Monday, December 18, 2006

The Newly Illumined Handmaiden of God Valerie-Elizabeth

My beloved fiance Valerie being recieved into the church yesterday. She choose St. Elizabeth the New Martyr as her patron saint, and recieved a secondary relic from the casket of St. Elizabeth from our friends James and Susan, who recieved it from Fr. Christopher of St. Elizabeth church of Poulsbo. Needless to say we were all humbled by the gift.

Valerie recieving absolution.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

What now?

Yesterday, at about mid-day, I finished the 20th Aubrey/Maturin novel by Patrick O'Brian, Blue At The Mizzen. While the novel ends with Aubrey receiving news of his promotion to Rear Admiral of the Blue, a life-long dream and source of worry, the full tale of the two men remains woefully unfinished. I am of two minds about reading the fragment of the 21st book, left unwritten by Patrick O'Brian's untimely death. While the end of the 20th book left me hanging (as most of the Aubrey/Maturin novels tend to end a tad abruptly), reading only part of the 21st novel would be even worse. More importantly, where do I take my reading now? I had planned on reading my way through the Lord of the Rings over the Christmas break (I try to read the trilogy once a year), but I also promised my wife-to-be (exactly four weeks until the wedding) that I would read something new over the break instead. I have the first two Hornblower novels, but having thrown in my lot with Aubrey and Maturin over 20 books, I find myself strangely prejudiced against Mr. Forester's canon.
What to do? What to do?

Illiterate Christianity

Is it possible for someone who does not know how to read to be an Orthodox Christian (or any sort of Christian for that matter)? Occasionally when whenever I hear someone discoursing on an obscure matter of theology or expounding on the writings of one of the Fathers, I think of my grandfather, my father's father, who while functionally illiterate, lived a pious Orthodox life by all accounts. Was his Christianity somehow lacking by not having read any works of Orthodox theology? I don't know how much he read Scripture outside of church, but I guess the broader point is, can one be Christian with only that Scripture that is read in the church? I am not familiar with any Orthodox declaration about the necessity of the Holy Scripture for a layman. Certainly one can be fed as it were a great deal of Scripture by participating fully in the life of the Church.
I suppose for many Protestants, an illiterate Christianity is not possible, since without the Bible there is no Christianity. Yet there were Christians long before there was a Bible, and there were Christians long before literacy became a common trait in the late 19th century. Do not mistake my purpose in posing these questions. I am not looking to ditch Scripture or other writings (anyone who has been in my study will know that not to be the case), but I wonder how much reading and learning Christianity on an intellectual level can interfere with us being Christians. One can memorize the Bible front-to-back, as I am told Pope Shenouda of the Coptic Church has, and still remain beyond the pale of Christian belief. On the other hand I get the impression from some Orthodox I know that one can gauge their spiritual development in terms of how much Orthodox-related reading they have done.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Abbots, Sex, Crypto-Agrarianism, and non-Uberfrommity

I had the great pleasure this last Saturday to attend an all-day presentation (well I was there most of the day... My friend S and I were told by a fellow parishioner of a pawn shop having a 50% off sale on guns so we missed about an hour on our fool's errand- all the guns had sold out hours ago, aside from a couple exceedingly disreputable looking Turkish Mausers) by Abbot Jonah of the St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco Monastery, formerly at Point Reyes, CA, but recently relocated near Redding. My fiancee and I also attended a talk he gave at Fr. James house the night before about spiritual maturity. I was struck very much by Abbot Jonah's frequent denunciation of piety that is not judged in the light of love, God's love and our love for our neighbor. He also went into a lengthy discussion of how the dualistic and in some ways Gnostic errors of Origen had found there way down through the ages, tainting some of the writings of the Cappadocian Fathers, and generally contributing to the tendancy in Orthodox monasticism to despise the body, sexuality, and marriage. Abbot Jonah's honesty when confronting the errors of monasticism, and the way he exclaimed against Uberfrommity as I understand it, at one point saying, "All of this [indicating the iconostasis] and the Liturgy, and how we pray and cross ourselves will drag us to Hell if we don't love our neighbor.", were refreshing and surprising to say the least. Part of the morning session was on sexuality and family life. It warmed my heart to hear him explain how the collapse of the extended family which began after WWI and the collapse of the nuclear family that began in the 60's could really all be blamed on the Industrial Revolution. The full session was recorded and will be available as a podcast and MP3 download shortly, and I will provide the link as soon as it is available.

