Of course, the best part was simply being together – enjoying the togetherness of family. When it comes to family, I am blessed – in every possible way.
I truly am.
I spent the previous two days with my wife and son exploring the countryside in western Hungary. Though we were only away for two days, it felt like a week (in the best possible sense). We visited three castles, a palace, Lake Balaton, the Keszthely Basilica, and a handful of small villages (I shall write a few posts about these later this week). The weather was ideal; dare I say, perfect. We enjoyed wonderful meals, explored fantastic places, and viewed breathtaking landscapes.
Of course, the best part was simply being together – enjoying the togetherness of family. When it comes to family, I am blessed – in every possible way.
I truly am.
We are currently taking a little trip through the Hungarian countryside exploring castles, churches, and palaces. I brought my laptop with me to blog in the evenings, but unreliable Wifi connections are making this rather frustrating. I gave up on yesterday's post and will likely not post anything aside from this today.
I will resume my daily blogging on Monday.
After settling down in the small village in western Hungary I now call home, I spent a considerable amount of time exploring neighboring villages and towns, either on foot or by bicycle. I was immediately struck by the many religious statues and stone crucifixes populating these otherwise humble and nondescript little settlements.
The most impressive statues are in Agyagosszergény (roughly pronounced Udge-uh-gosh-sayer-gain), a modest village of just under a thousand inhabitants a mere kilometer away from my own home village of Fertőendréd (Fair-teu-end- raid), which is home to a mere 650 people. My favorites are the Mount Calvary Statue and outdoor Stations of the Cross, both of which are located in the front garden of the village's Roman Catholic school.
I have visited the statue and the Station many times in the past three years, and I made a point of going this Good Friday morning. I had intended to make my way through the stations and photograph all fourteen of them for this post, but the batteries in camera died soon after I photographed the first station.
Disappointed, I took the camera back to the car and walked the stations without taking any photos. My disappointment faded almost immediately. Since I could not take any photos, I focused my attention completely on the mid-reliefs placed in stone. I was inspired by the notion of simply allowing them to speak to me. Though I had viewed the Agyagosszergény Way of the Cross many times in the past, this morning it felt like I was seeing it for the first time.
The Via Crucis in Agyagossergény depicts the traditional, non-scriptural narrative and was likely erected some time in the late nineteenth-century. I found the detail within each relief quite impressive, but by the Third Station I was no longer contemplating each relief from an aesthetic perspective. Instead my imagination took over and conjured up two separate but simultaneous streams of thinking running parallel with each other.
On the one hand, I was present at Christ's crucifixion. I was one of the crowd, watching the event unfold before my eyes. On the other hand, I pictured the Way of the Cross being erected in the modest village more than a century ago. I conjured up images of the men and women who had expressed their faith and devotion by adorning their otherwise drab little village with such statuary.
I walked all fourteen Stations. The morning was bright and sunny. I was completely alone the whole time. After I reached the last Station, I stood before the Mount Calvary statue for a while studying it, and then went home.
I had gone to the neighboring village to take some photos. In the end, I came away with no photos, but an experience I shall never forget.
There is no denying that the essence of Christian symbolism and art has been subverted, inverted, and corrupted by our mainstream secular society. One need look no farther than the recent Notre Dame fire and the outpourings of faux sadness it inspired among the most heinous representatives of anti-Christianity. In this regard, one could argue Christian art and symbolism is inevitably finished.
Nevertheless, every once in a while I do come across examples of Christian art and symbols that somehow manage to transcend the corrosive corruption of Christian aesthetics. And these tend to be rather humble examples that exist in the most unassuming places.
Here's a thought. If Christian symbolism retains any power at all, perhaps it is to be found in small, unknown places like Agyagosszergény rather than in places like Notre Dame in Paris, Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury, or the Vatican in Rome.
My experience this morning seems to confirm this - at least for me, personally.
I managed to find some photos of the Agyagosszergény Stations of the Cross online and have included these in the slideshow and images below. Also below, I have included a list of the Scriptural Stations of the Cross, which differs significantly from the traditional Via Crucis depicted by the photos I have included in this post.
Link to source of photos.
Scriptural Stations of the Cross
As far as spelling goes, anyway.
I was born in the United States, but I was educated in Canada, which mostly follows British English spelling (or at least did when I was a student). Nonetheless, we were constantly exposed to American spellings through books and other US publications.
When I was an undergraduate in Toronto, I noticed American spellings blended in with conventional British ones in many newspaper and magazine articles. In addition, Canadians seem to prefer spelling verbs like "analyze" with a "z" rather than an "s." I had American professors who would correct all of my Canadian spellings and Canadian professors who would correct all my American spellings.
I spent eight years living in the United States in my thirties, and for six of those years I was a secondary school English teacher. This meant I had to learn proper US spelling myself first. So neighbour became neighbor, centre became center, and travelling became traveling.
After eight years in America, I moved back to Canada where I continued working as a high school teacher. Guess what? I had to forget all the American spelling rules and reacquaint myself with the Canadian/Brit system again. Neighbor became neighbour again, but analyze was just fine as it was.
To top it all off, I spent nearly a year living and working in England where I had to learn the proper British system of spelling for the first time in my life. Analyse was most certainly not analyze there, thank you very much.
I now live in Hungary, and I have noticed that I tend to stick to American spelling most of the time, but occasional British/Canadian spellings of words still manage to slip in here and there, leaving me with a blended kind of English that appears to be all my own.
I love English, and I have made the English language the core of my life, but with all its inherent trickery, it might very well be the devil's language of choice!
