Everything is Bullshit: What a Great Time to be Alive!
Lent was rough this year. I suppose it should have been, seeing I’ve been in a simmering state of anger at Catholic hierarchs and their alternately buffoonish, clueless, and despicable pronouncements and acts since last July. My state of mind was not at all ameliorated by last week’s letter from Benedict (“It was the 60s!”) XVI. Then yesterday while teaching I received this text from a friend:: “If Notre Dame burning down is not a metaphor for the Catholic Church I don’t know what is.” My first thought: “I hope Touchdown Jesus is safe!” Then I heard a colleague lamenting in her office. She came out into the hallway and told me what really happened. I hope the damage to this beautiful church doesn’t inconvenience the twenty-seven regular Mass attendees as much as it does the millions of tourists who visit each year.
Add to this the recently announced decimation of another Catholic liberal arts college, Wheeling Jesuit University, the arrest of Julian Assange, and the discovery that the USDA allows herbicides and other poisons on “organic farms” (which are neither organic, nor farms). Also, the project to develop the iHuman is proceeding apace. (I swear scientists are some of the biggest idiots out there.)
In addition to these developments, I decided to undertake an informal survey of members of a Facebook group of alleged “distributists.” I wanted to know how many of them belonged to or ran a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) or somehow had their localist ethos in evidence by supporting small and local farms. A few responders said they did (so encouraging), but others said they couldn’t afford to not shop at Walmart (not so encouraging). All in all, this interchange did not do much to allay my suspicion that most self-proclaimed distributists are not much more than Tolkien-Chesterton-Belloc fanboys and -girls engaged in a distributist cosplay, which apparently has something to do with smoking pipes, drinking craft beer, and talking about elves.
Everything is bullshit.
Nevertheless, it is a great time to be alive. Provided, that is, that one is alive and not simply participating in a simulacra of life (available at your local megachurch or Walmart, for example).
After the disaster that is the Catholic Church at the moment (and Notre Dame is a mere signifier of a much more damaging conflagration), I cannot believe more people haven’t resorted to house churches (the model in Acts of the Apostles, by the way). Holding the sacraments hostage can only last so long (I realize there are other ecclesial bodies out there. But no thank you.) Maybe it’s also time for some seriously grassroots intercommunion between rogue Catholics, Orthodox, and Anglicans. Lead and the bishops will follow (but they’ll take the credit and issue statements through their spokesmen. Trust me on that one.) My friend Adam DeVille has written a powerful book on Church reform, though I think my approach is certainly a bit more drastic than his (I outline this in a cultural context in Transfiguration: Notes toward a Radical Catholic Reimagination of Everything). I also wouldn’t mind seeing Catholic theologians and philosophers who’ve received a mandatum (full disclosure: it’s something no sophiologist has ever been in danger of receiving) from their bishops return them to the senders labeled “insufficient funds.” I doubt many (if any) would do this. It would mess with their tenure. But still.
People can also short-circuit the governmental-corporate Archons by actually being localists. Join an organic or biodynamic CSA: don’t let this be a luxury for yuppies and tech wizards. Sell your pipes and Tolkien collections if you have to. Just, literally, put your money where your mouth is. Don’t be a Facebook activist. Just act. It starts with the soil. This is very much a grassroots movement: hence its radical nature.
I have gotten the sense from some of my college students that they are fed up with being the surveilled generation, the generation of simulacra. They want something real. Instead we gave them Walmart, video games, and hashtags. They don’t want to be perpetually milked by governments and corporations, turned into the dream proletariat wherein socialism and capitalism thrive in a marriage made in hell.
Life right now is pretty much an alternate gnostic universe in which all we were raised to believe and trust has been shown to be a fraud. Nevertheless, with everything in a shambles, we have the opportunity to live the lives we want (and need) despite the superegos of our culture telling us, “No, you can’t.” The point is that we live as if the reality we want were already here. This is sophiology in a nutshell: to recognize the reality of the world and to live in congruence with it. A world of deceitful prelates, poison sold as food, and armchair activism taken as action is not real: it’s a simulacra. Break the machine with the love-bomb of sophianicity.
A Song on the End of the World
by Czeslaw Milosz
On the day the world ends
A bee circles a clover,
A fisherman mends a glimmering net.
Happy porpoises jump in the sea,
By the rainspout young sparrows are playing
And the snake is gold-skinned as it should always be.
On the day the world ends
Women walk through the fields under their umbrellas,
A drunkard grows sleepy at the edge of a lawn,
Vegetable peddlers shout in the street
And a yellow-sailed boat comes nearer the island,
The voice of a violin lasts in the air
And leads into a starry night.
And those who expected lightning and thunder
And those who expected signs and archangels’ trumps
Do not believe it is happening now.
As long as the sun and the moon are above,
As long as the bumblebee visits a rose,
As long as rosy infants are born
No one believes it is happening now.
Only a white-haired old man, who would be a prophet
Yet is not a prophet, for he’s much too busy,
Repeats while he binds his tomatoes:
There will be no other end of the world,
There will be no other end of the world.
translated by Anthony Milosz1
1 From The Collected Poems 1931-1987 (1988).