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.
For reasons I can't explain, I got to thinking about cognitive dissonance today, and after a while I found myself wondering if such a thing even exists anymore (at least for the majority of modern people in the West). In a nutshell, cognitive dissonance occurs when an individual holds two or more contradictory ideas, convictions, beliefs, or values in his or her mind at the same time. This dissonance creates mental and psychological stress, which inspires the individual to find a way to work out and resolve the contradiction created by the two conflicting ideas in an effort to diminish the psychological stress the contradiction has caused.
We have several options when our perceptions, convictions, and assumptions of reality are challenged by contradictory ideas or experiences. We can abandon our previous idea and embrace the new one; or we can reject the new idea and keep our old one; or we can adopt the new idea and place it next to our old one and believe in them both even though they contradict each other. The final option is truly where cognitive dissonance occurs.
Now, cognitive dissonances can be alleviated by all sorts of mental tricks including, but not limited to, rationalization for, justification of, and even rejection of the contradiction between the two conflicting beliefs. Though these defense mechanisms do often reduce the psychological stress the dissonance causes, they are dangerous tools because they are essentially lame attempts to renegotiate reality. In other words, the pain reality causes is sidestepped or assuaged through adjustments that basically dismiss the validity of reality.
But here's the thing - the West has become biggest and most effective reality-denying system the world has ever known. Acknowledging reality is not only frowned upon, but punished, whereas embracing unreality is celebrated and rewarded. In other words, the most successful, praised, and celebrated people in the West are those who hold the uncanny ability believe in nothing but that which contradicts reality; that is, they believe in nothing but unreality. But do such people truly feel any sense of cognitive dissonance? Do they feel any mental discomfort or psychological stress or does that disappear when one abandons reality in favor of unreality?
If so, then cognitive dissonance might be going the way of the dodo; hand-in-hand with the West.
I don't watch much television anymore, mostly due to a lack of time. But even if I had more time, I doubt I would watch more television - I simply don't care for much of what is broadcast on the boob tube these days. Nonetheless, sometimes I stumble across programs that do tickle my fancy.
A good example is a Hungarian show called Fölszállott a Páva, which roughly translates to The Peacock Has Taken Off (don't ask; I don't get it either). Strange name aside, the above mentioned program is essentially a competition in which contestants showcase various forms of traditional Hungarian folk song, dance, and music. The program features two competitions - one for adults and one for children.
This year, the contestants are all kids, and the performances thus far have been both charming and delightful. The two-minute clip below presents a boy and girl doing a traditional Gömör Dance (Gömör was a county that used to belong to Hungary, but is now a part of Slovakia). Enjoy!
I spent some time thinking about mortification today; not the state of great embarrassment or shame, but rather the traditional and theological definition of the word, which, in my estimation, has become somewhat meaningless for most modern people. Mention mortification of the flesh today and you are likely to conjure images of hair shirts or heavy chains or the metal cilice-wearing albino numerary from Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. Needless to say, the modern mind finds nothing positive in such images. In all honesty, I am not drawn to the idea of severe corporal mortification either, but I am drawn to the deeper, subtler, and more expansive ideas the term contains.
Setting medieval visions of monks beating themselves with horsewhips aside for a moment, mortification, in a spiritual sense, simply involves a process through which one puts some aspect of one’s sinful nature to death. In my view, this does not mean actively punishing and torturing ourselves, but rather actively choosing what is right over actively choosing what we know to be wrong despite the pleasure and comfort the wrong choice apparently offers. The conscious denial of the apparent pleasure and comfort inherent in the wrong choice initially causes suffering, which is exactly what must be overcome or put to death for spiritual growth to occur.
