44 Comments

I am struck by the question: "It is true?"

We are often told to seek truth, and in one sense, this is indeed true and good. But, what you, Paul, have alluded to here is that not all truth is to be sought. There is some truth that is too high for us - the mystery of the workings of the Trinity being one (incidentally, trying to probe too deeply into this truth has led many a heretic into a myriad of falsehoods), and some truth is too dangerous for us - the knowledge of good and evil was truth for Adam and Eve, but not something they should have pursued. Same here with the truth (or otherwise) about our "greatness". It may be true that in one area or another, we excel and are the "best" but this is not for us to know and dwell on otherwise pride will come rushing into our lives like air into a vacuum.

It takes wisdom, therefore, to discern what truth to pursue, and what truth to leave to the One who knows all things and in whom there is no falsehood at all.

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It takes love.

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Hadden. Yes.

Psalm 131

A Song of Ascents. Of David.

O Yahweh, my heart is not exalted, and my eyes are not raised high;

And I do not involve myself in great matters,

Or in matters too marvelous for me.

Surely I have soothed and quieted my soul,

Like a weaned child with his mother,

Like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, wait for Yahweh

From now until forever.

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Yes, exactly. I meditate on this Psalm regularly. It is one of my favourites.

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Nov 15, 2023·edited Nov 15, 2023

I love the picture and the story, Inspirational start to my day. Have just spent a weekend listening to Martin Shaw, story teller extraodinaire, on Dartmoor. There's something about the power of these universal legends, whether part of formal religions or not, that is deeply important to us in ways we may never understand. Thank you as always.

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Indeed, I am concerned that we as a society have become infatuated with the "News", and have neglected "stories". We need to renew a culture of storytellers and storykeepers.

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The machine runs on facts and figures. Humans run on stories. The best simulation of a story the machine can produce is a narrative, and it's impotent in comparison. All humans ever had to do was tell better stories, which I suppose is why the machine has worked so hard to destroy storytelling.

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This is an excellent point. Stories trigger our imaginations and help us to envisage and hope for a better, more humane and natural future. Hence those infatuated with the machine age and technique seek to suppress stories and feed us with narratives of division instead - which trigger our imaginations towards anger and chaos - whilst being temptingly addictive.

Incidentally at the recent Front Porch Republic conference, Paul in his talk told the story of Vinny, an old Irish man who lived a life adjacent to (or apart from) the machine. It is well worth listening to https://www.frontporchrepublic.com/2023-conference/

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"The solution most movies urge is a continuation of the sickness they depict. They give characters problems to solve and then show them going about solving them. Their narratives are an extension of the business ethos that causes most of the problems in our culture in the first place. These movies never question the belief that we are what we do, what we control, what we own. We live in a capitalist culture addicted to the virtues of doing. But life is less about doing anything, than being something. If your film hinges on a figure's doing or accomplishing something, you are part of the sickness. You are making feature-length commercials for IBM."—Professor Ray Carney, 'The Path of the Artist, Part I'

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powerful words. just re-watched "Rumblefish" recently (for the 100th time) and enjoyed it as much as the first. the main characters are simultaneously tragic and deeply moving. neither of them triumph or accomplish anything.

(please don't ban me O. i'm your biggest fan, sorry i misread you.)

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founding

I don't agree about anger. I wrote here about the Oedipus story. I think that anger is something that we must deal with collectively and individually. It is a very important part of being human, and maybe even being animal. Who says that other animals don't get angry ? How do we know ? Anger can be a sign of vitality, and we need vitality. The "vi" in vitality is also in "vita", and that means "life". But anger presents tremendous risks to the social body. In that other story that was a Bible for our ancestors, "The Iliad", the poem starts with an invocation of the "anger of Achilles", and its consequences. I can understand why the Greeks were obsessed with anger. It is a danger, but without it, we cannot lead full lives, only amputated ones. Does our anger need to be domesticated ? To what extent ? How far can we/do we need to go in this direction ? Can we go.. too far ?

And as for chaos... don't forget the Babel story that I come back to constantly because it focuses on the danger of too much... unity. Too much "totality". That too, saps our vitality, individually and collectively. In the Babel story, God himself intervenes to... divide. That is very important. As in "too much of a good thing is poison".

There is nothing that says that the anger that is so visible over Internet is not the expression of anger that can not be expressed elsewhere because of the need of so much repression, and the fact that so many people seem to feel threatened by the least little expression of anger these days. As though we all need to be.. picture perfect when we know that we are not.

As far as being infatuated with the machine age, and technique, I think that we are constantly see-sawing between the desire to be "doux" and the desire to be "dur", as in "sweet/soft" or "hard". My experience tells me that I don't know many men who would like to be called "soft", and this is one of the major motors for technique, in my opinion. It is a hard motor to get rid of, and I, for one, am too realistic ? to try to change things that will not change magically.

