” (13:4). It is difficult to add anything to the simplicity of these words, which may be applied to the totality of world history. Today’s tsarism, both the Russian and the Germanic type, in their own way are new and almost unexpected parallels of Roman absolutism, as is its victorious self-affirmation, which leads entire peoples which are under its power to a state of madness.

Commentary on the Apocalypse of St. John, by Fr. Sergi Boulgakov, Paris, 1944


Summer Ended

Well, the peach season wound up, coinciding nicely with the resumption of school. I'm going to miss my summer job, though Mr Joe (the orchard's owner) asked if I would come help him with various odd jobs in the orchard every now and then on Saturdays, my school schedule permitting.

I am back at school now, having moved my handful of things into my new room, which has a nice view:

This is my final year at William Carey University (a university now, having advanced in prestige I suppose over the summer); I will, Lord willing and if the creek don't rise (it's been known to do that in this part of the world) graduate with a B. A. in History come May. From there- I've no definite plans, more of a general sense of direction. I would like to learn Arabic, and anyway want to visit the Middle East and spend some time there. My primary center of interest in history lies in the medieval interaction of East and West, particularly as manifest by the interaction/collision of Eastern Christendom and the Islamic World: anything from Nestorians among the Uighurs in China to the Crusades to the Ottomans- pretty broad range.

I will eventually attend graduate school, but I'd rather take a couple of years off to travel. I particularly want to start learning Arabic, which isn't exactly an easy language. To do so I'd prefer to be in an immersive environment- I've found that such environments are much more conductive to learning a language than studying it away from the people who speak it.

In order to finance such a venture I'm thinking about doing some English-as-a-second-language teaching. If I can- and I'm quite serious- I would love to figure out a way to do farm work in a Middle Eastern or East Asian country.

My mother thinks I'm rather crazy- I probably am!- and wonders why I can't just stay in the States- preferably here in Mississippi- and get my Masters in American History or something. My father is rather more understanding- he has the adventure disease as well. He joined the National Guard years ago, and, since transfering to the Air National Guard, has traveled around the world on annual training. He's being deployed to a combat zone for the first time in May, to a base north of Baghdad, shortly before his fifty-first birthday. My mother is thrilled, of course, but I guess has managed to be reconciled, if not exactly understand, the mentality that leads people to do things like that. Before she married my dad, she had left Mississippi but a few times. My maternal grandparents have lived in the same little community all their lives, and have never had any desire to go elsewhere (it's a chore getting them to come the two hours south to our house!).

Yet my uncle, my mom's brother, has the adventure disease: joined the Army, went into Military Intelligence, ran around Somalia and other fun places getting shot at, jumped out of airplanes, all that. This duality between the desire to stay at home, avoid adventure and such, and those of us who are happiest on an airplane off to another country or dodging bullets, seems to run right through my family on both sides. I don't know which side is 'better'; I feel longings in both ways. Part of me wants to stay in Mississippi, inherit my grandpa's farm, and raise corn and cattle and watch the sun set over the bottomlands. The other half of me dreams of sunrises over the Andes and the Atlas Mountains, wants to ride the steppes of Central Asia, and so on.

Well, anyway, enough personal introspection. We'll see what works out. I've found that life rarely goes according to plan; so I've tried to stop making so many...