But mortification alone – the killing of vice and immorality – forms only half of the equation. It is not enough to simply mortify – one must also vivify. In other words, when we succeed in putting something negative within us to death, we must also strive to bring something positive to life. The subjugation of a vice must also bring forth virtue. The vanquishing of immorality must instill morality. The dissolution of a false self must serve to invigorate the real self. Simply put, mortification is a "no pain, no gain" paradigm. The pain and suffering we experience by denying an apparent pleasure or comfort in sin is superseded by the pleasure and comfort of the spiritual gain we obtain through discipline. Seen in this way, mortification and vivification are a dyad; together they form a crucial component for spiritual development.
Unfortunately, this dyad has been completely inverted in our modern world. Though the essential pattern of mortification and vivification still exists, their poles have been transposed. Our modern world demands we mortify the spirit (by this I mean virtue, morality, the divine spark, the real self) and vivify the flesh (by this I mean vice, immorality, the demonic, false selves). The former is accomplished primarily through atheism and denial of the metaphysical while the latter is promoted through the media and modern bureaucracy. Inverted mortification and vivification rejects the reality of sin, promotes the avoidance of suffering caused by self-denial, and lures people into sin through the following lie: all gain; no pain.
This inverted mortification seeks to put the positive to death and strives to bring the negative to life. The subjugation of virtue must be replaced by vice. Morality is vanquished in order to liberate immorality. False selves are enlivened and animated while the real self is deadened. Of course, the core of the inversion is making people believe that the positive they are mortifying is actually a negative while the negative they are vivifying is actually a positive. Thus, inverted mortification and vivification are a demonic dyad; together they form the perfect weapon against spiritual development.
True mortification involves voluntary self-denial and delayed gratification. One sacrifices the apparent comforts and pleasures inherent in sin in the short term to attain virtue and spiritual development in the long term. Inverted mortification, on the other hand, emboldens self-indulgence and instant gratification. One denies and betrays the spirit in the long term to achieve material comforts and pleasures through sin in the short term.
The acceptance of this inverted mortification and vivification invites self-damnation of the soul, which is exactly why the inversion was created and also why it is currently being so vigorously deployed.
A delightful collection of lute compositions from the Baroque Period by composers "who were all in some way connected to Vienna." Viennese lutenist Bernard Hoffstötter brings the compositions to life. Composers featured on the recording: Muffat, Gaultier, Bittner, Bartolotti, Lauffensteiner, Bertelli, Kohaut and Gluck (and no, I had never heard of them before, but I'm learning)!
A few people are wondering why my novel is not currently available on Amazon. In response, I offer the following "update", which I have posted in the My Work section of this site and will now post here as well.
I published the City of Earthly Desire in 2012. With the exception of some minor textual corrections - spelling, grammar, typos, and the like - I have left the novel more or less unchanged since then. The City of Earthly Desire has received mostly positive reviews in the seven years since I first published it. Nevertheless, I have never really been satisfied with the end product myself despite the positive reviews and encouraging feedback I have received from readers.
As a result, I have unpublished the book and am currently engaged in an extensive revision of the novel. This revision includes a total re-imagining of many characters and scenes. In essence, the revised version of the novel will differ significantly from the one published in 2012. It is my hope that this revised version will be closer to my original vision for the story.
I plan to make this fully revised edition of The City of Earthly Desire available some time in mid-December, 2019 (though it could take a little longer as much depends on the muses).
The following is an excerpt from a Hungary Today article. I don't know what to make of it as of yet, but it appears to be a positive development in an ongoing tragedy the West has utterly ignored. The meeting described below took place this past Wednesday:
The aiding of Middle Eastern Christian communities is set to be a key topic during Wednesday’s talks between Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Péter Szijjártó said at the opening of a conference of Middle Eastern Christian church leaders organised ahead of the high-level Hungarian-Russian summit.
The church leaders will also be meeting with Orbán and Putin, he said, adding that their talks could open the door to new projects in the Middle East.
The minister said there was a “consensus” in international political discourse that “the persecution of Christians is the last acceptable form of discrimination”. Szijjártó slammed what he called the international community’s refusal to address the issue of Christian persecution as “extreme hypocrisy”. He said the international community had a duty to take action for the protection of Christian communities.
