Charlie's Blog: October 2019


Amazonian Reflections

At the time of this tribulation a man, not canonically elected, will be raised to the Pontificate, who, by his cunning, will endeavour to draw many into error and death. Then scandals will be multiplied, our Order will be divided, and many others will be entirely destroyed, because they will consent to error instead of opposing it.

This prophecy from Saint Francis always blows my mind because it details exactly what is happening now with Pope Francis. I think Bergoglio taking the name of Francis was no coincidence because Saint Francis called him out centuries ago in this prophecy. And this prophecy is not apocryphal but belongs to the authentic published works of the saint. Here is the fuller passage for context:
Act bravely, my brethren; take courage and trust in the Lord. The time is fast approaching in which there will be great trials and afflictions; perplexities and dissensions, both spiritual and temporal, will abound; the charity of many will grow cold, and the malice of the wicked will increase. The devils will have unusual power; the immaculate purity of our Order, and of others, will be so much obscured that there will be very few Christians who obey the true Supreme Pontiff and the Roman Church with loyal ears and perfect charity.
At the time of this tribulation a man, not canonically elected, will be raised to the Pontificate, who, by his cunning, will endeavour to draw many into error and death. Then scandals will be multiplied, our Order will be divided, and many others will be entirely destroyed, because they will consent to error instead of opposing it.
There will be such diversity of opinions and schisms among the people, the religious and the clergy, that, except those days were shortened, according to the words of the Gospel, even the elect would be led into error, were they not specially guided, amid such great confusion, by the immense mercy of God….
Those who persevere in their fervor and adhere to virtue with love and zeal for the truth, will suffer injuries and persecutions as rebels and schismatics; for their persecutors, urged on by the evil spirits, will say they are rendering a great service to God by destroying such pestilent men from the face of the earth…
Some preachers will keep silent about the truth, and others will trample it under foot and deny it. Sanctity of life will be held in derision even by those who outwardly profess it, for in those days Our Lord Jesus Christ will send them, not a true Pastor, but a destroyer. 
Works of the Seraphic Father Saint Francis of Assisi, pgs. 248-250. PDF
This sounds exactly like what is happening in the Roman Catholic Church today. Now, the skeptic will scoff and say this is "retconning" which is a shortened version of "retroactive continuity." All prophecies are derided on the basis of retconning as events unfold. A famous example of this retconning would be the works of Nostradamus who has a terrible track record for prophesying such that people who know better say that his handful of accurate prophecies are that way by pure chance. Are we retconning this prophecy of Saint Francis?

I have read a great deal on these sorts of prophecies and the apparitions of our Lady at Ecuador, La Salette, Fatima, and Akita which are all approved tell of the same calamities that we are witnessing today. They are so vast that I will not quote them but will encourage the Gentle Reader to do as I did and go to Google for deeper reading on what our Lady told us. All of the prophecies point to an infiltration of the Roman Catholic Church leading to grave scandals, promotion of heresy, and persecution of the Roman Catholic faithful. All of these things are happening now with the sodomite sex abuse crisis, a heretical pope, modernists like the Jesuits promoting filth and lies, and those Catholics who adhere to the authentic faith being persecuted and shut out from what belongs to them.

As I write this, the Pan-Amazon Synod being held at the Vatican is drawing to a close, and it has not failed to disappoint. The final document is acknowledged by insiders as having been written before the start of the Synod. The Amazon Synod is pure political theater and represents the victory lap of the modernists. They own the Roman Catholic Church now. It belongs to them now, and they will do as they see fit as they wreck what remains of the faith. The faithful can do nothing except sit back and watch or maybe toss a few wooden idols into the Tiber in a feeble protest. I support that act of defiance, but it really amounts to nothing. The apostasy is happening, and we are powerless to stop it.

My critics will point out that this is not the true Church but the Antichurch as foretold by Fulton Sheen. I agree. Modernists are not Catholics. They may have the buildings, but we have the faith. We have already endured this during the Arian heresy. But the modernists now have something the Arians never had. The modernists have a pope. And that fact is what causes such heartburn for the faithful today.

Let us not delude ourselves concerning Pope Francis. The man is a heretic. He has said so much and done so much now that it leaves no doubt that he is both a formal and material heretic. If you are not convinced yet, give it a few more days. Francis will not fail in delivering even more evidence of the already obvious. The simple fact is that the current occupant of the Chair of Peter isn't even Catholic and was this way even before he was put there. Anyone who doubts the true nature of Francis is delusional.