All virtue signalling is bad, but in my opinion, virtue signalling about climate change, pollution, and environmentalism is among the most asinine and inane. Eco-friendly expressions of moral excellence tend to reveal two things:
I am so embarrassed to live in a nation that has done so little to wage war on climate change. I recently sold my automobile because I wanted to make better choices for the Earth, but if I still owned my car, I would not be complaining about this tax - I would be rejoicing about it. Stop killing the future by trying to save a few dollars today.
This line of thinking offers a rather chilling example of the two factors mentioned above. It begins with a mandatory expression of guilt and loathing for one's country and people, which then neatly slips into the first declaration of individual righteousness.
Perhaps the person making this statement really did sell his automobile out of some belief that the action would better the environment, but my gut tells me the sale was probably inspired by finances. That is, the holy individual making this virtue signal probably could not afford a car anymore, but is now presenting this financial step backward as an incorruptible sign of high-mindedness.
Even if the person did sell his car to save the planet, it is rather callous to assume others are in the position to do the same or that they would welcome the tax on fuel. A car is not an optional luxury for most people, but a necessary means of transport. This holds especially true in Canada where urban sprawl has become the defacto urban planning model of choice.
The first declaration of environmental righteousness is immediately followed by a sentence in the second conditional. The signaller sets up an unreal hypothetical situation and then goes on to describe how he would behave within its framework.
I find it difficult to believe this person would actually celebrate being taxed out of 500-600 dollars a year, which is the estimated amount the carbon tax will take away from the average individual/family annually. Five hundred dollars is a lot of money, enough to cover the signaller's annual vanilla soy latte budget; I can't imagine our beloved signaller would take such a thing lying down. Yet, the sweetest virtue signals are those that emanate from things that will not affect you. Five hundred dollars equals ten pairs of children's shoes or three/four grocery shopping trips for an average family, but this is of little concern to our valiant environmental saint. Thus, as the tax gouges others out of their hard-earned money, our noble soul will still be happily sipping away at his soy lattes.
Feeding and clothing children reflect short term thinking - one must consider the long term - think of the future, comrade! The last line is by far the most vitriolic and scornful. The signaller equates resistance to the tax with short-term greed and pettiness. The sentence has a definite, "how dare you be so narrow-minded" tone to it. The individual is essential pointing to the future like some angular figure from Soviet Socialist Realist painting, demanding sacrifice today for the promise of a brighter future tomorrow.
Of course the signaller does not, not for a microsecond, raise even the slightest expression of doubt regarding the effectiveness of the government's carbon tax plan or how the money raised will be used to fight climate change. As far as I can tell, the tax is a punitive - it punishes people for having the audacity to drive. Like all punitive taxes, the carbon tax seeks to influence behavior by getting people to drive less. The problem is the existing infrastructure makes this "choice" impossible. What the government will do with the extra money it raises is a mystery, but this matters not to our esteemed signaller because everyone knows the government is here to help.
In the same source, I noticed other signallers challenge objections to the carbon tax by claiming the government would issue tax rebates to most families affected by the new tax; the rebates will, apparently, match or exceed the amount of tax paid. This raises a question. If the government plans to give back the taxes it collects, why would it impose the tax at all?
In any case, to get back to the main message of the virtue signal. Climate change is real and we have the power to stop it. The government is going to fix it. Don't be a greedy bastard and get with the program. You're a selfish, deplorable creep if you think otherwise.
When I encounter this kind of thinking online, I regard it as a demonstration of how quickly and seamlessly our possible slip into totalitarianism might actually be, assuming we are not there already.
Below is my rough translation of a recent interview with Hungary's Deputy Prime Minister, Zsolt Semjén discussing the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
"I am not saying this as the Deputy Prime Minister. This is my own personal opinion. This is Zsolt Semjén speaking now. I see a tragic symbol in this. As the Church's oldest daughter - which is what they called France long ago - France has denied its history, has denied itself, has denied its own Christianity and faith. This burning cathedral signifies this apocalyptic loss of values, to which we in the Western world were all witnesses. By the grace of God, may this tragedy be a sign that it shakes up the French nation, not only concerning the rebuilding of the cathedral, but concerning their own national self-esteem, their own history, their own Frenchness, their own Christianity."
You won't hear many politicians in free Western Europe dare to utter something so blatantly obvious and necessary.
Regardless, judging by what I have seen and heard, it doesn't seem the burning of Notre Dame will shake up much of anything, either in France or the rest of Western Europe . . . but one never knows.
Original quote below:
"Én ebben egy tragikus szimbólumot látok. Az a Franciaország, amelyik megtagadta - mint az egyház legidősebb leánya, úgy hívták régen Franciaországot – saját történelmét, megtagadta önmagát, megtagadta saját kereszténységét és hitét, ez az égő templom valahogy kifejezi azt az apokaliptikus értékvesztést, aminek a nyugati világban tanúi lehetünk. Adja Isten, hogy ez a tragédia egy olyan jel legyen, ami felrázza a francia nemzetet és nem csak a templomnak az újraépítése tekintetében, hanem a saját nemzeti önbecsülésük, a saját történelmük, a saját franciaságuk, a saját kereszténységük tekintetében."
I called my novel The City of Earthly Desire for a reason. The bulk of the narrative focuses on the attainment of earthly success, often at the expense of higher things. I have always been intrigued by the price people are willing to pay to attain the fruits of materialism and hedonism. This does not imply that I consider earthly success to be wrong or sinful. Nothing could be further from the truth. For example, there is nothing wrong or sinful in achieving worldly success while pursuing higher goals, but I believe it wrong and sinful (as well as foolish) to sacrifice higher goals in the pursuit of worldly success.