Choose your poison

Ultimately, the ills of this nation can be solved by either Secession or Monarchy
Take your pick.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Fame of sorts

As of this morning, when you Google "crypto-monarchist" my blog is sixth from the top. Typing in "crypto monarchist" without the hyphen (and under-used piece of punctuation in this day and age), I'm only ninth. The New Relic will work hard to become Number One...

Monday, November 27, 2006

Did we have an election?

At one time I considered myself fairly politically astute, and tried to keep tabs on the political happenings in this country, but lately I've found myself realizing that it doesn't really matter. If Republicans are still worried about why they lost the elections a few weeks ago (rather than turned to more pressing matters like getting the Lexus serviced, managing their investment funds, or getting tickets to see the Nutcracker during the Chrsitmas run), I might suggest that the first step would be to run a candidate. In the 21st district here in Washington, there was a state senate seat and two legislative seats open, and the Washington State Republican Party couldn't be bothered to find a single candidate for any of the three positions. Now granted this is a pretty liberal (OK not 'pretty' but rabidly) part of the state, but if they are gonig to play games of running for "competitive" districts, they can kiss my hind-end. I've been debating whether running no one is better or worse than the crazy old man, "Cowboy" Wilson, who ran last election under the Republican ticket for my district.
But back to the larger question, Does it matter?
People are fond of huffily stating "If you don't see the difference between Reps and Dems, then you aren't looking close enough." But actions speak louder than words. Most Rs support military adventurism in support of "freedom" and "stopping WMDs", while Ds support military adventurism in support of "humanitarian intervention" and "stopping genocide". Rs want soulless corporate bureaucracy to govern our lives, Ds want soulless UN bureaucracy to govern our lives. Rs give you the bread and circuses of piddling tax cuts and professional sports, Ds give you the bread and circuses of "entitlements" and MTV.
Aside from the war in Iraq, the real hot-button issue that divides the two parties is abortions, and for all the screeching about Ds being the party of death, what exactly have the Rs done to limit abortion since gaining a majority? The silence is deafening (and people who brag on GWB's Supreme Court nominations distinctly underwhelm me).
My father was fond of muttering that this country needed another revolution, though with the state of the nation, we'd probably end with a government as stupid and corrupt as this one. It's a shame there is no New World to sail off to.

We're not building a piano

Due to a paltry few inches of snow here in the Puget Sound region, everything is shut down, and i have a respite from boatbuilding school for the day. I have been living with my Slovak hillbillie brother James and his family on the Indian Reservation, during the school week in my 12' travel trailer, and coming home to Edmonds on the weekends. I was home Wednesday night for the Thanksgiving holiday break, and due to the snow yesterday, I've had an extra day tacked onto my holiday (though after spending a winter in Fairbanks, and equipping myself with a AWD Subaru, I find the "winter storm" less than impressive).
So far boat school has been everything I could want and more. There is something very refreshing about learning an actual trade, and my progress is measured in what I actually produce, rather than the ambiguous nature of most "intellectual" schooling. No amount of rhetorical shell-games will keep my instructor from telling me to re-make my dovetail joints because they do not fit together well. When I was a boy my father would often excuse little errors in home repair projects by saying "Well we're not building a piano." Learning boatbuilding, it has become clear that there are many cases where the work must rise to the standard of building a piano, though our instructors are also quick to point out places where "eyeballing it" will suffice, and in fact, be a wiser choice.
When school begins again tomorrow we will be finshing up our lofting projects (the drawing out of a boat in three views full-sized on a floor, and hopefully by next week we will be building our first boats, 12' flat-bottomed skiffs constructed by each of the three instruction groups.
Perhaps the most exciting part of the skills I am learning is the ability to accurately construct wooden structures with few, if any, square corners or right angles. Aside from the obvious application to boat-building, I'll have, if nothing else, first-class finsh carpentry skills. Aside from our practice joinery, we've made a dovetail jointed tool-box, a wood bodies smoothing plane, spar gauges, bevel gauges, bevel boards, a lathe project (mine was making a belaying pin to a pattern out of black locust), and a half-hull model of the boat we drew in drafting class. Aside from a miniumum of power tools, almost all the work has been with hand tools. Even the drafting was done with pencil and paper- much to my delight and manual drafting is something I really enjoy. Aside from the tradition focus of the school, the instructors have told us that they want us to be able to do our jobs with a minimum of tools, and what might be primitive conditions.
All in all the work is a refreshing change, being able to work with God-given materials in an act of subcreation is an agrarian's dream come true. Furthermore, such an obscure trade as wooden boatbuilding is so far outside the mainstream of the corporate-commercial world, as to be largely insulated. The impression I have gotten is that in this field things are still done as they were, and there is a pride in craftsmanship and respect for the craftsman. My only regret is that there is very little that is done in wooden boatbuilding that is affordable to the "workin' man". Most people who work in the trade would not be able to afford the boats they build. The amount of labor involved and the price of wood being what it is, I will have to resign myself to catering to wealthy clients.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Staring down at my own shoes

