Depth in the Shallows

Month: June, 2016

The Wonder Of The Wanderer

Learning On The Trail Of Life

Education of a Wandering Man by Louis L’Amour

The guy that wrote all those Westerns? Yep. That one. L’Amour wrote 105 books, mostly Westerns and adventure stories. Westerns, like other genre writing, aren’t for everyone. But if there is one book by Louis L’Amour that everyone should read, it is Education of a Wandering Man. In it, L’Amour writes about his own life adventures. He was a merchant seaman, Army officer, boxer, and mine worker. He traveled all over the world, often with little money, and keenly observed how other people lived. But what is most important about his life, and about this book, is how Louis L’Amour educated himself. He read. He never stopped reading. Wherever he went, whatever he did, he read. Once, he sought out a job as the caretaker of an old mine just so he had time to read. L’Amour had little patience for those who say they have no time to read. It is an excuse. L’Amour didn’t need a graduate degree to be a highly educated man. He certainly didn’t need one to be a writer. He achieved both because he walked in wonder at all of life and he never stopped reading.

“I have read my books by many lights, hoarding their beauty, their wit or wisdom against the dark days when I would have no book, nor a place to read. I have known hunger of the belly kind many times over, but I have known a worse hunger: the need to know and to learn.”

At The Altar Of The New Church

Worshipping The Orgasm

Tread Softly For You Tread On My Jokes by Malcolm Muggeridge

Karl Marx famously complained that “religion is the opiate of the masses.”A kindred spirit, Barack Obama, accused rural Americans of “clinging to their guns and religion.” Both were speaking with a particular stink eye for Christianity. But both miss the real opiate of the masses, the real religion of the non-believers, that is, of course, the Orgasm. Thirty minutes of television or surfing the internet will demonstrate our obsession with it. Cialis, Viagra, Addyi (female Viagra), infomercials for sex performance enhancers, penis enlargements, all reinforce this fact. Hook-up Apps, college campus hook-up culture, condoms sold like packs of gum. All of this is an expression, though not exclusively, of our obsession with the Orgasm. This is to say nothing of the hundreds of millions of hours a week people spend watching porn on the internet, or the soft porn that is nighttime TV. Apart from being disordered, and divorced from any foundation in love-and therefore true freedom-all of this has a downside. Rape drugs, human sex trafficking, the objectification and commodification of humans (especially women and children) are the reality. The rest is mere euphemistic window dressing to cover the darker depths of our nature.

If and when we raise our heads above the waterline of our utilitarian culture, we see things like Brock Turner raping an unconscious girl, enabled by a father who thought jail too steep a price to pay for his son “getting twenty minutes of action” and a judge who viewed Turner’s conduct as being just a bit naughty that’s all, nothing to ruin his life over. And we are angry, confused, demanding answers. But by discarding the Faith that teaches us the virtues, that undergirds any attempt at ethics, that guides our choices to true freedom, we arrive at a dark place where the word vice has little meaning, nothing is really wrong so long as nobody minds that we do it, and where freedom is doing whatever the hell you want. And we find that we have nothing to base our anger on. It becomes another moment of Outrage that people post about on Facebook, Tweet to their followers, and engage in hashtag solidarity. Still, the waters mirk and muddy. We don’t rinse, only repeat.

Malcolm Muggeridge, British author, journalist, and TV personality, not surprisingly understood all of this. Having lived through the Sixties, he took a contrarian view of things. An agnostic much of his life, he later converted to Christianity and though he wrote more seriously in later life, he lost none of his acerbic wit and humor. He saw that when the glacier of Faith recedes, the pockmarked land of life is filled with islands of identity in pools of false freedom. We are alternatively called Consumer, End User, Voter, Investor, Fan, Taxpayer, or Personal Brand, but what we are rarely called, and are becoming less of, is Human. As Hilaire Belloc noted, cruelty, slavery, and loss of reason will dominate where the Faith is removed. And so they do.

“The orgasm has replaced the Cross as the focus of longing and the image of fulfillment.”

A Cure For What Ails You

The Doctor Is In

The Lamentations of St. Gregory of Narek

Who? Exactly. That many are ignorant of this profound mystic, poet, and saint is not surprising. But neither is it an excuse. The holy Gregory was recently made the thirty sixth Doctor of the Catholic Church, a title bestowed not on the basis of academic knowledge, but on the spiritual knowledge of the recipient as evidenced by an exemplary life of holiness. For Gregory of Narek, this was official recognition long overdue.

Mystic, poet, and theologian, St. Gregory lived in 10th century Armenia. The Armenian Church is an ancient church, faithful under the direst conditions. A land between East and West, its people have suffered greatly. This was no less true in Gregory’s time than in our own. Indeed, the Turkish slaughter of Armenians in the renowned city of Ani in 1064, and the later devastation by the Mongols in 1236 are living reminders of Armenia’s suffering. In the 20th century, the Turks, in an undeniable act of genocide, murdered nearly 1.5 million Armenians. They also wrongfully seized the ancient holy city of Ani. That Turkey refuses to acknowledge the genocide, along with dozens of other countries around the world, remains a scandal of our age. St. Gregory of Narek is a guide for the suffering. His Lamentations are the cry of Armenia and the hope for all of us.

I am a living book

Written like the scroll in the vision of Ezekiel,

Inside and out,

Listing lamentations, moaning, and woe.


I lie here on a cot struck down by evil,
sinking in disease and torment,
like the living dead yet able to speak.
O kind Son of God,
have compassion upon my misery.
Hear the sobbing of my agitated voice.
Bring me back to life
with the dew of your blessed eyes
as you brought back your friend from breathless death. 
In a dungeon of infirmities, I am captive, bitter and
in doubt.
Give me your hand, sun that casts no shadows, Son on
high, and lift me into your radiant light.

Old Thunder On The Current Storm

On The Fate Of The Faith In Europe

Survivals and New Arrivals by Hilaire Belloc

Brexit, Grexit, and the EU oh my! What is with Europe these days? From the looming vote on Britain leaving the European Union, Greece teetering on the edge of leaving under the double weight of EU imposed economic austerity and its own socialist nanny state, to an emptying of the churches and the often contradictory results of French secularization, it is clear in all the muck that Europe is in an existential convulsion. The schizophrenic responses by politicians and populace lead one to consider what Europe is or can be without the faith of its founding. Long known as Christendom, Europe benefitted from many kingdoms under one faith. Like siblings, they rarely got along. But out of the wellspring of faith, despite the wars and the bickering, came the glories of European art, literature, music, philosophy, technology and the principle of individual freedom. The decline of Christianity in Europe creates a vacuum that the vacuousness of multiculturalism and secularism cannot fill. And so what of Europe’s growing engagement with Islam?

Hilaire “Old Thunder” Belloc, historian, writer, sailor, raconteur and friend of that enormous personality, G.K. Chesterton, was a pugnacious purveyor of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful.  Known for such important books as The Path to Rome and The Servile State, Belloc, ever the clear sighted Catholic, warned of a Europe without the Faith. He also warned of what might fill the void.

“We shall almost certainly have to reckon with Islam in the near future. Perhaps if we lose our Faith it will rise.”

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