Status Anxiety is Big Problem

Did you know that being worried whether the world respects you motivates a lotta lotta behaviour? Alain de Botton has a TED Talk on atheist religion and a book on what love is, among other achievements. I got tipped off to his works on “status anxiety” as a huge or yuge problem when reading another article. Maybe the US election of Tuesday Nov 8 can be begun to be understood if you watch his video or read his book. Rang a lot of bells.

One solution de Botton lists is thinking that your passing life is passing, and he puts up a 17th century Reformation Holland style of painting called Vanitas  –example here for your meditation. Watch his Channel 4 special on status anxiety on youtube, gratis.


The old structures are gone and at least we know it: R. Scruton on erased civilizations

“Elegies are attempts at reconciliation and redemption, works of mourning in the sense intended by Freud. Strauss’s Metamorphosen is not, in that sense an elegy. It is a work de profundis, which looks back to what has been lost as the returning traveller looks at the bombed-out remnants of his city, in which not a survivor can be found. It is a work without hope, and without any promise for the future. Yet for all that, it is a great work of art; and one that still speaks to us.”

Confessions of a Heretic by Roger Scruton: What is the Best Way to Mourn?

–Someone tell me please: Does nt novelist Walker Percy tell the same story — see Love in the Ruins





“Disgusting!” But is experiencing it some sign of sanity?

(The) sense of disgust warrants some examination. It seems that the most primitive of our five senses, the one that is least bound up with the intellect, is smell. Our eyes see color, but the mind sees things and their kinds: a dog, a house, a flower. Our ears hear vibrations, but the mind interprets and hears words, which themselves are signs of things, many of which are abstract at that. But the smell is immersed in chemicals, in stuff—in stuff most urgent for basic animal life: flesh, blood, excrement, hormones for rutting, and other secretions. What smells good to a vulture, flesh rotting in the sun, smells repugnant to us, because eating such flesh would be bad for us. The smell is then protective; it keeps us from tasting even a little of something that would sicken or kill.

In every language that I know of, words that have to do with bad smells are applied to certain kinds of wicked deeds, …

The Uses of Disgust 



Liberalism maximizes able people’s abilities — so what?

“After Liberalism” – is an intentional play on Alasdair MacIntyre’s landmark 1984 book, After Virtue. By the time we reach the conclusion of that book, we are to understand that to live “after virtue” is a fearful matter, one not unlike living in at the cusp of a new Dark Ages, a time in which our main hope is to await a “new and doubtless very different St. Benedict.”

…I propose this theme not to warn of a terrifying political future and urge defence of liberalism to the last breath, but a better possibility that is, at this point, still difficult to imagine. What I want to try to outline are reasons why we should actively hope for an end to liberalism



Writing is a disciplined struggle

TOBIAS WOLFF: … I began this whole writing enterprise with the idea that you go to work in the morning like a banker, then the work gets done. John Cheever used to tell how when he was a young man, living in New York with his wife, Mary, he’d put on his suit and hat every morning and get in the elevator with the other married men in his apartment building. These guys would all get out in the lobby but Cheever’d keep going down into the basement, where the super had let him set up a card table. It was so hot down there he had to strip to his underwear. So he’d sit in his boxers and write all morning, and at lunchtime he’d put his suit back on and take the elevator up with the other husbands—men used to come home for lunch in those days—and then he’d go back to the basement in his suit and strip down for the afternoon’s work. This was an important idea for me—that an artist was someone who worked, not some special being exempt from the claims of ordinary life.

But I have also learned that you can be patient and diligent and sometimes it just doesn’t strike sparks. After a while you begin to understand that writing well is not a promised reward for being virtuous. No, every time you do it you’re stepping off into darkness and hoping for some light. You can be faithful, work hard, not waste your talents in drink, and still not have it happen. That’s what makes writers nervous—the sense of the thing being given, day by day. You might have been writing good stories for years, then for some reason the stories aren’t so good. Anything that seems able to jinx you, to invite trouble, writers avoid. And one of the things that writers very quickly learn to avoid is talking their work away. Talking about your work hardens it prematurely, and weakens the charge. You need to keep a fluid sense of the work in hand—it has to be able to change almost without your being aware that it’s changing.


Do you write in the house?


No, I have a study in the basement of the university library. They offered me a nice place to work with a view of the Stanford hills, and I turned it down for this dump in the stacks because I’m so easily distracted. All I need is a window to not write. The only books I keep with me are a dictionary and some other reference books. If I have a good novel in the room with me, I’ll end up reading that. Writing’s hard. You’ll take any out, if you can. I work best away from the house because I’m too tempted to check for calls and my mail and deal with tradesmen and run an errand, go out for lunch.


Serious writers don’t strike me as lazy—just the opposite, in fact. So why the compulsion to do anything but write?


I don’t know if that’s true for everybody. I hesitate to generalize. I’m sure there are writers who don’t feel that tug away from the desk.


What’s your writing day like?


Boring, if you’re not me. I take a walk or go for a swim, then go to work, eat, take a walk, write, come home. I never go to movies about writers because writers lead very boring lives if they’re actually working. When I was a kid and saw these pictures of Hemingway on safari or fishing in Idaho, or Fitzgerald in Paris, I thought, What an exciting life writers must lead. What I didn’t know is that’s what they do when they’re not writing. What’s exciting is finding a word that’s been dodging you for days, or deciding to cut something you’ve spent weeks on. The excitement’s in the writing. It doesn’t offer much in the way of drama, I’m afraid. Routine becomes invaluable to writers, and that’s why once they hit their stride, their biographies make very poor material.


Trouble with normal, again

by Bruce Cockburn

Strikes across the frontier and strikes for higher wage
Planet lurches to the right as ideologies engage
Suddenly it’s repression, moratorium on rights
What did they think the politics of panic would invite?
Person in the street shrugs — “Security comes first”
But the trouble with normal is it always gets worse

Callous men in business costume speak computerese
Play pinball with the Third World trying to keep it on its knees
Their single crop starvation plans put sugar in your tea
And the local Third World’s kept on reservations you don’t see
“It’ll all go back to normal if we put our nation first”
But the trouble with normal is it always gets worse


Fashionable fascism dominates the scene
When ends don’t meet it’s easier to justify the means
Tenants get the dregs and landlords get the cream
As the grinding devolution of the democratic dream
Brings us men in gas masks dancing while the shells burst
The trouble with normal is it always gets worse


Jean Chrétien’s solution for struggling Attawapiskat reserve: they should move


Lohfink’s Jesus of Nazareth rocks

Bible scholar

Bible scholar

Snips from my reading. “The openness of the gospels, the openness of Jesus must warn us against regarding people as lacking in faith if they are unable to adopt a disciple’s way of life or if it is something completely alien to them. In any event, Jesus never did.” Disciple is L’s technical term for the inner and next-outward circles of followers. Many others, however, helped Jesus and company occasionally — possibly offering a cup of cold water. These “Joseph of Arimathea’s” (remember him?) did not scatter Jesus’ work, so ergo they helped in his gathering (another term that L. freshens up). Struck me that being non-judgmental to fringe folks is not the usual way of free church groups like Baptists, and I admit that Lohfink seems more right about his anatomy of a Jesus-model church than some rigoristic Puritan-descended groups. Mea culpa. Veni Spiritu sancti. (OK, correct my wannabe Latin.) (p.96)