Unfortunately, earthly success is the only recognized and celebrated form of success in our contemporary world. It is no exaggeration to claim it has become the only meaningful goal worth aspiring toward. Those who achieve spectacular levels of material wealth and fame or those who advertise lives of endless hedonistic pleasure are worshipped as gods. Those who forgo some degrees of earthly success in favor of other goals, namely spiritual goals, are ridiculed and treated with suspicion and scorn.
This does not imply that the material and the spiritual are mutually exclusive in this world. I do not advocate for a purely ascetic life of austere spiritualism; nor do I advocate for a life stripped of all spirituality - one immersed only in material comfort and hedonistic pleasure.
Both are extremes; neither is optimal. Yet it is the latter that reigns in our contemporary world – and it goes without saying that many of the problems we create for ourselves originate there.
And most people are oblivious to this. A few seem to be aware of it at some vague level, but are unwilling to apply this knowledge in any meaningful way, especially when it concerns themselves.
When people find out I like to write and that I have a book out on the market, one of the first questions they usually ask is - "How's the book doing? Is it selling?" I usually respond to this question by stating that the book is doing well, but it is not selling all that much. This usually leads to a discussion about the publishing industry, independent publishing, marketing, success-stories, etc. In the end, I admit there have been times in my life when I endeavored to become a “successful” writer, but over the years I have come to realize that I do not derive much inspiration or motivation from conventional notions of “success” and that my primary motivation for writing lies elsewhere.
Now that's a pretty bold statement, one likely to inspire cynical snickers. This is both expected and understandable. After all, such statements have become terrifyingly trite. I cannot think of a more contagious cliché than “writing merely for the love of writing.” It’s a noble sentiment, isn’t it? In some sense, it’s the ultimate writer virtue signal, which is likely why so many writers express the platitude on their author blogs, blog tours, author interviews, etc. It's also a good lifeboat to cling to if your writing never goes anywhere in the world.
At the risk of being judgmental, I believe success and fame remain the primary motivations behind most writing being produced today. This applies especially to all the mimics who chase the latest fads and trends hoping their version of the latest sadomasochistic, love-sick zombie-vampire saga will be the next Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey. When such writers announce they do it for the love of writing, I exhale a snort of disbelief myself. But once again, who am I to judge? I once entertained notions of becoming successful in the materialist/hedonistic sense, and I hold nothing against writers who pursue success and fame through their work. After all, Samuel Johnson once quipped, “No man but a blockhead wrote except for money.”
It took me many years to realize I was a blockhead, and I personally know a few other writers who sincerely do not write primarily for fame or wealth. Like me, these writers haven't attained any notable level of fame or wealth; nevertheless, they plug away at their stuff all the same and seem content in having the chance to produce work and get it out there. And I'll give the benefit of doubt to other writers who write stories about people and places that will likely never capture the attention of the masses.
The question is - why? Why would a person write if they didn't harbor dreams of hitting it big?
I cannot speak for other writers, but in my case the answer is rather straightforward. For me, writing is primarily an exercise in thinking, an expression of intuition, a forming of impressions, a way to access innate knowledge, and to bring this innate knowledge into to reality so that it may meet reality. In my case, this “creative act” is a far more important matter than the dissemination or eventual success or failure of my creation in the world in any material sense.
In a way, you could say I write primarily for myself, and there is some truth to this. I consider my writing successful if it allows me to participate in creation through a sincere expression of my personality – my real self.
My personality/real self is a microcosm of the universe. I consider my writing successful when this microcosm encounters the macrocosm - the universal-infinite and the individual-particular meet. I find this process meaningful. That is, I derive meaning from it.
I hard time establishing this when I made careerism and the acquisition of worldly laurels the prime motivation for my writing.
Then why bother publishing? Why not just write privately and keep the work to yourself?
This is a good question. From the age of nineteen to twenty-nine, I strove to write for money. Back then, I had no intentions of being a blockhead. I invested a considerable amount of time and effort into “trying to make it” as a writer. I submitted novels I had written to publishers, wrote short stories for magazines, and entered writing contests in the hope of making a name for myself.
Though I experienced some minor successes, I never achieved any notable breakthrough. When I turned thirty, I became a blockhead and relegated my writing to the private sphere. For nearly a decade, I kept my writing to myself. Though I continued to write, I made no effort to publish. Before I turned forty, I began writing The City of Earthly Desire. After I finished this book, I decided to put it out in the world. Knowing it stood little chance of being accepted by traditional publishers, I self-published it and made some half-hearted attempts to market it.
I am not sure why I decided to publish the novel – it was just something I felt I ought to do. I had no illusions about the book being successful, but I went through phases where I attempted to draw attention to it in the hopes it might catch the public’s eye. I have since abandoned these attempts to impose my will upon the world and “make” my novel a “success.” Whether my writing is successful or not is not really important to me at this stage in my life. Simply put, I am content to be a blockhead.
What is important to me is that my writing fulfills me. That is, that I find the act of writing fulfilling.
And I do find writing fulfilling. And that is why I do it. That is why I have always done it.
Of course, those who cannot grasp this believe what I have noted above is little more than wish fulfillment.
So be it.
Regardless, success in publishing is irrelevant in this sense because I find fulfillment and meaning in lieu of success, and I am unsure what, if anything, “success” could add to this sense of fulfillment and meaning. Perhaps nothing.
Thus, publishing success is not my primary motivation for writing. In my experience and contrary to Johnson's blockhead dictum, the best "successful" writers have not always been driven by aspirations for wealth and fame through publication. Perhaps Charles Bukowski is a good example this kind of writer.