Why do certain people insist on deluding themselves about Francis? That is easy to see. They cannot reckon with the calamity that what Jesus promised would never happen has actually happened. The gates of Hell have prevailed, and we now have a pope who is not only fallible but is actively destroying the faith of the Roman Catholic Church. So, they go to great lengths of logical gymnastics to deny that Francis is a heretic. It is enough to make a sophist from ancient Greece blush. Or, faced with the obvious, they slide into their own heresy of denying Vatican I and the doctrine of papal infallibility. Or, they resort to the ludicrous tautology that the pope is infallible except when he errs. The poor fools do such damage to reason and common sense that we can now just dismiss their ridiculous arguments and pray they figure it out at some later time.

The obvious answer to this calamity is the one Saint Francis of Assisi has delivered to us. We have a man not canonically elected raised to the pontificate. We have an antipope. So many wish to deny this obvious fact that they impugn and calumniate all those who even consider it as "cuckoos" and "tinfoil hat wearers." Yet, I prefer this lunacy to the alternatives. Either Francis is not a heretic, or our Lord is some sort of liar.

I have already looked into the matter and written about it here at the C-Blog. These are the things I believe. Pope Benedict XVI was pressured and threatened into abdicating. His abdication was only partial, half ass, and invalid which is why he still allows people to call him Benedict and continues to wear a white cassock and his fisherman's ring. There is no such thing as a half pope or even a retired pope. Then, you have the Saint Gallen Mafia and Bergoglio himself violating canon law in order to put Bergoglio in the pontificate. Then, there is the simple fact that Jorge Bergoglio was a heretic both before and after his election. These four facts or just one of them is sufficient to invalidate this pontificate.

Ask yourself a question. Does Pope Francis look and act like a true shepherd? If you compare Francis to the bad popes in history, he makes them look righteous because none of them attempted to demolish the faith and morals of the Church despite their personal scandals. Even if you compare Francis to the antipopes of church history, those antipopes are better men than this guy.  There is no question about it. Bergoglio belongs to the Devil.

Once you contemplate or embrace the idea that Francis is an antipope, you feel something good inside. You feel relief from the scandal. Your faith is renewed, and you feel hope once more. You see Francis as being the culmination of the centuries old plot to install a heretic on the throne of Peter. The faith remains intact because we are at liberty to disregard the errors of this wicked man. We are left with enduring him.

I believe Francis is the scourge that God has allowed upon a Church that has drifted into apostasy. God has sent us a destroyer instead of a true shepherd to afflict us for apostasy. This apostasy is at all levels of the Church including the laity. Bergoglio is our punishment. The unfortunate aspect of God's punishments in this world is that the innocent suffer with the unjust. If you are familiar with the Old Testament, you see God following this same pattern with the children of Israel.

Once you see Francis as an antipope and not the Vicar of Christ, you can hold on to the faith pure and unchanged. You can remain a true Catholic. But what about schism? It is only schism if Francis is the true pope. And, if he is a false pope, you are in schism by thinking that he is the true pope. You are caught in a Catch-22 where you are possibly damned either way you go with this. But I think God in His providence has provided us more than ample information to draw the correct conclusion. If Francis sounds like a heretic and an antipope, then he is a heretic and an antipope. The sheep recognize the voice of the shepherd. Francis is not the shepherd.

What is to be done about this calamity? There is nothing you can do except pray and endure it. This mess will have to be sorted out and corrected by the legitimate successor to Pope Francis. Since Francis has seen to packing the College of Cardinals with modernist scum like himself, it seems likely than the next pope will be as bad or worse than Francis himself. He may even be a second antipope. I don't know the future on these things. I can only deal with the present in light of the past and the prophecies given to us by the saints and our Lady.

There is an alternative to this antipope hypothesis I present to you. You can become an apostate yourself. You can embrace modernism and "God's surprises" as Bergoglio refers to them. God really does will gay marriage and women priests and artificial contraception and abortion and pantheism and religious indifferentism. You can decide that the true church is not the Catholic Church but the Episcopal Church and work to turn the Catholic Church into the Episcopal Church. I am sure the Archbishop of Canterbury will be delighted to become the next Vicar of Christ. As it stands, that current Archbishop is more Catholic than our pope. Or, you can just skip this foolishness altogether and become an atheist.

The bad guys have won. Notice that I did not say "winning." The victory is already complete. We are now in checkmate. You can become a schismatic, a heretic, or an atheist apostate. Saint Francis has already warned us that those who remain true to the faith will be regarded as rebels and schismatics. I never counted myself among the Lefebvrists and the sedevacantists, but I am finding that their positions are becoming moot points if Francis is an antipope.

