I gotta have my orange juice.

Jesu, Juva

Rhythm and shock

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Organic life must be lived rhythmically. It must get its fulfillment by being treated in the way life must be treated, and life must be treated organically. And that’s what is the main problem of metabolism is rhythm: when to sleep, when to breathe, when to eat. Once you give this to the organism, it is satisfied. Can you see this? Rhythm, gentlemen, is the treatment for the first [sphere] of your own individual existence. If you treat your own body rhythmically, he will get accustomed to everything. A man can live by four hours of sleep. But he has to get the four hours of sleep regularly. Then you can train your body to be satisfied with four hours of sleep, you see. You can eat very little. As you know, the hermits or the ascetics, they can live on next to nothing, if it is given rhythmically, you see. Then you can even train your body through such a thing. But you can’t forget a body. There is even the hermit in the desert; he would go seven miles or eight miles for one cup of water. But he had to stagger along every morning to get this cup of water. That’s the law of his life. He cannot forget this cup of water, even if you reduce all you take in to one cup of water. Because rhythm in our organic existence, gentlemen, is the law. What you put into this rhythm—five meals a day or three meals a day, or one meal a day—that’s up to your training. There you can stretch very much one way or the other.

And you see it with Winston Churchill. I mean, he had to have his cigars. As long as he had his cigars rhythmically, he lives up to 80. It makes no difference, all the stuff with the cigarette and lung cancer. Don’t believe a word of it, I mean.

You know the story of the Scotchman who was famous because he was 95 and still going so strong. So a prohibitionist went to see him and inquire what made him live so long. Of course, it had to be Prohibition. He’d never touched whiskey, you see, a drop of firewater. So the prohibitionist took down notes and said, “No, I never drank — milk and goat milk, specially, and I feel very good.”

“Well, how about your family? Are there other people who live so long in your family?”

“Oh,” he said, “Oh, oh yes. I have a brother who’s 97.”

“Oh, I must see him.”

“You can’t. He’s drunk all the time.”

Don’t believe for one moment gentlemen, that it makes the slightest difference how you live in all these respects, if you live rhythmically. You can be abstemious. And you can be voracious. I don’t believe in any of these stuffs. Once you have seen the freedom of man to move into these five spheres, an organism is mistreated once it is treated mechanically. . . You get a shock each time you cross the red light in New York as a jaywalker. There are too many shocks in modern life. That’s why all these people get cancer. Your whole system is, of course, completely disorganized. Cancer has nothing to do with Mr. Pasteur, and with bacteria, and what all these cancer doctors say and spend money on, gentlemen, you know very well why a person gets cancer: because we live a constantly mechanized life. You think how many times a person today has a slight shock to its physical, very delicate structure. Then you can see that these cells get out of control. Of course they do. Because there are demands made on a person in the modern world which weren’t made on a farmer in the back hills a hundred years ago, you see. There was no constant telephone call and no constant car crossing the road, and no truck pulling up right in front of your own car while you were going at 60, and such things. I don’t see why doctors never consider the difference in the way we live today. We have embraced as worshipers of the Devil, of the iron calf, the steel machine. And the steel machine—as all gods whom we worship, all idols—make their believers suffer. You can take that down, gentlemen. Any god makes his believers pay very highly for his worship. And you, of course, since you do not know that you have this god, you pay even more heavily. All the people who don’t know which god they have, they have Mammon as their god, and their belly. And they die from it. Why shouldn’t they? God is a very exacting magnitude in your life. And you either serve the right god or the wrong god.

Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, Comparative Religion, 1954

Written by Scott Moonen

January 15, 2020 at 10:14 am

Posted in Quotations

Cinematic confessions

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I am fond of dunking on Peter Jackson for demeaning the The Lord of the Rings. (We will not mention The Hobbit.) But I must confess that he portrayed Boromir perfectly, especially in his death. I am more fond of the movie here than the book.

They Shall Not Grow Old was also wonderful. And while it has nothing to do with Jackson, I’m looking forward to seeing 1917.

Growing up, I saw snippets of The Black Hole in a hotel, while we were house hunting prior to a move. I was captivated. Years later I finished the movie with my kids. Ha! Daddy’s judgment is now seriously called into question.

