The Spirituality of Ghostbusters

I recently watched Ghostbusters for the first time in a long time.  It has to have been at least 25 years since I had seen it, largely because it was so ubiquitous in my youth.  In addition to be a smash hit in the theater, it did heavy duty on the TV movie circuit and of course was a popular video rental for parties.

Don't get me started on the theme song.

At any rate, I was pleased to see that it holds up pretty well and being much older, I got some subtle jokes that evaded my younger sensibilities.

Of course, I also approach the subject matter of the film vastly differently than I did as a teenager, particularly after spending the last two years listening to the Lord of Spirits podcast.  Part of why I was willing to watch it again was that I wondered what Ghostbusters looks like through the spiritual lens.

Despite its nominal topic, the film presents a very secular version of the spirit realm.  The protagonists famously use mad science to capture and contain ghosts and it is the application of technology that "saves the world."

To be sure, religious people are seen praying for them, but that's part of the spectacle.  In the end, technology - not prayer - is decisive.

That being said, it is interesting that one of the assumptions of the film is that ancient gods can be real and inflict physical harm.  Since God has often various means to achieve His goals, having the Ghostbusters thwart Goser or Zuul or whoever could be seen as a dismissive wave on the part of the Almighty.

One of the key concepts of the Lord of Spirits is that the ancient gods were in fact real entities and that the sacrifices offered produced tangible results.  As a recent episode pointed out, the rise and fall of various cults is in part explained by the success of the people who worship them.  Wars between the various city-states and later empires were at the time seen as struggles of their gods as well.  The Trojan War was famously a contest that divided the Olympian gods, who repeatedly intervened.

In our modern secular worldview, we see gods as a purely cultural matter and in our contempt for our ancestors assume that the temples and rites were no more than superstition by ignorant savages.

However, as I've mentioned before, cause and effect are not a modern invention, and given the amazing sophistication of ancient metallurgy and architecture - that is, the stuff that has survived - it is the height of arrogance to assume we know more than they do.  In fact, I think we are far less logical, since many "rational" people rather irrationally refuse to consider even the possibility of the Unseen.

It's interesting that Ghostbusters also prefigures the later "ghost hunter" reality TV shows, which clearly seek a secular answer for a spiritual problem.   After I became more aware of the spiritual realm (and the fact that most if not all "ghosts" are likely demons), I asked my wife (who was an avid watcher for a while) how many of the shows were still on.  She replied that many of the first generation had stopped and that the cast had complained that "their work" tended to follow them home.

Well, yes.  Absent a "trap" and a containment field, mucking about looking for the Unseeing armed only with an voltage meter, shotgun microphone and a thermal camera is remarkably stupid.

If only they'd watched Ghostbusters, they'd have known better.



Logan's Run: Prelude to hook-up culture

Continuing with the theme of dystopian sci-fi films, I watched Logan's Run for the first time in at least a decade. 

I'm not going to say it hasn't aged well because the quintessential 70s sci-fi feel is part of its charm.  It came out in 1976, and was such a hit that a spin-off TV series was put into production.

The central conceit of the film is that environmental degradation forced humanity to retreat into a climate-controlled domed city run by a central computer.  This was when overpopulation was a great fear, with books like The Population Bomb and movies like Soylent Green intimating that we'd soon be eating each other.

At any rate, to keep the population stable, births (and deaths) are highly regulated.  Each resident has a small crystal in the left hand and it changes color as they age.  Once it starts blinking red (which happens at the age of 30) time's up.  That generation goes to a thing called 'carousel' (spelled differently) and they spin and levitate until being blow to bits.  In theory, the worthy will be given a second life, but no one's positive about how that works.

Anyhow, some people want to keep living and try to evade the security force, known as Sandmen.  They are assigned to chase "runners" and kill them.

It's standard fare, with the usual heavy-handed culture references ("don't trust anyone over 30" was of course a hippie slogan) and the plot leans heavily on ruined landmarks being scary.