The bottom line is that the Roman Catholic Church is in total error and confusion now, and this confusion will only increase as time goes on. The bad guys have won. There is nothing you or I can do about it. When you are out of moves, this is checkmate. And, when you are in checkmate, only divine intervention can change the situation. God Himself will have to intervene. And, if He doesn't, then God doesn't exist. Jesus was just a con artist. And the almost 2000 year history of the Roman Catholic Church will be regarded as the greatest delusion ever perpetrated on humanity. This is why Saint Francis echoes the words of our Lord when he says that if these days are not shortened, even the elect would fall from the One True Faith. Those days are now here.

If you are looking to the priests, bishops, cardinals, or Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI for some sort of consolation or answers, you are wasting your time. The bad guys deny the truth while the good guys remain silent with piss running down their legs. They are a pathetic lot. Yet, it would all be made better if Benedict would break his silence or if a single prelate would come forward and declare the Francis pontificate invalid. This is not going to happen. All of the prophecies said this would happen, and it is happening.

The situation is in God's hands. No one is going to fix this but God. And, if God does not fix this as He promised, then God does not exist. Because of Francis, your faith now hangs precariously over the abyss of apostasy and atheism. I believe God will deliver us from this calamity and vindicate Himself and all those who have placed their faith and trust in Him. Those who believe in God and His promises will not be put to shame.

What will this deliverance look like? It will look exactly like it did in the Old Testament. It will be violent. The modernist heretics and their silent enablers will come to a bloody demise. There will be murder and physical destruction. God used bad guys like the Babylonians as His instruments of punishment in the Old Testament. I believe His instrument of punishment will be the Musloid barbarians that Pope Francis loves so much. God's wrath will be poured out on this Antichurch of sodomites, heretics, and cowards. They will all die and immediately enter eternal damnation. The Great Apostasy will end in the Great Chastisement as foretold. The rest of the world will be left shocked and amazed at the spectacle and know without doubt that God exists.

But I may be completely wrong on these things. I may just have a fevered imagination burning underneath a tinfoil hat. If this is the case, the Amazon Synod will produce a document that Francis will use to ordain female deacons and allow married priests at a minimum. These will only be stepping stones to the next round of "God's surprises" which will be women priests and openly gay clergy in sodomite pseudo-marriages and civil unions like they do in the Episcopal Church. And the apostate laity will be free to live openly the sinful lives they live in secret. The Roman Catholic Church will empty out and become a sad relic of a superstition that lived for way too long. There will be faith no more nor a Lord to return to find the faith gone. Unless God intervenes, this outcome is inevitable.

I have already been an atheist, and I don't care to be one again. But I prefer the truth above everything else. I became Catholic because I believed and still believe that Catholicism is true. There is one outcome of this calamity that I know is certain. The truth will be known. Either God is real and keeps His promises. Or, He isn't real at all, and we are to be pitied as deluded fools who pledged our lives to a lie. It is all in God's hands, and this is a scary place to be. I believe God will vindicate the faith we have put in Him. We just have to hold on until that vindication comes.

UPDATE 10/25/2019: I just read the news that Francis has fished his idols from the Tiber and intends to display them at the closing Mass of the Amazon Synod on Sunday. This may be disappointing news to many faithful but not to me. This man is a manifest heretic and an antipope. Now, he will glory in his antipathy for Christ, His Church, and the One True Faith. I am grateful that this has happened because it establishes even more fully what I have come to believe about this man. Francis is growing ripe in his sins. When his fall comes followed by his eternal damnation, let no one say that he did not deserve what he had coming to him.

I do not expect Francis to show any restraint going forward. He will probably go for the jugular and ordain women as priests now. Forget about women deacons. But that will be good, too. No doubt will be left when it comes to this man. He is not the true pope. The true pope is cowering in fear somewhere in the Vatican.


The Evelyn Waugh Option

The liturgical changes in question stemmed directly from the Second Vatican Council, which met from 1962 to 1965. For many, the council was, in the famous words of Pope John XXIII, a chance to “open the windows [of the Church] and let in some fresh air.” This was not so much the case for Waugh, who loudly (though unsuccessfully) protested the radical transformations foisted upon Catholic worship. These changes included an emphasis on vernacular languages over Latin, a revised lectionary, and significant alterations to the components of the Mass. Waugh’s words in response to this revolution are arresting: “Church-going is now a bitter trial,” he wrote. Elsewhere he said, “the Vatican Council has knocked the guts out of me.” To a friend, he wrote, “I have not yet soaked myself in petrol and gone up in flames, but I now cling to the Faith doggedly without joy.” In another letter to a cleric, he sought to know the least he was “obliged to do without grave sin.” This is remarkable, coming from one of the most famous Catholic writers of the 20th century, one who had previously adored the Mass.
CASEY CHALK in The American Conservative

The new Mass of Paul VI is what scandalized and deflated novelist Evelyn Waugh so profoundly. I have to wonder what his reaction to today's scandals would be. We have a gigantic sex abuse scandal with pedophiles and sodomites engaged in all sorts of filth, and prelates covering up for them. We have orders pushing communism under the guise of "social justice." The teachings of the Church are being destroyed by the day. We have a Vatican Bank in the clutches of the mafia. Then, there is the pope who denies the divinity of Christ. Having the Mass said in the vernacular seems like small potatoes in comparison. But Evelyn Waugh did exercise an option which was to do the least that he was obliged to do without grave sin.