A month an a half since my last post and I manged to let the waves of 9/11, and the Pope's pseech pass right over me with little notice on my part. I was shocked on September 11th when I went to the bank and did not know what date it was until I saw the handy date reminder on the deposit prep table. Oh, yeah... 9/11. I won't bore you with an "I remember where I was...", but I will offer that as terrible as 9/11 was, it was obviously not terrible enough, because aside from altering our foreign policy and causing inconvenience at the airport (along the usual partisan nonsense from our elected officials), very little has changed.
Wiser heads and better polemicists than I have analyzed the speech by Pope Benedict to death, along with the depressingly predictable reaction from the Islamic world. Frankly I'm beginning to wonder what the deal is with Islam, or rather, our collective obsession with Islam. A group of people who collectively cannot deal with historical fact don't deserve to have their faith taken seriously. Mohammed was a homosexual drunkard, so there.

But in more importnat news, or more local news, which is the same as more important news, I've passed over the penultimate hurdle to beginning my schooling to become a wooden boatbuilder. I've gathered nearly all the tools needed, and God rest his soul, my father bequeathed me enough tools that I only had to buy half of what was on the list; along with most of the books, and the requisite Carhartt bibs (which I believe you are absolutely mandated to wear at wooden boat school from what I've seen). All that remains is to drive the Al-Can with my good friend Berne, to fetch back my Bronco which I abandoned in Fairbanks when the motor blew a couple weeks prior to my departure. Once home I'll be preparing my 13' "Home away from home" that my Slovak Hillbilly Brother James and his wife Susan have graciously offered to let me park on their property to give me a place to stay during the school week, eliminating the half hour ferry ride and associated costs that would form my commute to school otherwise.
Valerie and I continue to look for property upon which to begin our agrarian utopia, but so far nothing is in the offing. In a related note, our wedding plans continue to develop, though aside from providing a list of addresses for invitations and spearheading the pig roasting, my responsibilities have so far be deliniated as: Show up, dress nice, bring a ring.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Hooked on sailing

My dear fiancee and I took a little sailing trip this last Monday evening. Valerie, desiring me to have some practical seamanship experience before I start school, contacted the Puget Sound Sailing Institute and booked one of their 3 hour introduction to sailing trips. We arrived at the Pier 66 marina in downtown Seattle at 5pm, and met our guide Mike, who introduced us to the 22 foot boat we'd be taking out. With very little ceremony Mike had the small outboard running adn was motoring us out of the marina. Once out onto Elliot Bay he handed the tiller over to me with even less ceremony and began raising the sails. Once the sails were up and trimmed he reached back and said "we won't need this anymore" as he hit the kill switch on the motor. All of a sudden our boat was being compelled forward by the invisible wind. Mike gave me some basic directions at keeping the wind at the right point and the sails drawing and we were soon flying across Elliot Bay, heeled over (to Valerie's slight distress) and casting a fine bow wave. For the next three hours we sailed around the bay, tacking back and forth when necessary while I got as much instruction as I could from Mike.
The word sublime is under-used these days, and the old habit of granting it a capital "S" has sadly died away, but sublime is the best description for my first sailing experience. The feeling of being propelled by the wind, actually pulled by the wind in some cases was excellent in a way that even the most powerful motor-boat could not equal. Every motor boat I've been in, alays feels as though it is struggling against the water. Even when the wind was abeam and our progress was slow, the pace always seem natural. The ever-practical Valerie was pleased to hear from Mike that one could fish from a sail boat. In any case, a sailboat (preferrably wooden) is now high on my list of things to own. Once we move across the water, I even hope to make it a semi-regular form of transportation if possible.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Something we can all agree on...

