I live in a small village near the Austrian border in northwestern Hungary. I have described the village as 'nondescript' on many occasions on this blog. To some degree, the description is apt - there is inherently nothing all that special about the place I call home. Nevertheless, a photo a neighbor posted online the other day has made me pause and reflect upon my initial assessment of this little settlement. Seems it is a bit more 'descript' than I originally assumed.
I have mixed feelings about memorial days commemorating the victims of past atrocities. On the one hand, I am inclined toward these commemorations because they offer an opportunity to honor and dignify victims. They also have the potential to serve as warnings against the development similar atrocities in the future. On the other hand, memorial days also serve to exacerbate the already overinflated zeitgeist of victimhood saturating our world. We live in an age where almost anyone can claim to a victim of someone or something (with a few very clear, distinct, and notable exceptions, of course). The System likes memorial days and likes to promulgate the victim narrative, which it actively promotes, primarily for political purposes, in various guises around the world.
For example, the United Nations has initiated and observes many such memorials, which it terms International Days. UN has designated International Days of Commemoration for the following: International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade; International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims; International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust; International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime; and so forth. There are also international days to commemorate the victims of the Second World War, chemical warfare, road traffic victims, enforced disappearances, terrorism, torture, and the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
The UN is apparently very compassionate when it comes to victims of atrocities, so you would think it would have designated an International Day commemorating the victims of the most effective political killing machine ever devised – communism, which is estimated to have killed anywhere from 80 to 120 million people (maybe more).
Well, it hasn’t.
Three decades after the collapse of communism in Europe, the glaring omission is finally being brought to UN’s attention by Hungary, which is currently pressing the UN to designate an International Day for the Commemoration of the Victims of Communism.
Before I go any further, let me just say I don’t have anything positive to say about the UN, and I generally don’t give a rat’s ass about its officially sanctioned International Days, regardless of the victims these days commemorate (that is I feel compassion for the victims of these atrocities, but not within the framework of an official UN designated day commemorating them). In addition, I don’t care much for Hungary’s initiative, and I don’t think an official international day commemorating the victims of communism is a good idea at this point. In fact, I think it would be better if the UN refused Hungary’s initiative because at least then the water would not be muddied with conflicting messages.
The UN’s refusal to designate a memorial day for the victims of communism is not an oversight, or an omission, or even willful neglect – it is purposive evil. The UN does not regard victims of communism as victims. To the UN, the people communism murdered were more like eggs – eggs the communists simply had to break in order to create a much revered utopian omelet.
The UN is favorably disposed to utopian omelets; in fact, it is heavily involved trying to create one right now through its continual promotion of a one-world totalitarian government. This push to enslave the world appears to be growing increasingly desperate with each passing day (as Dr. Charlton points out in this recent post). I am sure the UN hasn’t the slightest interest in designating a day of commemoration for the victims of communism: Partly because this would betray its own motivations; and partly because it is far too busy with other things at the moment.
So forget about an international day for victims of communism and keep your eyes focused on what is happening in the world right now because omelets require eggs.
There are some encouraging signs in the Hungarian government's massive programs to promote marriage and childbirth in an effort to halt the demographic decline in this small, landlocked nation. According the Central Statistics Office, marriages are up 20% in Hungary in the first nine months of this year. Certainly encouraging if the statistics are accurate. Sadly, the birth rate has gone nowhere within the same time frame. So the big question now is, will this surge in marriages lead to a higher birthrate in the short-to-mid term?
Well, that all depends. As I have mentioned before on this blog, the communist regime launched similar schemes in the mid-1970's. These programs caused a spike in birthrates for three or four years before the rates dropped to even lower levels. The communists learned the hard way that material incentives are simply not enough. Orbán's initiatives, though admirable and noble, will mean and do very little in the short-to-mid term if it is not supported by the right kind of motivation, that is by a spiritual awakening or, in some cases, spiritual deepening among the newly married couples.
If the newlyweds approach their marriages and (hopefully) children from a spiritual perspective, then the efforts the Hungarian government is currently expending stand a chance. If, however, the vast majority of these newly married couples are motivated to marry and have children for purely materialistic (economic) reasons, then Orbán's programs will end up exactly where the communist programs ended up - in failure.
For those interested, link to the article describing these developments is here.
When I was still in university back in Canada, I enrolled in a course called "Literature in Crisis", which was led by Professor Barry Callaghan who is the son of novelist Morley Callaghan. The course focused primarily on the Holocaust and the Gulags. Being an unorthodox and hospitable man, Barry chose to instruct the course in the living room of his Rosedale home where he graciously served us wine and snacks while we discussed books such as Kolyma Tales; This Way For the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen; and The Gulag Archipelago. Barry was a perceptive and insightful instructor, and it was through him that I began to engage with Solzhenitsyn, who remains one of my favorite writers to this day.