Recently, I brought to the attention of my priest, Father Jerk, sacrileges being committed against our Lord in the eucharist by parishioners. This was nothing more than sending a link to a blog post from a fellow parishioner discussing the sacrileges. The response from Father Jerk was what I expected from the guy. It was a long diatribe about how the parishioners basically suck. One thing I have learned over the years. Good leaders blame themselves. Bad leaders blame their people. Father Jerk is a bad shepherd.

I am very well informed about the scandals and failings in the wider Roman Catholic Church. But I also know that I could ride it out serenely if I belonged to a good parish with an orthodox priest and a Latin Mass. I know of such a parish in my diocese, but I live too far away to attend Mass there. Instead, I am stuck with the rest of my diocese in attending parishes that are lackluster at best where priests spread their Spirit of Vatican II heterodoxy and celebrate the Mass with the least amount of reverence or care. Then, there is Father Jerk who turns the Mass into a clown show with his narcissistic personality disorder. Finally, we have a bishop who doesn't care about any of this garbage, has been caught sheltering a pervert priest, and has his own sex abuse claim against him to contend with.

I belonged to the Knights of Columbus in my parish except they have let my council wither and die as no one bothered to show up anymore. I was one of those knights, but I think almost getting killed in an accident and recovering from that has excused me this year from being more active in the council. Before that, my inactivity was due to the simple fact that retired boomers like to schedule meetings during the week where actual knights with real jobs and families find it difficult to attend. Long hours and a long commute killed me as a knight. When I recommended moving our meetings to Saturday mornings, this was met with the expected response. This time would conflict with golf games, fishing, hunting, and preparing to watch college football games on television.

The Knights of Columbus are dead anyway. The organization amounts to an insurance company and little else. Most men can't afford the life insurance. The organization no longer resembles the mutual aid society Father McGivney intended. Membership is in steep decline, but the Knights hide this decline by tricks as they pay the dues of knights that no longer attend or care to belong to the organization. The group has also sold out by supporting illegal immigration, letting pro-abort politicians remain members in good standing, and putting their money into the heterodox Crux news website. Carl Anderson's response to the auto demolition of the Knights of Columbus was to change the fourth degree uniform from traditional to Girl Scout third world dictator. Needless to say, no one likes this.

My personal life is a shambles from my accident. The hardest thing I do each week is to drag myself to Mass to meet my Sunday obligation. I attend the Spanish Mass where I understand very little of what is going on. That is OK to me because this is what a Latin Mass would be for me. The reason I attend the Spanish Mass is because it effectively mutes Father Jerk whose Spanish is still at the high school level. He could be reading from a trashy romance novel, and I wouldn't know. I just sit in silence knowing that Jesus sits in silence in the tabernacle. I go to suffer with my Lord as some clown puts on his Vegas show. There is one thing Father Jerk has done for me. He makes me appreciate virtually any Novus Ordo Mass where he is not present.

My giving has changed dramatically. I stopped giving beyond the Diocese to things like Peter's Pence and the USCCB. Then, I stopped giving to the Diocese. Now, I put a mere dollar in the offering envelope each week to cover the cost of the envelopes and the hosts we consume. I put the rest of my money into the building fund and the capital campaign for the parish. I figure the building can't do bad things, but it may get sold to pay for sex abuse claims. We even bypassed the Church in our almsgiving by giving our donations directly to people in need. The main thing for me is to not pay Father Jerk's salary anymore.

These are sad times to be a faithful Catholic. It is all I can do to maintain my faith. I have concluded that I am obligated to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation and to support the parish materially. That is all I do now and all I will do now. I pray for the priests and prelates, but what I ask for is punishment on these wicked men. There is no fate that could befall them that would not be deserved. This includes being plunged to the bottom of Hell.

Most of my consolation today comes from personal prayer and private devotions. I anticipate that Pope Francis and his modernist allies will inevitably invalidate the Mass in some way. When this happens, I will no longer attend the farce because it will be sacrilege. Christ will not be present in the tabernacle in this abomination of desolation, so I will no longer go to be with Him there. All I will have left are my beads and the Holy Bible. I would do more, but Catholicism doesn't work like that. I can work a soup kitchen, but I can't work the altars. Jesus instituted a division of labor in His Church, and the Roman Catholic Church is not a democracy. It is a monarchy that is now a tyranny.