My favorite Bukowski poems are the ones that deal with his creative process - the sitting down at the desk late at night, the turning on of the classical music on the radio, the opening of a bottle of wine, the lighting of a cigarette, the kissing of the typewriter, and finally, the act of creation itself. The sheer joy, the fulfillment Bukowski expresses when he describes how he crafted his poems is almost religious in nature. The poems themselves were not the priority – fulfillment was.
Of course, Bukowski eventually went on to attain a high level of "success" in his lifetime and his poems are still in print all over the world. Oddly enough, his descriptions of his publishing success do not rival his descriptions of writing itself. In fact, he coldly dismisses his published work. It is secondary to him, as shown in the quote below:
"But, bottom line, when I write, it's for me. (He draws a deep drag off his cigarette.) It's like this. The 'drag' is for me, the ash is for the tray... that's publication."
And that’s how I have come to feel about the whole thing, too.
My son has started losing his deciduous teeth. When he smiles, he reveals a giant, gaping void in his mouth. Yesterday I told him he had a Bobby Hull smile. He looked at me blankly and asked who Bobby Hull was. I informed him that Bobby Hull is a former hockey player famous for his explosiveness, speed, puck-handling skills, and legendary, toothless grin. I then found the following image of the great player on the internet.
My son got a real kick out of the photo and immediately asked me why I hadn't lost my teeth when I played hockey. To answer his question, I opened my mouth and pointed to the missing premolar on my lower left side, which was the end result of an errant puck to the face during a pick-up game in my early twenties.
My missing tooth does not show when I grin, and the gap is only visible if I open my mouth wide open, but I told my son that if the puck had hit me an inch to the right, I too would be the proud owner of a permanent Bobby Hull smile.
My missing tooth impressed my son even more than Bobby Hull's smile had, and he immediately declared his desire to start playing hockey. I informed him I would consider his request over the summer, but that he could only play if he would wore a cage at all times. The last thing I need is a kid who loses his permanent teeth and ends up looking like one of hockey's legendary toothless Bobbies - like Bobby Clarke, for example.
In Canada and some parts of the United States, men with missing teeth exemplify toughness, but I don't think many people here in Hungary would regard a man's toothless Bobby grin as a sign of ruggedness, but rather as evidence of poor dental hygiene or sheer stupidity.
That's the thing with cultural nuances - they rarely translate well.
I have to admit, the only thing that drew me to explore the work of John Berger when I was in my mid-twenties was the simple fact that he and I shared the same last surname. After dabbling into Ways of Seeing and abandoning his Booker Prize winning novel G after thirty-odd pages, I came to the rather swift and grim conclusion the surname Berger was the only thing we shared in common. Regardless, I still owe him a debt of gratitude. Allow me to explain.
Countless articles eulogizing and commemorating John Berger's life and work have appeared since his death on January 2, 2017 - the vast majority of them have lauded him to the stars. Most of these articles have focused on the immense influence he had on society and culture through his analysis and critique of art. I would be hard-pressed to disagree; he certainly was influential. But in the innumerable articles that have appeared since his passing, the true nature of his influence has not been fully addressed. I found one surprising exception, in the online magazine Salon of all places:
First, he was an avatar of a certain historical-materialist take on culture, in which the halo around literature and music and the arts gets blown off and replaced with discussions of race, class, gender, sexuality, and “power.” The demystification of culture that Berger, Barthes, Julia Kristeva, Warhol, John Cage, Susan Sontag, and other left-intellectuals practiced in the ‘60s and ‘70s has not been all good. We gained a deeper understudying of how the arts originate and how they work, but culture itself paid a price — as did anyone who looked to culture for soul-nourishing rather than ideological reasons. (The 17th century English Puritans, who smashed stained-glass windows and destroyed the pews where church choirs sang, probably did more damage to the arts. But not by much)
Full article here: http://www.salon.com/2017/01/04/remembering-john-berger-the-english-art-critic-helped-bring-ideas-to-tv/
The paragraph above perfectly exemplifies why I do not have an affinity for John Berger's art criticism or political views (much less the writings and views of other left-intellectuals mentioned above who all made lucrative careers out of laying siege to Western tradition in the 60's and 70's and whose works still form the backbone of nearly all study of the humanities today.)
An avowed Marxist-humanist, Berger made sure everyone knew he had a red star in his head. I draw this term from my novel The City of Earthly Desire where I used it to describe true Marxists like Berger. As a Marxist, Berger had no belief in the sacred. He saw nothing transcendental in art. Since he did not believe in the existence of the soul, he saw nothing in art that could "nourish" it.
Though he is most famous for his Ways of Seeing, in reality he knew only one way of seeing - through the materialist vitriol of resentment. Through the lenses of the red star. As the Salon article rightly states, he reduced great art to the historical-materialist level, to his own Marxist-humanist ideology of race, class, gender, sexuality, and “power." Art. History. Tradition. Religion. That was all about the oppressor and the oppressed to him. Nothing more. Nothing less.
To get back to the point about influence, there can be no denying Berger and his contemporaries continue to be incredibly influential. We live in a world where ideology permeates everything. John Berger and his comrades were instrumental in sowing the seeds of this ideology.
Today, all public discourse obsessively centers around race, class, gender, sexuality and power. Think about it for a minute. When was the last time you read a newspaper article or attended a university lecture or sat in an human resources training session that did not focus upon one or all of these things? It is inescapable, even in art.
When one visits a great art museum today, one is more prone to overhear discussions of how such and such painting reveals the deep oppressiveness of medieval patriarchy and how that connects to modern oppressive patriarchy rather than how such and such a painting reveals the profound connection between the Divine and man.
This is the legacy John Berger and others like him have left behind.