Anyway, to get to the point of this post - I once heard Barry utter a quote from Solzhenitsyn that went something like this - "Western literature is about careers; Russian literature is about good and evil." The quote stuck in my mind, but I have never been able to find its source. The short video below features Barry speaking the quote for those interested.
Does anyone out there know which Solzhenitsyn work, speech, or interview contains the quote above? Any help would be greatly appreciated.
These days I spend most of my free time revising my novel, which I hope to republish in the next three weeks or so (yeah, fat chance). Unfortunately, the revisions consume a great deal of time, time that I am borrowing from other pursuits such as this blog.
Before I began this revision project, I was tempted to put the blog on pause, but I resisted the urge. I have learned that daily (okay, almost daily; cut me some slack) blogging is very much like training for a sport – take a few weeks off or months off and you are bound to lose some of the gains you have made. Take several months off and it’s like starting from ground zero all over again.
In light of this, I made the decision to continue blogging while working on my book revisions. Granted, the quality and quantity of my posts in the past month have not been stellar (as frequent readers have no doubt noticed), but I do get some comfort from maintaining the blog all the same.
It goes without saying that I apply what I have said strictly to myself. Other bloggers may find it more beneficial to rest a blog and dedicate their time exclusively to another project. I personally have no objection to this approach for it obviously has its advantages. In fact, there have been times when I was motivated to hit the pause button in the past few weeks. Goodness knows it would simply things. The problem is, I know my bad side a little too well. If I put the blog on hiatus for a few weeks, I might never return to it after I finish revising the book.
And what would I do then? Watch television? Crochet? Go on a paleo diet? Read Fifty Shades of Grey? Actually do something at my job?
Best to keep blogging . . .
If my parish priest were a baseball player, he would have batting average of .250; this means he would manage a hit once out of every four turns at bat, which is a fairly respectable in baseball. Unfortunately, my parish priest does not play baseball.
He does, however, step up to the altar once a week to deliver a sermon during Sunday Mass, which means he delivers four sermons every month at my village church. I have come to realize that only one of the four sermons he gives each month manages to connect with me in any meaningful way. One in four is considered satisfactory for batting in baseball. Does the same apply to sermons?
Now, before anyone berates me for criticizing the man, let me just add that I am well inclined to my parish priest and consider him a hardworking individual. He celebrates Mass four times each Sunday; one in my village - the three others in neighboring villages. He is an astute individual who is well-versed in Christianity, the Bible, history, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. On top of that, he adheres to a rather resolute vision of what the Church should be and spurns liberal encroachments into Christianity.
Nevertheless, I find his sermon 'average' disconcerting and somewhat dispiriting. In all fairness, I doubt my blogging 'average' even comes to his sermon 'average' in terms of interest, profundity, and insight, but I am a mere abecedarian layman whereas he is a trained professional. Don't get me wrong; when my priest manages to hit the ball, he tends to whack it clear out of the park; but the other times . . .
Of course, my Christian faith does not hinge upon the effectiveness of sermons; in fact, I would continue to consider myself a Christian if I never heard another sermon or never set foot in a church again for the remainder of my earthly life. In other words, I do not need the church or any organized Christianity to be a Christian, and I will not stop being a Christian because of any perceived weakness or corruption in any church within organized Christianity. I approach Christianity from the personal level and build up from there; but at its core, my Christianity does not depend on many external sources to validate it.
Having said all of this, I must stress that external sources can be extremely helpful, stimulating, compelling, and thought-provoking. My experience as a Christian has taught me this - the most helpful, stimulating, compelling, and thought-provoking discourses today are not happening in churches or in sermons, but in the isolated and overlooked corners of our shattered Christendom. And they are being delivered by the misfits, the solitary, the heretics, the non-denominational, the seekers, and the mystics.
Here's to them.
And here's to hoping my parish priest eventually encounters them.
'In name only' used to make me wary; now it only makes me weary. I encounter it daily; sometimes countless times in the course a single day.
The nominal. The so-called. The self-styled.
Masks of unreality hiding reality. Labels that don't match the contents.
We live in the Age of 'In Name Only'. Hear the name and then decide whether the name represents an actuality, reality, or truth; or serves merely as a veil hiding the unacknowledged or unseen. People, things, actions - very few possess the qualities their names profess. And why should they? After all, there simply isn't much demand for the Real these days. The zeitgeist reveres only the fake; the feigned; the falsified.
So welcome to the perpetual masquerade! Look at what I appear to be, then guess what I really am! It's an endless game of dress-up - the sheer thrill of disguising and dissembling. Go ahead! Unceasingly deform the fabric of the universe and then eclipse it all with shadowy simulations. Conceal, cover, and camouflage until even the vestiges of veritas are cloaked in suspicion. That's the goal, you see.