Funny how only "illiberal, anti-democratic, and authoritarian" leaders like Orbán and Putin express any interest in stopping Christian persecution. The rest of the article is available here for those interested.
I have spent the last two weeks revising my only published novel, and I am happy to report that the revisions are going well, albeit slowly. I have reimagined far more parts of the narrative and have deleted many more scenes than I initially anticipated, particularly from the middle and middle-third portions of the novel, which helps explain why the rewriting is not going as quickly as I originally envisioned.
Thankfully, I do not feel the need to do alter much in the first part of the story, which, in my humble opinion, is rather good and reads well. The first seventy pages of the novel have always been my favorite and remain so today. My ultimate goal is to extend the quality and readability of the first seventy pages to the rest of the novel over the next month or two. Here's hoping I find success doing that.
Though it is beginning to crop up here and there - mostly as an excuse for a party at nightclubs and discos in the bigger cities - Halloween, or All Hallow's Eve, is not a traditional celebration in Hungary. All Saints Day, on the other hand, is. The first of November is a national holiday of remembrance and Hungarians use the occasion to visit the graves of relatives and loved ones across the country. It is the biggest travel day in Hungary, comparable to Thanksgiving in the United States. The larger cemeteries in urban areas are so busy they have to be manned by traffic cops, but even smaller cemeteries in little villages like the one I call home have the power to draw several hundred visitors on this day.
Most people visit after sunset and place candles and lanterns on the graves. After a few hours, the entire cemetery glows in what I can only describe as a sacred light. It truly is a sight to see. My family and I did not travel to visit graves this year. Instead, we went to the local cemetery and put several lit lanterns beneath the crucifix near the funeral chapel, one for each branch of our extended families. We then visited the graves of a recently deceased neighbor and the man who built the house in which we now live. A steady stream of people came and went during the time we spent at the village cemetery. At one point, I counted at least a hundred, which is remarkable considering the population of our village is a mere six hundred. I imagine nearly a thousand people visited the village cemetery over the course of the entire evening.
The remembrances slip into All Souls Day. The candles and lanterns continue to glow long after the last visitor has left; sometimes they burn for as along as a week. The cemeteries possess a solemn sort of beauty in early November. There is something about those candles and lanterns glowing in the dark - so reverential and dignified, and yes, even holy.
The so-called political spectrum is one of the main reasons I care less and less about politics these days. Take a look at the spectrum. It is a system designed to define and categorize various political positions as they relate to or differ from each other, and it is most often presented visually as four squares separated by two intersecting lines, though I have also seen it depicted as a simple line divided up into various supposedly independent political ranges, measures, and dimensions. Some political spectrums even contain cute cartoon characters like donkeys and elephants.
How the political spectrum is depicted and what it supposedly represents is largely irrelevant because at the most fundamental level there is no real "range" in politics. Put another way, there is really only one side or one square or one cute little cartoon character in Western politics, and that side or square or cute cartoon character is Leftism. The only thing the West's political spectrum succeeds in classifying is how far 'to the left' the political party or grouping in question happens to be.
All politics in the West is Leftism because all politics in the West is completely, firmly, and purely rooted in materialism. As such, most Western political groupings, parties, and movements are explicitly on the Left of the political spectrum while those who claim to be 'on the Right' are actually 'on the Light' or 'on the Reft.'
There is no Right because without the acknowledgement of the power of the divine there can be no Right - only Light or Reft.
Note: In this case, the term 'Light' does not refer to luminance, but rather to something comical and frivolous.
Blog and Comments
Blog posts tend to be spontaneous, unpolished, first draft entries ranging from the insightful and periodically profound to the poorly-argued and occasionally disparaging.
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Blogs/Sites I Read
Bruce Charlton's Notions
Meeting the Masters
From The Narrow Desert
The Postil Magazine
William Arkle Blog
Twisting the Tail of the Cosmos