What I find interesting was that it prefigured the hook-up culture that started to emerge in the late 80s.  Because everyone is safe and fed and population is determined by computers, sex is entirely recreational.  Monogamy is unknown.  Thus each evening, one can go "on the circuit" and find a partner (or more than one).  There's even an orgy district.

The obvious message is that bodily pleasure without a relationship is ultimately empty.  Our society is learning the same lesson.  The 'freedom' provided by birth control and abortion comes at a significant cost.  Numerous studies and mountains of data demonstrate that quantity of sex partners is less important than the quality of them, and that a long-term monogamous relationship results in the best outcomes in health and emotional satisfaction.

This shouldn't be a surprise - countless generations embraced this structure before us, but the conceit of the 20 Century was that all those people were stupid and ignorant.  We're now learning the opposite.

Amidst the hysterical responses to the Dobbs decision is the claim that "hook-up culture is dead."  I think the prevalence of other methods of birth control says otherwise, but I'd be very happy if that is true.

The Omega Man with a little religion: I am Legend

Having seen the two films practically back-to-back (okay, there was an interval of a week between them), I can say that Will Smith's I am Legend is a faithful remake of The Omega Man.

And that's the problem.

In the 1970s, slow-paced sci-fi/horror films were the norm.  The 'gotcha' elements were not yet known, so it was fine to let a nightmare vision of the future unfold gradually.

Decades later, literally no one is surprised by this sort of thing.  All the tropes have been used and re-used to death.  I get why actors want these roles - it's an incredible opportunity to dominate the screen for a half hour or more with no more than a dog as a co-star. 

However, there's no real tension.  It's a remake - actually the second remake (the original being Vincent Price's The Last Man on Earth).

So what does I am Legend add to the story?  Not much.  Post-zombie New York is more interesting than post-zombie Los Angeles, but other than the overuse of CGI, it's the same story.

Both films force the protagonist to do stupid things in order to advance the plot, which is expected given the genre.

The biggest difference to me was that while The Omega Man had little if any religious references (basically saving until the end), they are liberally sprinkled throughout I am Legend.  In fact, near the end they are quite blatant, which was quite unexpected.  It's interesting that in 2007 Hollywood could present a character (a Catholic, not less) who could weather a horrific disaster, calmly take it as consistent with God's plan, and have hope for the future.

That was pretty cool.

But not worth sitting through again.  If I had this as a standalone DVD, I'd sell it.

Classic pessimism: Charleton Heston's The Omega Man

Having run through the Mad Max films, I've decided to compare them to other "end the world" films.

One of the classics in the genre is The Omega Man.   This is based on a book titled I am Legend, which was made into a movie titled The Last Man on Earth starring Vincent Price in 1964.  The Omega Man was a 1971 remake and the latest entry is Will Smith's I am Legend from 2007.

Clearly the concept is a popular one.  In Heston's version, either China or the USSR has loosed a biological weapon that kills most people and turns others into sunlight-hating psychopaths.  There is a strong zombie-ish element here, and many of the set-piece scene echo George Romero's Night of the Living Dead, which separated the concept of zombies from their Caribbean voodoo origins.

To modern eyes, the film moves slowly, unfolding gradually as the audience realizes that things are not as they appear.  Much of the horror element in the film is achieved by showing the way society collapsed.

Heston's character is the Last Man - a military scientist who perfected a treatment (they call it a vaccine, but it's really a treatment) for the plague but couldn't deploy it fast enough to save humanity.  He sits in his fortified house talking to himself, foraging for food, luxury items and trying to retain his sanity while fighting off The Family, a bunch of zombies led by a vindictive former newscaster.

There's lots of social commentary from the 70s of course.  Despite being conservative, Heston held many conventionally liberal beliefs about racial equality and these featured prominently in his films.

Another problem for modern viewers is the lack of what I'd call tactical skill on the part of Heston's character.  He's very casual about what equipment he carries, sets down his weapons out of reach, and basically sets himself up for trouble.  This might be lazy writing or simply that people hadn't explored the problem of 'adventuring' in as much depth.