John Berger had a great influence on me as well, but not in the manner he sought. Rather than turn me on to his ways of seeing, Berger's transparent Marxist criticism, which strangely established a direct and continuous historical link between the world depicted in traditional European paintings and the world of depicted in the print advertisements of a crass and commercialized 1970's Britain (all without really delving into the real causes of the rise of crass commercialism) inspired me to take a closer look at the ideology he exalted and the tradition he scorned. I came to conclusion that the ideology that Berger and others like him espouse is a deeply flawed and pernicious one that needed to be challenged at every turn.
Berger's views on the tradition of European painting influenced me significantly in the sense that they helped me better understand the fundamental and axiomatic truths he so steadfastly held in contempt. With me, Berger failed in his mission to make me see art from a Marxist-humanist perspective. Rather than weaken my appreciation of traditional art, Berger's writings strengthened my distrust of Marxism and allowed me to see the greatness and transcendence that is inherent in the iconic works of Western culture. His writings formed part of the inspiration for my novel The City of Earthly Desire, which, in essence, is an epic refutation of everything for which Berger and his red star comrades stand.
At the end of his famous four part BBC television series, he states that everything he has said or shown "must be judged against your own experience." I did that. And my experience showed me that his criticism of tradition was shallow, faulty, and utterly moored in resentment.
Nevertheless, I learned much from John Berger. Foremost, he taught me that the ideological discussions about race, class, gender, sexuality, and power in art need to be demystified and that the halos that he and others blew off by stripping art of its religiosity in the 60's and 70's need to be reinstated to their proper places. Above all else, art and culture should return to its role of nourishing the soul. I agree with the sentiment the Salon article mentions - culture has paid a price. There is no need to continue paying it.
John Berger helped me to understand this - and for that I am grateful.
Note: This post originally appeared in January 2017, shortly after John Berger's death. I felt inspired to update it and repost it after recently reading yet another ridiculous article praising John Berger's art criticism to the stars.
Progress is an enticing word and an even more enticing concept. People view progress favorably because they comprehend it as positive development; a linear, forward-moving march; a movement from inferior to superior. Progress is goal-seeking – the positive motion from a goal-yearning Point A to goal-fulfillment Point B.
In most aspects of life, progress can indeed be positive. Without positive progress, life stagnates and ultimately decays. Of course, not all progress is good. Technological progress is generally beneficial, but some of our technological advancements have produced more harm than good. The same could be said for various forms of political and social progress. Despite negative examples, the vast majority of people view progress as a positive and welcome, which is understandable. After all, progress is hardwired into our very being and nature. A life without progress would quickly deteriorate into a dull sort of hell.
Progressive social and political movements have successfully cloaked themselves in the positive and attractive connotations of progress – freedom, change, evolution, charisma, potential, energy, initiative, agility, vitality, elasticity, action, and drive. They advocate for the improvement of society through economic and social reforms all for the improvement of what they term "the human condition." Focusing exclusively on material concepts such as equality, inclusivity, diversity and justice, progressives paint themselves as dynamic and disparage all who oppose them as static.
Progressivism portrays itself as forward-moving and linear, and most people drawn to progressivism regard it as such. Yet many fail to see that modern social and political progressivism is not linear but circular in nature. Instead of advancing in a straight line forward to a positive goal, progressive movements tend to revolve and curve back upon themselves. The march forward never reaches the intended goal staked out in Point B. On the contrary, the march forward departs Point A, carves a circle, and returns to Point A from which the march forward began.
In essence, modern progressivism is revolutionary. It entices people to rise up against a perceived enemy or oppressor and dismantle the existing order in the name of progress. Progressives harness the positive urge to rebel against injustice and offer revolt as the only means through which the goal of Point B can be successfully attained. As in revolutionary movements of the past, progressivism is war. Thus, progressives initiate the revolt and begin their march forward once their stated enemy has been vanquished or neutralized. Those enamored by the progressive movement get so caught up in this initial forward momentum that they fail to perceive the extremely rapid turn and downward decline as the movement proceeds along its circular trajectory.
Most only become aware of the non-linearity of the march once they reach the bottom of the circle, which is the polar opposite of Point A, but by then they are powerless to stop the force they have initiated and the circling back to Point A continues, most often in a ruthless manner. Once the circular movement is complete, adherents to the progressive cause unwittingly find themselves in the same place from which they began, albeit in circumstances more degraded than those they originally revolted against when they began their intended, forward-moving, linear journey. Thus, this sort of “progress” is a movement from real or perceived oppression to a state of intensified oppression.
Simply put, progressivism is a totalitarian confidence trick. It defrauds people the same way conventional con games do - by exploiting people's credulity, naïveté, compassion, vanity, irresponsibility, and greed.
Rebelling against injustice is the lure that draws many to the progressive cause. Most people understand that rebellion can be a positive force. History is full of examples of noble rebellions against real oppression and injustice. Noble rebellions tend to be fueled by the forces of Reality. Noble rebellions are both existential and spiritual acts of agency and defiance. The goal of positive rebellion is the overthrow of an oppressive, actual evil that has interrupted, stifled, or repressed the linear and spiritual freedom and progress of an individual, group, or nation.
As stated above, the goals of noble rebellion are aligned with the Good. This type of rebellion does not seek to destroy or overthrow Goodness, Truth, and Beauty, but seeks instead to reinstate and reestablish these values by challenging the forces that have oppressed Goodness, Truth, and Beauty. In this sense, noble rebellions truly are about freedom, and noble rebels are often regarded as freedom fighters. The true nature of the fight is spiritual and subjective rather than material and objective.