The Roman Catholic Church is now the worst church in the world. We make the Protestants and the Orthodox look good in comparison. The Episcopalians have a more reverent liturgy than the Catholics. You can feel reasonably assured that your local evangelical megachurch won't subject your kids to molestation and rape. As it stands, the Roman Catholic Church is an international organization of criminals fleecing the faithful, promoting communism, sodomizing each other, and destroying our kids with unspeakable acts. Then, they express amazement at polls that show that less than a third of Catholics believe in the Real Presence. When you have done everything possible to kill the faith, what do you expect?

I don't know why God allows such things to occur in His Church. I don't know why He allowed me to get my brains smashed up in an accident. But I feel completely hollowed out and empty inside. I hold out the hope that things will get better. But that hope dims by the day. I think Francis will finish off what is left of the faith and replace it with neo-pagan sodomite earth worship. I expect rainbow banners, gluten free chocolate chip hosts, and women priests any day now.

What is the least I can do and remain free from mortal sin? That is the Evelyn Waugh Option. I am there now.  My prayer is that I can move closer to that good parish that I mentioned. The reality is that it may no longer exist by the time I get there. The faith is dying, and those running the Church are killing it.


The Softness That Ends in Bitterness

To expect too much is to have a sentimental view of life and this is a softness that ends in bitterness.

I love Flannery O'Connor. You know you love a writer when you want to read them again. I can't say that for any other writer. I like Tolkien, but it is all I can do to read him the first time. When I get done with Lord of the Rings, I know I will never pick that book up again. As for Hemingway, you finish the book and feel like you never actually read the book. Flannery is the only writer in any genre I ever cared to read again.

My first encounter with Flannery was in high school when I had to read the short story "Good Country People" for an English class. Needless to say, I was amazed and enthralled. I can honestly say that it was the best thing I ever read in my young life in terms of fiction. I loved Flannery so much that I took a class for an entire semester in college on her work. It was worth it and remains the best literature class I ever took.

Why did I fall in love with Flannery O'Connor the way I did? That is easy to answer. Her stories struck me as gritty and real. They were without sentiment and unflinching in their portrayal of life and human nature. I realize that I never truly understood O'Connor. I understand her completely now. When you become Catholic, you are able to grasp the deeper things behind those stories.

There are four facts you have to understand about Flannery O'Connor. The first is that she was Roman Catholic. When I first read her in high school, I didn't know this. I just found her jarring and unsettling and a bit sarcastic towards Protestant types like myself. But her stories are complete enigmas without this Catholic understanding. Catholicism is not Protestantism. It is a shock to the system. Flannery shocked me, yet there was that strange attraction.

The second fact is that Flannery O'Connor was a Southerner. I am a Southerner, so I get this part about Flannery. Here is a telling quote from O'Connor:
Anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic.
What makes the South so different from the North? What makes Southerners so different from Northerners? The answer to that is easy. Southerners know that you can't fix what is wrong with human nature. This is reflected in the South's love for religion that is virtually non-existent in the rest of the country. Even the Catholics in the South are better than the Catholics in the North.

Southerners have a good view of God and a dark view on life and human nature. They know this world is not Heaven and never will be Heaven. Northerners tend to think they can fix everything, but you only have to look up north to see that this is a terrible lie. When people from the North encounter the South, they either describe the South as stupid or scary. In time, the stupid thing vanishes leaving just the scary.

I think Flannery found reinforcement for her Catholicism in the South. As she put it so well,
I think it is safe to say that while the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted.
What this means is that Southerners know two things. The first is that human beings are wicked. The second is that they are unable to save themselves from their wickedness. When you visit the South, you will notice the remains of the old plantations, a lot of cemeteries and headstones, and a church on every corner. The result is a mix of past sins, mortality, and a knowledge of the Almighty and the need for salvation.

The third fact about Flannery is that she lost her father to lupus when she was 15 years old. This tragedy could only serve to reinforce in Flannery a belief that life was awful and short. This third fact also dovetails into the fourth fact about Flannery O'Connor. Flannery had the same condition as her father. It would cause her a great deal of suffering and eventually kill her at age 39.

These four elements about life served to eradicate from Flannery O'Connor's life any notions of sentimentality. Sentimentality is where you put emotions and feelings over reason. A great example of this is how people look back with nostalgia on the good old days of their youth forgetting the hell that it actually was. Another great example is the way people look with optimism to future plans thinking that things will be awesome in the future. For Flannery O'Connor, lupus eradicated nostalgia and optimism from her life. She was not sentimental.

