I have a bad cold and therefore am not carrying out the morning routine I have been following since mid-March: improving the garden, studying Polish, studying Italian, going to the gym and swallowing a quick lunch before work. Instead I am sitting about in a dressing gown sniffing and treating myself to decaffeinated coffee.
I gave up coffee, proper and decaf, for Lent, and I now wake myself up by opening an east-facing window and sitting in the dawn light for up to half an hour. (That's probably how I caught this cold.) The other benefit of dawn sunbathing is that it helps me fall asleep at night. Dr. Andrew Huberman, the health guru of the moment, advises his YouTube followers to bolster the effect by having a good, long look at the dusk light, too. That way, even if you sit before the glare of Netflix before bed, you still get to sleep quickly.
It does seem to work. Yesterday Benedict Ambrose cajoled me to leave my work and sit out on the porch to look at the brightly setting sun, and despite not being able to breathe through my nose, I soon fell asleep and through the night.
I am sorry for having disappointed anyone who thought I might to a cost-analysis of Lenten meal planning and shopping this year. It is only now that I feel that I can admit that the really hard work of our carefully planned vegetarian Lent that year fell upon poor B.A. I did the planning, and we shared the shopping, but B.A. did almost all of the cooking, and it exhausted him.
B.A. likes to cook, but he does so slowly. A pot of boiled potatoes, a pan of blanched spinach, and two salmon fillets under the grill: that's what he signed up for. A vegetarian lasagna or cassoulet takes him a very long time to assemble. And that Lent was more Lent for him than for me because I absolutely adore fiddly vegetarian dishes. I love healthy cooking, and I am sure eating pre-assembled fishcakes from the supermarket will kill us before our time. Therefore, this Lent is more egalitarian, except that B.A. will always miss meat and wine more than I do.
Thought of Lent brings me to thoughts of deserts, and I remember writing an article once on the spiritual buds than bloom during Lent like flowers that bloom in the desert. In Scotland, a kaleidoscope of flowers blossom during Lent, most notably yellow, purple, and white crocuses; yellow and orange narcissi; and pink cherry blossoms.
This Lent, however, instead of experiencing spiritual flowers bloom, I am being battered and frozen by the harsh winds of the ideological battles against the traditional family--and not just the family. The whole late 20th century philosophy of what it is to be a decent, charitable, even liberal person--looking for common ground with strangers, sharing the value of freedom of speech--with an agreement that certain things are not for children's ears or eyes--modesty about religion, respect for local culture, boys-don't-hit-girls, civil servants being both civil and servants--is not just being spat upon, it's being battered and shot.
Having spent six years with my face to the hurricane, I am absolutely certain that forces want to destroy Western Civilization as we have known it--I just don't know which ones.
I have already edited out several frank paragraphs, but I will add another one. I believe that the strength of any society is based in natural law and the natural hierarchy of loves and loyalties. That is, the strength of a society is the self-sacrificing love of a man and a woman who risk getting married and having children.
It is, and should be, something of a wrench, because the first loyalties of both should have been to their parents and brothers and sisters. Now these first loyalties are to each other and their children. Of course, they should continue keeping close ties with their birth families in a way that does not betray their new primary ties. (One reason I was so pro-B.A. is because I knew my family would like him.) Men must do whatever they can to make their wives and children feel loved and protected. Women must do whatever they can to make their husbands and children feel loved and protected. Children should obey and trust their parents, not "because I said so" but because they are incredibly vulnerable in every possible way: emotionally, intellectually, physically, spiritually. In fact, children shouldn't just feel protected; they must BE protected.
Of course, love and loyalty does not stop at birth families and marriage families--or a wide network of relatives, if you have them. They should also encompass friends and neighbours and co-workers--the people you see around you every day or every week--and so on into ever wider circles to include the whole world, including a solemn obligation to help feed even the very distant poor. (However pathetic, the distant poor must not trump your children or next door neighbour in your affections, however.)
If you find yourself cut out by God and fate or biology or illnesss or misfortune from marriage-and-children, you still have a role in loving and supporting your birth family and the children of your brothers and sisters in a way that does not interfere with their primary ties. This may, in fact, be a way of bolstering the love and protection your brothers and sisters have for their children. And this is more necessary than ever before because there are whole armies of people who want to come between parents and children, robbing children of their parents' protection and robbing parents of their children's love and loyalty.
I believe the relative success of people of European stock in Canada is down to their traditional family structure and family ties. Whereas Italian-Canadian kids were wrong to tell me in the 1980s that "Canadians" (i.e. local Anglo-Saxons) don't care about family, they were certainly right to fear the devaluation of traditional ties. The long-term misery in which several communities of Canadian indigenous people find themselves is attributed in part to the dissolution of traditional indigenous families in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The effects of the mid-century destruction of the African-American family are obvious and far-reaching. For more on that, we need only read Thomas Sowell.
The thing is, societies in which the majority of mothers and fathers live together and treat each other and their children decently (and the children respect and obey their parents) are strong, and societies in which the majorities of families are headed by women whose children don't obey them are not.
Thus, if I were trying to destroy a society, I would do everything I could to break up the traditional family.
I would convince young men and women that the opposite sex is nothing but thieving cash machine-sex robots and that early marriage is risible.
I would tell them that allowing their children to be born is irresponsible unless they are over 30 and in a committed partnership, and that they are not ready for either children or a committed partnership unless they have already travelled the world and can buy their dream home.
Because I have convinced them that having children before they are 30 is irresponsible, I would suggest to them that they should overcome their "hang-ups" and try those 100% accidental-pregnancy-free same-sex relationships.
If they object to this, I will suggest to them that they are moral lepers, i.e. homophobes or even transphobes.
And if they do manage to give birth to children despite all my advice, I will warn them to keep their human treasures away from their relations' potentially bad influence (Grandma has such antiquated ideas) while encouraging them to buy devices with which their children can talk to strangers on the internet.
Through the internet, I would tell children all the grown-up secrets their parents won't tell them and suggest that their fears around growing up to become a man or a woman can be resolved by changing their sex. And through the universities, I would make sure to raise up a generation or two of teachers who will tell children the same thing.
During their every waking moment, I would tell them that "celebrities"--especially entertainers--are the most important people on earth and that they should emulate them.
As all of these things are actually happening and because they are relentless and so obviously destructive, I am beginning to think that the destruction of my culture is planned.
And that's very scary for me. I prefer believing the problem is technology (the Pill, the PC) and ordinary human greediness outstripping human intelligence.