When Winston, Gleaves, and I Met: A Humanist Platoon

When Gleaves Whitney, Winston Elliott III, and I came together for the first time, 19 years ago. Our little platoon.

“As I’ve had the chance to note several times, here and elsewhere, I first met the Publisher of The Imaginative Conservative, Winston Elliott, back in the summer of 1995. I still remember that meeting rather clearly, even though the Houston humidity should’ve created a haze around the moment. I’ve also noted how Gleaves Whitney’s 1991 Intercollegiate Review piece on decadence introduced me to serious cultural and conservative criticism. I devoured that article on a transatlantic Christmas flight to meet my then girlfriend (now, just friend) in Denmark. I have not, however, had a chance to write about the first time I finally stood in the same room and ate at the same table as Winston and Gleaves. This first meeting of the three of us was in the summer of 1999, once again in Houston.”

https://theimaginativeconservative.org/2018/12/meeting-christian-humanism-bradley-birzer.html

How Rush Kept Me Alive | The American Conservative

To say that the album changed my life would be a trite understatement. It radically altered my understanding of the world, not only by its words but by its example. To this day, I can remember the smell of that album sleeve, glossy, thick, and oily, quite different from the cheap paper-thin sleeves prevalent among so many commercial albums. With three kinetic photos of the band members on the right side of the sleeve, white lettering giving credit on a black ground on the left side, and all of the lyrics on the alternate side, I devoured every word and image. Something profound spoke to my eager and open 13-year-old mind.
— Read on www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/how-rush-kept-me-alive/

Sermon: Feast of St. Stephen

From: T.S. Eliot’s MURDER IN THE CATHEDRAL.

The Archbishop preaches in the Cathedral on Christmas morning, 1170.

Sermon
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” The fourteenth verse of the second chapter of the Gospel according to Saint Luke. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Dear children of God, my sermon this morning will be a very short one. I wish only that you should ponder and meditate on the deep meaning and mystery of our masses of Christmas Day. For whenever Mass is said, we re-enact the Passion and Death of Our Lord; and on this Christmas Day we do this in celebration of His Birth. So that at the same moment we rejoice in His coming for the salvation of men, and offer again to God His Body and Blood in sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. It was in this same night that has just passed, that a multitude of the heavenly host appeared before the shepherds at Bethlehem, saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men”; at this same time of all the year that we celebrate at once the Birth of Our Lord and His Passion and Death upon the Cross. Beloved, as the World sees, this is to behave in a strange fashion. For who in the World will both mourn and rejoice at once and for the same reason? For either joy will be overcome by mourning or mourning will be cast out by joy; so that it is only in these our Christian mysteries that we can rejoice and mourn at once for the same reason. But think for a while on the meaning of this word “peace.” Does it seem strange to you that the angels should have announced Peace, when ceaselessly the world has been stricken with War and the fear of War? Does it seem to you that the angelic voices were mistaken, and that the promise was a disappointment and a cheat?

Reflect now, how Our Lord Himself spoke of Peace. He said to His disciples: “My peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.” Did He mean peace as we think of it: the kingdom of England at peace with its neighbors, the barons at peace with the King, the householder counting over his peaceful gains, the swept hearth, his best wine for a friend at the table, his wife singing to the children? Those men His disciples knew no such things: they went forth to journey afar, to suffer by land and sea, to know torture, imprisonment, disappointment, to suffer death by martyrdom. What then did He mean? If you ask that, remember that He said also, “Not as the world giveth, give I unto you.” So then, He gave to his disciples peace, but not peace as the world gives.

Consider also one thing of which you have probably never thought. Not only do we at the feast of Christmas celebrate at once Our Lord’s Birth and His Death: but on the next day we celebrate the martyrdom of his first martyr, the blessed Stephen. Is it an accident, do you think, that the day of the first martyr follows immediately the day of the Birth of Christ? By no means. Just as we rejoice and mourn at once, in the Birth and Passion of Our Lord; so also, in a smaller figure, we both rejoice and mourn in the death of martyrs. We mourn, for the sins of the world that has martyred them; we rejoice, that another soul is numbered among the Saints in Heaven, for the glory of God and for the salvation of men.