Sentimentalism always ends in sadness. Sentimentality is the wish for a world that does not actually exist. It is the desire to create a delusion and then live in that delusion. If you want to know what this sort of thing looks like, you need look no further than Ayn Rand.

Flannery O'Connor despised Ayn Rand. No two women could be more opposed in their worldviews. Rand was an atheist who concocted her own philosophy of life based upon capitalism and selfishness. She weaved a personal fantasy about herself that looked like the fantasies of the characters in her novels. Rand was a neo-romantic preferring to write heroic stories about idealized beings. The result was that her work comes off as unreal, cheap, and pathetic. This is what Flannery had to say about Ayn Rand:
The fiction of Ayn Rand is as low as you can get re fiction. I hope you picked it up off the floor of the subway and threw it in the nearest garbage pail. She makes Mickey Spillane look like Dostoevsky.
The conflict between these two women is easy to understand. Rand lived in a world of self-made delusion while Flannery lived with a grotesque reality. For Rand, fiction was an escape from reality. For Flannery, fiction was a shock to the system that forced you back into reality.

I have read both women, and they represent two worldviews that I have embraced at different times in my life. When I was a libertarian atheist, I was down with Ayn Rand. She felt like hope and life in a world that only offered nihilism. I embraced that libertarian life and philosophy and the bad taste that goes with it. It also left me empty and with the sneaking suspicion that I had substituted the delusion of one religion with the delusion of another religion of sorts. Atheists do not close themselves to religion and delusion. They actually open themselves to the religion and delusion of their choosing.

Atheists are not realists but reductionists. For them, existence is reduced to the material. Your experience of this existence is purely subjective. This leaves you with two options--bleakness or sentimentalism. Rand chose sentimentalism. Flannery chose neither.

For O'Connor and all real Catholics, the choice is not between bleakness or sentimentalism but between becoming bitter or becoming better. Our bitterness comes when life does not meet our expectations of it. If you are fortunate, you will experience sharp pains and disappointments in life. This suffering has the effect of stripping away our hopes and delusions of making a Heaven in this fallen world. Conversely, grace enables us to see and find hope in the world beyond this world.

In Flannery O'Connor's stories, the characters come to a moment of grace when their illusions about life get stripped away or shattered in some way. These are usually unsettling or even violent encounters. But at the same time, the characters are given a glimpse of true bliss if even for a moment. As Flannery put it,
All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.
You see this sort of mystery reflected in Christ's passion and in your own suffering. Agony is painful but also an encounter with grace.

The world wishes to escape suffering. Catholicism embraces suffering. Flannery O'Connor was someone who suffered in life. Yet, she lived in a way that seems more alive than the plastic fantasies of Ayn Rand. O'Connor harbored no illusions about life or human nature, but she was not without hope or joy either. Flannery offers us two great remedies for dealing with life.

The first and most obvious remedy is faith. Flannery O'Connor was a woman of faith. She attended Mass daily and read Aquinas as devotional reading. From all I know, Flannery never wasted a moment of her life contemplating any other path in life except the Catholic path instilled in her by her upbringing in the Church. There's a reason our Lord gave us prayer, the Word, and the sacraments. They sustain us. For some odd reason, we forget that we need them.

Flannery's second remedy was humor. As bleak and grotesque as Flannery's stories can be, the humor comes through. As Flannery put it,
Either one is serious about salvation or one is not. And it is well to realize that the maximum amount of seriousness admits the maximum amount of comedy. Only if we are secure in our beliefs can we see the comical side of the universe.
There are many stories and quotations that show Flannery O'Connor's funny side. She was a Catholic smart ass. There is a certain type of humor that is unique to the Roman Catholic. Jewish humor takes ordinary things and makes them painful. Catholic humor does the opposite. For the Catholic, pain is the ordinary.

You are allowed to laugh. You are allowed to cry. But you are not allowed to whine and complain. When we complain, we imply that things could be different from the way they are. This is sentimentality. Life is the cross. We are fools to think life is not the cross. And that's the gist of Flannery O'Connor's thoughts and writings. This life is to be endured on the way to something better and permanent. As long as we accept this, it keeps us from the softness that ends in bitterness.


The Problem With Minimalism

The wealth required by nature is limited and is easy to procure; but the wealth required by vain ideals extends to infinity.

I have read many books and learned many things, and I have come to agree with the author of Ecclesiastes that there is nothing new under the sun. Minimalism proposes to be a new thing under the sun, but I see it as an old thing dressed in a new outfit. This old thing is Epicureanism. And because minimalism is actually an old thing, it has an old problem.

