Tuesday, May 22, 2007

I believe

I believe.

I believe that government should be minimal, not maximal, that the less invasive it is, the better. I believe that it is the role of the government to protect its citizenry from enemies without (terrorists, invasions) and enemies within (murderers, rapists, pedophiles, psychopaths), using lethal measures if necessary. I think bureaucracies are dangerous.

I think that a nation is strongest when it abides by certain basic moral principles (the 10 commandments is a good start). I think that the basic building block of society is the family, which, at its best and most complete form centres around a husband and wife and their children. Financially, I think that society as a whole is best served when families are one-income, not two, and socially, when one parent stays home.

I strongly suspect that the root of almost all modern alliances and axes, wars and rumours of wars, boil down to two things: population shift (demographics) and the struggle for oil.

I am pro-baby, anti-abortion, and pro-breastfeeding, with serious reservations about the majority of caesareans and other natal medical interventions (epidurals, narcotics, inductions, etc.). I question the standard orthodoxy of vaccinations.

I believe that usury is wrong, that allowing multi-national corporations into a country is irresponsible, if not dangerous, to everyone from the small business owner to the nation that admits them. I am against globalization and I think the concept of a locavore a great one.

I want my food natural, without preservatives, without pasteurization, without pesticides. I think genetically-modified foods are an abomination.

I believe pollution to be a great wrong, whether we are talking air pollution, sea pollution, the proliferation of land fills, or the ubiquitous but humble plastic bag (1, 2). I believe humans are stewards of Creation, not masters, and that we are sowing dangerous seeds the poisoned fruit of which we may never fully know. That said, I am no believer in global warming (1, 2) as it is promulgated in the media, although I do believe in the existence of climate change.

I think that it is the right - perhaps the duty - of the citizenry to bear arms, although I think the selling of semi-automatics (let alone fully automatics) to be irresponsible.

I think that public schools do our children a great disservice, that the best pedagogy is found in the classical academy, and that home-schooling is a fantastic second choice.

I believe in freedom of speech, subject to the bounds of common decency.

And lastly, I think this will be a controversial post, and I wouldn't mind if it brought some dialogue to Vox clamanti.

- V.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Mask of Bureaucracy

I've been thinking about faces and masks.

It is a truism that goes without saying that the masked man will commit greater crimes than if he weren't masked, because anonymity protects him. Bandits, anarchists, bank robbers - masked, faceless, made bold by their hidden identities.

In former times, and in New Orleans, masquerades became a license for licentiousness and drunken revelry, and a masqued ball was synonymous with sexual impropriety ... no good girl went to one of those.

In even earlier times, and in remote parts of the planet, native tribesmen and our barbaric ancestors understood - knew intuitively - that putting on a mask made the wearer one with that symbolized, usually a god of kind. Not surprisingly, the wearer was not considered responsible for what he did while masked.

Berserks, from bear-sarks [skins], were warriors who put on the skin of the bear and became one with the bear essence. Their madness in battle, their bloodlust came out of the wearing of the skin. Came from their loss of self in a union with something demonic.

Babies, I am learning, naturally, instinctively focus on faces. One of the first things that my baby will do will be to seek out Mommy's face, to seek out mine. They know something that we have forgotten, that identity is in the face. Is it any wonder that so many children are terrified by clowns?

All of which comes out of various experiences E & I have had with bureaucracy. Not just the government, but hospitals as well ... wherever offices, office legislations, and officialisms make decisions once left to people to make ... wherever a person is hidden, made anonymous, by their office. "Well, I can't take responsibility for that - it is outside my control," etc. How many times have I seen various officials, emboldened and made cruel by the "facelessness" of bureaucracy, refuse to show even the commonest of common courtesies, let alone mercy?

Bureaucracy, one of the worst inventions of the modern age, is today's equivalent of the bandit's mask. Anything can be done in the name of "doing one's duty" - as long as one hides behind the mask of officialdom.

Some cases we have experienced/ run into:
  • An American young lady was in a head-on with a semi. She survived, but had a cracked pelvis among other problems. Her doctor wanted her to stay in the hospital 2 more days, but because her insurance only covered 3 days of a hospital stay, the hospital discharged her prematurely.
  • An American vet has had chronic health problems for the past number of years. The doctor booked an electrocardiogram, but because he had had one a few months previously, the hospital decided that he didn't need another one, and cancelled it.
  • An American young lady is visiting her Canadian boyfriend. It is customary to permit a visitor from the States up to six months - she declares one. The customs agent decides that she is a risk (maybe she will look for a job), and orders her to leave the country within a month - however, if she had said a week (while intending to stay a month or more), she probably wouldn't have run into the same problems.
  • A Canadian young man is bussing down to visit his American girlfriend. Because he is not wealthy and is wearing flip-flips (they say as much), the border guards threaten to refuse him entry to the country. He is going to visit a girlfriend, and is staying with her priest - money is not a necessity, but because they have rules about crossing the border with X dollars, they verbally abuse him and threaten him with non-entry.
  • A visitor to Canada has to have a medical procedure (an ultrasound). She can have the easy, less expensive one or the more complicated, more expensive (but diagnostically more accurate) one. She asks for the more expensive one, knowing that if the first doesn't work out, she will have to get the second anyway. She is informed that it is against policy to give the second first - she is required to go for the less sure one first. So she does, and because nothing shows, she has to get the second as well. Because she is not covered, and is paying out of pocket, this is a large financial sacrifice.
There have been many other cases we have encountered, in one form or another. However, these stand out in our minds, of idiocy triumphing over common sense, of principle over people, of policy over principle, of the barbaric savagery of the faceless bureaucrat over the humanity of those who still have faces.