... that is assuming one is a man of literary refinement.
As if one needed a reason to esteem the departed servant of God Jaroslav Pelikan more highly, he was also a man who appreciated fine literature. From the preface of "Whose Bible Is It?":

One day she asked me rather casually, in what Patrick O'Brian in the fourth of his Aubrey/Maturin novels calls "a fluent though curious English devoid of articles"...
[emphasis mine]

Monday, July 17, 2006

Orthodoxy at the "Amish point"? Part II

If we admit that Orthodoxy is not growing in America and that our faith and praxis somehow seem lukewarm, and that the Orthodox Church truly is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, then the fault must lie in ourselves and how we are living out our faith. The essential problem is that we have not made Orthodoxy the foundation, adapting it to our modern lives and not the other way around. We start out as Republican and Democrats and then find ways to dovetail Orthodoxy into our existing beliefs. Thus you have the spectacle of those trying to defend economic libertarianism or veganism, or materialist consumption as somehow compatible with Orthodoxy, when we should be doing just the opposite. If the teachings and witness of the Church, the message of the Gospels, and the lives of the Saints contradict libertarianism or radical veganism or what have you, then we must be willing to abandon those secular doctrines in the face of Christian teaching.

This is where the Amish provide a powerful example. Despite the criticism by those who at heart are probably profoundly uncomfortable with what the Amish stand for, the Amish are not “stuck in the past”. While it is most visible in the realm of technology, the Amish are engaged with the modern world, but the critical difference between them and us is that they meet the modern world on their terms. Anything that enters their society is prayerfully evaluated on whether or not it is compatible with their beliefs, and what the possible effects will be on their families and society. I would submit that us Orthodox in America as a whole would be well served such an outlook. Replacing our modern life with the Orthodoxy “add-on”, with a way of living that was Orthodox first, with modern life intruding, if it all, only when and where it is found compatible with the Orthodox faith. If this means starting from scratch in an agrarian fashion, so be it. But even without a “back to the land” ethic, would mean a more organic sense of community. It would mean Orthodox faithful living with a close distance of the nearest Orthodox church, and thus each other. It would mean an end to “commuting” to a distant church simply because you like the icons there, or they aren’t “ecumenist”, or they speak your grandfather’s native tongue. In order to attend my Serbian church I must drive past (or further than) SIX canonical Orthodox churches. While I speak Serbian semi-fluently, and understand the Slavonic liturgy, does it make sense to drive an hour to church? Am I ever going to have a shared sense of community with the other Serbian parishioner who drives an hour from the south and thus lives two hours away from me?

Ultimately our Christianity, our Orthodoxy is not radical enough. I mean this not in the sense of the joyless Orthodox piety-fascists one meets here and there, but in the sense that, like the Amish, we need to start making Orthodoxy the foundation for how we live our lives, and how we interact with others and God’s creation. We need an Orthodox ecology (in the broadest sense of the term). If living in humility means watching a 20” TV (though the argument could be made that in truth an Orthodox Christian has no business watching TV at all) instead of a wide-screen plasma; or driving a ten-year old Subaru station wagon instead of a new Hummer H2 then what is stopping us? If it means becoming agrarians and living at peace with God’s creation and our neighbor, not participating, or participating as little as possible in the exploitive and soul-warping chaos of secular materialist society, then what is stopping us?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Orthodoxy at the "Amish point"?