The children's rhyme got it mostly right - names will never harm us, but like sticks and stones, 'in name only' most surely will.
It's difficult to be hopeful about any sort of mass awakening that could lead to an authentic mass revival. Signs of this simply do not exist. And if they do, they are well hidden in the chaos. Undetectable. But one must remember that a mass comprises individuals. Mass is essentially a formless collective of ones drawn together and congealed into unity.
Thus, the individual is the building block of any mass that could lead to revival, which means the revival begins in the individual first - in you, in me. So work on the revival within the borders of your own existence in this world. If you can extend your personal revival to others, you will accomplish much. But know this - even if your revival awakens no one and remains sewn within the confines of your skin, you still will have gained far more than you ever could have by simply waiting for the signs of mass revival to materialize in the world around you.
In a post I wrote earlier this week, I mentioned I will spend Christmas in a small town in southern Hungary close to the region where I set the first part of my novel. The town is called Bonyhád and - knowing next to nothing about the place - I did a little light research into it online. The first two hits my browser pulled up were Wikipedia links - one in English; the other in Hungarian.
The English Wikipedia page dedicated to Bonyhád provides cursory information about the town's current mayor and some of the settlement's facilities, but the rest of the page focuses exclusively on the tragic history of Bonyhád's Jewish population, most of whom were deported to Auschwitz during the Second World War. The remaining information on the page details the fate of Bonyhád's surviving Jews who remained in the town until 1956, after which most decided to flee to America or Israel. The English Wikipedia page ends by citing Bonyhád's last remaining Jewish resident - a woman named Mrs. Sári Warum - who died in 2013.
The Hungarian Wikipedia page about Bonyhád is far more thorough and comprehensive. It expansively chronicles the settlement's establishment in the fourteenth century and even makes note of traces of earlier possible Celtic settlements in the same location. The page then moves through the centuries, making concise stops at a few key historic dates in the eighteenth and twentieth centuries. The Jewish population is acknowledged in passing in a segment reporting on the town's religious and ethnic composition, but no mention is made of the deportations to Auschwitz. Instead, the page dedicates a few sentences to the Danube-Swabians and other ethnic Germans who were persecuted, dispossessed, and expelled from the town after the Second World War.
The English page focuses almost entirely Bonyhád's Jews to the exclusion of practically everything else while the Hungarian page concentrates on everything else and barely mentions Bonyhád's Jews.
Talk about two solitudes.
Raising and butchering home-raised pigs is a tradition here in Hungary. In previous generations, families - especially the male folk - tended to gather and help each other out when it came time to slaughter and prepare the animals; this usually took place in the late fall or early winter. Though the practice is declining around the country, rural families still raise and butcher their own livestock, primarily pigs.
For example, many oldtimers in my village still keep pigs, cows, goats, sheep, ducks, and chickens for food. I don't own any farm animals myself, but I could easily make it happen as the house I purchased here in Fertőendred came complete with a chicken coop, rabbit hutches, a small barn, several pens, and all the paraphernalia needed to raise, slaughter, and prepare a variety of livestock.
Anyway, this past weekend a friend invited me to help him butcher an entire pig he had purchased from a local farmer in the village. Though we did not have to kill the pig ourselves, we had to do everything else including cleaning and quartering the animal. We spent the rest of the day cutting up the meat and making sausages, salted ham and bacon, headcheese, and crackling. By the time we were finished, we had prepared enough pork to last my friend's family through the winter.
It was a great experience, made all the more enjoyable by the the playful banter the free flowing pálinka and wine inspired. By way of thanks, my friend gifted me with some of the meat we had prepared, ensuring my own family savors a taste of fresh pork as the late autumn slowly turns to early winter. I'm seriously considering organizing a pig butchering party of my own for next year.
Looks like I’m in for a bit of a treat this Christmas. My wife recently informed me she had reserved a bed-and-breakfast in the town of Bonyhád in southern Hungary for the Christmas holidays. In all honesty, I know absolutely nothing about Bonyhád and, as far as I can tell, there is not all that much one can know about the place. Simply put, it is a rather nondescript and – dare I say it – insignificant place. Why then, you may be asking, do I consider spending Christmas there a treat?
Well, Bonyhád is not very far from a little village called Obánya, upon which I modeled the fictitious village of Oszabad in my novel. I did quite a bit of research into Obánya before I wrote my book, and I know practically everything there is to know about it – its history; its buildings; its church; its current and former residents. But here’s the catch – I have never actually been there. In fact, I have never been within 200 kilometers of it. Nevertheless, the village has lived and breathed within me for the better part of eight or nine years.