It's worth recalling that modern sensitivities in this respect have been shaped by four decades of Dungeons and Dragons-style roleplaying, which often become intensely detailed in terms of what items are most useful, the proper way to clear a room, etc.  Console and online games have intensified this by making it accessible to people unwilling to read multi-volume rules sets.

As I've pointed out in the Mad Max films, religion is largely absent, save in The Family's anti-faith.  Heston himself does not pray, though he uses the religious-inspired curses of the time.

Yet as we've seen through the real-life pandemic (and throughout history), in times of disaster, faith communities can be crucial to surviving.  That would have been true during Covid but for massive state power being deployed to keep people away from church.  This combined with churches trying to show their fealty to "the science" by stopping in-person services well beyond what was warranted.

And yet, despite biological danger and official persecution, the faith endures.

This absence is more striking in The Omega Man because it uses some very heavy-handed symbolism regarding Heston's disease-resistant blood and how it can save humanity. 

As a film, it's very much a creature of its time, and useful to see what horror/post-apocalyptic films used to be.  That is to say it's a fun look back, but it is not a timeless classic one enjoys for its own sake.

Philosophy without God: Dark City - the original and director's cut

A quarter-century ago, I used to go the movies quite frequently.  I was one of those people who watched the trailers to see what was coming out soon rather than just enduring them.

I recall quite clearly that the trailer for Dark City immediately caught my attention and when I came out, I loved the film, bought the soundtrack and eventually the DVD.

I'd classify the film as sci-fi noir, a somewhat niche category it shares with Blade Runner.

I did not know there was a 'director's cut' available, and found out only by chance.  A friend of mine bought one of the many DVD compilation sets flooding the market.

I have to say that this is one of the few good things about the present age: buying movies has never been cheaper.  Not only that, they come in very compact packaging, easing storage. 

There's a strange paradox at work, too.  If you buy the single movie you really want, it will cost around $30.  If you a two-disc combo, $15.  Three discs might be even less.

True, you might get some stinkers mixed in, but you're still saving money by purchasing the collection and - as long-time readers may have noticed, I'm seeing films that I never would have bought on their own.

Anyhow, the new version if Dark City is better.  Not a lot better, but better all the same.  It dispenses with the intro voiceover which acts as a spoiler and there are some subtle changes elsewhere.  I guess the special effects were upgraded and - though I can't find proof of this - I think it uses Jennifer Connelly's own voice during the night club scenes rather than dubbing another artist.  I say this because I've listened to the soundtrack version frequently as part of a mix I use while painting miniatures, and that is not the same voice.

Something that I missed at the time but now stands out glaringly is the lack of God in the film.  I'm noticing that more and more these days.  Religion has always been something of a blind spot (if not an object of hate) for Hollywood and Dark City's musings on what it is to have a soul and how much it can be manipulated by false memories ignores the spirit realm entirely.

This is interesting because it has the same director as The Crow, which is of course a profoundly Catholic movie.   Then again, I've also noticed that lots of religious references and themes seem to happen by accident.

As the Lord of Spirits podcast likes to joke, our 19th Century German friends have a lot to answer for in terms of corrupting religion and the world in general.  For all of human history to that point, people accepted that the supernatural was real and that people had distinct spiritual needs.  The rise of the hyper-rational school of philosophy not only broke this relationship, it left us too blind to appreciate it.

Whenever something miraculous happens, the immediate Western response (even among religious people!) is to try to find "a rational explanation."  It's not just blindness, it's intentional blindness, and it takes years to unlearn that habit.  I'm trying to teach my kids to see the world outside of secular "logical" lenses, but it is pervasive in the culture.

Dark City is still a great movie, wonderful soundtrack and mood, compelling performances and the late Roger Ebert loved it so much he did a full commentary track on it. 