I’ve been reading with interested the four-part series on the general state of the Orthodox Church at the Ochlophobist’s blog. Much of what I’m about to write will deal with some of the issues brought up in these four lengthy posts, so I recommend anyone about to plunge ahead with this post, first go and read the First, Second, Third, and Fourth parts of the series…

By all accounts Orthodoxy in America is not growing at an appreciable rate. Using corporate business ideas of perpetual growth to judge our Church is a very poor idea, however, leaving aside a mania for abstract numbers, realizing that our Church is not growing should cause us to look at our praxis, both as individuals and communities. The fact my subconscious evangelism is ineffectual (because God forbid we Orthodox do any active evangelism- and for those who want to quote St. Seraphim and talk about aquiring the Spirit of peace- show me the thousands around you being saved. If you even had a tiny bit of the Spirit of peace, could you not at least show me a dozen people around you being saved?) should cause us all to sit down and ask ourselves, “Where is the Orthodoxy Christianity in my life outside of church?” By this I don’t mean do I have an icon on the dash of my car, a prayer rope on my wrist, and how many co-workers have I explained why I’m not eating meat or cheese to today, I’m talking about the more rudimentary and oft-forgotten basics of the Gospel message. All those things Christ told us would separate the sheep from the goats, all those outward manifestations of basic Christian virtue that should identify us as members of the Body of Christ long before they see our icons and our Byzantine chant CDs.

If the way we our living our Orthodox faith does not produce in us even the faintest germination of the seed of Christian virtue, then what is the point? Do we really think we are being saved by going through the motions every Sunday? Perhaps I am simply projecting my own inadequacies on the state of Orthodoxy at large, but I see it around me as well. Imagine, just imagine, someone who for whatever reason becoming interested enough in Orthodoxy to walk into their nearest Orthodox church on Sunday, and they are unfortunate enough to walk into a Greek or Serbian (or any other heavily “ethnic” congregation). Are they going to hear the Liturgy? Of course, but they won’t understand most of it. Are they going to see the beauty of Orthodox worship? Sure there will be the singing in an incomprehensible language, the beautiful icons, the incense, etc. But do you really think this person is going to be received by THE PEOPLE there in a welcoming, loving Christian manner? I’m as guilty as the next “ethnic”. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve seen an “Anglo” at church, and never bothered greeting or speaking with them after the service, because I’d rather go speak Serbian with the usual bunch of guys near the bar. Of course by the time the priest is through consuming the whole Eucharist (because in the Serbian church only infants receive Holy Communion more than once or twice a year, myself included), these proto-inquirers have left in dismay. On an Orthodox e-mail list for converts, the usual answer to enquirers that receive this sort of treatment is “Keep going back, you’ll get through to them.” or, “Find another parish that is convert friendly.” This strikes me as basically saying either, “We may have the Truth, but it makes us a bunch of insular xenophobes” or “We may be the True Church, but you’re going to have to do some looking around before you find a church in the True Church that is a True Church.” Now of course mostly convert churches have a much better track record in accepting inquirers, but only up to a point. Nothing in more bizarre to me than the existence of entirely convert missions in the Serbian Orthodox Church. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to see new Orthodox communities form. But I cannot for the life of me comprehend why (aside from the fact that though the OCA is the Orthodox Church in America in name, it does not function as the American Orthodox Church) a group of people who are named Smith, Jones, and Hanson would decide to begin a mission in the Serbian Orthodox Church (or ROCOR or any more “ethnic” jurisdiction for that matter). I esteem Patriarch Pavle as a living Saint, but I can’t grasp the logic of a convert parish, somewhere in America submitting to him as chief hierarch, or a church administration that thinks it makes sense to create parishes of “Anglo” converts who have no connection to Serbia at all. One begins to suspect less-than-pure motives on both parts, Converts: “It has to be Traditional, gotta be Old Calendar, and, yeah definitely no Ecumenism.” Bishops: “More money in the coffers, more numbers of parishioners on the rolls.”
(to be continued)