Looking at the word "addiction", I can see "dict" in it, and I am pretty sure that the "dict" in "addiction" is related to the word "dictionary", to take just one word. "Addiction" is related to speech. I will look it up again. I am not convinced by all the harping on about addiction these days...

But I will try to listen to the link to the frontporchrepublic site, even if there are no rocking chairs on it... ;-)

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I can only begin to imagine how good that weekend was.

Dartmoor is such a special place and to walk it and soak up the legends a real privilege.

I had a stunning moment walking back from Cranmere Pool a few years ago. We stopped at East Dart Head and felt something so deep and so ancient it was hard to comprehend. It’s a sensation that I stashed away because I knew it mattered, and kept safe as best I could. I often revisit that moment.

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Beatiful! Can't wait to read the next instalments - and see the prints.

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Thank you. I've seen the two saints together many times on Celtic and Anglo-Saxon crosses but never bothered to look up the story and find out what the ravens and lions were about: a sign of my superficiality and sloth.

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Love it. Can't wait for the next one.

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founding

Thank you. We need these holy fathers now more than ever.

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I'm looking forward to this series, and to Holy Wells continuing.

Two old men, thoughts in the night, death, prayers, judgement, friendship, handing on ... and where would we be without the creature world (and Angels and miracles)?

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Maybe there is no burning. Maybe God just wants you to explain yourself. And maybe, if you feel you were lacking, and He feels you were trying, He will let you have another go. Perhaps the lesson from this story is that we lose ourselves in groups and find ourselves in solitude (and the spirituality of solitude in particular). Who knows, maybe you can only find your true self if you find God. Your God. Who may, of course, be someone else's God too. Or not. If the Machine can't provide authenticity, meaning or truth, it will have to come from elsewhere. Perhaps the spirit, or whatever you want to call that part of yourself that simply won't be misled. Whatever the answers, I, for one, am learning a great deal from the journey you are taking us on. Thank you.

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That's beautifully perfect! Thank you.

I hope and keep looking for St Gerasimos of Jordan to appear here in words or drawings.

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A full loaf story. Thank you for this. Looking forward to the series.

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founding

You told this story beautifully, Paul, and I was very moved reading it.

Seeing that it turned on Thebes, I could not help thinking about what Thebes has brought to the world, in one form or another. The stories from and about Thebes. The house of Cadmos, in Ovid's "Metamorphoses", one of the most though provoking tales of Thebes and its people (if I am not mistaken).

Sophocles' "Oedipus Tyrannos" is set in Thebes, and Oedipus is not just anybody.

At the end of "Oedipus Tyrannos", Oedipus has gone from riches to rags, and leaves the city as a pariah, the farthest thing from a saint anybody can imagine. But by the time Sophocles has finished with him, in "Oedipus at Colonus", Oedipus has done his penance, although he still retains his... pride. His pride in being a man, an old man, no longer erect, because he must lean on a staff to get around, or on the shoulder of his daughter Antigone who accompanies him in exile, but still a man, still standing, and an angry man too. His end is as miraculous, and as hidden as the end of Paul of Thebes (maybe even more hidden, since he was not even buried).

I like comparing Paul of Thebes with Oedipus.

Buried by the lions, or carried off into the air, these were exceptional men with an aura and the power to inspire our imagination to keep us... standing, still ? Yes, we need to keep their memory alive in our stories, and back to the beginning, thank you for this story that I did not know at all.

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Nov 15, 2023Liked by Paul Kingsnorth

We cannot have too many warnings about spiritual pride. It lies behind every judgment we make of others, and as this story clearly shows we are never so old or experienced in religious life as to be free of it.

Thank you for writing this, I really appreciate the turn your writing has taken.

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there is a word for being given what is most wanted though you don't know it till you see it, but I will have to just say gratitude.

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There is another story about Anthony, one my priest likes to tell, where Anthony was again shown someone greater than he in prayer in humility. Anthony was granted a brief visit to a city where a poor cobbler, making and mending shoes, was simply praying for each person he saw pass by. Praying that they might each be saved, while he, the cobbler, would be content even if he himself were not saved, so long as those who passed by were.

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After a bit of a day, that story was just what I needed to realign my perspective. The description of the Saint's presence and prayers infusing life and vitality to the surrounding creation is...nope, can't think of the words!

We don't need stuff, just God. Thank you. Looking forward to future tales. Wonderful illustration too!

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"We don't need stuff, just God."

don't forget magical grave-digging lions & magical bread-delivering ravens. looks like we need these too-- you know, to help us with the whole "god is real" thing.

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