Acting like parasites, past revolutionary movements fed off the forces of noble rebellions and presented themselves as such. Seizing upon actual political or social injustices at the material level, historical revolutionaries agitated the oppressed collective into a poisonous state of resentment to overthrow existing order. Unlike noble rebellions, the ultimate goals of historical revolutionary movements were grounded purely in the material and the collective rather than the spiritual and the personal. Since they were not based in the spiritual and the personal, historical revolutionary movements were incapable of moving forward in a linear direction for any extended period of time.
The linear and forward movement of true progress requires freedom. True freedom exists only at the level of the individual and the spiritual. Historical revolutionary movements banished the spiritual and sacrificed the individual to the collective thereby rendering linear progress impossible. The only way to subordinate the individual in favor of the collective was through violence.
As a result, historical revolutionary movements sought to control rather than liberate once the usurpation of the existing order had been accomplished. The moment that happened, the forward thrust of the revolution turned away from the true linear trajectory of progress and began its circular descent away from the straight, forward moving line. The more violent and oppressive the control against the spiritual and the personal became, the more the line descended and curved away from its original, intended goal.
If you trace the timeline of the Russian Revolution, you quickly notice it adheres to the circular perversion of the intended linear goal the Bolsheviks has set. The Bolsheviks had promised utopia and claimed it was waiting at the end of line stretched into the distance. What they delivered instead was a dystopia that brought the people right back to where they started from. The only notable difference was the oppression, which was far worse than the original oppression the people had collectively rebelled against.
In plain terms, this circular, revolutionary movement could be equated with the vicious circle – the proposed solution to a problem creates a new, unanticipated problem that ignites a series of circumstances, all of which make the solving of the original problem untenable. George Orwell captured this phenomenon brilliantly in his novel, Animal Farm.
Most ordinary people enchanted by contemporary progressive movements believe they are participating in a forward, linear advance toward something positive. Like the hapless animals of Orwell’s novel, they are utterly oblivious to the circular paths these movements have taken or will ultimately take.
Modern progressive leaders act upon the same principles as their revolutionary predecessors, with one distinct and notable difference. Unlike the revolutionary leaders of the past, modern progressives possess the benefit of hindsight – they know exactly where their movements are heading. Modern progressives also utilize innovative, effective, and efficient methods to implement their totalitarian agenda, unlike their predecessors who relied chiefly on terror and brute force. Nevertheless, progressives will not forgo terror or violence when they deem it necessary, and they will readily implement the use of brute force with greater intensity and frequency if their agenda is openly opposed or challenged.
Those who wholeheartedly believe they are marching forward in the name of personal freedom (mostly in the guise of the current sex, gender, race, open borders, migration, climate change movements) will experience a mind-numbing shock once they find themselves back where they started and the circle closes around them. They will all be trapped into and by the “freedom” they were promised.
I have referred to the circular movement of progressivism as a vicious circle, and it certainly is vicious, but the Hungarian equivalent of this phrase better defines and captures the essence of the progressive movement. The Hungarian term for vicious circle is ördögi kör – which translates into diabolic or demonic circle. I believe this term best fits our modern circumstances and the foreseeable trajectory of our current progressive movements.
Historical revolutionaries championed materialistic equality and the rule of the proletariat; modern revolutionaries seek spiritual damnation and the rule of the demonic.
If this strikes you as harsh, off-base, or ludicrous, I urge you to take an objective look at what our modern progressives rally for and fight against. Consider Goodness, Truth, and Beauty and ask yourself where the leftist and atheistic progressive agenda places these transcendentals. Are they fighting for these things or against them?
If you believe progressives advocate for Goodness, Truth, and Beauty, you have been corrupted. If you understand that modern progressivism intrinsically and vehemently opposes Goodness, Truth, and Beauty, you still have a chance to reside within the realm of the personal and the spiritual, but this will acquire a tremendous level of awareness and effort going forward.
You must be prepared, especially as the line continues to bend and rise back up. This time around the circle is worse than vicious – it is demonic.
The EU is continuing to mount its pressure campaign against Hungary as the European Parliamentary elections draw closer. Last year the EU initiated Article 7 proceedings against the country. This year the European People’s Party suspended Hungary’s ruling party members from its ranks. EPP President Manfred Weber recently visited Budapest and demanded Viktor Orbán respect European values by adhering to the rule of law, which entails Hungary softening its hard-line stance against mass migration and granting the George Soros-founded Central European University legal reprieves to remain in Budapest. The EU has also launched a series of corruption investigations against several Hungarian firms to undermine Orbán’s support in his home nation. These tactics have had little palpable effect within the borders of the country thus far, but the European Parliamentary elections are still about six weeks away, which leaves plenty of time for new pressure campaigns or the intensification of existing ones.
For its part, Hungary has not left these assaults unanswered. Last month it launched a public relations campaign of its own, one insinuating pro-migration forces in Brussels were actively collaborating with George Soros to continue and increase mass migration efforts in the coming months. It has since suspended this campaign to appease Weber and the EPP, but not a day passes in Hungary without some sort of criticism of the EU and its oppressive bureaucracy. Only time will tell how this all plays out, but if history and the recent Brexit disaster are any guide, Hungary’s chances do not look good.
I have lived in Hungary for just over four years. In that time, I have seen the country continue to bloom from the half-dead wreck the communists left behind into a developing and dynamic little nation inching ever closer to attaining the same standard of living enjoyed by those living in Western Europe. Wages are rising. Unemployment is below 4%. The government has implemented generous support schemes to address the very real crises of low fertility rates and demographic decline. In many ways, the future in this small country looks bright, yet I feel these times of relative peace and prosperity could experience some significant turbulence in the coming years and months.