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Praise for cast iron

Tonight my dear girlfriend made a delicious stir-fry in my cast iron frying pan. I've had this thing for some time now, and I marvel at it every time I use it. In fact every time I use it, the sheer superiority of the thing gives me the strong urge to chuck the rest of my cook wear in the rubbish bin. A cast iron pan is non-stick, heats more evenly, cleans up without soap, scoff at the use of metal utensils, and is basically indestructable.
Where and how did we get sold the cheap junk that is our modern cookwear? The only downside to the cast iron pan is it requires some CARE (something my Slovak hillbilly brother is blogging about right now). It needs to be cleaned in fairly short order after use and then dried off to avoid rust. On the off chance it looses its seasoning, one needs to reseason it. So in exchange for a durable, functional piece of basic household equipment we can hand down to our grandchildren, we've gotten a pan that is easy to clean when we ignore the dishes for a few days.
It really speaks to a larger issue that has bothered me for a long time. Everything is made so poorly these days, as to almost beggar the imagination. The gas grill I brought a month ago is horribly flimsy (and this was not a bottom end grill either). Planned obsolescence is a pernicious doctrine, that only adds more to the bottom line of big companies because we are all too forgetful when our crap breaks and we go out and buy a new piece of crap.
I've heard the economic arguments for why nearly every product is so cheap and lousy these days, and they've never rung true.
One of the few areas where quality still reigns over cost-cutting is in the majority of firearms these days. While there ae "budget" gun manufacturers, most, like my personal favorite Ruger, make it part of their ethos to build quality into their cost-cutting measures.
In any case, I'm hoping to gradually convert my entire cookwear selection to cast iron in the hope that my grandkids will enjoy it someday to.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Lookin' for land... all the right places?
This last Monday my girlfriend (watch this space for developments) and I, along with my Slovak hillbilly brother James and his gracious wife Susan. We were over on the Olympic Peninsula, specifically the area of Jefferson County between Quilcene and Port Townsend. For Valerie and I at least, this area is probably the best compromise between affordable rural land, and a reasonable proximity to civilization. While living further away from Pugetropolis would be fine by me form a philosophical standpoint, what would not be fine would be being so distant from our friends and more importantly being too long a drive from an Orthodox Church.
We looked at several properties, some with homes on them, some bare land (and some not-so-bare land). We've been looking together with the idea of hopefully being neighbors, or at least in the same neighborhood. Ultimately it would be nice to find a few more like-minded agrarian-leaning Orthodox families intersted in a similar arrangement. A couple of the 40 acre parcels we looked at could be neatly divided into four 10 acre lots, or even an mix of 5 and 10 acre lots (and while I am dreaming here, why not a communal- there's that word!- chapel in the center of the community where prayers could be sung together?).
In other news, I've been accepted to the Northwest School of Wooden Boats, AND my student loan went through, so come September I will be learning the ancient and honorable trade of boatwright!

Last but not least

For those of you who have not perused my links on the right-hand column of the blog, I beg your indulgence to do so, if for no other reason than to see the sort of philosophical (more or less) underpinnings of my thinking these days. I would like to cast a special spot-light today on the blog at the bottom of my list. Novae Militae is always a source of good commentary from a paleo-paleo conservative viewpoint, but the particular attraction are his pages of resources, articles, and links as well as his Southern Cross page on the Southern Agrarian movement.

Monday, June 12, 2006

"Communal" living

Like Dreher I have a strong distaste for anything called "Communal", and as I've stated before an "intentional community " can have equally bad connotations. Still some interesting commentary at the Crunchy Con blog
The New York Times artical he references questions why so many communal arrangements fail. My own, decidedly amatuer, opinion is most of these arrangements are strictly along the lines of "lifestyles". The most successful "intentional community", the Amish (and those who live similarly, such as the Mennonites and Hutterited) are tied together by a strong religious bond. While some would argue that the neo-pagan eco-worship of many of the more left-leaning intentional communities constitute a religion, most expressions of paganism these dys have all the depth of a mud puddle (of course I'll not deny that much Christianity these days is similarly shallow, but the difference is there is a depth of tradition to be found in Christianity that is wholly absent from neo-paganism.). In any case, it would be interesting to see how an Orthodox intentional community would stack up.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

"Property" is just a source of Cash Outflow

A couple days ago I recieved a letter in the mail that really boggled my mind. Ever since the property values in the Seattle area went to stupid heights, we've frequently gotten solicitations from real estate outfits looking to make a buck when we slaughter the ol' cash cow. I had never paid much attention to the solicitations, but I read this one and became a tad incensed at the thinking behind it. The letter is in the quoted section below, along with my comments.

Dear Mirko Spasojevic,
Never mind my father has been dead four years, though I have been known to contact particularly obnoxious mail solicitors (like the people peddling pre-paid cremation deals) and tell them "He's dead." with a rather un-Christian satisfaction at their discomfort.