Beloved, we do not think of a martyr simply as a good Christian who has been killed because he is a Christian: for that would be solely to mourn. We do not think of him simply as a good Christian who has been elevated to the company of the Saints: for that would be simply to rejoice: and neither our mourning nor our rejoicing is as the world’s is. A Christian martyrdom is no accident. Saints are not made by accident. Still less is a Christian martyrdom the effect of a man’s will to become a Saint, as a man by willing and contriving may become a ruler of men. Ambition fortifies the will of man to become ruler over other men: it operates with deception, cajolery, and violence, it is the action of impurity upon impurity. Not so in Heaven. A martyr, a saint, is always made by the design of God, for His love of men, to warn them and to lead them, to bring them back to His ways. A martyrdom is never the design of man; for the true martyr is he who has become the instrument of God, who has lost his will in the will of God, not lost it but found it, for he has found freedom in submission to God. The martyr no longer desires anything for himself, not even the glory of martyrdom. So thus as on earth the Church mourns and rejoices at once, in a fashion that the world cannot understand; so in Heaven the Saints are most high, having made themselves most low, seeing themselves not as we see them, but in the light of the Godhead from which they draw their being.

I have spoken to you today, dear children of God, of the martyrs of the past, asking you to remember especially our martyr of Canterbury, the blessed Archbishop Elphege; because it is fitting, on Christ’s birthday, to remember what is that peace which he brought; and because, dear children, I do not think that I shall ever preach to you again; and because it is possible that in a short time you may have yet another martyr, and that one perhaps not the last. I would have you keep in your hearts these words that I say, and think of them at another time. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

End of Sermon

On the Surface, Hungary Is a Democracy. But What Lies Underneath? – The New York Times

Hungary has the trappings of a 21st-century European democracy, but uses its devices to exert the same kind of control as the autocracies of the Cold War.
— Read on www.nytimes.com/2018/12/25/world/europe/hungary-democracy-orban.html

The NYT is absolutely obsessed with Hungary. Sadly, it ignored the country while under communist rule.

Yes’s 90125: My Favorite Christmas Album

Ok, ok, it makes no sense. I know, I know. Yes, 90125, Christmas? What the heck, Birzer?

And, if you pushed me, I still couldn’t tell you why with any reasonable explanation why 90125 is my favorite Christmas album, but it is.

I can feel no sense of measure

No illusion as we take

Refuge in young man’s pleasure

Breaking down the dreams we make real

Like almost every male of my generation, I purchased 90125 within a week or two of its arrival in the music stores. Combining old Yes, Trevor Horn’s growing signature new wave production, Trevor Rabin’s soaring and BIG guitars, libertarian, ponderous, and (mostly) optimistic lyrics, plus some of the best vocal harmonies of the 1980s, 90125 was a wonder.

I had grown up with Fragile, Close to the Edge, and Yessongs, but I had no prejudice against the new direction of Yes. This was crisp excellence and nothing less. Granted, I missed the intricacies of Roger Dean’s artwork, but the Apple graphics were pretty good and interesting–especially given the Jobs-ian minimalist trends of the day.

Music, good for you!

Music, good to you!

So, why Christmas? Well, because once I bought the album in early November of 1983, I couldn’t stop listening to it. Long before digitized music, I listened to the vinyl with headphones, over and over again. And, one of my most vivid memories of 1983? Laying down on my bedroom floor, staring out the window into the night sky, listening to 90125 with my huge and glorious headphones on Christmas Eve.

Reasonable? No. After all, 1983, Yes, Christmas, 90125. . . Stranger Things, indeed.

Jigsaw puzzle traitors
Set to spill the beans
Constitution screw up
Shattering the dreams
Blood flows in the desert
Dark citadels burning too
Watch! Look over your shoulder