Before Epicurus, there was a school of crass hedonism among the ancient Greeks. This would be the school of the Cyrenaics. The Cyrenaics believed in pleasure with physical pleasure being superior to mental pleasures. They also believed that pleasures can only be enjoyed in the present, so they placed little value on the pleasures of the past or the potential pleasures of the future. Needless to say, this school of hedonism lasted about a century before Epicureanism offered itself as a superior form of hedonism.

Epicurus was the first minimalist. He observed correctly that the things you needed for life were few and easily obtained. Wanting things beyond the necessary only led to frustration, anxiety, avarice, and many other negative traits and emotions. Here is a bit of that Epicurean wisdom:
If you shape your life according to nature, you will never be poor; if according to people's opinions, you will never be rich.
When it comes to material things in life, Epicurus was a genius. Epicurus chose to live a simple lifestyle that seemed almost ascetic. But Epicurus stopped short of pain. Epicurean refined hedonism holds that happiness does not reside in the abundance of pleasure but in the absence of pain. Since Epicurus was satisfied with a loaf of barley bread and some water and time spent in his garden with friends, he pursued and achieved the closest thing you can have to a painless existence in this life. Then, he suffered terribly from a massive kidney stone that would eventually kill him.

Today, minimalists who have probably never read a word of Epicurus have embraced the Epicurean philosophy for a modern time. Here is a nice quotation from the minimalist Leo Babauta about living with less:
Such a simplified lifestyle can be truly wonderful - you'll finally have time for the things you really love, for relaxation, for outdoor activities, for exercise, for reading or finding peace and quiet, for the loved ones in your life, for the things you're most passionate about. This is what it means to thrive - to live a life full of the things you want in them, and not more. To live a better quality of life without having to spend and buy and consume.
Epicurus would agree 100% with this. Today's maximalist consumer is a modern day Cyrenaic slaving away to earn money to buy unnecessary things that give momentary pleasure and chronic stress. The minimalist is the modern day Epicurean who rejects the consumerism of today's Cyrenaics. The pleasures of massive consumption are not worth the pain that consumption brings.

Minimalism solves a lot of problems. Because you need very little to survive and even thrive in life, the minimalist is set free from clutter, buying more stuff, buying flashy stuff to impress people they don't like, and spending more time and effort to earn more money in order to buy more stuff they don't need. There is no question that this strategy of minimalism is superior to the maximalist consumer alternatives.

A typical minimalist will downsize from the McMansion to the studio apartment. He gets rid of all of his furniture except his couch. He pares down his wardrobe to the 3 shirts and 2 pairs of pants he actually wears day to day. He makes them all the same color in order to not think hard about matching his clothes. He makes his life as spare and as spartan as possible. Then, he spends the rest of his time posting pictures of his empty apartment on Instagram.

This lifestyle works on the material level. When you need less stuff, you need less money. Needing less money means zero debt and having savings in the bank. Needing less money means needing to work less. And working less means you have more time to spend in your empty apartment alone with your thoughts. This is where we discover the problem with minimalism.

The problem with minimalism is the non-material world of our own minds. You can be a minimalist, but this will yield little tranquility if you are paranoid and delusional. It doesn't help if you feel like a loser in life. Minimalism means nothing if you are in constant fear of death, or you've been diagnosed with a fatal illness. Epicurus recognized this own deficiency in his simple lifestyle which is why he turned to philosophy.

When we think of philosophers, an image of a dour faced guy like Nietzsche springs to mind who thinks deep thoughts about many things that torment the mind. Or, we think of a profound man of wisdom like Aristotle who knew a great deal about many things. But Epicurus was not this type of philosopher. For Epicurus, the goal and purpose of philosophy was to alleviate and banish the pains produced in our own minds. Philosophy was not pursued for its own sake but for the sake of happiness which Epicurus defined as a pleasant life. Here is what Epicurus wrote about the purpose of philosophy:
Empty is the argument of the philosopher which does not relieve any human suffering.
Today, this Epicurean philosophy looks like self-help. The entire self-help industry exists in service of the pursuit of human happiness.

If you read early posts from the archives of Zen Habits, you will find very practical advice for conquering bad habits and living a simpler life. Then, you end up reading current posts about meditation and mindfulness which are all geared to banish stress and negative thoughts from your life while trying to cultivate tranquility. Many of these insights are derived from Eastern religious traditions like Zen Buddhism. But they essentially reinvent the wheel Epicurus gave the world. Here is what Epicurus wrote on tranquility of the mind:
He who has peace of mind disturbs neither himself nor another.
Virtually any Zen Buddhist would agree with this statement. In addition, the goal of minimalism is to achieve this peace of mind. Obviously, consumerism does not achieve this peace of mind. But does minimalism do this? Does minimalism achieve its aim of tranquility?