Written by Scott Moonen

January 11, 2020 at 6:36 pm

Posted in Miscellany


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Gentlemen, wherever you come in touch with catastrophe, with violent change: fire, earthquake, storm, hurricanes, war, revolution, . . . there the whole of creation and the whole of human society is at stake. And therefore you decide . . . whether you have attachment to the whole of the problem of life, or whether you have singled out yourself a little private religion, . . . a minority religion. That wouldn’t be a world religion. The problem of your belonging . . . is always to be decided, either all men and the whole world or my little world and my little group against the whole world. That is, whether the Russians say they are only interested in Russians, or whether the Americans say they are only interested in Americans, . . . this is always a pseudo-religion, because it decides [that] one man’s poison is the other man’s meat. . . .

Gentlemen, [this sphere of life] always poses the question: is my enemy and myself under the same god, or is my happiness the other man’s unhappiness and vice versa? If you cannot see that it is more important what to Russia and we are now undergoing together than what keeps us apart, then you have no religion. The purely secular statesman says, “I am only interested in weakening the Russians.” If he had one grain of religion, he would know that no secular statesman must ever be allowed to be just secular or to follow his secular policy out, because the Russians and we have something bigger in common. Isn’t that true? This is the question between secular and religious, gentlemen, in [this] sphere. . . .

Perhaps you take this down. It’s quite important. It’s unknown today. The secular mind sees in any catastrophe only the separate interests of those who benefit and those who suffer. The religious mind sees in the suffering itself the great problem: all suffer, or all benefit. So [this sphere of life] poses the problem of the solidarity of the whole human race and the unity of the whole universe. According to your decision in the experience of a catastrophe, gentlemen, you become a pagan or a believer in the living God. Paganism means to answer . . . by a division of loyalty, by a division of interests. If you are a pagan, you say, “What’s good for Rome must be bad for Carthage. Therefore I rejoice that the gods of Rome . . . are favoring us, . . . and the gods of Carthage are weak.” That’s paganism. Now the same is true of capitalism and labor. If labor rejoices because capitalism doesn’t reap any dividends, you see, it’s pagan. If it can see that the golden goose cannot be slaughtered, that the Port of New York must not decay because otherwise there is no longshore union which can benefit by a contract any more, because the exports and imports no longer touch the Port of New York, then you have Christianity, or religion, you see. Can you see? It’s very simple. The secular mind, gentlemen, meets an emergency with its partial interest. The religious mind is forced by the catastrophe to change its own mind. . . . You can take it down this way. The secular mind is that mind which must be changed by catastrophe, or out goes that purpose which the secular mind has tried to defend. There are, of course, idiots who do not want to see the common interest, and prolong the agony. And they are the real devils. . . .

Gentlemen, how do we realize catastrophe? This is a question of all questions. It’s the question of the prophets. It’s the question of Christianity. It’s the question of paganism. The pagan does not want to realize emergency. He wants to deprecate it. And he wants to say, “It won’t be that bad.” That’s your attitude. The Jew, the prophetic Jew, the messianic Jew, that is, the believing Jew has brought into the world the tremendous power of sensing catastrophe, far ahead, of saying, “It smells fishy. This order of things has to go. It won’t last.” And gentlemen, the middle attitude, the Christian attitude is not to sense it in general, but to determine the hour in which we must let go. The Jew has no country of his own for the last 2,000 years, as you know. He didn’t have it in Babylon. That is, the Jew has discarded loyalties in anxiousness to meet the next catastrophe, to be free when the prophetic voice sounds, you see. So the Jew has less loyalties than he could have. The pagan has more than is good for him. The Christian tries to sacrifice the loyalty that has to go now and to persuade his pagan confrères, with whom he is in the same boat, to let go. That is, the Jew is in general disloyal to the order that it is now, because he says, “Somebody has to prepare the future.” The pagans tries to forget the emergency. The Christian tries to persuade or to preach or to enact himself that sacrifice that at this moment is necessary for meeting the emergency.

Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, Comparative Religion, 1954

Written by Scott Moonen

January 10, 2020 at 12:39 pm

Posted in Quotations


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. . . in the tradition of Western philosophy, the capacity for spiritual knowledge has always been understood to mean the power of establishing relations with the whole of reality, with all things existing; that is how it has been defined, and it is conceived as a definition more than as a description. Spirit, it might be said, is not only defined as incorporeal, but as the power and capacity to relate itself to the totality of being. Spirit, in fact, is a capacity for relations of such all-embracing power that its field of relations transcends the frontiers of all and any “environment.” To talk of “environment” where spirit is concerned, is a misunderstanding, for its field of relations is “the world,” and by its very nature it breaks the bounds of any “environment;” it abolishes both adaptation and imprisonment. Therein lies, at one and the same time, the liberating force and the danger inherent in the nature of spirit.