I'm not a huge fan of his work, but the guy had considerable influence in critical circles, and it's unusual for a critic to become that much of a fanboy, so it speaks well of the film.

Unlike Blade Runner, I think both cuts work.  I will give the nod to the director's version but I'm not into it enough to pay for it.

A theory on "pro-choice Catholics"

Whenever one finds a "dissident" group that appears to advocate for the exact opposite of what an organization generally stands for, it's a good bet that it is insincere.  Choose your term of art - "astroturf", "false flag" - the notion is that it's basically a front group that's trying to attack the organization from within.

In the realm of religion this is a bit strange because (especially in the United States), there are few obstacles preventing movement from one belief to another.  Obviously, people in concentrated and close-knit communities such as the Amish or Mormons might find support "on the outside" hard to manage, but if one deeply disagrees with the teachings of the faith to the point of openly disputing them, that decisions has already been made.

There are of course a few exceptions where the dissenters actual win.  The Anglican Church is one example of this.  Just about everything the Anglicans believed in a century ago has been discarded.  Heck, the changes over the last 25 years have been profound.  So it is with the United Methodists (which are in fact breaking up) and other Protestant groups.

Within the Catholic Church, however, such movements gain little official traction.  In fact, right now the Church is seeing a strong push from the laity to become more orthodox, more faithful and more consistent in enforcing doctrine.  The current moral laxity (such as that originating in Germany) seems to come entirely from the leadership, which is stuck in a 1970s mindset).

Thus we have the strange creature known as the "pro-choice Catholic," an individual who claims to be a member of the Body of Christ, yet for some reason directly contradicts sacred scripture,  Church tradition, long-standing doctrine and Papal pronouncements. 

As my father likes to joke, there's a term for people like this: "Protestant."

I think the issue is twofold.  On the one hand, there is the egotism of thinking oneself smarter than the Church fathers, the Magisterium and the rest of the faith.  For some odd reason, people sometimes produce polls showing that a significant amount of Americans support some form of abortion, as if the Catholic Church is some sort of elective body.

There's also the fact that these people tend to be older, cradle Catholics whose identity was shaped when being Catholic was more of an ethnic identity than a religious one.  Neighborhoods were more ethnically homogeneous, so on Sunday, all the Irish, Italians, Polish, etc. went to Mass by default.

These communities have broken up over time, so there's no comparable social pressure.  Catholics are fully in the American mainstream and have been for a while.  Still, the older sort clings to their nominal faith perhaps out of a nostalgic sense of victimhood. 

In any event, I think there's another aspect to this, which also is rooted in the past, and that's the experience of socially ambitious Catholic women.

Young women in the 1960s did not have a lot of options for birth control.  Yes, The Pill burst on the scene (with disastrous results), but women of "good character" would never admit to taking it.  Certainly not Catholic girls.

Similarly, the time-tested condom was out of the question.  For one thing, "nice girls" didn't dare keep them around, nor would they admit having planned to have sex outside of marriage.

This is why abortion became such a lightning rod - because these women were going off to college, experimenting with relationships and wanting to try sex - but if they got pregnant, their lives would be completely ruined.

None of them could face the disgrace of being an unwed mother.  To them, it was worse than death, a life without the dream of house, husband and children and the social stigma was too terrible to contemplate.

Adoption was not really an option because it would require months of seclusion and also a paper trail.  Even if all went well, the child might come back, and could wreck an otherwise happy marriage by exposing Mom's Dark Secret.

Abortion avoided both problems.  The baby was obliterated and no one would ever know.  Having made "a mistake" the woman could resume her hope for a nice husband and happy home - and children whose entry into the world would bring her status rather than shame.

I think this attitude is pervasive among women over 50.  Under that, it's more of a tribal membership because by the time the Gen Xers were getting into college, condoms were pretty much being distributed far and wide.  Birth control had lost its stigma even among Catholics, and if one didn't want The Pill, there were other more discrete but effective options.