Over the past few weeks, I have pondered over Hungary’s chances in its struggles with the European Union. As has nearly always been the case, Hungary finds itself in a precarious situation. Too small to exert any notable influence on greater Europe, yet big enough to send small shock waves through the continent, Hungary’s position in the European family of nations has been and remains a mostly tenuous one. As I ruminated over the possible implications of the European Parliamentary elections, I concluded Hungary needed all the help it could get.
Shortly afterward, I recalled Chuck Norris’s visit to Hungary in November of last year. I immediately began to feel better about the country's odds going forward. Everyone knows Chuck Norris is toughness personified. Even at the noble age of 78, the martial arts expert and Hollywood action star is still considered one of the toughest human beings on the planet. He’s so tough, he has his own line of tough jokes. Here’s my personal favorite:
Q: How many push-ups can Chuck Norris do?
A: All of them.
When Chuck Norris visited Budapest last November, Viktor Orbán met the Hollywood icon personally, drove Norris and his wife around Budapest, and took them to visit an anti-terrorism force training facility. By the end of their day together, Norris’s wife declared Chuck and Viktor to be “Friends Forever.”
Knowing Chuck Norris and Viktor Orbán had formed some kind of esoteric and eternal friendship made me more optimistic about Hungary’s future prospects. I playfully imagined the two of them entering the European Parliament in May and opening a big can of whoop-ass on the limp-wristed EU technocrats in Brussels.
Now wouldn’t that be something? Just picture it. Chuck walks in, winces, and delivers a perfect roundhouse kick to the rather surprised face of Guy Verhofstadt while Viktor busies himself by applying the mother-of-all noogies to Frans Timmermans’ bald dome. It was certainly fun to imagine, but something told me little would change in the EU even if the Forever Friends managed to lay a good, old-fashioned, 1980’s action-movie beating to every single technocrat in Brussels. More would be needed. But what? What if we had the Terminator on our side . . . hey, wait a minute. Not too long ago . . .
Arnold quickly joined the fray in my imaginary action movie, and Friends Forever became a deadly trio. The Brussels butt kicking intensified significantly in the screen of my mind, but in the end my daydream action movie left me unsatisfied.
Deep down, I know Hungary’s fight against the EU is not a physical struggle. The back-and-forth between this small, stubborn nation and the soulless bureaucracy of many nations has not featured and will not feature any roundhouse kicks, noogies, body slams, overhand rights, or massive explosions. Consequently, Chuck Norris and Arnold Schwarzenegger would be of little help.
The tone of this post thus far has been purposefully jocular, but the conflict between Hungary and the EU is a serious matter. What Hungary and the EU are currently engaged in goes beyond the realm of mere political or economic tit-for-tat. To brand the current animosity between the rival factions as an ideological struggle also misses the main point.
In essence, Hungary’s struggle against the EU is metaphysical in scope – that is, it is spiritual in nature. What is visible on the surface is but the tip of the iceberg; the real struggle is occurring on an entirely different dimension. Both sides seem to understand this, which is why the next six weeks will be both interesting and crucial. Of course, Hungary is no stranger to spiritual warfare. In fact, the nation seems acutely aware of what the stakes actually are. This awareness is apparent even in its national anthem, Himnusz (Hymn in English).
God, bless the nation of Hungary
With your grace and bounty
Extend over it your protective arm
During strife with its enemies
Long torn by ill fate
Bring upon it a time of relief
This nation has suffered for all sins
Of the past and of the future!
Here’s hoping for a protective arm over Hungary during its current strife. This little landlocked country has been long torn by ill fate throughout its history. In my opinion, it deserves an extended time of relief, but it will have to secure it without the help of Chuck Norris or Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Though it contains its fair share of rough winds to shake darling buds, spring is the loveliest season in this part of the world. Summer is also splendid, but the eye of heaven sometimes shines too hot in western Hungary. Spring, on the other hand, is more lovely and more temperate by comparison, but what makes springtime particularly enchanting over here are the flowering trees.
The trees flower in waves in Central Europe – one breaks on the shore, and as it slowly retreats another gathers force and rushes in to replace the void the withdrawing wave has left behind. Two weeks ago, it was the white tufts of wild plum blossoms erupting onto an otherwise stark and barren landscape. The plum blossoms have since fallen away, littering the earth with their fragrant, white teardrops. The moment the last plum blossom petal touched the ground, the sour cherry blossoms flowered, and they now reign in full bloom over an increasingly green landscape. In a few days’ time, they too shall fall away, and be replaced with apple blossoms. After that, the black locust and horse chestnut will take over and fleck the landscape with their own special shades of white and maroon.
The flowering ceases at about the same time the first cuckoos return, but by then the rapeseed fields surrounding my village will blaze the countryside in deep butter-yellow. The natives of this region rarely mention any of it. For them it is commonplace, but for someone like me - having grown up in a country where mid-April snow shoveling was routine and expected - these waves of blossoms and flowers in the early spring are nothing short of sublime.
The other day I took a little time to revisit some of my earlier blog posts, and I encountered a few cringeworthy entries from previous years. As I read these regrettable posts, I experienced a strange blend of embarrassment and amusement. On a few occasions, I paused and asked myself what the heck I had been thinking when I had written them.
After I had read the third or fourth awkward post, I felt an impulse to delete them, but I resisted the urge. For better or for worse, I decided to leave them as they are. If nothing else, I believe they serve as testaments to the wrong turns I have taken and the errors in judgement I have made. Deleting these wrong turns and blatant errors in thinking might help me feel better about myself, but the purpose of this blog is not self-therapy, self-promotion, or ego aggrandizement, but truth-seeking, spiritual growth, and self-discovery. Any honest pursuit of truth, spirit, and discovery is bound to have its share of missteps and stumbles. Deleting regrettable posts might make me appear better and more consistent in readers' eyes, but it would also present them with a skewed and edited version of my thinking over the years. More importantly, deleting my awkward posts could alter my perception of my own thinking over the years and prevent me from learning valuable lessons from times I was wrong, mistaken, or misled.