Recently, while doing some basic research, I noticed that you own property in Snohomish.

News to me, unless my parents secretly hold some land out there. Apparently his "basic research" was not thorough enough to tell him we live in Snohomish County (but in the City of Edmonds), not the TOWN of Snohomish some twenty miles to the east.

I've learned over the years that many people don't ever really have the chance to take advantage of their land.
It's either no time or no money.
In the meantime the "Property" is just a source of Cash Outflow every year ie.
Property Taxes
Property Owners Association Fees
Possible Liability (if someone gets hurt on your land)
Laying aside the bizarre use of quotations around the word property, as well as the inexplicable capitalization of that word and "cash outflow", the entire assumption behind this (and the other solicitations I've recieved) is that the owning of land is simply an economic matter. Sadly this seems to be the way most people think about their property. One generally buys the most expensive place they can afford, and then when the property value goes up it is not a case of if, but when they will sell, reap a profit and move on to the next bigger or better placed house. When your home is seen from the point of view of an economic investment, and not an investment in a "place" and the sense of place that comes with it.

I am interested in buying your property... etc, etc, yadda, yadda...
My girlfriend found the letter sitting on the kitchen table and was so incensed she actually called the people and told them to go pound sand (I've got me a good 'un). This lack of loyalty to a place echos on a slightly larger scale something Rod Dreher wrote about on his Crunchy Con blog. By not being form anywhere, our increasingly mobile and rootless society has replaced a locally-based loyalty and patriotism with a vague and amorphous loyalty to the flag or to "America". At one time a person considered themselves a citizen of their town, or at the most their state, but these days, except in legal matters, very few people seem to identify on a local level. When the US began bombing Serbia in 1999 my father headed there the day after the bombing began, deciding that if his adopted country was going to bomb his homeland, he would rather die on his home soil. Before he left he sat me and my brother down and told us, "Sons, this is your land, your were born and raised here. Fight and die for this land if you need to, but don't fight and die for some dummy politician." Looking back now, I can feel fairly safe in saying that when my father spoke about "this land" he was not referring to the US in general but the actual land we had been born and raised on and the forests, mountains, waterways, and communities that we called home.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

What is a local ecomony

A good friend (and Ordinary Gentleman) called me this morning, asking about what a local economy was and if it was even possible in this day and age. I told him I would be happy to provide him with a Wendell Berry essay that would explain it, but after having to cut our discussion short upon the arrival of a fellow who was going to relieve me of some old truck parts cluttering my shop, I sat down and decided to pen a few thoughts of my own rather than let Mr. Berry speak for me.
First off, I think a bit of the confusion about the new path James and I are tenatively turning towards is making the discussion difficult. Agrarianism is less a political statement or a "program" so much as a philosophy of life. As such I don't have a good answer for what should be done about deforestation in China, since despite the interconnectedness of osciety, that still remains a problem for the Chinese to solve (in much the same fashion as I would not want the Chinese trying to solve our problems here). Agrarianism teaches that all matters are best dealt with locally, by those who will have to live with the consequences.
The idea of a local economy in simple terms means that self-sufficiency should be the goal of every level of the economy. So each house-hold should strive to be as self sufficient as possible, each town should be as self-sufficient as possible, each region, state, nation, and so on. This self-sufficiency accomplishes several things. First off it keeps the profits from any business enterprise closer to their source of origen. It would go a long way to eliminate the "economic colonialism" that exemplifies most extractive businesses. After all, when was the last time someone saw a wealthy or prosperous mining or logging town? The second advantage is related to the first. When businesses are local in scale, they have an incentive to be good stewards. A locally owned logging operation would understand the need to manage the forests it cuts, to ensure its continued existence. Large scale industrial logging operations can come in and clear cut an area and move on, as they have no loyalty to a place, and once the forests in one area are logged those who live there are of little use or concern.
Of course the only practical objection to all of this (objections based on ideas that "you can't stop progress" and "this way of doing things is inevitable" being entirely metaphysical) is that such an economy would cause most consumer goods to drasticly increase in cost. To this I would point out, that in a way this would be a good thing, as it might cause us to spend our money more wisely. But more importantly, the increased costs would more fully reflect the true cost of an item. Modern business practices only focus on what is quantifiable here and now, there is little or no consideration for the hidden costs of industrial consumerism, both in those costs that cannot be measured in concrete numbers, as well as those costs that are being deferred to future generations. It is this cost that will be payed (with interest) by future generations that a local economy is most concerned with.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The "Simple" Life