But for the generations before, abortion was the only option.  "Nice girls" didn't keep that stuff lying around and in fact if - at the moment of decision it was produced - the man might be filled with disgust.  Here he thought he had truly seduced the innocent, only to find out he's bagged a slut with a condom stash!

To be clear, none of these women necessarily wanted pre-marital sex, but if they got lost in the moment, what would be their recourse?  Abortion would.

Of course, the world has changed considerably since then.  There is zero stigma in popular society to pre-marital sex or using birth control.  Religious communities still frown on it, but they're also strongly pro-life.

In that sense, the secular victory in the culture wars over sexual preference and promiscuity are the very things destroying the necessity for abortion.  Given the many, inexpensive and reinforcing methods of birth control that are available, there is simply no reason for the procedure other than the three classic exceptions: rape, incest, and life of the mother.

But for people stuck in the past, none of that matters - they're still fighting the battles of their distant youth.

Which is odd, given that so many of them identify as "progressive."

A wonderfully awful Thanksgiving

Before it became a retail-driven celebration of gluttony, the idea of a national day of thanksgiving was rooted in the understanding that we are owed nothing by our Creator. 

The years since 1945 (and particularly since 1991) have convinced many of us otherwise.   Western civilization has unconsciously absorbed the lie that peace and unprecedented prosperity are the default setting for humanity.  The fact that no other society has achieved our level of affluence is merely proof of their stupidity and our genius.  It's a secular form of Calvinism with us as the Elect.

The last two years have proven this belief badly wrong, and while I try to be optimistic, I do not see the trajectory changing any time soon. 

Violence will continue to rise, civil institutions will collapse and shortages of basic items will multiply and spread.  Even medicine, once the crown jewel of Western scientific knowledge, is in a state of collapse.

For all that, in fact because of that, I am more grateful this year than ever before.  I think it is fair to say that 2021 has already been the worst year my family has seen, but I am filled with joy when I think of God's many blessings.

Call it 'the attitude of gratitude' if you want, but once you change your assumptions to be that you deserve nothing, that everything you have is a gift, your entire worldview changes.

That's where I am.  A few weeks ago I confronted the nightmare that torments every parent - the death of a child.  It pleased God to ultimately spare me that trial, but standing in the hallway watching the emergency room staff play their trade with increasing urgency, I had to confront that awful possibility.

All I could do was pray, so that is what I did, saying the Hail Mary over and over again as I paced.  A calmness came over me, a peace that is hard to describe.  Several times since then I've felt overwhelmed and I've turned to Lorenzo Scupoli's prayer from The Spiritual Combat:  "My Lord and My God!  Holy Mary!  Do not abandon your soldier!  Help me in my need!"

(It works best when you say it out loud.)

And I was instantly comforted.

That's something to be thankful for.

I hope your day is filled with joy and that a reflection on the struggles of the past two years bring you the same peace that I have found.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The blind spot of religious scholars regarding prophesy

I've been going through one of my dated history books, and one passage in particular struck me as emblematic of everything that is wrong with religious (and therefore Bible) scholars.

The book is titled The Encyclopedia of Ancient Civilizations, edited by Arthur Cotterell.  It consists of a selection of essays by various experts on Sumer, Egypt, Babylon, etc.  At first I just hopped through it here and there, but now I'm reading it sequentially, but with no great urgency.  It's a back-up time-killer that informs and amuses.

In the article on Babylonia, A.K. Grayson writes: 

One of the interesting types of historiographical works was that of prophecy.  This was a literary text which described past events in prophetic terms as though they author had predicted these before they happened.  Having thereby established his credibility, he proceeded to make real prophecies which had a variety of forms according to the particular purpose he wished to achieve.  The Babylonian prophecy was a forerunner of apocalyptic literature, a genre to which the Book of Revelations belongs.

I think this is pretty much the perfect distillation of what most religious scholars still think today, and this is particularly true of the secular Bible scholars.  They love to dissect, analyze, and conjecture about how the various pieces came together and the one thing they all seem to agree on is that none of it can possibly be divinely inspired. 