Among the worst offenders by far are my posts lauding Jordan Peterson, but I have left all of these intact on the blog because I believe they provide valuable insights into the hows and whys of my errors regarding the Canadian psychologist.
My interest in Peterson began shortly after he had vehemently objected to Canada's gender pronoun legislation. At the time, he was still a relatively obscure university professor. Having lived in Canada's oppressive PC climate for many years, I viewed his opposition to the proposed pronoun bill as an immense act of courage. As time passed I also became intrigued by his Joseph Campbell-like philosophy of mythic and religious archetypes and his unorthodox interpretation of Christian tenets and symbols. My esteem for the professor was so high that at one point I wrote a post in which I declared my wish to have Peterson read my novel (I still cringe when I remember that post. Warning: it's a doozy).
The months passed and I asked a few bloggers I respected to provide their own opinions of Peterson. I was somewhat taken aback by the negative replies I received. Nevertheless, I took these opinions into consideration as I continued exploring Peterson's thought and ideas. During this time, Peterson began what can only be described as his meteoric rise to fame. Suddenly the obscure professor was popping up on everyone's radar. He stopped appearing on small, mostly right-leaning You Tube channels where he had found the majority of his small but sympathetic audience, and became a regular feature of large left-leaning You Tube channels and major media outlets. This immediately raised my suspicions, but I was still willing to grant him the benefit of the doubt.
Then Peterson started pushing his online psychology course, his forthcoming self-help book, and launched what I can only describe as a magical mystery tour. His suits became fancier, his opinions less acerbic, and his ideas more mainstream. I finally recognized his professed religiosity for what it truly was - repackaged materialism. When he joined a California-based talent agency and the New York Times branded him a member of what it called The Intellectual Dark Web, my interest in Peterson popped like a soap bubble, and I was finally able to see him for what he truly was - a shameless self-promoter and a master of the soft-sell whose main interests reside almost exclusively in the accumulation of fame, influence, and wealth.
As regrettable as my interest in Peterson seems now, I do not regret having gone through the process I described above for it taught me much about my own weak points and faulty judgement. I realized I had projected much of my own thinking and ideas onto Peterson rather than accepting his words at face value.
Part of this has to do with Peterson's rather slippery mode of communication, but most of it had to do with my own inability to properly and precisely process the ideas and opinions he spouted. As insincere as Peterson is, it would be unfair of me to blame my error in judgement solely on his chimerical verbiage. No, the responsibility for the error was mine and mine alone. My desire to support a champion for the Good overrode my ability to recognize Jordan Peterson as little more than a champion for his own good. Leaving my Jordan Peterson posts intact on the blog helps remind me where I went wrong. They contain insights I can use to avoid falling into the same trap in the future.
Overall, I am satisfied with the posts I have written over the past four months. Most contain decent levels of clarity and insight. Some are duds and misfires, but in their entirety, I believe my 2019 posts reflect a more stable and sound line of thinking, exploration, and inquiry. Of course, when I revisit these posts in two-years' time I might find some of them lacking or peculiar, but I doubt they will make me cringe as much as some of pre-2019 posts do.
At least that is my hope.
A couple of days ago I wrote a post in which I explored the ironic notion of the transgender agenda eventually forcing non-transgender women out of women's sport. As I investigated the topic before writing the post, I come across the following quote that explained the advantages male athletes have over their female counterparts:
"Men do have advantages over women sport - but that has largely to do with the inequitable amount of investment in women's sport rather than male physiology."
How peculiar. The advantages men have over women in most sports have nothing to do with the higher muscle mass to body weight ratio, larger and longer bones, bigger lung capacity, and stronger hand grip, to list but a few physiological differences. No, according to the individual who spoke these words, the issue is not physiology, but discriminatory funding practices.
By this line of reasoning, women would perform at the same level as men if funding were less discriminatory and more equitable. In other words, the reality is women and men are physiologically equal, but this reality has not been allowed to manifest because of inequitable funding. Invest a gazillion dollars and five or ten years into a women's soccer team, and those female soccer players will be capable of giving Real Madrid a run for its money - guaranteed.
The imbecile who uttered the sentence above should be cause for alarm, yet we have reached the stage where our enlightened society no longer sees people who make such outlandish declarations as imbeciles, but rather as wise sages whose astute perception of reality helps us better understand ourselves and the world around us.
Our universities, corporations, and governments overflow with such people - people who espouse, support, fund, and forcibly implement policies based on the same principle expressed above. It is happening in education, entertainment, art, employment, government, and every other aspect of society. The people who push this funding myth do so because they wholeheartedly believe inequalities do not exist. For them Reality and its innate inequalities are human constructs. Since Reality is a human construct, humans can reconstruct it to fit whatever image they choose. The inequalities we see and experience are purely the result of discrimination, oppression, and prejudice. Nothing else. Full stop. End of story.
Our enlightened rulers and their ilk will not stop until their reality has completely eclipsed and supplanted Reality. Of course, their reality might not actually supplant Reality in any real sense, but the elite will safeguard their reality against anyone who dares to contradict it. The elite's version of reality will succeed well into the foreseeable future because it is already succeeding now. It is succeeding because very few us openly oppose it or want it to fail. Most people have no reason to oppose anything these days - they have given up Reality themselves.
The day will come when Reality reasserts itself, the way Reality tends to do, but if history is any guide, this could a take half-century or more to come to fruition. In the meantime, the chaos and stupidity will only intensify.
The City of Earthly Desire.
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