Visiting Obánya – a place I have never been but have written about extensively – is bound to be an interesting experience. It will be fascinating to see how my fictitious depiction of the village compares with reality. I anticipate I will see much of I wrote about reflected in the buildings and the surrounding landscape, but I also feel I will encounter many things I failed to take into account or perhaps got wrong. I am also looking forward to visiting the city of Pécs – another place I included in my novel, but have never visited.
So this Christmas will be about being in places I have lived, but never actually been. Should be quite the experience!
I believe the old saying the eyes are the windows to the soul is true – eyes really can reveal much about the quality and character of an individual’s soul. But eyes can also be quite deceiving. Or they can be easily misinterpreted, even by the best “eye readers.” I have occasionally misjudged souls based on evidence I thought I had perceived in the eyes. In light of this, I think it is prudent to acknowledge studying eyes is by no means a foolproof method of soul evaluation.
In my experience, problems are a far more accurate and effective means of measuring the quality and content of an individual’s soul. People reveal much about themselves when they discuss matters, circumstances, or situations they consider distressing and detrimental. They reveal even more when they offer suggestions as to how these objectionable, unwelcome, and vexing matters should be handled and, ultimately, surmounted. Conversely, people also provide a window to their souls by when they discuss matters, circumstances, or situations they do not view as upsetting and harmful.
Case in point, the other day I overheard a snippet from a debate in Brussels between two female members of the European Parliament. One was Dutch; the other, Hungarian.
The Dutch EP member regarded Hungary’s lack of media freedom to be a major problem. The Hungarian politician rebutted this by stating that 80% of online media sources in available in Hungary were critical of the government and were also beyond government control. This elicited a round of mocking laughter from the audience who appeared to mostly university-aged students. The Hungarian EP member also claimed that the most popular television broadcaster and newspaper in Hungary are also independent and biased against the government. Thus, in her view, the Dutch politician’s vexations regarding media freedom in Hungary were exaggerated.
In turn, the Hungarian raised mass migration and open borders as troublesome and damaging to Europe in general. The Dutch EP member countered this by refusing to understand what her counterpart had put forth. As far as the woman from Holland was concerned, there was no mass migration problem. It simply did not exist. She was also at a complete loss as to why Hungary had constructed a nearly 200 kilometer fence along its southern border back in 2015. As for open borders, the Dutch MP claimed these ceased to exist when national governments in countries like Germany, Austria, and Denmark reinstated border checks and controls within the Schengen Area. The Dutch woman made no effort to explain why these border checks and controls were reinstated in the first place.
The example I have used above is probably not the best I could have found to illustrate my point about problems providing other windows to the soul. In all honesty, I’m not sure politicians – regardless of where they hail from – even have souls. All the same, much can be learned from exchanges like this (if you have the stomach for it).
I have found definitions and descriptions of problems to be a far more accurate soul gauge then they eyes alone could ever be. So the next time you are curious to know the content of someone's soul, simply listen to them describe a problem.
Since I am completing major revisions on my novel, I thought it would be a good idea to create a new cover for the book as well. The revised novel - which I hope to make available in December - will feature this vintage black-and-white postcard photo of The Chain Bridge and Buda Palace.
I'm quite fond of this old photo; I believe it better reflects the overall themes, mood, and content of the narrative. Now I just have to figure out a way to make it into a good cover.
An elderly couple die within days of each other and arrive to heaven at the same time. Strolling hand-in-hand through paradise in their youthful and invigorated resurrected bodies, they marvel at the idyllic, breathtaking landscapes, and savor the tranquil, harmonious feeling of love that permeates everything.
Suddenly a sour expression appears on the man's face. He stops walking and gives his wife an angry stare.
Perplexed by the annoyed look on her husband's face, the wife stops and asks, "Why do you look so upset? Look at where we are! It's all so beautiful and wonderful. Aren't you happy to be here?"
"It is beautiful and wonderful," the man mutters. "And I am thrilled to be here."
"Then what's the matter?"
"Something occurred to me."
"We could have gotten here much sooner if you hadn't insisted we take our vitamins, exercise, and go on that stupid low-carb diet."
Gyula Benczúr (1844 - 1920) rose to prominence in the Hungarian art world and achieved notable international success after he won a national historical painting competition with his depiction of the baptism of St. Stephen of Hungary.
Benczúr painted portraits and historical scenes and was respected throughout Europe during his lifetime. Despite his immense talent, he has been all but forgotten in the West. Nevertheless, Benczúr is still esteemed in his native Hungary where many settlements and cities have streets named after him. Though most in the West have forgotten this Hungarian painter, some may find a few of his paintings familiar. A good example would be The Recapture of Buda Castle, which, rather unsurprisingly, is quite popular among those who move within nationalist and traditionalist circles.
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