- V.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Sower

Inspired by the poetry of both Lifespark and Fr. Tobias, I went browsing through some of my own, humbler, fare... where I found this poem, written November 14, 2005. It was written in response to a homily given by my priest and spiritual father on the Parable of the Sower.

The Sower

The Great Sower was sowing the seed of His Word
On the path and the pasture for He was astute:
For He knew, though four types of men's hearts had Him heard,
Only one of the four would bear spiritual fruit.

The first man, his poor heart was a pathway to sin,
And so though he had heard, his hard heart was too soured -
He rejected the Word, and pride trampled it in
And both he and all hope were by Satan devoured.

But the second excitedly welcomed his God...
As he grew in the Church he was putting down roots,
But some crises, like rocks, would make shallow his sod,
So he withered away ere he bore any fruits.

The third man also turned to his God when he heard
And he grew like a weed until swallowed by tares,
Which, un-rooted, soon choked out the growth of the third
By the thorns of his passions, his wealth, and his cares.

And the last also grew from the Sower's good seeds,
But desiring some fruit, from the others he learned:
And by tilling his heart and up-rooting the weeds
He was gathered to God when the others were burned.

So too we must determine the gardens we grow:
To be open to Christ we must soften our hearts,
We must dig them out deep lest we die from our woe,
And keep pulling up tares, 'til our fruit season starts.

- V.

Seek, and ye shall find

Shortly after my last post on Orthopraxy, I found a site that actually wrote on the topic.

Orthodox Info has a reputation for offering a conservative, traditionalist mindset on all things Orthodox - some would go so far as to say too conservative, too traditionalist. Some would find their anti-ecumenical stance schismatic ... I know that while [over the years] I have enjoyed reading some of the articles on Orthodox Info, I have avoided spending too much time there as I worried about becoming extreme in my beliefs or my behaviours, about drifting into the wild and woolly frontiers of the monastery-going, parish-hopping, Bartholomew-bashing, holier-than-thou Superschismatics. I've known a few, and while some are genuinely nice people, many display nothing more than emotional and relational fragility, with all the erratic and irrational actions that that would entail.

All the same, if mainstream North American Orthodoxy does not bother to teach its children how to live the tenets, doctrines, and dogmas that they do teach, one must go to those who will bother. Muhammad must go to the mountain if the mountain will not come to Muhammad. And so I resolved to go digging on Orthodox Info's website for something of what I sought, figuring that if anyone would care about the old-time traditions, those behind this site would.

Ironically, I didn't have to search far at all.

Two clicks, in fact. The sidebar "Living an Orthodox Life" and then the drop-down menu ... and presto! I found praxis. First I read an article by Fr. Seraphim Rose. While that was stirring enough, I opened this article (followed by chapters 1, 2, and 3), entitled A Guide to Orthodox Life, by Fr. David and Presbytera Julianna Cownie, and I have been reading it ever since.

Many of the practices are not new to me, but I am astounded by how much is, and I am deeply appreciative that the Cownies have collated all these practices in one place. I don't know where this journey is taking me, but it is exciting, exhilarating, frightening.

For those who have been reading (or checking) this blog regularly or even semi-regularly, my apologies - I haven't had much time to blog. In my spare time I have read and processed and digested, and read some more.

It is entirely within the realm of possibility that I will be sharing my thoughts and my digestions [there's an image to keep you up at night] at some later interval. But for now it is enough to let you know where the search is taking me.

Hristos voskrese!

- V.

Thursday, May 3, 2007


A couple days ago I posted that we had an appointment with the government. Well, it went well.

My wife, an American citizen, is now officially a permanent resident (or landed immigrant) of Canada. This means that she is no longer classified a "visitor" ... she can use Canadian health care (such as it is) ... she can leave the country ... she can visit her parents.

This is a joy and a blessing long in the waiting, and until Tuesday, without any guarantee of success.

Tuesday afternoon I came home and collapsed into bed where I slept for 13 hours. It was the release of a pent-up kettle of angst, it was the letting down of a burden of worry, it was the removal of a sliver of stress.

Praise be to God! Slava Bohu! Laus Deo!

- V.