Merry Christmas to all!

That’s all I wanted to say.



From approximately 5 minutes to 7 minutes:


[Ben Weingarten:] Lincoln talked about the greatest threat to America coming from within, not without (and perhaps we could point to the academy and the erosion of the academy as being one of the challenges from within). In your view, what is the greatest threat to Western civilization today?

[Victor Davis Hanson:] It’s not original. It’s what, I guess you’d call them the pessimists – starting with people like Thucydides or Tacitus, and then the extreme pessimists, people like Suetonius or Petronius – have said about the West. I guess I’d sum it up as: In a free society that’s consensual and capitalist, the combination of enormous material bounty and personal freedom can take away a sense of strife, a sense of challenge, a sense of sacrifice. And that we all sort of end up like lotus-eaters, because the economy is so [strong], especially in a post-industrial society.

So I think right now, we’ve got this situation where we have large numbers of our youth who graduate, they have debt, they go back and live at home, but their material appurtenances are very sophisticated – cell phones, iPads, internet. Culturally, they get anything they want. They don’t have to date. They don’t have to get married. They can hook up and enjoy sex in any manner they want. And we don’t ask anything of that individual, and that individual is basically a slave to his appetites. He gets up in the morning and he says, “I want more electronics. I want more appurtenances. I want more physical pleasure.” And we never say to them, “What was the status of your community? Are we better educated this year than last year? Are we making buildings that are beautiful, functional buildings? Do we have good roads? Are we leaving our children a dam and an aqueduct system better than what we inherited?” We never ask those questions.

And so the world looks at us and they sort of think, “Wow, this generation was given a great inheritance. And I think this may be the one that doesn’t pass on something as well to its children.” And it’s not rare in history that that happened.

Appendix to The Problem of Pain

C.S. Lewis asked his friend and personal physician Robert Havard to write an “Appendix” to The Problem of Pain. Here it is:

(This note on the observed effects of pain has been kindly supplied by R. Havard, MD, from clinical experience.)

Pain is a common and definite event which can easily be recognised: but the observation of character or behaviour is less easy, less complete, and less exact, especially in the transient, if intimate, relation of doctor and patient. In spite of this difficulty certain impressions gradually take form in the course of medical practice which are confirmed as experience grows. A short attack of severe physical pain is overwhelming while it lasts. The sufferer is not usually loud in his complaints. He will beg for relief but does not waste his breath on elaborating his troubles. It is unusual for him to lose self-control and to become wild and irrational. It is rare for the severest physical pain to become in this sense unbearable. When short, severe, physical pain passes it leaves no obvious alteration in behaviour. Long-continued pain has more noticeable effects. It is often accepted with little or no complaint and great strength and resignation are developed. Pride is humbled or, at times, results in a determination to conceal suffering. Women with rheumatoid arthritis show a cheerfulness which is so characteristic that it can be compared to the spes phthisica of the consumptive: and is perhaps due more to a slight intoxication of the patient by the infection than to an increased strength of character. Some victims of chronic pain deteriorate. They become querulous and exploit their privileged position as invalids to practise domestic tyranny. But the wonder is that the failures are so few and the heroes so many; there is a challenge in physical pain which most can recognise and answer. On the other hand, a long illness, even without pain, exhausts the mind as well as the body. The invalid gives up the struggle and drifts helplessly and plaintively into a self-pitying despair. Even so, some, in a similar physical state, will preserve their serenity and selflessness to the end. To see it is a rare but moving experience.

Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say ‘My tooth is aching’ than to say ‘My heart is broken’. Yet if the cause is accepted and faced, the conflict will strengthen and purify the character and in time the pain will usually pass. Sometimes, however, it persists and the effect is devastating; if the cause is not faced or not recognised, it produces the dreary state of the chronic neurotic. But some by heroism overcome even chronic mental pain. They often produce brilliant work and strengthen, harden, and sharpen their characters till they become like tempered steel.

In actual insanity the picture is darker. In the whole realm of medicine there is nothing so terrible to contemplate as a man with chronic melancholia. But most of the insane are not unhappy or, indeed, conscious of their condition. In either case, if they recover, they are surprisingly little changed. Often they remember nothing of their illness.

Pain provides an opportunity for heroism; the opportunity is seized with surprising frequency.

By contrast, here is a modern medical definition of pain. It’s taken from Pain Management Secrets (4th ed.) in a chapter titled “General Pain Definitions” authored by Charles E. Argoff, M.D.:

1 What is pain?
Some dictionaries define pain as “An unpleasant sensation, occurring in varying degrees of severity as a consequence of injury, disease, or emotional disorder.” The International Association for the Study of Pain defines pain as “An unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage.” Inherent to either of these definitions is the recognition that pain always has both a physical and emotional component. It is both a physiologic sensation and an emotional reaction to that sensation. In certain instances, pain may be experienced in the absence of obvious tissue injury; yet the pain is no less “real.” New information emphasizes how important it is to view the experience of pain as a complex neurobiological experience that is influenced by multiple factors occurring at multiple areas of the peripheral and central nervous system. Some of these factors are easily identifiable, while others are not as of yet.

2 What is suffering?
Suffering is the state of undergoing pain, distress, or hardship. Both physical and psychological issues are actively part of the suffering, and the pain itself may be only a small component. In some instances, pain may be an expression of suffering as has been described in somatoform disorders.

A renegade Jewish cult

I think there might be a tension in the popular beliefs of religiously conservative Jews if not their theology (i.e. many in Conservative Judaism, Orthodox Judaism, Ultra-Orthodox Judaism):

On the one hand, religiously conservative Jews believe Christianity is a renegade Jewish cult that became filled with pagans and thus pagan beliefs. For example, Christian “monotheism” is a corruption of the Shema. The Trinity is polytheistic. Christians worship the Virgin Mary. Christians idolize statues and paintings. Christians truly believe they are eating the real body and drinking the real blood of Jesus and are therefore engaging in some sort of ritualistic cannibalistic practice. And so on.*

What’s more, religiously conservative Jews believe Christianity is inherently anti-Jewish. For example, religiously conservative Jews believe there’s a bee line from Catholic and Protestant (Lutheran) statements and pronouncements against the Jews to the Holocaust.

On the other hand, religiously conservative Jews think righteous gentiles will have a place in the world to come. Yet, how can gentiles who are Christians ever be righteous unless they renounce core Christian beliefs? After all, the Noachide laws include not practicing idolatry, but from the Jewish perspective Christianity is fundamentally idolatrous.

* To be fair, religiously conservative Jews in the West are primarily evaluating
Christianity in terms of Roman Catholicism and Lutheranism. In these cases, there is considerable truth to their evaluation! However, the Calvinistic Christian traditions have not only not been anti-Semitic but they’ve been outright philo-Semitic.