The first and most basic mental disturbance we all reckon with is our mortality. We are all going to die. The Epicurean antidote to this problem was simple--ATHEISM. Once you deny the existence of God and reduce all religion to superstition, death is reduced to nothing more than the cessation of sensation. Here is what Epicurus wrote on the matter of death:
Accustom yourself to the belief that death is of no concern to us, since all good and evil lie in sensation and sensation ends with death. Therefore the true belief that death is nothing to us makes a mortal life happy, not by adding to it an infinite time, but by taking away the desire for immortality. For there is no reason why the man who is thoroughly assured that there is nothing to fear in death should find anything to fear in life. So, too, he is foolish who says that he fears death, not because it will be painful when it comes, but because the anticipation of it is painful; for that which is no burden when it is present gives pain to no purpose when it is anticipated. Death, the most dreaded of evils, is therefore of no concern to us; for while we exist death is not present, and when death is present we no longer exist. It is therefore nothing either to the living or to the dead since it is not present to the living, and the dead no longer are.
For Epicurus and modern day atheists, death is the end of consciousness on par with going to sleep, going under anesthesia, or the blank nothingness of our lives before we were born. If there is no afterlife, there is no pain in death. Pain can only be experienced in life which explains why atheists are so quick to commit suicide when their lives become painful and unpleasant.

But what if God exists? And what about spending eternity in Hell? If God and Hell exist, then death is to be feared. Not all minimalists are atheists. Some are Christians who embrace the simplicity of the lifestyle as they pursue their religious aims. I don't think minimalism and religion are in conflict. Minimalism may help you where you spend your money, but it doesn't answer the problem of where you will spend eternity. That issue of death will cause you more emotional turmoil than a bit of clutter in your closet.

Before you die, you will suffer pain like Epicurus did with that kidney stone. No trick of the mind is going to make that pain go away. The simple fact is that disease and injury are as certain as death. And the anticipation of disease, injury, pain, and massive hospital bills are enough to demolish whatever tranquility you derive from owning just two pairs of shoes or deleting apps from your iPhone.

Epicurus also put great store in having friends. Here is what Epicurus wrote about friendship:
It is not so much our friends' help that helps us as the confident knowledge that they will help us.
I interpret this to mean that Epicurus liked to borrow money from his friends and was a moocher. That may just be my cynicism, but I have never understood how Epicurus could derive such confidence and pleasure from his friendships. The reality is that most people are selfish and inclined towards evil. They will use you for money and forget you in your time of need. You can never have confidence that they will help you or even refrain from not hurting you.

Minimalism does not address the issue of friendships and relationships except to lament living with someone who doesn't share a minimalist lifestyle. Then, there are the neighbors who disturb your tranquility with their bad habits, your awful boss at work, your backstabbing coworkers, and even the idiots on the highway you have to deal with on your commute. Minimalism may help you to eliminate crap from your life, but it doesn't help when it comes to other people's crap.

But let's imagine you can banish all of these negatives from your minimalist lifestyle. You have perfect health. You will live forever with no fear of death. You won the lottery which sets you for life and reduces your social interaction to greeting the people who deliver food to your home and the garbage man who takes away your trash. What do you have left? This would be boredom.

When people see the sparseness of a minimalist's living space, they think one thing. This person must have a boring life. You could watch television except there is no television. You could read books except there are no books. There is the laptop and the smartphone except these things are devoid of apps, links, and all the rest. The minimalist discovers that the tranquility he has found is what everyone else calls boredom. Life is reduced to sitting cross legged on a yoga mat and meditating.

That is the problem with minimalism. It is good at dealing with clearing out your living space, but it is useless for that space between your ears. Once you have emptied out your life, you are left with an empty life. At least the maximalist could cover over the emptiness with a lot of stuff.

Life leaves you with two options--pain or boredom. Minimalism offers boredom as a superior path to pain. Then, it attempts to relabel that boredom as "tranquility." If you try to alleviate the boredom with activities, this ends up requiring you to buy some things. I live a very simple life, but it still requires four different pairs of shoes.

Accumulating a lot of useless material goods is not the path to fulfillment. No wise person disputes this. But banishing material goods from your life doesn't lead to fulfillment either. Minimalism just relieves you of stress and burdens in life while leaving you with emptiness.

People who go down the minimalist path inevitably turn to something to solve the emptiness problem. For Leo Babauta, it was Zen meditation and mindfulness. Others turn to hobbies and travel. Some turn to religion. Still, others turn to ancient philosophies like Stoicism. Virtually none of them remain in an Epicurean state of being a bum. The blank wall inevitably ends up with a picture on it.