Many people seem to think the whole idea of moving out to the country and becoming more self-sufficient, is somehow part of a desire for a simple life. This whole idea of the "simple life" is exactly the opposite of what an agrarian life is. Nothing could be simpler than working 9-5, buying all your food pre-packaged (or even pre-cooked, having someone else supply you with power, water, and garbage and sewage disposal, and have all your entertainment piped to you electronicly. The art (in the older, fuller sense of the term) of raising food, raising livestock, and managing the cycle of growth, death, and rebirth involved in an agrarian enterprise is anything but simple. If you want a simple life, work a mindless job, eat frozen dinners, and watch TV, not much this side of a coma is simpler than that. The whole reason for escaping modern society and it conveniences is that it is too simple, nothing is connected, or if things are connected they aer on a scale so vast as to render the connection invisible. In reading Wendell Berry he speaks frequently about the fact that someone can make something, and someone else can buy it, and neither party has any idea about the existence of the other. He also points out that those who make the decisions about what forest to clear cut, what mountain to strip mine, and what plant to close, are alost never those who live in the place that decision affects. Part of the point of personal self-sufficiency, and a local economic self-sufficiency is that the people who make the decisions are those who will be affected by the consequences, and this is the essence of proper stewardship.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Pretty much the entirely wrong idea

These people appear to be serious. I don't know what to say aside from hoping it is all a bad joke...

What a farm is

Here is an excellent quote from the quirky, but emminently readable Reactionary Radicals blog. I confess to having never heard of Whittacre Chambers, but after reading the piece below, I certainly want to learn more.
Pipe Creek Farm is not simply a few hundred acres of dirt, some clusters of old barns and outbuildings, power machines, a herd of cattle, a few hogs or a flock of sheep. Our farm is our home. It is our altar. To it each day we bring our faith, our love for one another as a family, our working hands, our prayers. In its soil and the care of its creatures, we bury each day a part of our lives in the form of labor. The yield of our daily dying, from which each night in part restores us, springs around us in the seasons of harvest, in the produce of animals, in incalculable content. A farmer is not everyone who farms. A farmer is the man who, in a ploughed field, stoops without thinking to let its soil run through his fingers, to try its tilth. A farmer is always half buried in his soil. The farmer who is not is not a farmer; he is a businessman who farms. But the farmer who is completes the arc between the soil and God and joins their mighty impulses. We believe that laborare est orare—to labor is to pray. In that sense, the farm is our witness. It is a witness against the world. By deliberately choosing this life of hardship and immense satisfaction, we say in effect: The modern world has nothing better than this to give us. Its vision of comfort without effort, pleasure without the pain of creation, life sterilized against even the thought of death, rationalized so that every intrusion of mystery is felt as a betrayal of the mind, life mechanized and standardized—that is not for us. We do not believe that it makes for happiness from day to day. We fear that it means catastrophe in the end.

Monday, May 22, 2006

The New Relic

It is rather difficult to write the first post of a new blog, so bear with me. For those of you who have found me from my old blog, I say welcome. Most of what you read here is going to be in a slightly different vein than my previous attempt at blogging. For those of you who were readers of my blog from Serbia, has been a growth from my experiences there. Last, but not least, for those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about let me simply say that in the last two years I've finally decided that to live my life in fidelity to my faith, the traditions of my family, and the sense of moral purpose my parents instilled in me, I could no longer participate in modern consumerist society. As a result I'm beginning to take the tenative, and frequently difficult and confusing steps, and building a life for myself, and eventually my family, that will be, as much as is possible, in greater harmony with God, His creation, and my fellow humans.
My ultimate dream would be to live in a community of like-minded individuals (though the idea of an "intentional community" has baggage attached to it that makes me uneasy), an organic- in the broadest sense of the word- community that finds strength in shared values and shared lives, and that while not turning its back on modern society, at least is in a position to address modern society from a position of strength.