All recorded prophesy was patched together after the fact to give religious leaders legitimacy by which they could control the masses.  An alternative view is that ancient people were simply stupid compared to modern man, and since they had no idea of science, attributed everything to invisible spirits. 

This view inevitably leads to scientism, which is the cruelest faith of them all. 

Put simply, the evidentiary standard they want to see is all but impossible to achieve.  Most writings of the ancient world are difficult to date, and books in particular have had to be copied and re-copied in order for their texts to survive to our age.  This opens up myriad possibilities for editorial changes - something not lost on scholars.

Their gold standard of evidence would be a positively dated writing that can be clearly placed before a given event.  By its very nature, that's an almost impossible standard to meet because prophesy is often extremely close to a specific event.  The warnings typically come when the gods are just about done with the offending nation/city/people and the lightning bolts are practically already on the way.

How would one track that?  In a newspaper?  Magazine story?  Ancient wire report?

In fact, even modern works would likely fail this test.  Consider Winston Churchill's history of World War II.  The first book of the first volume of The Second World War, The Gathering Storm, painstakingly documents Churchill's attempt to stop German rearmament and subsequent aggression.

The thing is, it was published after the fact.  Let us say that centuries from now, our only record of British politics from that era is Churchill's mammoth work.  Using Grayson's logic, Churchill's claims would have to be regarded with the deepest suspicion.

Whenever one considers and ancient text, the first thing one has to consider is why it even survived.  This is especially true in fragile media like books and scrolls.  Someone had to think what was in there was very important and therefore reliable.  Yes, there were official versions of history and that complicates things, but the default assumption has to be that whatever we have is true, not the other way around.

You see, most predictions aren't carved in stone, particularly if they were made only a few months or weeks (or even days) in advance.

However, once they are proven true, suddenly its the talk of the town.  For example, it is now well known that James Woods observed the 9/11 hijackers on a training flight, noticed their strange behavior and reported it to the FBI (who of course did nothing).

How much media play did his observation get?  Lots, but it came only after the attacks had been carried out.

It is not a stretch to imagine future accounts of what Woods saw would survive but the FBI's corroborating reports would not. 

The same is true in ancient times.  Some nobody on a corner says "Doom is upon us!" and everyone ignores them.  If nothing happens, nothing will be written.

But if something does happen, it will be a major event and recorded.  Even if the earliest records date from decades after the original event, there is still a link through living memory to what happened. 

In fact, it is typical for historical accounts to be written not immediately after the fact, but at least a generation later.  This is because there is no point in writing about something everyone still alive clearly remembers.  It is only when that generation begins to fade and a new one rises to maturity that there is a necessity to write things down.

This is why many of the accounts of the American Civil War only emerged decades after the conflict. 

One will also find examples of how subsequent events will change how previous ones are interpreted.  Thus histories of the First World War written before 1939 will have a very different sensibility than those written after 1945 even though the passage of years was relatively short.

I would therefore say that Grayson has it exactly backwards - the only reason someone would write down a new prophesy was that the old one was correct.


Abortion, AIDS, Covid and shifting views on divine judgement

While American society is heavily secularized, it retains a lot of the theoretical framework that has its origins in Christianity.  One of the strongest (and paradoxically most overlooked) is that of Calvinism.

Calvinism (or Reformed Christianity as it's sometimes styled) holds that God's favor can be known in this life by visible, tangible signs.  The Elect or Anointed are there for everyone to see - their prosperity, good looks, life advantages - are proof of God's blessing.  This religious view has been secularized into a "meritocracy" where the people born into wealth and privilege are owed it through their own merit.

There are several heresies involved in this worldview and it is in direct conflict with the traditional (that is Catholic/Orthodox) view that the mortal life is but preparation for what comes after.  Devout, believing and beloved children of God may suffer terribly in mortal life, but that is part of their purification.  To the meritocrats and the Calvinists, there is no benefit to suffering in the here and now.  Bad things happening are instead a call for immediate purification so that blessings can return.

