The Monthly Salon: January
Happy New Year, and all that
Greetings to all of you as 2023 dawns. I wonder what it will bring. This time last year I was putting the finishing touches to my covidian ebook The Vaccine Moment, and feeling bleak about the future. Looking back now, I sometimes have to remind myself that the covid years really did happen and were not some kind of bad dream. It would be nice to think that it was all an abberation and could never happen again, but as you all know by now, I suspect otherwise. On the bright side: whatever 2023 brings, it’s not starting as badly as last year did.
I don’t usually do new year’s resolutions, but this year I’ve committed myself to giving up alcohol for at least the next 365 days. I’m putting this on the Internet so that wavering in public will be harder. So far though, I’m finding the commitment liberating. Over the years I’ve given up, at various times, TV, meat, dairy products, social media, flying, writing and having a job, as well as refusing to get on board at all with credit cards, mortgages, investments, smartphones or anything that can listen to me and send the results to an algorithm. I hasten to add that this does not make me any kind of ascetic. But in a glutted, greedy culture, I have found that refusal offers a cheerful kind of freedom.
Anyway: welcome to our first monthly discussion salon of 2023. Following the successful experiment last month of opening these up to my free subscribers too, I’ve decided that from now on I’m going to do the same thing every other month.
As ever, this is a space for you to reflect on anything you like. If you need a steer - though don’t feel you should - you might want to tell us if you’ve read anything interesting lately. Over the last few weeks I’ve read a number of usefully insightful essays here and there: on the new demonisation of beauty; on how the old leftist desire to abolish the family refuses to die; on Russia’s new ‘privatised digital control grid’ (bad news for any culture warriors who think Putin will save them); on the ‘new secular clerisy’ here in Ireland, who are busy building a woke religion to replace that of the Catholic church; and on how control of language equals control of culture.
I appreciate that this is not really a list of light reads, and that tradition demands rugged optimism at this time of year. Maybe somebody else can help with that. Fire away.
You remind me of Ivan Illich, when he praised Muslims for an absolute NO (in theory, at least) when it comes to drinking alcohol. I believe he said this in an interview with David Cayley.
I have a book recommendation, if that is appropriate?
For my Epiphany reading this year I enjoyed Kenogaia (A Gnostic Tale) by David Bentley Hart. I’m still ruminating, but I feel Hart has put out a kind of refinement on Orwell’s 1984. Its prose may be like 1984 - with full-on bleakness - but with a rollicking good story, and a happy ending. His opening aphorism is in French:
C’est nous qui fabriquons la machine,
et nous qui creons son Dieu.
It is we who make the machine,
and we who create its God
Highly recommended ✌️