Josef Pieper, The Philosophical Act

Written by Scott Moonen

January 5, 2020 at 5:18 pm

Posted in Books, Quotations


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No, the contrary of acedia is not the spirit of work in the sense of the work of every day, of earning one’s living; it is man’s happy and cheerful affirmation of his own being, his acquiescence in the world and in God—which is to say love. Love that certainly brings a particular freshness and readiness to work along with it, but that no one with the least experience could conceivably confuse with the tense activity of the fanatical “worker.”

Who would guess, unless he were expressly told so, that Aquinas regarded acedia as a sin against the third commandment? He was in fact so far from considering idleness as the opposite of the ethos of work that he simply interprets it as an offense against the commandment in which we are called upon to have “the peace of the mind of God.” . . .

Idleness, in the old sense of the word, so far from being synonymous with leisure, is more nearly the inner prerequisite which renders leisure impossible: it might be described as the utter absence of leisure, or the very opposite of leisure. Leisure is only possible when a man is at one with himself, when he acquiesces in his own being, whereas the essence of acedia is the refusal to acquiesce in one’s own being. Idleness and the incapacity for leisure correspond with one another. Leisure is the contrary of both.

Leisure, it must be clearly understood, is a mental and spiritual attitude—it is not simply the result of external factors, it is not the inevitable result of spare time, a holiday, a weekend or a vacation. It is, in the first place, an attitude of mind, a condition of the soul, and as such utterly contrary to the ideal of “worker” . . . .

In the foregoing sections leisure was tentatively defined and outlined in its ideal form. It now remains to consider the problem of realizing its “hopes,” of its latent powers of gaining acceptance, and its possible impetus in history. The practical problem involved might be stated thus: Is it possible, from now on, to maintain and defend, or even to reconquer, the right and claims of leisure, in face of the claims of “total labor” that are invading every sphere of life? Leisure, it must be remembered, is not a Sunday afternoon idyll, but the preserve of freedom, of education and culture, and of that undiminished humanity which views the world as a whole. In other words, is it going to be possible to save men from becoming officials and functionaries and “workers” to the exclusion of all else? Can that possibly be done, and if so in what circumstances? There is no doubt of one thing: the world of the “worker” is taking shape with dynamic force—with such a velocity that, rightly or wrongly, one is tempted to speak of demonic force in history. . . .

There is, however, a fact which from the vantage-point we have now reached must be strikingly clear and significant, and it is this: whereas the “total work” State declares all un-useful work “undesirable,” and even expropriates free time in the service of work, there is one Institution in the world which forbids useful activity, and servile work, on particular days, and in this way prepares, as it were, a sphere for a non-proletarian existence.

Josef Pieper, Leisure: The Basis of Culture

Written by Scott Moonen

January 5, 2020 at 5:15 pm


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Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s three-volume opus, The Gulag Archipelago, which some have called the most important masterpiece of the twentieth century, is subtitled: “An Experiment in Literary Investigation.” Consider how odd that is. No Westerner would call such a work “literary,” lest someone discount its documentary value. Literature is one thing, truth another, isn’t that correct? But Solzhenitsyn insists that absolutely everything included is strictly factual, a claim validated when the Soviet Union fell and archives were opened. What, then, is literary about the book? It is worth noting that Russia’s most recent winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, Svetlana Alexievich, also produced literary works that were purely factual. With these two writers we encounter something essential to the Russian tradition. . . .

Gary Saul Morsen, How the Great Truth Dawned

In Russia, literature critiques you.

Written by Scott Moonen

January 4, 2020 at 9:46 am

Posted in Books

A third difficulty

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There is first to note that, whereas in other businesses the ambition of the customers and the insolence of the laborers only have to be contended with, the Roman captains of industry had a third difficulty in having to put up with the cruelty and avarice of their shareholders, a matter so beset with difficulties that it was the ruin of many; for it was a hard thing to give satisfaction both to shareholders and laborers; because the laborers loved peace, and for this reason they loved the unaspiring CEO, whilst the shareholders loved the warlike CEO who was bold, cruel, and rapacious, which qualities they were quite willing he should exercise upon the laborers, so that they could get double dividends and give vent to their greed and cruelty.

With sincere apology to Niccolò Machiavelli for misappropriating The Prince, Chapter 19

Written by Scott Moonen

December 31, 2019 at 7:51 am

Posted in Books, Quotations