This view permeates our language and our discourse, and right now it is at a fever pitch.

I find it fascinating that abortion proponents constantly speak of women being "punished" with a child as a consequence of having sex.  There is genuine outrage that men don't give birth and have to bear the same burden.  Despite many different and effective ways to prevent pregnancy, there is a fanatical devotion to this secular sacrament, which is seen as the last line of defense for ultimate individual autonomy.

Of course, no one gets pregnant alone, and not too long ago, there was a reason sex was supposed to take place after marriage (or at least after betrothal).  A "ruined woman" was seen as fitting punishment for immorality.

The legalization of abortion was therefore a welcome liberation from the "oppression" of biology.   Women could now be as immoral as the wanted.

Similarly, when the AIDS epidemic swept through the homosexual community, the same people insisted that one could not even think it was divine judgement.  A sexually transmitted disease that was most easily spread through religiously proscribed sexual behavior was simply a thing that happened and enormous resources would have to be expended not only to cure it, but in the interim, the risk-taking behavior could not be curbed.

It's interesting to note that the State of California has decriminalized passing the disease to a sexual partner without their consent.  No harm, no foul.

In both these cases, cause and effect are irrelevant, and all right-thinking people" know that to draw lines indicating how immoral behavior can beget negative consequences is hateful nonsense.

Thus it is interesting to see how one's Covid vaccination status has become a great exception to this belief.  Unvaccinated (or maskless) people who die of the disease are widely mocked as getting what they deserve.

It's divine judgement, and cause and effect are now operative.

My point by the way is not to highlight hypocrisy, but to note that in all three instances, the underlying framework remains Calvinist.  In the first two examples, the goal is to escape punishment, which is presumably not from God but rather from the Devil.  Women not being able to abort children is evil, an infringement on their God-given freedom to have absolute control over their bodies.

Similarly the AIDS epidemic could not be permitted to change the homosexual lifestyle because freedom is the highest value, even above stopping a once-incurably fatal disease.

Yet now the righteousness is on the other side, with anti-vaxxers being justly struck down for their impiety.

While the examples are contemporary, the issue is not new.

G.K. Chesterton's writing reveals that this mentality has been around for a while, chiefly being a function of unprecedented prosperity.  People can draw various philosophical lines on how thought progressed, but the key ingredient was leisure time and increased material comfort.

Evelyn Waugh's dark satires of the Smart Set illustrated the moral bankruptcy, and it was not until his later work that he began to look at how religious people can co-exist in this environment.

I plan on incorporating this into my writing on the spirit world.  As others long before me have pointed out, unbelievers don't necessary lack faith, they simply place it before something besides God. 

Mass unmasked!

Today marked the first time in more than a year that I was able to got to Mass without wearing a face mask.

It was nice, but also a little strange.  Michigan has been "unlocked" for less than a week, and the signs on stores are coming down, though some continue to urge masks as "a courtesy."

Picking up a pizza at my usual store Friday, I was greeted by the staff with big grins on their now-exposed faces.  I noticed the same thing picking up bagels to day.  People walk in, look at each other, and smile.

We're still not all the way there, of course.  The holy water remains restricted and we are yet denied the Precious Blood of the Eucharist.  Still, it is hard not to enjoy the sense of freedom that we have been denied for so long.

I believe that a great many of the policies enacted during the pandemic will, if an honest reckoning is ever conducted, be shown to have been self-defeating if not actually destructive.

Anyone with experience in a role-playing game knows that "percentage resistance" (say against magic or magical effects) may seem impressive at first ("I'm 90 percent immune to spells!") but when tested on a daily basis over more than a year, the protective value effectively falls to zero, and the side-effects of social isolation, restricted breathing, loss of emotional connection, etc. become more pronounced.

I leave that for the future, however.  For now I'm just glad to be able to smile at people again.